Yesterday I feel down a rabbit hole that was started with a single post on the RPG site. For the first time I ran across the term "OSR Taliban." It's an odd term that has a slew of undeserved connotations that should never have been associated with a hobby where we create imaginary characters to kill fictional creatures and take their stuff. Yet there it was.
Since some people seem to think that "OSR Taliban" is a brand-new term I specifically invented on account of certain responses to the news about the D&D starter set or the Basic D&D PDF. Likewise, some people seem to want to pretend that when I used that term it means that I think ALL the OSR (which, let's remember, I count myself as a member of) are like a 'taliban'.
For the record, the term "OSR Taliban" is several years older than the recent controversy. It does NOT refer to just anyone who isn't gushingly enthusiastic about 5e.
It does refer to that extremist wing of the OSR (fortunately now in a diminishing minority, but who a few years back seemed to be main movers of the OSR's ideas and 'gatekeepers' for it) who engage in "old school extremism", who only want to play the original editions or precise clones, who deride any mechanic created after a certain date (the date varies, and they get into contests of "who is more old school" by competing as to what cutoff date they use). They often claim to seek some kind of UR-D&D by looking at long-lost notes of Gygax or Arneson's. In short, the guys who think that if you are using anything in RPGs made after 1983, or 81, or 79, or 74 (or sometimes even earlier!) then you are "betraying old school". These are the people who just wanted the OSR to be a long string of identical "clone" games after another, and reject any innovation whatsoever. . . . (The RPG Pundit)
I think the OP's list is a fine summation of a lot of the good things present in pre-3e versions of D&D. I own copies of OSRIC, Swords & Wizardry, and Mutant Future because I like that stuff in my games.There it was in those last two lines, "the gaming Taliban." A poor choice of words that would find itself appearing in another form, "the OSR Taliban," in forums and blog posts years later. It's clear that Mearls was directing his comments at the sort of quasi-religious fundamentalism that has gripped this hobby from time to time where individuals are trying to proselytize their one, true, version of Dungeons and Dragons while disparaging all others. Yet why did he make the comment here when Raggi began the thread talking about what he liked in older versions of the game without condemning newer versions?
I don't believe that all of that those things are possible only in older versions of D&D. The truth of the matter is that a lot of that stuff is still in the game. 4e is no more or less deadly than any edition of D&D, because at the end of the day the DM determines how deadly the game is.
And I think that's the root of it. All too often I see "problems" with 4e placed on the players and DMs. Players are precious snowflakes who want everything handed to them on a silver platter. DMs are wimps who feed players a steady stream of disposable enemies. Real, bad ass men flip a coin to see if their character is dead or alive.
I think the OSR catches so much flack because, for those of us who have been in the hobby for a few decades, we saw this all before when White Wolf launched Vampire. It's the same thing, just with the added attempt to co-opt the "true" nature of D&D. Back then, it was role vs. roll. Today, it's new vs. old, and it's just as tiresome, time wasting, and banal as ever.
There are many, many fine qualities to older versions of D&D. They're more freeform. It's faster and easier to crank out a character. Combat zips by. When you pull away a lot of the rules, it can be liberating.
However, the Puritanical drive some OSRers have to bemoan what other, lesser games dare do at their tables is counter to everything that RPGs are about. Quoting Gygax chapter and verse to figure out the right way to play, stuff like that, is the antithesis to the creativity, freedom, and intellectual curiosity RPGs, at their best, can and should encourage.
So yeah, old games are cool. The gaming Taliban? Not so cool. Let's enjoy retro games without getting all bitchy about new ones. (Why I Like Earlier Edition Games Comment #18)
After a bit of investigation it becomes clear that Mearls wasn't responding directly to Raggi's current opening post but rather to several of his older posts where Raggi had been increasingly verbose in his negativity about newer editions of Dungeons and Dragons, and in particular, Fourth Edition. His strident fundamentalism, and that of other posters, that nothing older than version X of Dungeons and Dragons could be considered an acceptable form of entertainment appears to have been the reason for Mearls comments. Mearls would go on to acknowledge as much when he wrote the following:
. . . Apologies for dredging up the past. Seriously, that's not called for. My post has been quoted, so I don't think there's any point in deleting it at this point.The damage had been done by that point though; but it was a fleeting damage that would quickly be forgotten as newer controversies came to the foreground and it was forgotten. That is until it started being used recently to describe a rather vocal group of trolls who are using it to wage the latest front in an edition war that's already lost before they began spitting their words on the screen.
More constructively, I think old school games encourage the creative problem solving that hooked a lot of people on RPGs in the first place. If you look at 4e, it's easy for players to see their powers and feats as the be all, end all of their options. Without prodding, it's easy for a player's line of sight to begin and end at the character sheet.
In some ways, the skill challenge rules in 4e, along with the DC guidelines on page 42, are an attempt to bridge that gap. On the other hand, you can simply wonder why the game moved in the direction it did. Why wasn't 4e (or 3e before it) designed in a similar style?
Starting in 1989 or so, with the publication of The Complete Fighter's Handbook, D&D slowly but steadily began to offer more depth of options to players. As it turned out, players really like that. In fact, you can see that drive toward customization in lots and lots of games.
I can go on about this, but I want to get my apology out there and avoid further derailing the thread . . . (Why I Like Earlier Editions Comment #37)