Earlier this month, I posted than two-thirds of my Swords & Wizardry players preferred Microlite74 to Swords & Wizardry (see Microlite74 is "better" than Swords & Wizardry?). I was at a loss to explain this as the differences between M74 and S&W seem trivial to me and my players couldn’t explain why they preferred one to other beyond that they thought m74 play was smoother and the rules got in the way less.
After two more game sessions and some discussion, those who prefer Microlite74 have been able to more clearly state why they do. The reasons surprised me and amounted to “we played 3.x and the crunchy bits of Microlite74 are more like 3.x than the crunchy bits of Swords & Wizardry”.
You know how some old school gamers seem highly annoyed when ascending armor class is used even if the results of the die rolls are mathematically the same as if descending armor class were used? I look at this and just don’t get it. It seems like it is a meaningless difference, yet it makes a huge difference to some players. The same thing seems to be going on with the 3.x players in my S&W game. For example, S&W includes both descending and ascending armor class rules while M74 doesn’t, so M74 feels closer to the game they started with than S&W does — and therefore less complex.
Microlite74 looks closer to 3.x in its few crunchy bits than Swords & Wizardry does, so they prefer it — even though both games play very much alike and the few crunchy bits these games have give quite similar results.
What does this mean in the grand scheme of things? I don’t know if it means anything. However, it may show that for at least some players, the little things in the rules are more important to player enjoyment than many of us might think. Perhaps, if the object of a new “old school” game is to attract new players to old school gaming, the game should be designed to use “modern crunch” (that new players are probably familiar with) to duplicate old school style where possible instead of “old school crunch” that old school players more familiar with.