Friday, September 10, 2010

What is Old School?

I read a lot of old school and OSR (not always the same thing) blogs.  I admire the passion felt by these players and I can understand where they are coming from even if I can't honestly consider myself part of the "old school movement".  After all what I share with these folks, outside of age, is we all started out pretty much the same.  As the years went by we all tried different games.  The main difference is that these players went back to those older games and I kept going on.

I love my old D&D books, I love my clones, but I also like Pathfinder and D&D4 and a slew of other games that are no where near D&D.  But this all has gotten me thinking.

What is Old School?

Is it just playing an older, maybe unsupported, set of rules?  Is it a DIY thing related to the first point?  Is it objecting to a rules-set? (cause I have to say that by in large the old school crowd seems to bitch more about D&D4 than the D&D4 crowd does about old-school).  Is it doing more with less?

What makes you want to play OD&D or one of it's clones, cousins or copies?

I'll be blunt about my reasons, it's nostalgia, pure and simple.  I like to play the older games because I liked them 20+ years ago.

Tell me your reasons why you play an old-school version of D&D (original print or clone).


Dennis Laffey said...

I've said before on my blog, as a player I'm not too picky. D&D 4E left me cold and uninterested (too much sameness among characters for my liking).

As a GM, I'm likely to stick with the older games anymore for the reasons of:
a) nostalgia--like you, I enjoyed these games 20+ years ago, so I think of them fondly now
b) simplicity--as a DM/Referee I don't have to get bogged down in lots of interlocking rules systems, stacking and non-stacking bonuses, hour long NPC creation, etc.
c) time--I don't have near as much time to game as I used to have. Which means I don't care to devote tons of time to learning new rules systems inside and out. Sticking with what I know saves me time, allowing me more time to play with my son or read a good book or whatever else I could be doing besides studying some new game to make sure no one 'breaks' it at my table.
d) Older versions of D&D work! Well, even. They're not elegant, finely crafted precision rulesets, but they sure are fun!

Anonymous said...

I play C&C right now, for several reasons:
1) I liked AD&D 1e and this is provides a simple, accessible alternative
2) The players in my group all like it (and yes, we tried D&D 3.0, 3.5, 4.0)
3) The DM likes running it :)

With simpler rules we've found more opportunity to focus on role playing, exploration, and frankly, imagination. Rules-heavy games like 3e and 4e required a lot more "rules mastery" than we cared for. Different strokes I guess. Also, all the safeguards in 3&4e against bad DMs are not needed in our group. We'd rather not be rules lawyers and our DM is pretty fair.

I think some of the hostility among old schoolers toward 4th ed. is based on the simple fact that 4e's hype and design notes are largely predicated on how "broken"/"unfun"/"unbalanced" earlier editions are. It's not, "Here's a great game, try it!" but "Look how far gaming has come from the benighted days of asshole DMs and boring useless characters." For all the handwringing among 4e fans about why the old schoolers are such meanies, the fact is 4e was marketed and designed with the assumption WE were doing it wrong.

John said...

3E is not a bad game, but is just a bit too clunky for me to run. It is good for the players though. 4E is like playing a stupid MMORPG like Wow or Guild Wars - all pretence of any realism is left behind.

D&D is quick, yet not too deadly (2nd gen games like Runequest, Rolemaster or Dragonquest make characters too fragile)

My take on old school is it is rulings not rules, and exploration/freedom over narrative/balance, and those just happen to suit my temperament

rainswept said...

I buy and play all sorts of games, hot off the press and bargainbin nothingbywhonow? smallpress efforts. The common denominators are simplicity, imagination & economy.

Of course, for Moldvay/Cook nostalgia is a big factor, but it hits the notes above as well.

Old school picks: Moldvay/Cook D&D, Call of Cthulhu 3rd Edition
Middle school: Teenagers from Outer Space, Over the Edge
New school: Icons, Barbarians of Lemuria

Geek Gazette said...

I like older editions of D&D, D&D 3e & am a big fan of Pathfinder. Not so much of a fan of 4e, but there are some qualities, not many, I really like about the game.
Still other than Pathfinder/3e I like to play with Dark Dungeons, the Rules Cyclopedia or Basic Fantasy when I'm in an Old School mood. I think it is a mixture of nostalgia and being able to appreciate what the older games, or those based on them, did right. I've always hated THAC0, but the rest of the game(s) is a lot of fun. That's probably why I like games like Rifts and Villains & Vigilantes (though I do really like my Mutants & Masterminds).
Newer games tend to be more focused and detailed. They are really great for customizing your PC, but the DM's job is a bit harder. Combat is more involved and there seem to be more rules. Not that those rules bad, they add a lot to the games. If there weren't benefits to playing the newer games I wouldn't be such a Pathfinder/3e supported.
Older games and the retro-clones tend to have a looser feel to them. Of course they had rules too, but they seem different. Plus sometimes it's nice to break out the retro games or clones and just do a good, old fashioned dungeon crawl like you did when you were a kid. Nostalgia can be your friend.

Narmer said...

I don't necessarily consider myself old school. I like old and new. The games I play now have one thing in common: Simplicity.

I don't have the time or energy I did all those years ago. So I trend simple and fun. Labyrinth Lord, Barbarians of Lemuria, and Supers! hit my table as a result.