Friday, August 07, 2009

What's Old School Good For?

I had a point that I'm not sure I communicated very well in yesterday's post, partly because, when I wrote it, I was still figuring out exactly what that was myself. Reduced to it's essence, the point is this:

The OSR is getting new people into the hobby. It's positioned very well to continue doing it, and expand those efforts, because many of its major participants are focused on figuring out why the games work the way they do, and sharing their love of those games with anyone who will listen. The games themselves are simple, fun, and appeal to a lot of people who have experience with newer games but don't find they quite fit.

"Old school," obviously, is about the past. But it's just as much about the future. Introducing new people to the old ways, and going new places you can't go with more mainstream games. That's what it's about for me, and I don't think I'm alone.


  1. Is it introducing more people to the hobby? How do you know? It seems like you have to be in the hobby already to even know about it.

    If you mean a guy starts up a campaign as DM at the local library and some people show up who never played before, sure, that may be happening. And I'm glad to see it. It's not going to grow the base of gamers by any real amount though.

    When an old school clone gets on the shelf at the local Barnes and Noble, then we'll see some action.

  2. Not lots of people, sure. But some. You're right that we're still a long way from seeing *significant* increases, but I think it's moving in that direction.

  3. It appears that Once Upon A Time, "Old School" referred to a particular group of gamers that used to play a particular older edition of a game and (now in the present) had returned to that "old way" of playing.

    As new games are published in the OS style and new younger players (who were never part of the "Old Ways") are introduced it ceases to be "Old" anything. It is a new movement that could be called "OSR" or "Fandango" or whatever the hell else one wants to call it. OSR is a term of convenience for the connotations one infers from "OS" and "Renaissance."

    But it would certainly seem to have morphed into something new.
    ; )

  4. I've been meaning to write something along these lines for a while, but I've shied away -- and, often, from the term "old school" in general -- on account of not wanting to co-opt something that really isn't mine. I'm a bit less sensitive about that now that I'm playing Labyrinth Lord regularly with a DM who is pretty clearly part of that category, so I feel like I have a better idea of what I'm talking about, but yeah, once new people start picking it up, it becomes something different. Something awesome, in my humble opinion, and something that refutes a lot of the stock criticism leveled against the movement, but different.

  5. Like the original Renaissance, the OSR is already something new. Part of this is because we're not 12 anymore, and while we might play with the same rules we used when we were 12, we don't play the same way. (I never would have devoted most of a session to young romance when I was that age, and if I had, it would have been a disaster. ;p )

    Part of this, of course, is the publishing tools we have now, but that's not the whole story. Things like Death Frost Doom are born of a certain maturity with the materials of the art. We didn't really understand what we had our hands on, way back when. Nobody, not even Gygax and Arneson really did, and we were all feeling our way in the dark. Now we understand a bit better what does work, and how it works, and how to avoid what doesn't work. The OSR is no more reliving the '70s than the Pre-Raphealites were aping medieval techniques.

  6. I've been of the opinion for some time now that most OSR games are simply different games than D&D 3e or 4e. There are similarities, obviously, but they are just different games. I don't see how game mechanics can really be "old" or "new" - they don't come with expiration dates. They're just different.

  7. Nope, you're not alone. ;-)

    I'm very hesitant as well to use the term "old school"...maybe because the word "old" is often used in a derogatory sense when speaking about things like games.

    But you're right when you talk about the OSR expanding the overall gaming populace. I can think of two reasons for that, and each is very close to home:

    1.Many people grew up with these (or similar) rules and, for good for for ill, they have a certain comfort level with them.

    2.Those same people now have children. And those children have friends...and so on and so forth.

    So yes, it's not a huge growth pattern like D&D has enjoyed in the past...but it's a slow, solid, sustainable growth that's all about grass-roots.