I never actually played retro games (70's and early 80's) and got interested in OSR and retro clones thanks to RPG Bloggers feed. Then I started to find out what I have missed back then when I didn't like older Dungeons & Dragons and I realized that I had missed the whole point.
Now my choices for retro are:
- Lamentations Of The Flame Princess for weird and horror fantasy
- Mutant Future for science fantasy and post-apocalypse
- Labyrinth Lord as all around retro-clone for fantasy adventuring
For some reason I didn't like any d20 systems but when I played D&D 3.x I did like the basic simplicity of it. Roll d20 adding bonuses trying to get as high result as the difficulty is that time. I didn't like all the rules because I thought many of them were really unecessary for fun gaming and just did slow play down.
Then how LotFP was advertised and how it looked caught me and I got it. It was a big positive surprise to find out it basically used D&D 3.x system stripped down from all the things what made playing slow. Then I started to dig deeper and liked the idea of Gamma World and found that Mutant Future is now available update of it. I had a change to read almost all the rules of Gamma World first and second edition and found out that Mutant Future is really close to these originals. At first I thought that THAC0 style combat resolution was awkward but realized that it is actually like any other roleplaying system. You just need a table or two to play it. Other rules are really simple. That's why I also downloaded Labyrinth Lord to use in fantasy instead of using D&D 3.x which I only used like 1/5 of the rules.
Also LotFP, MF and LL are really easy for players to adapt. My player isn't really technical so these three games I mentioned are great. You roll your character, fill in the remaining information, buy equipment and are ready to play! No point buys. No character tweaking or optimization, no special rules to know. And it is easy for GM to track player character's capabilities also.
One awesome feature is also how easy rules are to adapt. Character is doing something there are no rules or abilities marked in character sheet? Just roll d20 under ability and apply modifier from -4 to +4 based on the situation. That's easy! You don't need rules to cover everything when you can roll under ability. Or GM can just roll d6 and rule what change something is to happen based on character and situation.
I love how simple retro gaming actually is. For some reason I always thought it is really complicated and roleplaying was more rules than playing and acting it out. Like Raggi has said, it is not important what characters can do but what they do. In OSR it is you the player who decides what his character does instead of checking out your character sheet can your character do it.
Also my player likes retro systems in gameplay. And it's easy for me to say what die she must roll and what number she needs to score. In LotFP I ask her to roll d6 and tell the result if her character finds a trap or in Mutant Future I tell her to roll d20 and add 2 to the result and try to get less than her DEX to climb that roof.
With retro games there is more time for actual story when rules don't take time to figure out for every single die roll.
At first I didn't like the idea of lack of skills for example. But who needs 30 to 100 different skills? You have speech but you cannot barter because you don't have that skill. That's bullshit. In OSR characters always have a change.
Now I feel that I could run every game with ascending or descending AC. It's too much work to convert games though, but the idea is so much better in retro gaming. For example Vampire: the Masquerade claims to be a storytelling game but the rules are clumsy. Vampire: the Requiem (and new World of Darkness) made rules a little more straightforward but still it is a little clumsy to be called storytelling.
What do you think? Can OSR/retro games be more storytelling after all with rules?