Old School Renaissance, Huh?

There’s a certain naivete that comes with nostalgia. People who remember how great D&D was when they were 14 fail to appreciate that their tastes and attitudes of changed across a myriad of venues. But somehow, 10-foot poles, and negative armor classes never go out of style.

When I was 11, I sat down for D&D for the first time. I’d already read about it and knew I wanted to play. But there was nothing magical about my first session. At the time, I was in awe at the GM’s ability to make stuff up (what did I know?). But looking back, it was a really bad first session. (I got stuck in a web spell and had to cut myself out with a dagger and torch. And then a princess gave me a silver dagger. Really lame.)

And all those weird numbers were “breaking the ground” under me, without breaking any ground. But again. What did I know.

Fast-forward to the present, the OSR movement revels in the past, chanting the names of mediocre adventures that we are still convinced are great, because the Mountain-Dew-laden emotions that were being churned out of midnight snacks convinced us… “this is so much cooler than girls.” And maybe it was. And maybe we learned a little more about ourselves and became more introspective than most in the 80s.


But what did it lead to? Are any of us champions of industry? How many of us forged ahead with our bravery +1 and fixed anything meaningful in the real world? My guess is, not much.

But. We still contend that the old school ways of gaming are best. Before silly drama cards and impulse dice and “motes of immaculam.” (Thank you, Immortal) When all we worried about was AC and HP and Saving Throws. Without ever once asking if those even made sense, we were exuberant about our love of rolling a 20, as if it was a personal achievement to do so.

I wonder if the wrestling squad got excited about rolling a 20 on a Friday night before taking some sexy girl home. Yeah. I’m sure it’s the same.

But it’s the 21st century now. We have different wants and needs. Different obligations. People I thought would never meet someone are now breeding and making gamers of their own. And the desire to get in one last session of C2 we’ll be kids again. No responsibilities. Just a weekend of no responsibilities and obligations. That’s what magical about it. Right? Right?

And before you know it, one of your buddies is calling and saying his wife won’t let him out of the house. And another has work the next day. I can come if I can bring the kid. I can’t play after 10pm. The list goes on.

What happened? Is this nostalgia? Is this the renaissance we wanted? Is this the dream of bypassing traps and killing monsters, while we look down our noses at those kids playing the weird indie games with index cards that are done in a few hours. Is this it?

I have to imagine that if I was 14 and we were gaming for 1000 hours straight and someone’s mom came in and said, you have to walk the dog or take out the trash or whatever, that lost 5 minutes waiting for the GM to return from his chores would kill our momentum.

It would certainly kill the dream we have of how great it used to be.

5 thoughts on “Old School Renaissance, Huh?

  1. While I agree that there’s a certain amount of nostalgia going on — a longing for a simpler time, when you could put off homework or spend the weekend in your buddy’s basement — I think the OSR movement is also about simplicity. Now, there is “taking 10”, attacks of opportunity, and numerous feats. A thief isn’t a rogue; he’s a thief. Where’s my bend bars and lift gates?

    Have our tastes changed? Do we really want more complicated rules? Do I have to read a 600-page book to play a game that once came in three small booklets (dice included)? I’ll fall back on my standard example. Imagine if you wanted to hang out with some buddies and play Monopoly, but in order to play you had to read Atlas Shrugged first. Sure, we’re older, with more time constraints and more numerous entertainment options. Work. Kids. Xbox. So why are tabletop games requiring an even *greater* investment in time?

    I think the OSR isn’t about recapturing the glory of our youth. It’s a rejection by a segment of the marketplace that says “no, I don’t want to have to read Sun Tzu to play a game of Stratego.”

    1. mostly my point with this article was to have fun, but it’s also about how responsibilities have stopped us from being gamers, the thing we used to stay alive for… killing monsters… is just an after-thought in our lives. gaming doesn’t do what it did then. and it never will again. living in the past of what we expected is counter to the lives we’ve grown to lead.

      except me. i wear pajamas all day.

  2. I think it is precisely that attitude Ross that is why savage Worlds just blew through and owned everyone In my gaming circle. there was an almost fierce demand for a super easy rule set once they were aware they could even have one.

    1. i love that savage worlds tries to simplify play, but there is nothing else there for me. and because the owner of pinnacle is a friend of mine, that’s all i’m going to say here.

  3. This post sounds like an intro to discuss the present system of work, responsibilties, expectations that others have of you, etc.
    When a system works differently, people act differently. A friend of mine worked in Ghana for a few months: after arriving at the airport, it took one week before she was picked up by the contact-person: he didn’t feel like doing it before. Like I said, a different system with different expectations. Must we judge that? No. It’s just different.

    Sure, it is more difficult to make an appointment. You have to plan in advance. But when you have a few rules and concessions (alright, we will stop at 10pm), what stops you from living that game to the fullest? Power off all cell phones and game like there is no tomorrow? And stop rationalizing things (why is there a negative ac), but accept it as a given thing so you can enjoy it to the fullest?

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