Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cartography II

Colored in regions, added provincial borders, and marked city locations on the map for Flying Swordsmen RPG.  I'm going to have to redo the colors, though.  They don't scan well.  I'm not liking these Korean color pencils I've got to work with.  I'll see if I can dig out my old Japanese ones and re-do the coloring.  Otherwise I'll have to touch it up in GIMP, and I'm not too fond of that option.  I'm guessing it will be a lot more time consuming.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Public Domain is Awesome

Over the past couple of days, I've been collecting public domain pictures that I can use with Flying Swordsmen.  I've got a couple of artists on board, which is great that I can include some new art in it.  I'm really thankful to both Dylan and Jacob.

But there's no way I could get these two to donate enough art to fill what looks like it will be a roughly 120 page book. 

And not even looking for traditional pictures of Chinese monsters (although I do have a few already), I've collected over 120 public domain pictures.  So I'll be able to pick and choose what I like, and should still have enough art to have a picture on each page if I feel like it. 

I don't plan to put a picture on each page, but I could if I wanted to.

The only down side to the public domain images is that many of the human figures come from Three Kingdoms and Outlaws of the Marsh illustrations, so they're almost all male, and a majority are wearing armor.  Oh well, beggars can't be choosers, and I will be getting some new art to help rectify some of those issues.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Not really feeling anything worth posting lately.  Working on the FSRPG map and campaign setting description, doing some reading, playing with my son.  That's my free time these days.  A bit of blog reading as well.  But nothing to write about.

Oh well, inspiration will come soon enough.  Until then, roll some natural 20's, everyone.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I spent about 10 minutes yesterday afternoon doing a rough sketch of a map for Flying Swordsmen RPG's campaign world.  I spent some time this morning before my son woke up detailing coastlines, then sketching in mountains and rivers.  This evening, I detailed the mountains and rivers. 

Now I've scanned it just to put it up here and show off where I am so far.  My sketch pad is too big for my scanner, so I had to do it in two parts and edited them together roughly.  The seam is obvious, but this is just for posterity.  I'll be adding in forests and deserts next, then finally cities, roads, and provincial borders and labels over the next few days.

I only got two of my sample characters rolled up so far, but I've been having fun with the map.

Also, I've got another artist lined up to help, Jacob from the Yamanashi Group.  Things are coming along with this little project of mine.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Rolling Up Characters

I've got nothing to say about this week's OSR shield debate.  And I've had limited time for gaming stuff. 

Besides working on some edits of Flying Swordsmen (thanks, Matt and David!) and arranging for some art (thanks, Dylan!), I've been pouring over various Palladium books to try to figure out what sort of character I want to play.

Palladium's biggest problem as far as I'm concerned, is that everything DOES play well together (well, maybe except anything with megadamage).  Still, after going through most of Ninjas & Superspies, and returning to TMNT and Heroes Unlimited (still haven't cracked open Mystic China but I may be OK without it) I think I've figured out what I want to play out of the hundreds of options available.  I'm not sure when Alex is going to get his game prepped and ready to play, but I'm more or less ready to roll up my guy.

I'm also going to be rolling up some sample characters for Flying Swordsmen today and tomorrow.  I'll maybe do a few playtests with them, and I'll be using them both for examples in the rule book and as characters in the flavor text. 

So I've got character generation on the brain, not shields.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Just to set the record straight

I may dump on 4th Edition, or other games I personally don't like here on my blog.  It's my blog, so it's my place to do just that. 

I do not, never have, and never will, go to the blog of some fellow gamer who does happen to like 4E (or any other game I don't like) and dump there.

Self-Inflicted Punishment

Yesterday morning, and again last night, I sat myself down and forced myself to finish reading the 4E Essentials Rules Compendium's chapter on Powers. 

Man, that was a slog.  No wonder I put it off for so long.  It's not only a really boring explanation of all the terms used in powers, it's also apparently written for complete morons.

Seriously, people complain about the Mentzer sets being written at a young reading level, but this was painful. 

The skill chapter comes next, but Powers may have sapped my will to actually figure out 4E.  I mean, that's the heart of the game system right there, folks.  Who cares about the rest when the bread and butter is so stale?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Gruesome Death on Gamma Terra

Warning: a few spoilers about Module GW6 Alpha Factor.

We got together last Saturday evening for some more Gamma World.  We had another new player, Adam, who is a co-worker of Jeremy's.  Another good guy, and a lot of fun to play with.  3E's his preferred system, but he didn't have any complaints about running a simpler system.

We played at Pat's place, which is fairly small, but luckily we all fit.  We may have yet more people joining (Alex potentially getting in on it, another friend of Jeremy's named Chris, and maybe a Korean guy Jeremy knows as well).  If that happens, we'll need a new place to play next time!

Anyway, about the game.  Adam rolled up Tom Petty from The Postman.  A PSH Examiner.  While we were doing that, Jeremy also rolled up a new character just for fun to keep as a reserve.  With a 4th player, we decided we only needed to play one PC each, so I took my Cougar Esper Linka, Pat played his Sentient Cactus Scout Jar-Jar-Jar, and Jeremy played his Bull Enforcer Saeng. 

We joined up with Tom Petty, did a bit more RP around town (finding out that the Ranks of the Fit are paranoid about being invaded), waited out another volleyball sized hail storm, then set out for the Mind Keep.

We made it to the obviously artificial plateau without event, used the grappling mortar we'd been given to scale the sides rather than take the road, which we heard was mined, and arrived in a large cactus patch.  Across the patch, most of the plateau was barren, with several installations and buildings, mostly clustered in the center.  Crossing the cacti, Tom Petty had to ride on Saeng's shoulders because he was the only one in light armor and would have taken damage otherwise.  And we were attacked by mutant lizard-scorpion things on the way.  They had tough carapaces so were hard to hit, but luckily their Mental Defense was low.  They spent a lot of time grappling, and Saeng used Confusion to keep them from doing too much damage to us, while hitting them with his ax.  Linka used Mental Blast to good effect as well.  Jar-Jar-Jar took a lot of punishment, and Tom Petty took some as well, but we managed to defeat them and looted their lair, which had a few not-so-useful at the moment things, like two pairs of downhill skis.

Having defeated the guardians, we proceeded to explore the plateau.  The main complex had lots of skeletons on the roof, so we decided not to try to climb the walls.  We also avoided the obvious front door.  Off to the east, there was a hatch set in the surface.  We tried opening it, but had no luck.  Saeng the Bull decided he was going to charge it with his horns over and over until he bashed it in.  While he was doing that, Tom Petty watched from a short distance away.  Linka and Jar-Jar-Jar went to investigate a small concrete tower we hadn't been able to see from the south side.

The tower was some sort of exhaust port.  There was a metal grate on top.  When Linka jumped up, her fur started standing on end.  Jar-Jar-Jar, who has ultravision, was able to detect an electrical field about 60cm down under the grate.  We called Saeng and Tom Petty over, but Saeng bull-headedly persisted at bashing the hatch.  Tom unsuccessfully tried to find a way to ground or short circuit the electrical field with some copper wire.  Then it happened.


The hatch was booby trapped with an alpha bomb, which vaporized poor Saeng.  His reinforced skeleton ended up flying all the way back to the RotF village, where they erected it as a statue.  Luckily, the rest of us were all over on the vent thing, so we didn't get caught up in the blast.  And we've got a way into the complex now, too.

After a good laugh all around, Jeremy's new character dropped in by hot air balloon, after witnessing the explosion.  If anyone else shows up next session, we'll also be able to conveniently have them also be passengers on the balloon, since we ended the session there.

It was a short game, and not a whole lot happened, but it sure was fun!  Kudos to Josh for running a great session.  Gamma World really fits his style of GMing well, I think.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Movie Review: Green Lantern

Last night, my wife and I went to check out the latest superhero flick, Green Lantern.

Quick capsule review: I was entertained, but not overly impressed.

Longer review:
I should I guess remind folks (or let the new people reading this know) that when I was into comics back in the 90's, I was mostly reading Marvel titles and a bunch of indy comics.  Not a whole lot of DC's fare.  I'm more familiar with the characters of the DC universe from Saturday morning cartoons, movies, and video games than with the actual comics themselves.  So while I have a familiarity with most of the characters that appeared, I don't know (nor care) how closely they followed any of the story-lines in the comics.

That being said, what disappointed me about the movie wasn't the acting -- one of my buddies was really concerned over Ryan Reynolds playing Hal Jordan.  Reynolds did a pretty good job.  It wasn't the special effects -- random internet mumbling about a completely CGI suit from some early trailers proved unfounded IMO.  The suit looked good, and fairly realistic in most of the close-up scenes.  It was the story.

Of course, non-comic book geeks watching the movie need that introduction story of how the hero gets his powers.  I can accept that, although it gets a bit old after a while (the reason I'm not looking forward to the new Spider-man reboot next year).

In Green Lantern, though, I felt like the story was at the same time too big and too small.  It was too big in that it was trying to tell the Parallax story (not sure, but I doubt that this was the way the comics introduced the character of Green Lantern and the Corps, was it?) which is pretty 'big.'  You've got an entity that can easily wipe out the entire population of planets here as the bad guy.  It was too small because it had to get Hal Jordan from loser ace test pilot to one of the strongest superheroes in the DC universe in less than two hours so that he can battle that overpowering enemy.

OK, don't let my negativity there dissuade you.  It wasn't a perfect movie, but it was fun and entertaining.  I thought the action scenes were pretty fun, a few characters were fairly cardboard (Tim Robbins as the senator, for example), but the main characters were all convincingly complex.  The CGI, very important these days for a movie where a good third of it takes place on other planets, not to mention with the presentation of the super powers of imagination made real, were very well done. 

Of course they're setting things up for a sequel at the end.  I hope they make it.  Now that they've got the character intro out of the way, they will hopefully ramp up the action in the next one.  And as I've said before, maybe DC will get off their rumps and get some more of their characters up on the big screen to compete with Marvel at the box office.

On a complete side note--we didn't want to see this in 3D, and the theater didn't have a digital 2D version.  Man, the celluloid was crap!  Maybe we've gotten spoiled with digital, but there were so many scratches and vertical lines all over the screen.  It was like watching a movie at a second run theater back in the day, where the tape had already been played a few hundred times at a first run theater. 

There were, counting myself and the wife, only seven people in the theater as well.  Not sure if that's a sign of GL's lack of exposure in Korea, or maybe everyone else was seeing it in 3D.  When we saw Thor (digital 2D), the place was packed.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Flying Swordsmen RPG Phase 2: Warm Liquid Goo Phase

Yeah, Austin Powers references are so late-90's.  Still, I get a kick out of them.

Anyway, on to business.  I've finished my edit pass of Flying Swordsman this morning, adding in something I forgot -- some normal animals in the monster section.  I didn't go overboard, though.  I only added in about ten, thinking of animals that are both found in East Asia and also could potentially be used in an action-oriented kung fu game.  Tiger, bear, monkey (more of a nuisance than opponent), dog/wolf as one entry, elephant, horse, constrictor and poisonous snake, and a couple others.  Mostly either animals that might be fun in combat, or that might be used domestically in war, sport or defense.

I've sent messages to David of Tower of the Archmage and Ronin_Akikage, who both have sent offers to edit and give me some feedback.  If anyone else would like to take a look at the rules as they stand right now, drop me a line here and I'll add you to the list.

Also, if anyone's willing to contribute some artistic talent for the free pdf version (considering a POD version for a small profit, for which I'd likely break even paying artists if I'm lucky!), then also please contact me! 

Either leave a comment, or else email me at the_boy_from_illinois (at mark) yahoo dot com.

Thanks to everyone who's shown some interest in this.  I'm starting to work on the campaign setting now, and since I'll be pulling elements of an old d20 OA game world I created, it should go faster than rewording the original rules did.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Book Review: Forge of the Elders

Yesterday, I finished reading a sci-fi book Josh loaned me, L. Neil Smith's Forge of the Elders.  It was a pretty good read.  A bit preachy at times, and way over the top in both its plot twists, its pseudo-science, and its politics, but still a good, fun read.

Astronaut and Nautiloid having a kind of story!
The plot begins with an attempt by the American Soviet Socialist Republic to send three decommissioned space shuttles, full of folks the ASSR wouldn't mind if they don't make it back, to an asteroid that shows unusual amounts of carbon in a secret mission to try to revive the flagging communist economy.  Only the astronauts aren't the first people to land there...there are beings from alternate time-line Earths already there, searching for something.

The book is divided into three sections, and it reads like they were published separately.  The initial chapters of the second and third sections spend a fair amount of time explaining what's going on.  The pace is brisk, and twists and new revelations happen fairly quickly.  The first section is a murder mystery (who killed one of the ASSR crew and one of the Nautiloid Elders?).  The second section is a different type of mystery...why are the Nautiloids and their companion species all on the asteroid?  The third section deals with the resolution of the Nautiloids' mission (not what they thought it would be even!).  The ending leaves actually quite a fair amount unresolved.  I haven't checked, but I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Smith has written or will someday write a sequel.

Reading the book, I kept wondering to myself if Smith was really some sort of Ayn Rand acolyte, or if he was just taking the piss out of those sorts of sci-fi writers.  The story is labeled as space opera, but it reads to me more like satire of space opera at times.  Looking for that image I put up at the top of the post just a few minutes ago, I saw a blurb saying that Smith is a die hard Libertarian.  So I guess it wasn't supposed to be satirical.  Still, even if you disagree with his politics (some points I can accept, others I reject), and those politics are fairly important to the plot, it still doesn't browbeat.  There are no Mary Janes, everyone has flaws in their modes of behavior and ways of thinking, even the ones Smith uses most to espouse his philosophy.

The one big mystery I'm left with is a little detail I picked up from the very first introduction chapter (and Josh had missed completely).  There's a connection to Sherlock Holmes and possibly to P.J. Farmer's Wold Newton Universe through Nero Wolf, but I haven't read enough Holmes or Farmer/Farmer-influenced writing to figure out if it's significant or just an Easter Egg for attentive readers.

Anyway, I liked it.  If you like quirky sci-fi and don't mind having Libertarian values shoved in your fiction left and right, you may enjoy it too.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Shinobi Sunday: Gamer ADD Edition

In the Board Game Group, Jeremy has maybe one or two more players interested in joining Josh's Gamma World game.  But according to Alex, who I talked to yesterday, Josh is thinking of stopping after this module rather than continuing the series.  What's all this got to do with ninja?  Not much, I can hear some of you thinking. 

But Alex is again wanting to run his go-to system, Palladium.  He plans to mix TMNT with Ninjas & Superspies.

Right now he's thinking of running a mercenary campaign, possibly using elements of Recon as well.  I told him yesterday that I'd be all over this game if he actually set it during the Vietnam War.  I grew up on Tour of Duty, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, and read quite a few histories of the war in Jr. High and High School. 

Anyway, even if he doesn't set it in 'Nam, a TMNT/Ninjas & Superspies game could be pretty fun.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Blending Alignment and Treasure Hunting

Building off of my last post, and Jaap de Goede's comment on it, I started thinking back to my earlier breakdown of Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic as the conflict between civilization and the forces that would destroy it.

Hunting for treasure is not in and of itself anti-heroic. 

XP for treasure is a simple way to include "story" awards in D&D.  Too much treasure kicking around the campaign can be a problem for certain styles of game.

Alignment can be problematic, but the simpler version of Classic D&D works for me.

Taking all of the above together, let's combine my ideas on alignment with the Dave Arneson houserule that you only gain XP for 'frittering away treasure on hookers and blow.'

  • Lawful characters, being concerned with advancing Civilization, only gain XP for donating their treasure to some agent of Order and Civilization.  This could be their liege lord, the Thieves' Guild, a temple or church, the Tower of Magery, a museum, local charities, and the like.
  • Neutral characters, being concerned with their own interests first, only gain XP for wasting their treasure on some hobby, or their own pleasure (the standard Arneson rule, in other words).
  • Chaotic characters, being concerned with halting and reversing Civilization, only gain XP for destroying or hiding treasure in some way.  And it has to be gone in a way that it's not likely to come back soon.  Sinking a treasure ship before raiding the hold, dumping coins down bottomless pits, crushing gems to powder, melting down jewelry, using alchemy to turn gold into lead, or feeding it to a powerful dragon all count.  Simply burying it in the woods pirate style to dig up later doesn't.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Heroes Need Not Apply? I don't think so

So I'm reading through my blog list this morning and of course there's a lot of reaction to the Dungeon Crawl Classics beta that's been released for free.  I still haven't taken a look at it.  I've been too busy this week.  Today's our anniversary, so I know I won't get around to it tonight.

Just wanted to throw up a quick reaction to some of the blogs discussing the non-heroic focus of DCC (and LotFP:WFR). 

Making treasure the standard of progress (gold for XP being much greater than monster XP, and no 'story' or 'skill' rewards until 2E) doesn't invalidate heroic play.  It's fairly easy to incorporate the treasure hunt motif with a heroic vein.  That's the whole point of one of the most popular movie series ever (yeah, the 4th one sucked, we'll ignore that for now).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Dungeon Chickens

So there's that story that floats around the internet, about a second hand copy of a DMG that had penciled in the margins of the wandering monster tables, "Dungeon Chicken."  I'm likely getting the story wrong, but I'm too lazy to go look it up.  I'd bet the story's kicking around somewhere on Jeff's Gameblog (UPDATE: here).  Pretty sure that's where I first read about it.

Anyway, have fun:

Dungeon Chicken
Armor Class: 7 (13)
Hit Dice: 2
Move: 30 (10), Fly 30 (10)
Attacks: 1 peck
Damage: 1d8
No. Appearing: 3d4 (0)
Save As: Fighter 1
Morale: 6
Treasure Type: nil
Alignment: Neutral
XP: 20

Dungeon Chickens are 4' tall versions of the normal animal who have adapted to living in caverns, ruins, and underground labyrinths.  Their coloration is the same as normal chickens.  They have 90' infravision.

Fire Breathing Dungeon Chicken
Armor Class: 6 (14)
Hit Dice: 3+1*
Move: 30 (10), Fly 30 (10)
Attacks: 1 peck or breath
Damage: 1d8 or 3d6
No. Appearing: 1d6 (0)
Save As: Fighter 2
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: S
Alignment: Neutral
XP: 75

Fire Breathing Dungeon Chickens are similar to normal Dungeon Chickens, except they are always red in color.  Once per day, a Fire Breathing Dungeon Chicken can shoot a cone of fire 20' long and 10' wide at the far end.  All those within the blast take damage (save vs. breath weapons for half damage).

Chicken Leg (Chicken Dragon)
Armor Class: 4 (16)
Hit Dice: 5+2
Move: 60 (20)
Attacks: 1 tail or 1 bite
Damage: 3d6 or 1d8
No. Appearing: 1d6 (1d4)
Save As: Fighter 3
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: A
Alignment: Neutral
XP: 225

Chicken Legs look like a cross between a featherless chicken and a small dragon.  They have round pink bodies atop a pair of chicken legs, a powerful serpentine barbed tail, and a bird-like beak.  They usually attack with a tail sweep, but have been known to bite.  Chicken Legs can be trained and are used as mounts by certain barbarian and humanoid tribes.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Into the Wastelands!

Last night we got our Gamma World game off the ground.  We also had a new player join us, Jeremy.

It took quite a bit longer than we'd hoped to roll up characters.  A large part of that was because we were playing at my place, and my son kept interrupting the process.  So while I had thought I'd roll up my guys quickly and then help the others, it was more of me helping them while trying to keep my son from stealing dice or dancing on the table, then finishing up my characters last.

As usual with Gamma World, we've got some interesting characters.  I rolled up an Altered Human Examiner and a Mutated Animal (Cougar) Esper.  Jeremy rolled up a Mutated Animal (Bull) Enforcer and an Altered Human Esper.  Pat rolled up a Pure Strain Human Examiner and a Sentient Plant (Succulent) Scout.

Despite the late start, I think we made some good progress into the module.  We have been given several hooks and a small sandbox area to explore.  We focused on the 'main task' but I think we'll be sure to check out some of the other hooks before we finish.  There wasn't a lot of combat.  We fought one radioactive bird which had no loot, and got attacked by some gamma moths later, which resulted in Pat's Cactus getting radiation sickness and almost dying.  Most of the other encounters were role playing affairs. 

Towards the end, we were all also starting to get a handle on who are characters are.  Jeremy jumped in early with that, making his "Minotaur" into a noble, hard working guy, and his Esper into a crotchety old coot.  I of course made my Cougar into an over 30 female, and since she had an Int 5, she's none too smart so I started trying to make her cat-like instincts drive her at inopportune moments.  My Examiner took a little longer to get into, but I think he's a curious and friendly fellow who has a dream to see civilization restored (he's a Restorationist).  Pat's two characters are a buddy team, sort of like Nobita and Doraemon (if you know who they are).  His Cactus even has a kangaroo pouch mutation. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011


I think I've finally got the nuts and bolts rules section of Flying Swordsmen RPG finished, as of sometime during my break at work yesterday.  Tuesday at work (Monday's Korea's version of Memorial Day) I'll print up all 75 or so pages of rules so I can really scan them well for editing purposes.

Once I clean them up a bit, I've got to get to work on the campaign setting, and including lots of examples in the rules that show off that campaign world.  I'm gonna try to keep the world descriptions/history brief, and focus on organizations that can be used to flesh out the setting, similar to Gamma World's Cryptic Alliances or the Martial Arts secret societies of Dragon Fist.  I think that will be much more useful for gamers than boring stats of the populations and major products of a dozen cities. 

Once I get that done, I'll try to work up an introductory adventure and solicit some art donations.  So don't expect to see Flying Swordsmen any time in the immediate future, but it is coming along.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It's not about the textbook, it's about the students

I've been pondering again -- rather pointlessly, I know -- about just what divides "Old School" RPGs from "New School" RPGs.

And once again, I'm coming up with a conclusion that points more to the players than to the rules systems presented in any rulebooks.  Of course, the rules are connected, and can serve to reinforce what the players expect out of the game.  But I feel that what's actually written on the page is a lot less important than how the players (and I suppose I should state here that when I'm using players in this little essay, I'm including Game Masters/Referees) interpret and use those rules.

First off, we can pretty easily say there's no specific 'cut off date' that divides games.  We can't say that everything after 1989 is new school, or everything before 2000 is old school, or anything like that.  The existence of the retro-clone movement has created neo-'old school' games recently.  And some of those games created back in the 70's/80's definitely don't feel like what I personally, at least, consider to be that old school feeling.

Second, it again really falls on D&D's shoulders to be the benchmark by which other games are judged.  It's the first and most popular RPG, and the changes in its various editions show a lot of adaptations of, or reactions against, innovations and player desires in other games.  And those other games are often adaptations of or reactions against the current version of D&D on the market. 

Third, and most importantly from my perspective, is that there are people who can adapt any rules set to suit their preferred style of play (as evidenced by the recent "I'm with D&D...any edition" internet badges out there).   For many players, the real fun of an RPG isn't so much in what rules you're using, it's in that spark of creativity and shared imagination you have when the group you're playing with are all helping feed each other's shared imaginings.  Yes, there are some people who get bogged down in rules minutiae and love the mental challenge of it. 

The real breakdown between Old and New Schools, I'm thinking, is completely based on what the players are expecting out of the game.  And it's got a lot to do with how well a player accepts limits on their character's potential.  This is not about power gaming, but it is about being able to embrace the sub-optimal choice or to embrace the unlimited potential

For Old School players, not every character created needs to be able to achieve the maximum potential for 'power' under the rules.  If you get lucky, you might be able to create Luke Skywalker or Elric of Melnibone, but you're still willing to play as Fatty Bolger or Napoleon Dynamite.  The limits imposed by the game are there to make those powerful characters feel special.  Not every character is supposed to achieve the maximum potential under the game rules.  And finding the best way to play that sub-optimal character is the fun of the game.

For New School players, it's important that any particular character have the potential for the maximum development.  You don't need to get lucky, you just need to make the right choices and you can have that power (eventually).  No one needs to get stuck with an Elmer Fudd unless they purposefully choose to play him.  If you choose, you can be Gandalf.  (With an implication that you'd better play Gandalf, because Elmer Fudd won't be able to pull his weight alongside John Carter, He-Man, and Cloud Strife).

So basically, if the game has 'balanced' classes, or a completely selective skill system, or a group's house rules allow repeat mulligans or for selecting options rather than rolling randomly, that's New School.  If the players take the limits of the game and the results of random character creation and just roll with it, that's Old School.

Feel free to rip this analysis to shreds in the comments.