Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Old and New School?

You once asked when we started talking about the game in terms of 'old' and 'new' school. Now your friends had already joined you then and were whispering their sycophantic pleasantries in your ears, so I imagine that you missed my laughter. 

Let me correct that here and now.

We started delineating between the old and new back when sandals and togas were considered high fashion and men drank poisonous teas rather than admit they were wrong. But you knew that already as your point wasn't to ask such a foolish question but rather to set up a little straw man where you could then argue that we had moved away from the soul of the game and bastardized it to the point where only fools and sodomites were playing the new school. 

It was argued that we, of the new, couldn't begin to grasp the simplistic beauty of the old as we had been too corrupted by the ways of the modern world. We liked Linux and watches with too many buttons; so it was clear that we couldn't be bothered with your dropping Armor Class and weapon speeds.  

Our art is wild and scandalous with naked women cavorting with wild animals and chicks with dicks drinking from fountains filled with wine. See, see, I heard you scream through the froth that had made its way down your neck, they objectify women and masturbate to their Dungeons and Dragons books! We would never have been so crass as to do that to a Donald Sutherland!

Have you forgotten the naked women that graced those early books? Surely you don't expect me to have forgotten them - or what you did with them that has you wanting to shame us for doing the same.

What's that I hear you say? Our rules are too complex?

Have you gone mad? 

We do algebra in eighth grade now and calculus two years later for college credit. We're writing code and creating super viruses in labs at eighteen. Too complex! We have ipads, android phones, gaming systems that can launch nuclear missiles, and at breakfast we reprogrammed our phones to work as the television remote. We have cars that start without us plugging a key into the steering column and computers that are so small and light you'd almost mistake them for air. Too complex! 

Don't make me laugh.

Let's get to the point of all this then. You want to mark a line between us and you. For you, you have claimed all the virtues of the game: role-playing, creativity, and the beauty of a simple game. For us you have thrown the leftovers: roll playing, trite repetition of favorite themes of the old, and the ugliness of a bloated system. What we like is so clearly not D&D; while what you love is. 

Allow me to correct you. 

The game is the same whether we're playing Fifth Edition or Basic. Our terms may change and many of the mechanics will vary; but at the core, we are still playing a role-playing game. A game where we lay down the burdens of our life for a few hours so that we can pick up an imaginary sword and chuck fireballs at trolls, goblins, and dragons. Your old and new delineations are simply designed to drive a needless wedge between us so that you can feel superior about your game while we foolish kids amuse ourselves. 

So fuck your bullshit argument. 

What matters is that we're enjoying our games. Whether you're playing Basic, Second, GURPS, FATE, Rifts, Pathfinder, or Next is irrelevant to the conversation at hand. Find what works for you; love the hell out of it; and tell the world about why it rocks. Fuck worrying about what some douche bag labels you.


  1. A bit crass, but I like the point you're making. I'm a fan of old-school gaming, but I've played my share of 3.x, 4th and Next, as well as Werewolf: The Apocalypse and other systems and loved them all (except 4e, but that's a personal preference).

    1. Some call it crass, I like to call it direct.

  2. Our art is wild and scandalous with naked women cavorting with wild animals and chicks with dicks drinking from fountains filled with wine

    Gaming today is so tame. I remember back in the days...


  3. I have said many times bring it to the table and I'll play it. at least once.. as I roill about in my scandoulous fountain.

    1. Now you've gone and made me snort coke out of my nose . . .

  4. Do you encounter this sort of thing often? Because I hardly, if ever, see old-school gamers complaining about newer editions of the game. Except maybe Next, but that's sort of deserved.
    However, I do encounter many posts by new-school gamers saying that the older editions have clunky rules, they're "unbalanced" and "simulationist" (whatever that means), saying that gaming has "evolved", etc. In my experience, it's not a matter of old-schoolers saying the new rules are complex, it's new-schoolers saying THAC0 is different.

    Not that I don't agree with your conclusion, it's just that, because you made this post a letter from "us" to "you", it comes across as saying "old-schoolers should stop their griping".
    The OSR didn't even participate in the latest edition war, which was between 3.x and 4E.

    1. It was more directed at a single letter I received and some very old, old posts I was reading for a project I'm doing that spurred the whole thing.

      And my point was more that anyone who's trying to make this a us vs them conversation should shut up. We're all playing the same game even if name is different.

  5. I tend to encounter more of a difference in play style than rules. It's a little harder to cross the divide between people who want to have theatrical debates about issues versus roleplay buying 50' of rope for twenty minutes versus the folks who just want to kill some monsters and take their stuff.

  6. If you are a young man, ignore the gabbling of the older men. It's most likely that they are just prattling because of fear that the old days are gone, and instead of "live and let live" they've duped themselves into believing that old was must be preserved at all costs...even if that cost is harmony, peace, fun, and happiness. The older men would be better served, and would serve their cause better, if instead of being grumblers they would go forth as benevolent reminders of the past, and in doing so I wager that all parties would find the similarities in what they do, rather than the differences.

    Game on, my friend!

  7. I can appreciate both sides of this argument. While I understand that there are people who desperately want to draw lines, I equally understand that there are people desperate to erase them, to equate "this" with "that". As with most arguments of this nature, objective truth (if any exists) is hard to find.

    You also seem to be conflating a "big tent" argument ("Its all D&D") with a "System doesn't matter" argument (when you talk about complexity, etc.). The first I can accept (even if I am well aware that my acceptance of the same does not require that anyone else agree with me); the second I cannot.

    There is an easy test to determine whether or not system matters: Do you buy new systems? If the system did not matter, we would all still be using OD&D. Most of us, I would hazard, are not. Most of us at least try different systems because system matters.


    1. You're absolutely right, I did confuse the two.

  8. I don't come across this as much with the people I game with but I see this all the time on blogs. It's actually why many times I stay away from blogs that use the word "grognard" liberally.

    And systems may be different, but if you're having fun live and let play.


    1. Hi Justin,

      "Live and let play" is a good operating philosophy. But it should not preclude examining the differences between X and Y, or trying to figure out how to use the best parts of both. If you cannot discuss what you think works and does not in various systems and play styles, how can you determine what the "best parts" are?

      Ultimately, unless you are sitting at my table or buying my product, it doesn't matter to me whether you think of D&D the same way I do. Why would it? But that goes both ways....What difference does it make if Bob doesn't think 2e, 3e, 4e, or 7e is D&D?

      As far as the entrenched folks go, both sides find the others equally annoying. Better to simply not be entrenched.

    2. I agree with you. I'm open to discussion and examination is fine too.

      I guess I've had to many experiences with people dismissing something and giving really vague reasons why, instead of just saying "I didn't care for it." I've also read more than a few posts saying why "insert name" isn't really D&D, because it doesn't fit to their standards.

      Discourse is great and as long as everyone is reasonable I love it.

  9. I wrote a quick response to this over at Cooking with Charles, it seems in agreement with some of the other posters here.


    1. Nice response Charles. I'm over there continuing this conversation now.


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