- Warning: this is part good natured rant and part stream of consciousness self examination -
I have been mulling a couple of questions over since my last post.
1. Is there actually an Old-School Renaissance-Revival-Revitalization-Rebirth...?
2. If so, am I part of it? -and-
3. Is it doing anything to help me enjoy my gaming more?
1. Is there actually an OSR?
This question came to me after reading some comments on Joethelawyers blog about the OSR happening in an echo chamber. I think this is a very real question. I have no doubt that the vast majority of old-school and/or new-school players do not read forums or blogs and have no idea that there is any talk of an old-school revival.
I do believe that the publishing of Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry have opened some players eyes to old school gaming. But what proportion of their downloads/sales have been to people that were already playing old school games versus those that are trying it out for the first time? I have no idea but my guess (completely unsubstantiated) would be most are already playing old school games.
I fear that the OSR is happening in a cavern. Every once in a while someone might wander in but for the most part its just us Morlocks talking amongst ourselves.
2. Am I part of this OSR?
My answer would be "kinda". I consider myself an old school gamer but I have a few reasons why I would consider myself on the periphery of the OSR:
A. I have no real interest in developing/publishing anything. My focus remains on finding some people with whom I can enjoy playing these games. I think this is why my work on the Pit of Tortured Souls keeps stalling. it is not something I am going to be using in a game any time soon so it just doesn't make it to the top of the to-do list. It seems to be that in this "online cavern" you need to be trying to write something to be considered part of the OSR.
B. Old School style games are not the only ones I read and enjoy. The only face-to-face gaming I have done recently has been with 4th edition D&D. I enjoy reading ChattyDM's recent posts about his game where he started seeing the power of player goal driven adventures. My second favorite edition of D&D is 2nd Edition. I enjoy reading how games like Burning Wheel or Agon use their mechanics for different effects and I like to contemplate how I might incorporate various aspects into my games. All of these things kind of make me feel like an oddball in the OSR.
C. I prefer the original rulesets to the retroclones. I play B/X not Labyrinth Lord. I would likely play OD&D instead of Swords & Wizardry and I would play 2nd Edition AD&D instead of OSRIC (I know this is not strictly apples-to-apples). Now I have no problem with any of the retroclones - I think they are all very fine games and more power to those that play them. I just prefer the originals and I find it easier to explain to people that I play the old basic/expert version of D&D instead of explaining what Labyrinth Lord is. I think that the term OSR is now, for all intents and purposed, used for those using retroclones and publishing new material for those games - it doesn't really refer to those of us who just play old D&D and don't publish stuff.
3. Is any of this helping me enjoy playing?
And I ask this in a larger context than just "does the OSR help me enjoy playing?" but also do all of the forums, blogs, publishers, etc connect with the OSR help me enjoy playing?
I enjoy my blog and putting my random thoughts about gaming out there to discuss with other like minded people. I also really enjoy reading other peoples' thoughts about gaming. However, does any of what I say here or what I read on other peoples' blogs or forum posts help me enjoy my games more?
For me this is a two-pronged answer - yes and no.
Yes - I have met others through my blog that I have had the opportunity to game with that I would not have been able to otherwise - see the Online B/X game for instance. I have found online resources that I use in my games that I would not have found. I also have incorporated new techniques into my DMing that I think make the game more fun. Honestly though most of these new techniques are in fact "new" they come from newer and even "indie" games.
No - Sometimes I find myself thinking that things were easier and more fun "back in the day" before all of this online stuff. While I still love to play I am beginning to think that all of the best gaming moments are behind me. I hope that I am wrong and that I have a whole group of great gaming moments ahead of me with my kids but who knows.
With all of the blogs and forum posts I now find myself constantly thinking and worrying about things that the OSR holds as ideal that I would never have worried about before. Pretty lame I know.
Is a pure sandbox the only "true" way? Why can't a campaign have a big bad guy with a story? Honestly, until all of this online talk about sandbox vs story I never thought about it - sure my games were more sandbox focused than plot-based but they had plot elements in them and it wasn't something I ever worried about. It was just the way I played. And you know what - they were fun. We can all agree that railroads are "bad" but I had a great time playing Keep on the Borderlands and the Time of Troubles trilogy. B10 Nights Dark Terror is a great module even though it has a plot.
I know it is just me being insecure (I get if from being a non-type-A person who was in the investment banking industry, populated by the epitome of type-A people, for 10 years) but I often find that I feel like I am being graded for old school pureness when I game - whether by others or just myself critiquing how "pure" things are. Who the hell cares?
Why should I feel defensive if I consider converting a Paizo adventure path to B/X or 2nd edition? I have no idea! Who cares if I prefer 2nd edition to 1st? What is the big deal if I come up with a campaign idea that involves having to find a mcguffin before continuing - hell, the whole G-series does this. So what if I use D&D's task resolution mechanics but instead use them as conflict resolution mechanics and have the players do some of the narration? The OSR seems to take issue with these though.
I would enjoy playing B/X, 2nd edition, 4th edition, Savage Worlds, Agon, Burning Wheel, RISUS, FUDGE, In a Wicked Age, Castles & Crusades, and all of the other games listed on the lower right hand side of my blog.
I think I would enjoy running or playing in a well run campaign using Paizo's adventure paths or Dragonlance.
You gotta problem with that? ;)
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