"What's Old Is New" — O.L.D., N.E.W., and W.O.I.N Modern in the Bundle of Holding

I say, appreciators of bags of holding!

  • Since no-one but me understands ForeSight or HindSight any more,
  • and since I find GURPS cumbersome and fussy, and some of my players detest it
  • and since I don’t care for these modern games that involve husbanding pools of points that represent God-knows-what

I am in the market for an RPG rules system that is adaptable to the wide range of settings that I flit between and that handles basically realistic humans well. It ought to cover ranged combat and hand-to-hand combat, stealth, infiltration, patrolling, impersonation, dissimulation, persuasion, pursuit, escape, races and chases, injury, healing, medicine and surgery, diagnosis and repair of damage and malfunction, installing and penetrating security systems, hiding and finding things and the rest of the character activity that shows up in adventure and action stories, mysteries and thrillers. It needs to be much simpler and more straightforward than GURPS.

That said, this month’s Bundle of Holding contains What’s Old Is New: the fantasy game O.L.D., the sci-fi game N.E.W., and an adaptation of their shared mechanics to near-contemporary adventure: W.O.I.N. Modern. I’m inclined to lay out some of my hard-earned* and pick it up.

But before I do I thought I’d ask about the games in case someone knows something that might change my mind. So: does anyone have the good oil and want to tell me a little about What’s Old Is New?


A quick glance suggests the author hasn’t worked through the probabilities.

Basic resolution is an attribute dice pool (some number of d6) plus optionally a skill dice pool (ditto) plus modifiers for equipment and so on; add them all up and try to beat a difficulty target.

(Which immediately means that some things are impossible to some characters. That may not be a bad thing, depending on your game style.)

But then we have:

Some GMs might wonder whether to apply a die penalty or increase the difficulty of the task. Mathematically, both are the same—increasing a task’s difficulty benchmark by one stage (say, from Challenging to Difficult) is exactly the same as applying a -1d6 die penalty.

But the difficulty levels are irregularly 3, 4 or sometimes 2 or 5 points apart, not reliably 3.5; and rolling 5d6 against a target of 21 (6.94% chance of success) is not the same thing as rolling 4d6 against a target of 16 (9.65%).

OK, it’s not Savage Worlds broken, but it doesn’t encourage me.


It’s worse than that! Rolling 1d6 against difficulty 7 is not the same as 2d6 against difficulty 10.5.

Well, quite. So if I were to run it I’d probably snip out the central resolution mechanism at the very least. Haven’t had time to check out the rest yet.

This is usually a good sign that there may be deeper problems than is worth the effort to fix.

Indeed. And besides, I’d rather break out old copies of ForeSight than deal in reams of house rules. I’m trying to escape obscurity.

Looking more at Modern Core, it’s clearly an action-film simulator, which may well be what one wants. There are opposed tasks and lengthy tasks, basically the standard things you expect out of a skill-based system.

But there’s no skill list. You’re apparently expected to make up your own.

There’s a not-bad section on chases, and some buzzword generators for chemical, computing and medical tasks.

Most characters get two actions in a combat turn, so you can move-and-shoot, aim-and-shoot, etc.

Long list of status flags (Poisoned, Charmed, Deaf, Drunk, etc.) and their effects, which always seems computer-gamey to me but can be quite effective.

Explicit rules about “Stunt Areas”, where you can do special environmental effects (trampolines, banisters, ivy, chandeliers, etc.)

The equipment book is mostly guns and fast cars, with some James Bond gear (yes, the laser watch is here).

So in short I’d call WOIN-Modern a fairly basic action film simulator. For that I’d prefer to use either GURPS Action or Genesys (which I’m getting to like). For a less cinematic approach, I’d still use GURPS.

Sorry, I don’t think this is what you’re looking for.

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At least you saved me from wasting thirty hard-earned*.

* I don’t assert that my dollars were hard-earned by me, but they have to have been hard-earned by someone, right?

I have a number of issues with The RPG Site, but this comment on a thread there about O.L.D. and N.E.W. is a standout:

The system is basically the mentally challenged son of WEG’s d6 system and Pathfinder.


Does the Gumshoe system break your ‘husbanding pools of points’ rule? I wasn’t sure if you were talking about story points/bennies or something else there.

If it doesn’t break the rule, then Night’s Black Agents is for thriller/spy stuff so has rules on all the skills and activities you mention. My NBA campaign died because the players wouldn’t investigate anything from closer than 100m away (!), but I think Michael had better luck with his campaign, so he’d be able to tell you more about the system.

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It does for me. (I’ve not actually played NBA, but I have played The Esoterrorists and read a fair bit of material for Trail of Cthulhu.)

It made more sense to me when I realised it was a spotlight-sharing mechanic: character A has exhausted his being awesome quota for now, and it’s time to let someone else be awesome for a bit. But the basic idea that I have used up my allotment of brilliant forensic insights for the day, but if I hadn’t been paying attention earlier I could have told you something about this thing now… doesn’t sit well with me.

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The Gumshoe system is the chief offender I was thinking of. Deciding whether to spend points now or save them from later is so contrary to anything that my character might be doing that I find it spoils my sense of being in his or her shoes. I find it a distancing mechanic.

And then as GM: the reasons that I want resolution mechanics are (1) to create unexpected and unwelcome outcomes that force me to extemporise and (b) to relieve the players of the sense that everything happens according to my caprice. I’m perfectly capable of exercising control when I want control, game mechanics are for when I want not to have control, so (1) mechanics that are heavily influence by my choice and (2) mechanics that determine which player gets to choose the outcome rather than determining the outcome (a) solve a problem that I don’t have, and (b) do not discharge the task that I require of them.

I’m a narrativist GM: I don’t need narrative mechanics because that’s not the gap in my capabilities. I need simulationist mechanics to backstop me when narrativism doesn’t cut the ice. Or something like that. All mechanics are gamist, anyway.

In Gumshoe it seems to be partly a mechanic to force spotlight sharing and partly a mechanic to force PCs to engage in a range of activities rather than relying on combat skills (or whatever) in scene after scene. It is designed to emulate hack screenwriting in which the characters in an hour of prime time drama never do the same thing twice in an episode — even when that means neglecting obvious applications of their established abilities for no good reason. In this roll it can go badly wrong if the GM (perhaps unaware of the problem) has the PCs attacked after they have already had a fight scene and haven’t yet refreshed their combat skill pools.

I have tried Fate 3 (Spirit of the Century), Fate Accelerated Edition, Night’s Black Agents, and The Dying Earth. Two of those I’ve GMed (SotC and NBA). Each time I was determined to do more than give them a fair trial: I wanted each one to work, wanted it to become my new go-to system. They aren’t right for me, and I think I know why.

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What about MiniSix? A bit too light and not specific enough?

I’m not at all familiar with it. Fill me in!

It’s a free generic rpg, based on West End Games’ D6 rules. There are 4 stats (Might, Agility, Wit, and Charm). The GM has to decide on which skills exist, but some suggestions are given. You assign these a number of dice. Skill and attribute dice may be split into “pips.” Each die is equal to three pips. To quote from the text “An attribute may have dice only (no bonus pips), +1 or+2. Going to +3 advances the die code to the next largest die. Example progression is 1D, 1D+1, 1D+2, 2D, 2D+1, etc.”.

After these first two steps, players can choose Perks and Complications, if they so desire. Perks and Complications are little quirks, abilities, hindrances, or special circumstances that modify the character. Perks cost you in skill dice, and are things such as Lucky (cost 2D, lets you reroll an attempt once per session) or Sidekick (costs 3D, gain a minor accomplice and sidekick in your travels). There are also Esoteric Perks, such as Telekinesis and X-Ray Vision, to provide examples of the sorts of Perks a powers-based game might have.

Complications are flaws orhindrances for the character; they don’t cost dice, but when these problems come up in play, a player can earn up to 1 Character Point per session. (Character Points, or CP, work not unlike XP in other games. The may be spent to better skills or attributes).

The rules also contain magic (psionics/other weird power) rules, as well as fairly simple rules for vehicle creation and -combat. And it’s free in .pdf form. (http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/144558/Mini-Six-Bare-Bones-Edition)

It requires some assembly, but I like it a good deal since it is fairly simple. I think Whartson Hall used it to play a pulpy scenario.

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We did indeed, based on Peter Schweighofer’s excellent Heroes of Rura-Tonga.

A very smooth and straightforward version of the D6 System; and I especially like the serial-numbers-just-about-filed-off settings they included. Pretty impressive for free.

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From a probabilistic point of view, I always feel edgy about skill-based variable numbers of dice trying to equal-or-exceed a target number.

Thanks, Tore.

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