Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How Old School Got Me Going

This is the sort of post that is me trying to wrap my head around a few changes to my approach towards our hobby.

While reading up on my usual blog rounds (in particular those of Odyssey and Chgowiz), I started to think about my own participation in the old-school renaissance and retro-clone communities. Now, one of my first RPGs (and certainly one of the most influential) was Rules Cyclopedia D&D, back in ’93 (a year which can only grant me Junior Grognard status, I freely admit). So, you can say I am not without some background and appreciation for the play and broad philosophies supported by this renaissance.

But the thing that puzzled me, as I began to examine my own place and direction in the hobby, is why my level of involvement, participation, and especially content generation is so high compared to only a few years ago. By all means, it should be the opposite. I have 3 young kids, a family, an involved job, and less time than ever to write game material and read and play RPGs. My current job hours are less forgiving, and I am slowly adjusting to that lessening of personal time that can make hobby participation so tough. So how is it that I am writing more, reading more, and (I hope) being a more productive member of our hobby?

I think the answer is found within the old-school community itself. I don’t think I’ve ever been party to as big an emphasis on Do-It-Yourself thinking and personal RPG customization as I have with that group. Publications like Fight On! emphasize adding your own rules, toying with the ludicrous, and put your own stamp on things. I saw people putting their ideas out there in various articles, products, and blog posts. Some were brilliant, some I thought silly, but that’s just seemed to help all the more.

Now there are wonderful homebrew rules, ideas, and settings out there for just about any type of RPG you can think of—and this is where the words get a little tough—but for me, I was never totally comfortable with putting my ideas out there. I know that’s on me and not those game communities. But I think it’s the type of encouragement and peer example I’ve had from so many within the old-school community that have made the difference. You might say it helped me get over a case of writing “stage fright”, so to speak.

I was really too young to participate in any sort of molding or contribution to those originals off which the retro-clones are largely based. Now, I feel like I’m part of a community, with each of us throwing in our own bits and ingredients. And ok, maybe no one will use the article I posted to Fight On! or the new items I put on my blog. But they might, you see, and just the thought that something I wrote can be shared and might cause a spark makes it worthwhile. This is our way, our shot, to contribute to the games we’ve loved so much.

We are plotting the dungeons. We are writing the magazine articles and supplements. We’re sharing the wild charts and tables. And though many have come before, it’s a great thing to be contributing to yourself.

Maybe we all have different entry points for this sort of thing. Mine happened to be the old-school renaissance, from the Troll Lords to Jamie Mal and Jeff Rients.

In a lot of ways, guys, along with this blog, you’ve given me my hobby back. So thank you, and Fight On.


Alex Schroeder said...

I wrote in the conclusion of my Fight On! #2 review: "The wide range of articles and drawings, and the maps and drawings less polished in particular, encouraged me to write things up and submit them. I loved it, and I wanted to be a part of it. That’s how cool it was!"

HinterWelt said...

Back in the day, it was a lack of rules that made for the "Do it yourself" attitude. I never really got on board with the "It must be from the company" supplement train. I prefer to see folks doing their own creation for the games they play. More than a retro-clone or old school renaissance, I am hoping for a revival of this sort of thinking.

Zachary The First said...

@Bill: I completely agree. And I think it’s something that can extend beyond any sort of old-school/new-school classification. Like I said, I think people have different entry points for it (and that happened to be mine), but I really appreciate the entire DIY concept.

Oddysey said...

Way, way too young to have participated in the original go round, but I feel exactly the same way about old school. For all "get off my lawn!" kinds of jokes, the online community really is incredibly welcoming.

Chgowiz said...

Viva La RevoluciĆ³n!

I wrote a post for Examiner today about Free RPGs and in researching it, I was shocked and appalled that to play a 4E D&D game by purchasing the core rules, you need to spend close to $100. That's ridiculous.

I think that the DIY feeling is going to spread a lot more as the Internet democratizes our ability to design and play games that appeal to us.

Ragnorakk said...

it is pretty amazing and wonderful - by whatever terms and names are applied to it - that there is so much production, so much collaberation, transparency, etc.
It's inspiring! Not in a cheesy way - it's just hard not to think more, develop more, to enjoy the whole thing more.