Friday, February 26, 2010

Something of a Beginning

Let me begin with a couple of quotes:

“Gary Gygax never played AD&D as published, so why the hell should we care so much about that system? Or why should we give a rat’s ass about cleaving unto the systems offered by the lesser lights that followed him? Furthermore, I reject as ridiculous any argument that the original Gygax campaign ever played OD&D as published. Have you read OD&D lately? I can’t believe that anybody can play it as it appears on the page. It’s a goddamn mess. A glorious one, full of wonder and mystery, but a mess nonetheless.”
Jeff Rients, Jeffs' Gameblog, Tuesday, August 11, 2009 
“To me the Old School Renaissance is not about playing a particular set of rules in a particular way, the dungeon crawl. It's about going back to the roots of our hobby and see what we could do differently. What avenues were not explored because of the commercial and personal interests of the game designers of the time.”
Rob Conley, Bat In The Attic

I'm not used to agreeing with very many people, but I find myself agreeing with these two gentlemen above, at least in respect to these two quotes.  The game that Gygax and Arneson both ran as DMs bore only a superficial resemblance to the game that they passed on to us, and for good reason: they were creating a framework for people who did not necessarily have an exhaustively encyclopedic grasp of the fine details of medieval pole-arms, military history, or deep immersion in pulp fiction that they brought to the table.  It is, was and always will be a jumping-off point, not an end-point destination.  I believe I read somewhere that Tim Kask once stated "D&D was meant to be a free-wheeling game, only loosely bound by the parameters of the rules."  That sums things up very nicely.

It's all about imagination.  The first iteration/edition of D&D was definitely a glorious mess full of wonder, whimsy and mystery that still sparks imagination and spurs creativity while providing a great deal of entertainment and enjoyment.  That's a very cool thing.

After taking some time off from gaming, I was boxing-up some dusty D20 books and stuff in order to make more room for other things that were more pertinent to my work, and in the course of packing-up a bunch of glossy-covered manuals I re-discovered my copies of the Little Brown Books and the first few OD&D Supplements.  I glanced through them, then set them on a shelf and finished clearing-away the debris and got on with other things.  A few months later I took them down off of the shelf and started to re-read them from front to back.  Something was nagging at me.  It was the quote from the Foreword from Men & Magic that I have placed on the upper-righthand of this blog.  Silly, innocuous, even obvious...those words have proven to have been extremely influential upon me ever since I first laid eyes on them back around 1978-79.  (Thanks Tim!)

Editions and editors have come and gone, Gygax himself reversed himself later on, but none of that mattered: the cat was out of the bag and having started-out with the Little Brown Books, I will always approach Role Playing Games as tools and means for the exploration and expression of my own worlds, not the slavish recreation of settings mandated by corporations seeking to dominate their customers' brain space even more perniciously than anything IBM or Microsoft ever dared attempt.

Old School, in terms of D&D, has always been about doing your own thing, building your own worlds, running your own setting, and cobbling together your own rules.  Over at Eiglophian Press they're calling it Imaginative Anarchy.  I like that.  You can almost hear the Sex Pistols in the background...at least I can...what a glorious mess!

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