I really must be an old outdated game master since I really don’t care for miniatures, or dice apps on an iPhone and also having laptops open around the game table. I prefer to have books, dice, graph paper and imagination, a whole whack of imagination.
Maybe I’m just an ol’ curmudgeon, a dinosaur in the new innovated role playing world. I prefer narrative storytelling structure and using the theatre of the mind’s eye. Since, I can see it clearly unfold in my head. If I’m in the mood for miniatures; I play Battletech or 40k.
When I run Role Playing Games I like to think that it is a social interaction with other people, sitting around the table guzzling back drinks, munching on snacks and telling a tale and improvisation.
To go with the flow of the story and let the dice fall as they may; sure an argument may come up that “I wasn’t there, I was here” but GM’s word is the law and what is done is done. But, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
I had an old school DM who was like that, but without even the graph paper. Everything was Theater of the Imagination. It was kinda tough to play sometimes, but it was certainly a neat experience.
I grew up like this. And when we play Warhammer Fantasy we mostly still do. There are tokens instead of minis but no battle mat, and and the tokens are only for relative distance.
That being said, there is something fun about Minis. They are tactile, like dice. They are a part of the game you can hold and connect with. Also, since the original D&D games came out of Wargaming, I wouldnt call minis “newfangled” or anything like that. Certainly not in the same area as dice apps.
If “Narrative storytelling” is really what appeals to you then older games should hold little to no value to you whatsoever. Any “Older” game, Mainly D&D but Palladium games like Rifts and White Wolf games have been around for some time now. These games all have rules upon rules upon rules for players to learn and min max to death. Further they learn the rules to argue to their advantage. This can, and has, bogged down many games over the decades.
But “the GM’s word is Law” you say.
Think of the GM’s rule like that of a Ship Captain. Specifically a Pirate Ship, because players are like that. Your word may be Law, but if enough of your players are unhappy then they form a mutiny. Someone else steps up and says they will run the ship better.
Gaming and is a game of give and take.
Give some time to listen to podcasts like The Walking Eye or The Jank Cast. Both of them talk about some of the newer games out there, “Indie Games” if you will and about shared Narrative Storytelling. Also there is much to be said for choosing a system that works to tell the kind of story you want, as opposed to shoving everything into a D20 roll. Bear Swarm! podcast talks about this from time to time.
I suggest you look into games like Dungeon World or the game it is based on, Apocalypse World. Or a game like Dread where you use Jenga Tower as the mechanic. Prime Time Adventures is what many consider the “Gateway Game” to indie story games.
Or you could just run a game of Lady Blackbird. It’s free.