Saturday, June 6, 2009

Thoughts on the Old School Renaissance

It's funny how things come around.  In 2007 I reserved myself a blogspot that I thought I would use as a RPG forum, but didn't know what I wanted to do besides "wax nostalgic."  Gary Gygax dies and I feel the end of an age, but I was already feeling that with the onset of 3.5 and the flooding of D20 products into he market (not to mention the re-writing of various older games as D20 versions...Gamma World, nooooo!).

Truth be told, the majority of my game acquisitions and dabblings have been in the indie-games developed in part on the Forge, where I found the discussion on game design both thoughtful and enlightening.  Some may find Forge-ites to be the extreme opposite end of the gaming spectrum, but I consider them to be kindred spirits.  Certainly Rod Edwards article/essays on Dungeons & Dragons are great food for thought, and a self-professed lover of fantasy RPGs, I think he is extremely fair in his analysis of the hobby.

However, the last few months I've put my own game designs (non-fantasy, mind you) on hold in order to explore the OSR.  I actually got hipped to the movement when I read an interview between James Maliszewski of Grognardia and Kenneth Hite (Hite, for those who don't know, is a crafter of the mighty fine Trail of Cthulhu RPG).

Anyway, now I find myself starting up my own old school blog.  Well, it probably would have happened eventually.

Frankly, there's a lot to say.  Is the Old School movement a push-back against the commercialization of the hobby?  Is it an out-pouring of creativity from a marginalized group in the RPG sub-culture?  Is it simply a bully's attempt to show "this is how I play?"

I don't think its any of those things at heart, though I may be wrong.  I think that it is "more than a feeling" as James wrote...but even if it's ONLY a feeling, feelings are strong and real and have power to affect the real world.  Aren't "feelings" a large part of the problem on the West Bank?

(side note: I am not inviting discussion on that last question)

Here's how I see it...I'm getting to the age where, if I was going to stop collecting and playing RPGs, I would have...just like I gave up Hot Wheels cars, comic books, and Saturday Morning cartoons.  Just as I stopped playing soccer or fencing.  We get older and we pick our priorities, including hobbies.

SO coming to acceptance that, "okay, I guess I'm a geek that likes RPGs," it's time to become an evangelist and "spread the good word."  By which I mean simply: gaming has merit. It is a shared experience...and by definition, one that needs to be shared with interested parties.

For me, that means youngsters.  While I don't have children of my own (yet), I do have younger friends (teens and pre-teens) that hang out with my wife and I and enjoy playing games.  And I want to introduce to them the same games that sparked my interest in gaming in the first place.  If I can, I want to introduce them to games in the same way that I was introduced to them, echoing my own gaming education.

But even more than that, I am a man with a lot less time than I once had...I'm fortunate that I don't have to travel and work 12 hour days like my wife, but I still have errands in keeping up a house and taking care of two beagles.  Plus I need to find time to exercise...for my health as much as for this paunch I've been slowly developing.

Less time means, less time to waste on games that I don't enjoy.  It means bye-bye to the frustrations of 3.5+ (whose learning curve is too high to introduce to people), to incoherent game designs (like AD&D2 or most White Wolf games).  It means getting maximum enjoyment for my time...and while games don't all have to be "rules light," I am dropping all giant stat block games like hand grenades (sorry D20, Palladium).

To me, the Old School Renaissance is the re-birth of my own gaming preferences...a re-defining of what I enjoy in a game, and a hard, cold look past the glossy exterior to the meat of the game.  Some books make great coffee table material, and some are games worthy of being played.  I own both types, but if I have the choice, I'm only going to play the latter.

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