I was pessimistic going in--I was ill-prepared, the players had been bugging me all day with questions about character generation, and I decided to change rulesets at the last minute because one of the players had spent money on Swords & Wizardry (even though it's free) but that was the game I directed them to in the first place--but I'm pessimistic going in to everything, and I'm usually wrong.
Pleased to be wrong again. Old-school gaming is fun.
Me and four other players, all of us new to old-school play (two of them new to D&D altogether), set out to explore James Maliszewski's Outdoor Map from Fight On! #2 (seriously, go buy it. If you're ever gonna play old-school, there is no better value. Well, okay, the blogs are free, and full of really good stuff too, but. . .go buy Fight On!).
I was pleased that the players took advantage of the sandbox opportunity that was only weakly presented to them: I plopped them down in a roadhouse (the one I made with James Raggi's Inn generator from, yes, Fight On! #2) and (one of them) took the advice of Matthew Finch's Old-School Primer and hit up the one-legged innkeep for information about the environs and their denizens. They learned about how the inn (Singing Easy Basilisk) was named for an encounter with one such lizard, in which it was fed a crock of whimsey wine, and they learned of the starmetal found in the nearby town of Vidda.
They decided to check out the starmetal, even though the inn-keep had really been prepping them to head in the direction of the Keep on the Borderlands, there ot seek the rumored Caves of Chaos. I feel like I'm telling you the same stuff I said last week. Ah, that's because I am. Anyway, sandbox play--they went somewhere that required me to extemporize.
They ended up staying the night in the stables after the 'cleric' hit on the tavern keeper's daughter. Their night of sleep was rent by cries from near the palisade where a monster (from the Random Esoteric Monster Generator) was feasting on the fear of the townsfolk. This was a monster that I didn't think was usable: a furry rhinoceros-amoeba with extrusive bone structure that phases through wood and feasts on fear. Oh, and it throws its voice. But it seemed to fit the weird mutation theme of the starmetal-warped town, so I threw it in, and the players were a little afraid of it--except that the girl playing the elf laughed at my attempts to be scary. N00bs. They still think our hackneyed portrayals of Dark and Evil Creepiness are ridiculous.
It was a good time and a satisfying game. Thank you Old School Movement.