Thursday, August 06, 2009

Old School is New to Me

Here's a secret:

About four, maybe five years ago, one of my friends showed up to our Friday night session with a big stack of rule books and a bunch of boxes full of miniatures. His neighbor had given him a couple boxes full of old 1st and 2nd Edition AD&D gear, and he was talking about starting up a game with some guys he knew from school. (We were engaged in another campaign at the time.)

I flipped through the books and started making fun of them. Class-as-race? Ridiculous. Individual XP charts for each class? Laughable. That weird system of saves? Archaic. The organization was impenetrable, the prose awful, the art hideous-to-non-existent. 3e, I knew from reading forums on the internet, was a great improvement.

That was back when I didn't know any better. Heck, even my friend didn't know any better. Based on, if I remember correctly, some vague knowledge of the Outdoor Survival Map, he explained to us how OD&D had been "a board game," where you moved your pieces around on hexes. What we didn't know about the games we filled in with crazy rumors and misinformation from other new-edition-playing twerps like us.

Then I started getting into RPG blogging. I started reading Jeff's Gameblog, and from there found Trollsmyth, Grognardia, and a bunch of other guys who knew what the heck they were talking about when it came to the older stuff. Not that any of them were, or are, gurus, but they knew that the older editions were fun, that 3e wasn't intrisincally superior to any of them, and they were interested in figuring out exactly what it was that made those old games tick. Luckily, that mix of enthusiasm and curiosity was enough to get through my idiot ideas on the subject, and I ended up coming along for the ride.

Now, I collect those old hardbacks, play in two Labyrinth Lord games, built my own Swords & Wizardry megadungeon, and have pretty much sworn off running 3e, at least for the next few years. I've taught people to play Swords & Wizardry who have never played an edition of D&D before in their lives. It's some of the best gaming I've done in my life.

A few final words, from Trent Foster:

Yeah, there are some "old guys" in our midst who actually were around back in 197x playing D&D in this style, watched the game/hobby move away from them, and are refreshed to see a new crowd pick up on what they liked about the game in the first place. But more of us are people who started playing the game later, after this style of play was already in decline, or had even disappeared altogether from the mainstream/commercial rpg scene, and are so interested in this style and approach to play now in large part because we didn't get to experience it then.


  1. Interesting...I'm trying to figure out when exactly your blog became explicitly about gaming, since it's earliest posts are 2006 and seem more reflective of your Marxist proclivities.

    Dude, just 'cause you're a born again Old Schooler doesn't mean you need to explain anything. Yet I understand catharsis (much of my blog the last couple months has been full of it). All I can say is, better late than never.
    : )

  2. Oh, man, you went through the archives? I really need to clear those out at some point. Keep in mind that I was a very weird 15 year old when I started this thing. :P

    I cut a paragraph that explained *why* I was writing this, because I wasn't sure if it was already obvious, and it would have required referring to some internet drama I don't want to deal with. Basically, I'm trying to make the point that the OSR is about a lot more than a couple of dudes trying to relive their glory days.

  3. Nice to read something positive about the OSR and even better, nice to hear about someone willing to try it out for himself, rather than just echo the cliches of his peers. Thanks.

  4. I was very weird fifteen year old, myself...if we'd had the internet blogs in 1988 I'm sure I would have started one, too!

    : )

  5. I'm glad there weren't blogs or an internet to speak of when I was fifteen! If there had been, I might have had to do quite a bit of "archive clearing" myself!

    But, concerning your actual post, it is refreshing to see sentiments such as these from a younger gamer. I grow rather weary at the meta-drama that surrounds a lot of the online discussion of the OSR. It's nice to see someone that just enjoys playing the damn games.

  6. That's basically the sentiment behind this post, and the more recent one. The internet arguments have been really annoying lately, so I wanted to give the movement, the style, and the people a little shout out. The OSR has been a very good thing for me, regardless of the idiot drama it gets caught up in.

  7. Heh, I liked the comment about using the Outdoor Survival map. We'd used that for our first above ground adventure in D&D. Our DM was pretty strict about adhering to what the rulebooks said concerning encounters, so when our five man party ran into a couple hundred goblins on a random encounter, it was pretty much run like hell and hope they couldn't keep up. As I recall, it basically ended sort of like the Little Big Horn with us playing the part of the Seventh Cavalry.