Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fork in the road


My recent post regarding my view about OSR gaming caused varied responses. I blame myself for laying my thoughts out in too strident a fashion for good general discussion to take place.

So to remedy and clarify:

Revisiting the past to park in it, rather to learn and then move on does not further, nor build upon the great works of the past. I am not saying there is not fun to be had nor, much to learn. Clearly given the breadth of blogs, and products, surrounding OSR materials there is much to be loved. I too share the love, and support it by purchasing many of the great OSR products out there. They are a great resource and nice mirror to the past, but they are not the end of the road.

Change is the essential part of long term survival for anything. Those people, systems, and cultures that fail to adapt and changes are relegated to the dustbin of history. Our own lives are one series of changes leading to (ideally) our own betterment. Sure its nice to have a mom around doing housework, fixing dinner, and making the bed, but it sure puts a crimp on the old love life. It's great to go back and visit the folks for a few days, but once you have made your own way in the world, and live your life your way, being home really isn't being "home." Home is a nice place to visit, but I don't think you'd want to live there anymore. Even if the basement is spacious. So however naive that may sound or seem, I think it is also true for gaming.

One can still play an enjoy the old Atari 2600 today and many of the games are still fun. In fact compared to the hottest Xbox 360 games, some 2600 games are even better! The old school Nintendo games from the 8 bit era are still fun, and clearly have play value as even Nintendo lets you buy and download a lot of those classics again! The old game are fun and have value, but they are not the end of further development. Wolfenstein 3D is a great first person shooter, and from it came Doom, which led to Hal-Life, and then to Halo. Each is still a first person shooter and you can have fun with any one of them, but I would not stop at any one of them, and I look forward to playing what comes next! New does not always mean better. That is true for anything from a new system grown out of the OSR movement...to the OSR material currently being produced. I beleive new does mean a stretching of boundaries and a reshaping of what we know or expect, and that to me is a good thing.

From wargames and miniature war games came role playing games. The various systems of RPG gaming has changed from the three little brown books into a thousand or more variations and off-spring. I like the OSR movement and its revival of the core elements that got people playing originally: the sense of wonder, freedom, exploration and fun! All this from a few tiny books and a handful of dice.

The OSR movement is a grass roots counter, or reaction to the current vogue of multiple 200 plus page tomes of rules from major publishers. I think this is good for the hobby and good for gamers. I voice my concern in saying, I hope it simply does not stop there. I hope the core elements of game play rediscovered from a less rules bloated system can lead to new games and systems expressing it without being tied down to, constrained by, or pigeonholed mechanics from using the OGL/D20 centric system.

If one is happy on the path of OGL/D20 OSR game play, terrific for you! You found your chest of gold at the end of the quest and need never look further. You chose that path that suited you well, but I my friend, am not so lucky. My feet are still restless and I think there is a lot of trail left to cover. I like where your path has lead you to rest, but I should like to walk further on, and I do not believe I will travel alone.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 5

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same, 10

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back. 15

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 20
--Robert Frost


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