Well, today I actually got my girlfriend and two of my friends to try old school D&D. This is a group whose first encounters with roleplaying games were D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder. I chose the red Basic Book (with the fighter squaring off against a dragon on the cover) and I decided to run Tomb of the Serpent Kings as my introductory scenario.
It was a miserable, miserable failure and they quit after ten rooms.
I can't help but feel it was my fault, though in moratorium there were a number of factors. They said that "everything was too arbitrary," specifically citing a distaste for the saving throw system. They didn't like one of the traps in the module (which I will not outline so as to avoid spoilers) because they thought there was "nothing they could do" to prevent it. They were frustrated by lack of skills that could be used to resolve situations. They didn't like that firing a missile weapon into a melee is a bad, bad idea. The magic-user's player didn't like only having two spells per day. (I give +1 spell for magic-users with intelligence of 13 or higher.) The list goes on.
Really the only thing they liked was combat. They said combat was faster and less complicated. (Though they didn't like group initiative or surprise rolls.)
They didn't like that 1 HD monsters are worth about 10 xp. They didn't like that treasure gives you XP, or that there's no CR rating or encounter balance. They didn't like the slower pace of the game.
Part of me wishes I'd run A Stranger Storm or Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess. Yeah, those aren't exactly 'classic' examples, but I think they would have enjoyed the experience much more. As it stands, none of the rest of them ever want to play old D&D again. It's a good thing that I've got them hooked on Monster of the Week and Monsterhearts 2, because I would rather have my teeth pulled than play Pathfinder again, and I'd rather have my teeth pulled and forcibly inserted into my ass than GM a Pathfinder game again. (I blogged about it once quite a few years back. Running Pathfinder was among the worst gaming experiences of my life.)
I take it a little personally, because I feel like I could've somehow done better or prepared a better intro to old school gaming. I've hooked people with my old Temple of Zirugar thing I wrote up for con games, or with Lamentations scenarios. I actually netted old D&D -3 players today. Even so, I feel like even that might have not been enough. They seemed unsatisfied with the play style itself, and with many core conceits of the game. My girlfriend in particular bemoaned the lack of a feat system. (Although one of the players actually enjoyed the lack of feats quite a lot.) I could've used The B/X Warrior or The B/X Rogue (both excellent books, by the way) to provide some "featiness," but I was in a hurry to get playing.
I'm a good DM. Hell, I'm a great DM. I'm not used to failing. I'm not used to having bad sessions. I'm damn sure not used to turning people off from an entire fucking system.
They wanted me to run a different game afterward, but I politely declined.
I got them to enjoy All of Their Strengths, plus my two PbtA games mentioned above, and those are about as opposite of Pathfinder as you can possibly get. The group is also interested in Masks , so that's something to look at for 2019.
In the meantime, I'm going to give my bruised DM ego another week and resume Monster of the Week.
Oh, and because it seems obligatory: I'm not affiliated with the books I linked in this blog post or their authors or blah blah blah. I gain nothing if you buy them, I don't give a fuck if you buy them. Cheers.