So Ben wrote an article about old school gaming. It’s full of interesting ideas and poignant thoughts. You should make a point to read it. I went to the old school though, and I’m not going back. Let me tell you why.
There is this central theme that I see with most discussion about old school gaming that something has been lost. A general pining for a simple time where men were dwarves and rules were light. At some point we strayed too far from the path and our innocence was lost. Do I need to point out that the same luster that is applied to old school gaming is applied to many things from our youth? Nostalgia has a way of doing that.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really care what rules system set in whichever fantastic universe you and your friends like to role play in. I have never been the type of person that thinks the way I do things is better than anyone else. This isn’t an article against OSR gaming, but reasons why I love the shiny luster of a fresh, new game.
What’s wrong with rolling dice?
I have seen a lot of grumbling about new school games being rules heavy and having too many rolls. This always struck me as odd coming from a demographic of people who wouldn’t think twice about buying polyhedral dice by the pound. I love sending dice clattering across the table, and using the result to color my description of events for my players. Failed your diplomacy roll? I get to describe the reaction of the court to your inept presentation. When your character rolls a critical on your athletics check I get to embellish my description of your actions turning your described action into a feat of acrobatics that blows your mind. I love having metrics to gauge things with that go beyond simple stats. My players happen to love rolling dice too. They still describe their actions to me, like in old school gaming, we just roll a dice and get a random result of them. It creates a nice bit of tension that resolved less by my whim (ruling) and more by the result of random chance (rules).
I hate ten foot poles
My players often talk about a DM they had that kept them in a dungeon for the better part of a year when they were running monthly sessions. They ended up usurping his position and installing a new puppet master in order to escape the endless dungeon crawling. This is another thing about new school gaming that I love. Inching along a corridor and feeling my way in the dark for the next trap is not my idea of a good time, but I do love the idea of weaving a larger story from encounters along the way. Don’t get me wrong, I still throw a good dungeon at my players, but it functions within the context of the over all story rather than having them explore it because they are heroes and heroes explore dungeons. They can leave the ten foot pole behind and just interact with the world. They know that there will be devious traps along the way, and when they encounter them it becomes a battle of wits between me and the players. The sense of accomplishment they get from besting my encounters and traps can’t be replicated in an environment where they can simply walk around the edge of a pit trap.
Balance? Yes please!
I love that modern games take great strides in creating balance and making all types of characters viable in the party. My players appreciate it too. Everyone contributes equally in a session and I don’t have to console players on the telephone between games, assuring them that they are a valuable member of our gaming group. My players love having tons of powers to choose from. Combat is much more epic for them when they can string together makeshift “combos” while trying to guess how I’m going to use my monster’s abilities. I enjoy combat more when I have to think about my moves in order to outwit my players. It becomes a battle of wits, more than the luck of the dice.
Blast from the past
I don’t have anything against systems of the past. I had some great times with those games. If you’re feeling nostalgic or don’t like the flavor of new school games, by all means kick is old school. There really is no wrong way to play if you are having a good time. For myself, I embrace change and I’m looking forward to how games will develop in the future. I can’t wait to look back on gaming now with the same affection I have for games of my youth.