I played three games today: My Life With Master, D&D Basic Set ('79), and Polaris.
Now, on to details.
MLWM was setting-hacked, set in 1960s rural Washington State with a very Manson Family vibe. We had some great scenes, and folks were really good at characterization (a creepy big brute with a van, a guy who could only speak if he was waxing intellectual, my Patty Hearst impersonator...); our GM was also excellent - he put on black leather gloves during the Master scenes, and was really intimidating and creepy. It's clear to me now that MLWM is a kinky game.
The downside was a combo of two factors: first, it's not a game that involves the whole table very readily. Secondly, FIVE players were at the table - that's a lot of segmented play, i.e. five separate mission scenes and five separate Overture scenes every time we go around the table. I was thinking that my idea, Gang War, would benefit from some of the procedures used to portray the Master, but play would need to be a lot more open/less structured to work for stories about desperate people joining gangs to survive.
D&D Basic involved the famous Keep on the Borderlands adventure. It was pretty amazing - almost indistinguishable from Swords & Wizardry: very freeform, very deadly combat. The fighter and the dwarf were killed after charging at some spear-goblins, my thief ran away, and the DM ruled that there was 3 weeks of downtime in the fiction while the other players rolled up a couple of elves.
The DM then employed an interesting house rule: he briefly narrated what my thief, Otto Lampblack, had been up to in that time, and then granted me a level. Dunno if that was something he'd devised ahead of time, but after that, the rule was - if some PCs die and the survivors have to retreat, cue downtime and a level-up.
We briefly discussed how level 3 is about the point where a lot of things start to bloom for your character (and I think someone else said this online somewhere, recently) - - abilities that cue to your level relative to monsters begin to matter more, the infamous start-with-1-hp is no longer an issue, and characters begin to differentiate a lot more.
This all makes me want to start a campaign all the more.
More on Polaris soon.