Friday, October 11, 2013

The mystic pull of the old school. Part 2: The conclusion

In Part 1, I talked about the first part of the road towards old school gaming. In this part I'll explore the reasons why I ended up where I am now, getting ready to launch a Labyrinth Lord game set in a Megadungeon, and my views on what makes the old school releases so much more enticing than the newer D&D products.
First of all, what really sparked my interest in old school gaming was a couple of familiar concepts. Reading the Quick primer for old school gaming, I realised that certain concepts of old school gaming wa similar to what I had been doing in narrativist games, especially the way to run combats, keeping it loose and simple, leaving a lot up to improvisation and the DM and players creativity. So, an open system and improvising, ideas that I thought were new, were actually the oldest of ideas. Stuff that I had thought I should abandon when playing dungeon style games.
Also, there was a sort of atmosphere to the descriptions of dungeons, how to create them and how to run them on several different blogs and such on the net, that I really found appealing. It felt to me like plunging into an Endless expanse of darkness, thus the name of my blog.
I think those things were the prime reasons why my mind began gradually turning around, reevaluating som of the mechanics that I had been used to seeing as illogical or "unrealistic", and understanding their place in the game, spawning thoughts on the advantages of focusing on player skill rather than character skill and so on.
But there is more to this than just different ways of playing, different systems and mechanics. This is not just about rational ways of doing things. There is more, something deeper, lurking behind those facades of mere physical expressions and rules. There is a deep fissure between the old and the new that cannot be explained or argued for through arguments pertaining to what way is better than another.
Reading, for the first time (!), "The temple of elemental evil" by Gary Gygax, the nature of this devide becomes clear to me. Those old books, from the original and 1e era, they are works of art, while the newer products are just that: products. The newer material is better in many ways - the rules are more logical and unified overall, everything works well together, everything is perfectly balanced, everyting is well explained, well written, clear, easy to understand and the books are well organised. Everything is POLISHED to a crystal shine that makes it attractive and ensnaring on the surface.
The older books and releases lack much of this, I won't go into it, I think everyone understands what I'm talking about. What they do have, is the individual expression of single individuals visions of what the thing should be! Gygax writes his books in his own style, with the kind of material he likes, and organises stuff in the way he thinks they should be organised. It's hard for one man to attain perfection. Perhaps impossible. Gygax certainly did not make perfect books, but they are books teeming with atmosphere, life, mystery. They are true artistic expressions, and as such touches us deeper in our souls than the newer books made by professional teams under strict supervision of marketing experts and strategists ever can. The old material seems otherworldly and strong, because they possess SPIRITUAL DEPTH, instead of a polished surface.
The temple of elemental evil is a work of genious. Its modern day counterparts are works of impeccable craftsmanship. There's a big difference.
In part 3 I will talk about my thoughts and plans for the future, as I'm a restless soul and cannot stay with one thing for long without getting bored.

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