Old School: A Style of Play or Just Playing Early RPGs?

Randall at RetroRoleplaying: The Blog posts part of a note from a friend of his:

My rules incorporate all sorts of “modern” things that online “Old School” proponents would have a hissy fit over given their reactions to things like ascending armor class or spell points. For example, players get narrative control to describe the results of their hits (subject to GM veto, of course). I discovered that borrowing this player narrative idea from story games makes our combats more interesting to newer players who really like 3.x and 4.x tactical slugfests without the complex combat rules that annoy my long-time players and make a 5 minute combat in my game take an hour in D&D3 or D&D4.

However, I’ve been told by a couple of online “Old School” pundit-wannabes that this alone means my game and campaign aren’t really “Old School.” The impression I get from online “Old School” proponents is that “Old School” means “I’m playing an early version of D&D and playing it by the book.” By that definition most of the people playing D&D or AD&D in the 1970s and early 1980s; the time period the “Old School” movement apparently wants to bring back were not really playing “Old School” games.

This is something I’ve touched on a few times previously. Whenever new-edition gamers wonder where the rule is for this or for that, old-schoolers gleefully proclaim “That’s the beauty of the old-school games…you can do anything you want!

That is, of course, until “anything you want” resembles anything in new-edition games. Then, suddenly, grognards crawl out of the woodwork proclaiming that someone’s doing it wrong. I will gladly note, however, that these critics seem to be in the distinct minority.

It was nice to see a couple of old-schoolers that I follow show up in the comments on that post and weigh in with words that I agree with on this subject.

School’s out for summer. Go play.

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3 Comments to “School’s Out For Summer”

  1. Jack Colby says:

    I think that the people who complain about certain rules from newr games being used in “old school” games, do so not because the rules are from a new game, but because they are not in-line with the philosophy of old school play, and take away from the ability to facilitate that in gameplay. Little things like ascending AC being better won’t do that, but things like skill systems, etc. arguably do. I’m not advocating getting upset over such things, but I do understand where they might be coming from when they do it.

    • Kilgore says:

      And I’ll agree with arguments coming from that direction. But a lot of what I see is exactly arguing about ascending AC. It’s petty, IMHO, and completely against what the “old-school” ought to be all about.

  2. Ryan says:

    I will never understand why some people get so bent out of shape over AAC vs. DAC. If you’re using unarmored=10 as your base, it becomes even sillier because the math is exactly the same.