Is there a lagrange point between old school play, which emphasises emergent narrative, sandboxes, and letting the dice lie where they fall, and the mainstream of the RPG hobby, which is all about pre-plotted story, pre-determined outcomes, character development, and fudging?
Such is one of the great unexplored regions of the hobby; we know more about the surface of the moon or the depths of the ocean floor than we do about this strange realm, populated - it is believed - only by small, wandering tribes of uncontacted peoples, who we dare not approach lest they succumb to the diseases of urbanity or impale us on spears.
One of the weaknesses of old school play is that it is resistant to high-concept campaigns. I am thinking here, for example, of ideas such as:
- The PCs start off having been cursed, and have to find a way to escape their fate
- The PCs start as people whose family members have been kidnapped or enslaved, and are trying to rescue them across a vast, dramatic and wild continent/interplanar region/whatever
- The PCs are trying to find a cure for a terrible disease sweeping through their home city
- The PCs are tasked with mapping an island which has just appeared in the middle of an ocean
One element of mainstream doctrine that OSR play might therefore adopt is plot immunity for PCs - relative or absolute. How would a campaign play out if all the elements of an old school campaign were present, but it was made clear from the outset - to DM and players alike - that the PCs could never die? When reduced to 0 hit points they suffer some malady or are knocked unconscious or suffer some great hindrance, but always remain alive? I am curious to know if anybody has ever tried this, and if they have, what the results were.
It seems to me that the game would lose dramatic tension, but that this might be offset against the fun of trying to complete the task at hand against adversity and exploring an interesting setting - and also being able to follow one's character, Pendragon-style, across time.