This was an impromptu session, with the guys I sometimes play Xcrawl with (and together with whom I complete the line-ups of both The Boxers and ION--well, not quite all of ION).
But I digress. A moment ago I clicked on a link to an OD&D blog (Semper Initiativus Unum) that Google Reader suggested to me, and (apart from enjoying the content) my thought was, now why is Raggi following this guy's blog and not mine? Granted, this guy actually writes knowledgeably about D&D, and I . . . don't so much, but, still, I have more entries! Then I looked at Lamentations of the Flame Princess and saw that Raggi IS in fact following this space. Welcome, James! Your presence is a somewhat frightening inspiration.
Anyway, I didn't tell the players they would be playing OD&D until we sat down. It went something like this: (In Xcrawl the dungeons sporting events hosted by a Dungeon Jockey, and in this case the DJ is a giant green hologram head) "The cyclopean jade head address the crowd, 'Ladies and gentlemen, do you remember a game called Dungeons & Dragons?' The crowd roared back, here and there a cry of 'Nerds!' was heard. Well, wouldn't it be fun to have these Xcrawlers play D&D in real life?"
Now, I know this looks nothing like an example of old-school play, but it's a bald contrivence I thought up on the way over, as a reason for the changed ruleset and the need to roll up new characters.
Then the characters were led to a mock-up of a medieval castle armory, where for some reason all the basic adventuring supplies were for sale. Once outfitted they stepped outside into a massive soundstage on which was built a field leading up to two cave mouths. (There's no sandbox element here, but since the narrative already has them in the midst of a live television competition in a coliseum, there wasn't much room for that.)
They didn't get far into the cave they chose before the were set upon my orcs--no, actor-athletes in rubber pig-face masks, in a racist sterotype of the orcish minority of the American Empire. I though this bit would be funny for the player of the half-orc, and for its meta-textuality (which I acurately predicted Tully would say in regards to the pig-maks).
The orcs quickly killed all the PCs.
So. . . I was fully expecting plenty of character deaths, but I wasn't expecting how disappointing it would be. I clearly don't yet understand how to referee the old school way, and they don't know what kind of play is required for them to keep their characters alive. I didn't give them enough information about the alternatives to staying and getting cut to pieces, and they didn't realize that is this game, sharp things can hurt you. They're not used to that after years of playing 3e.