Pontifex and the OSR

As many OSR enthusiasts do, I've been thinking about what makes a game "old school." I generally arrive at points that are very common: rulings not rules, fast and deadly combat, exploration, mortality, etc.* But what I have realized while thinking about this—and while working on a rules system for Pontifex—is that Pontifex kind of deviates from what makes an old school game old school.

I would be hard-pressed to think of a more important and iconic facet of OSR games than dungeons. Mechanically, many OSR games are pretty much only designed to deal with 4 things: dungeon exploration, wilderness exploration, combat, and spellcasting. The rest is pretty much left up to interpretation on the part of the Players and DM. So, if we take this to mean that dungeon exploration is essentially one of the four pillars holding up the gameplay style of the OSR, then it should be noted that Pontifex's pillar looks a bit different.*

Pontifex isn't designed for traditional dungeon adventures. There are certainly countless ruins, dungeons, and castles dotting the realm, but exploring them isn't always a matter of destroying their inhabitants and stealing the great treasure from within. Plundering is encouraged, but ancient and crypt-like locations such as dungeons are intended to be places of mystery, power, greed, joy, evil, anger, sadness, and should be dealt with relative to the characters' personal goals and the goal(s) of their quest(s). This might sound a bit pretentious and vague, but a forthcoming supplement providing house rules, general lore, and a location description with adventure seeds will hopefully help sort this out. 

Plus, the fact that Wretches are effectively the only "monster" in the game limits the ability of the DM to design varied combat encounters. Yes, Wretches are designed to be flexible and vastly different from each other, but populating every occupied room in a fully-stocked dungeon with the same category of monster is bound to get stale.

*It should be noted that these are fairly reductionist generalizations, but they are both made with the intent of better illustrating that Pontifex might be less OSR than I initially intended, such that potential readers and users of the setting might better understand the philosophy behind it.