Thursday, September 7, 2017

Delving Deeper Into Old School


Prompted by the possible acquisition of Star Frontier trademark(s) and/or intellectual property, there was a discussion on g+.  Particularly, I want to focus on the exchange between myself and +Pierre Savoie.

What this blog post is about is the slippery notion of "old school" which fits right in with the "old school renaissance" or OSR.  Indeed, we've all thought about, read about, or talked about what defines the OSR.  I've done it myself.

But if we go back to the origins of the OSR - old school itself... what do we find?  Clearly, there's a division.  Two separate camps that occasionally believe themselves one and the same.  The first I'll define as primordial; the second complex (I tried not to use any language bias, either praising or putting down the respective sides).

For examples, I'll go with Basic D&D for primordial and AD&D for complexity.  In the above linked Star Frontiers g+ thread, falling damage was mentioned as a possible litmus test for old school.  Ah, yes... but which old school are we talking about?

Ironically, the falling damage that seems the most "narrative" or "story-game" appears more old school to my eyes.  Is that because we've come full circle?  Have RPGs evolved so far into the future that we're nearly back at the beginning?

Yet, many gamers believe that sophisticated mechanisms and extensive rules make old school what it is.   There are certainly more examples of complex RPGs than AD&D.  Not being as familiar (I'll plainly admit, I'm not a fan of complexity in my RPGs), what other advantages does this style of old school have over simpler systems?

I liken this division (having a number of striking similarities) as the difference between old and new testament in the Bible.  We call early RPGs - such as 80's D&D - old school as if it's all the same.  However, in some ways, those two camps - primordial and complex - couldn't be further from each other.

Do they get at the same things but with different approaches?  Or do they each have completely separate goals?

VS