Case in point: last night, in our fifth session, we discovered a small band of orcs. Two of them were carrying a coffer of gold, and the rest were acting as guards. We gained the surprise on them, but before my slightly wisdom-impaired warrior could charge to the attack, the magic-user in the party cast a Sleep spell and the orcs all keeled over snoring. That's where things got interesting:
- What to do with the orcs? In my gaming experience, the solution was simple. The orcs were asleep, therefore go amongst them and administer a coup de grace to all of them, i.e. slit their throats. But several of the other players seemed to have a different idea: tie up the orcs, strip them of arms and armor and leave them. One of my compatriots argued for taking them back to town and turning them in to the local authorities. Another idly suggested taking them back as "arena slaves." I argued without success that all of these options seemed pretty weird, but I didn't press the point. The orcs were tied up and stripped of their gear.
- What about the coffer of gold? Although my character, Talys, was a fighter, I said that he was going to check for traps on the coffer and attempt to pick the lock. One of the other players said, "But there isn't a thief in the party! You can't check for traps!" I demurred, saying:
"That's not an Old School way of thinking about it. Here - Talys will use his dagger to check along the edge of the coffer, seeing if there is anything suspicious. If not, he will use the dagger tip to pick the lock. If that fails, we can bash the lock open."
Fortunately, James informed us that the coffer had only two simple hasps, and those were not locked. I suggested placing the coffer so that it opened up facing a wall, which several of my fellow party-members thought was a bit paranoid. Quickly enough, however, we opened the coffer using two spears, one from each side flipping the cover back. Voila! Many, many gold pieces. While the gold was being divided up, I said that my fighter was going to search for secret compartments in the coffer; there were none.
What made me think about it all afterwards was that we all came from different traditions when it came to how to do things. The question about the sleeping orcs showed a lack of agreement about what "orcs" were really like and how "civilized" society viewed them. The question about opening the coffer revealed several different sets of assumptions about how things worked in the game. What was fascinating about this was the range of expectations about what was the "right" course of action to take.