Now, much of what he lists you've probably seen before. I covered T. Foster's list of what one typical old school adventuring session should probably include here and Tran Eskoor An Doon posted that same list with some great additions here. I also blogged about Guy Fullerton's idea of the qualities of a great old school module, which is a little different but certainly related.
But one thing Alex mentions that I hadn't seen in either of those lists relates to factions in a dungeon and the opportunity for players to negotiate with them. This seems like a classic feature and should probably be added to any list of old school touchstones or qualities of great modules.
Here are some of the things he mentioned liking:
- Intelligent opposition. If the monsters are too stupid, no amount of trickery will help.
- A handful of named NPCs with goals and quirks to interact with.
- Potential allies for the more politically inclined players.
- Maybe even a third party beyond the party and the enemies.
- Relations between these NPCs in a sentence or two. A is hiding from B. C really hates D. E escaped from the prison run by F.
- Factions that these NPCs belong to. Actions will have long term consequences if factions are involved.
- suggests multiple goals. Rescue prisoner here, kill boss there, find hidden treasure
- offers an opportunity to spy on enemies for the stealthily minded players. A murder hole, a grate, a tiny tunnel, a scrying ball.