Monday, May 6, 2013

Is the OSR Fundamentalism?

D&D, and by extension much of the OSR, has a problem.  It must innovate, or be considered "old fashioned" and yet it must also adhere to a certain set of expectations of be considered too far away from the concept.  For many 4e was a step too far, for others 3e was.
Wizards of the Coast gets to chart out the next version of D&D once more and they will have to make some changes to game to keep it financially viable.

Boing Boing has an interesting point of view on this in a new article by Peter Bebergal.
http://boingboing.net/2013/05/06/old-school-dungeons-dragons.html

You can read that article and come to your own conclusions and thoughts.  I want to focus on one bit of it though; is the OSR D&D Fundamentalism?

Certainly a lot of us are here because we think "the old ways are best" or even out nostalgia.
I have been pretty much focused on B/X D&D over the last year or so myself.  Part of it is fun, part of it is nostalgia for sure.

Do we though as a group eschew innovation for an "old school" feel?  Or more to the point, a "proper old school" feel.  For example I like drama points in my games. It gives the characters a chance to do heroic things, it works great in other games AND I can find examples of their use in the various "Appendix N" games.  Honestly, read the John Carter books and tell me he wasn't burning drama points when fighting the Green Martians, Thakrs or First Born in various books.

Sometimes using ability checks are nice, but so are skills.  Multiclassing in 3e was far better than anything before (or after).  Swords & Wizardry has some nice ideas above and beyond OD&D.  I have seen add-ons that allow skills, feats and other such "improvements" to older games.

I suppose the question lies in what sort of experience you want to have.  If that is the case I have had some fantastic "D&D experiences" using WitchCraft and Ghosts of Albion, while having some games where I felt I was nothing more than a ref with some (unnamed) versions of the Grand Old Game.

I do know this.  Wizards will have to update D&D. It is going to be impossible to make it all things to all players.  Look at all the various retro-clone rules we have now.  We can't even as a group agree on what cloned version we like the best and we represent a tiny, mostly homogeneous, demographic.
True, all these games are really 95% or better compatible out of the box and 100% compatible with a little imagination.

What do you think?

4 comments:

Anthony Simeone said...

Is the OSR D&D Fundamentalism?

Short answer: it can be, but doesn't have to be.

It depends on each individual gamer's mindset/approach. I think it becomes fundamentalism only in the minds of those old-schoolers who go about shouting that using the OOP D&D rules is the "One True Way."

Do what thou wilt, unless you violate the freedoms of another. That's a good philosophy for all aspects of life, of course.

Oh, and using old rules does not mean automatic lack of innovation. Indeed, look at all the new products that are published all the time for use with the old rules.

Zenopus Archives said...

I don't get it. Is Chess "old-fashioned" because the standard rules don't change? If this expectation exists it's been created by marketing by the owner of the game.

faoladh said...

"Fundamentalism" has a number of differing meanings. If treated literally, as a philosophy of some imagined "original" fundamentals, then the OSR is certainly fundamentalist. If "fundamentalism" is treated as an imperative to insist that only those fundamentals are allowed for anyone, that anything other than the imagined "original" fundamentals is a corruption, then the OSR as a whole is not fundamentalist (though some individuals seem to fall into this category, sadly).

Zenopus: But the standard rules of "chess" (which has been known under several names, as various languages have adapted the word to their particular phonemic set) have changed over the years. Certainly, we no longer play the game with dice, or with four players. The pawn now has the option of a double first move and en passant captures. Queens have gained a greatly expanded move. The elephant is now normally called a rook. And so on. Would you take someone seriously who insisted that four-handed, dice-based chaturanga is the only proper way to play chess?

The difficulty with chess analogies in regard to roleplaying games is that the latter are very new, and have not had centuries to evolve into a true standard as chess, mills, backgammon, go, and the like have done.

Johnathan Bingham said...

While there are certainly elements within the OSR (who btw often fight that appelation) that are "fundamentalist in the sense that they deny change, I think on the whole, the OSR has been very accomodating and pushed new horizons. OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord are perhaps two of the earliest examples of the OSR and strive to capture more of a true to form or fundamentalist approach while later clones and spin offs tend to take a more adventerous approach. For instance, the Advanced Edition Companion while not daring, strips out a lot of the rules that tended to get ignored in 1e AD&D to stream line play style. Not too daring as far as pushing horizons but then take a look at the next generation of Old School inspired work such as Lamentations of the Flame Princess. A lot of the same underlying rules but with some twists such as the encumberance rules not to mention the different take on monsters and encounters and the like. Not to mention Adventurer, Conqueror, King which expounds upon the whole domain play. I think there are some pretty exciting things going on within the OSR that keep it from being a bunch of stodgy fundamentalists that are not willing to change. I know I certainly fall outside the fundamentalist sphere in my play style and my various projects but still very much consider myself within the OSR community.

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