Friday, April 2, 2010

Labels, the OSR, and Where We All Fit In

I don't know where I fit into it all. I mostly play a newer game, 3.0, in as old school a way as I can. We use most of the skills, some of the feats, but narrative combat, no minis or mats. We don't particularly care about most of the specific combat rules like attacks of opportunity, things that are dependent on knowing precisely where you are standing in relation to everyone else, and all the dumb rues like grappling, bull rush, sunder, trip, etc. We basically take a 3.0 ruleset and adopt some newer elements, but run it like an AD&D game. Its a lot like the D&D with Pornstars game.

At the same time, my heart being with AD&D, I've run a couple games under the TARGA banner to spread the word about older games, most recently in NYC using OSRIC. Hell, I even raffled off for free a copy of OSRIC to one of my players at the end of it. I wanted to spread the word on the clones.

Am I old school? New School? I dunno. I do know that I don't produce anything for the scene by way of modules or rulesets or supplements. I don't post new rules, tables, charts, adventures, or monsters on my blog. However, I do participate in a lot of discussions regarding old school topics. I enjoy it. I find that my mindset generally lies more in the old school camp, but by no means am I a purist.

I know that participating in these discussions and reading these blogs has definitely helped my game, sharpened my skills and perspective, and helped me focus in on aspects of the game that make me a better DM and player, along old school lines.

As to where I fit in the OSR, let me preface by saying that I think that without the clones there wouldn't be an OSR at all. I think that what the OSR primarily does is bring people back to a happier simpler time in their roleplaying lives. The clones keep alive that part of their identity which others wouldn't otherwise be able to identify or bond with, if they were new to the hobby, due to lack of access to materials. It allows people's interests/identity to be validated by other people picking up the game and playing and liking it, allowing a shared bonding experience, which while not impossible before, was difficult due to lack of materials. That part of their identity which was withering on the vine, as less and less people could access and give a gamer validation and share their experiences with, is now growing again.

For many, there is hope that their kids, a new generation, can also play the game. I know I'm looking forward to doing that with my nephews and nieces some day. Rather than drag out my beat up red box, we can now use Labyrinth Lord or S&W, then progress to OSRIC, just like their mother and father and I did when we were kids. It allows someone to share their love of that hobby with someone else in a way that is fresh and new, vibrant and still alive.

For many older players, that's enough. It's a bonus that there are supplemental materials still being published, but truthfully for many what they have already, the classics, and their own imagination, are enough to get them by.

However, the new supplemental materials and modules give the OSR end of the hobby a breath of life, which was not there except in a few isolated places like Dragonsfoot, which was mostly comprised of people who never stopped playing older editions. It gives new players a sense that the game they just adopted is fresh and alive, rather than dead and isolated from the rest of the modern RPG hobby. I think the new publications and modules are essential for growing the gamer base to new player and DM's who have never played the older games before.

Then there's the other end of it, who are using principles from the OSR to go in different directions with modern gaming. These are the people who take principles from the older games of D&D and apply it to making new D&D games, or new games not related to D&D at all. It takes the core principles in older D&D games and uses them as a foundation to build new games upon, taking different directions than those taken in the 70's.

The OSR is primarily a D&D experience, though many people include Traveler, T&T, and Gamma World and other older games in the mix. If the R is OSR stands for Renaissance, in that old things are being rediscovered, then I don't see why it shouldn't apply to other games which are non-D&D, as long as they share the same basic core principles. Though there is some disagreement on what exactly comprises those principles, in the main I think we can all mostly agree that we can recognize it when we see it.

If you're going to talk about new games which have an old school feel, like maybe Hackmaster Basic and Forward to Adventure, then perhaps a different designation, while not helpful, may be needed for those types of games to set them apart and increase sales/market. That's really be the only reason I can think of to make a new designation though.

I think for many people, just being able to expose new people to older versions of D&D or other older games, and having the gamer base for those games increase so you can get groups to play with, is enough. For others, they want to be able to create and/or play new stuff for those games. Lastly, a third group wants to take basic principles and design new games based on older foundations. All of this is fine. All of this is part of the OSR to me.

As long as you're having fun, go with it. Don't worry about labels so much. All they really do is divide us. As far as classifying myself, I find I don't need to in order to have fun. Classification in this regard is more useful for someone to place on you, so they understand where you are coming from. It serves more of an outside designation. For most it's not necessary, and for some it provides an initial common frame of reference. But the longer we dwell on the designation, and the more we focus on the distinctions to that designation, the more we fracture and divide a group of people who have more in common that they do differences. This just leads to infighting, and division, and eventually a wrecking of what you set out to achieve in the first place.

Me, I'm just playing D&D.

(The above thoughts inspired by and culled from my posts on The RPGSite and the related to RPGPundit's latest blog posts.)