Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Quick Note On The Direction of Old-School Gaming

James Raggi is excellent letting 'er rip and letting you know exactly what is on his mind. And while our online personas aren't even close to being similar, he does make an excellent side point in this post here--namely, it seems trying to get the old-school gaming community to pull together and look at unified efforts to publicize and grow the renaissance is always checked by some firestorm or argument over something or other. Making games is fine; remaking games is useful; playing games is how they stay alive and manage to grow.

I've been saying there should be an old-school gaming booth at Gen Con Indy for months now--I hope it is something that TARGA is looking at doing. A unified front, with everything from Labyrinth Lord to OSRIC to Swords & Wizardry to Adventure Games Publishing to Fight On! and their supplements being demoed, sold (or given out, as the case may be), publicized, demoed some more, and introduced to all the gamers at Gen Con who never gave up on legacy D&D (or want to find their way back).

A unified front doesn't mean agreeing on everything. It just means co-existing long enough to get your point across, and compromising in order to work for the common good. I hope that's a lesson taken to heart.

I can only hope there's a robust game lineup for the convention season (I'm thinking of running some Microlite '74 or Encounter Critical along with my other Gen Con games this year). The old school style and gameplay has reach, I know this. It's a matter of showing up and reaching out. If folks decide they want to do an Old-School booth for Gen Con, I'll be the first one to volunteer, I can guarantee you that.


gleichman said...

In the end Zachary, the refrain of "can't we all get along" has serious limits. And asking (as James Raqqi seems to be asking given the example he links to in his post), people to sit in a booth alongside people producing material they object to on grounds of ethics or religion is one of those serious limits.

It's basically asking those people to:

a) not speak up or make waves against something they feel should be spoken up and shunned.


b) to hang around and improve the overall quality of the place that such works infest so as to increase their (i.e. those works) visibility and thus sales.

I'm sorry, but things don't work that way. I for example am more content to never publish, than to publish under such conditions.

Not that I'm "old school" as you would define it of course. I left D&D years ago and will never look back except to see the train wreck when I'm bored :)

Zachary The First said...

@ Brian: I have no doubt you're right, there might be limits to that. But I have to think there's enough common ground among at least some of the more level-headed to sit in one place to promote some old-school gaming. Maybe the rifts do go deeper than that.

gleichman said...

The rifts start with the question of "who are the level headed?".

For example, to my eyes James Raqqi is anything but. And we know from his post his likely opinon of me.

The only way to control this is to have someone effectively in charge, and they get to make the calls.

The Forge of course does this, and only errors in that it claims to be for all indie games instead of just ones that match their interest.

I don't think you could in practical terms have a single "old school" source as a result. People's visions of it differ too much. But I do think you could have two or three sites that approach "old school" in different ways.

Zachary The First said...

Yeah, I'd hate to have a central point of control or doctrine on what is or isn't Old-School. The Forge did that, and it turned out to be an antagonistic, idelogically hamstrung, and condescending movement. TARGA comes right out in their introduction and says they don't want that, which is a very good thing. That would be a really quick way to ensure as many people as possible were put off the whole thing.

gleichman said...

I actually think the Forge is fine about what it does, except that they lie about what it is that they do. They say 'indie' games when they should be saying Narrative games or some such. That and the fact that orignally the Forge *was* indie, until Ron turned it into something very focused indeed.

This is why I hate the Forge and care nothing about Story-Games although their content and viewpoint are all but identical.

TARGA on the other hand is going to end up just like therpgsite. Sure they say they'll take anyone, but the nature of the company there will exclude people by nature. I would never be part of a site that produced products like, say a D&D version of Little Fears or Poison'd. And I think it likely that applies to a number of others (although I will have to admit, most of those have likely given up on online rpg sites by now).

Olman Feelyus said...

It's a great idea. The old school resurgence has been nothing but positive for the hobby overall and as excellent product and a strong philosophy continue to come out of it, it will be good to have a few more centralized locations where people, interested but new to it, can come and check it out. I think there is enough collective creative energy out there that this will happen more or less, despite some minor conflicts and controversies along the way.

Badelaire said...

I'll jump on along with the others who say "it ain't gonna happen".

No one has laid down, as far as I can tell, a definition of "Old School Gaming" beyond a really nebulous "I know it when I see it". There's that "Old School Primer" floating around, but that's just one person's view of what Old School is, and one you start letting one person's opinion drive things, chaos will reign.

This is why RPGs have gone the directions they went back in the day - people like to tinker, and debate, and ideas change and mutate with time and experiences. Some people consider Call of Cthluhu and Traveller to be "Old School Games" while at the same time they contain a lot of ideas, the absence of which is the very reason people champion basic D&D as "old school" - things like "plotted adventures" and skill systems and core mechanics.

In the end, to me the essence of "Old School Gaming" is sitting at home doing what you want to do the way you want to do it with people who agree with your vision. It's a basement industry that keeps trying to get out of the basement and buy some fancy office space, only to be accused of "selling out" when the lease is signed.

That's the fundamental problem I see - this desperate scramble to "expand" and "grow", while at the same time fighting against "selling out" and "going mainstream". And along with this, you've got a lot of negativity flowing around - people who have really thrown up an "us or them" wall (like James Raggi declaring that people who don't game like he games "aren't even in the same hobby" that he is).

How can anything constructive get accomplished when you've got baggage like that following you around?

gleichman said...

Badelaire, interesting that you should mention the Old School Primer, I was just looking at it (posted about in the comments for another post).

And I agree, that is an odd bird to my mind that if taken to heart would exclude 1st edition AD and even some of the expansions for original D&D. At times it sounds far more like the (re)charge the 90s Lite System people.

And this may be the answer to Zachary's question of why only core rules and nothing else that he asked in another blog post. Anything more would overturn that primer.

Chgowiz said...

Why is there such a focus on GenCon?

I think that if you consider yourself "old school" and you're at a Con, then represent "old school" with a demo, or game, or attend old-school style games and enjoy. GenCon might be a nice thing to have some "representation", but this idea that we need a "killer app" or now, a "killer organization" seems ... I don't know - maybe that there's a fear that this will "go away" if we don't "do something".

I think representing products that people like is a good thing. I think giving independents some forums and collective business exposure makes a lot of sense and I have to agree that the market will determine what is accepted and what is not. From a business perspective, if you can be collective, you can do some good things.

From a hobby perspective, I think the best, and longest lasting way, to perpetuate what I see as "old school" is to play it, GM it and enjoy it. It's worked for 30odd years with Blackmoor and Greyhawk. I think it'll work another 30 years.

Zachary The First said...

@ Chgowitz: Because Gen Con is the biggest convention there is. It's still the place a lot of gamer who don't troll the internet talking RPGs 24/7 find out about games and play them for the first time. We're both talking about "GMing and enjoying", I'm just talking about it in the scope of Gen Con.

It could be Origins, it could be PentaCon. The point is that games are meant to be played, and I think Gen Con would provide the largest walk-by audience to get new gamers.

@ gleichman: I was actually just having a conversation with a friend the other day about RPG sites, and how the conversation on many of them had nosedived, we thought. Right now, I get more out of the blogs I read and rereading old gaming books and notes as much as anything. Other experiences may vary, natch.

Thanks to everyone for the comments!

gleichman said...

I'll have to agree with you Zachary, the blogs are better these days, far less sniping.

btw, you've inspired me some to start my own blog.

Zachary The First said...

I saw that! I have you on my blogroll--best of luck with it--I'll be reading!

Chgowiz said...

@Zachary - That's very true about the size and appeal of Gencon.

I guess I'd like to see that kind of zeal applied to all cons, including giving GenCon its due. I'd hate to see a "make or break" attitude for one con, when we have a lot of other opportunities. Maybe TARGA and the like can have "con-packs" where volunteers can go set up and show the love.

Funny, my captcha was "consly" - maybe the Great RNG is telling me something... :D