Friday, October 30, 2009

Old School vs. New School; Standing Precariously in the Middle

One of the most painful things a gamer can go through is having a fantastic gaming group fizzle and die. No, it wasn't infighting or a disagreement over anchovies and olives on our pizza that killed us. It was college. Since my college group shattered at the end of a slow, arduous and game-free semester (thanks to us all being too busy and transfering to other new colleges), I have barely gotten any gaming in whatsoever.

There was a brief lull in the horror when a friend and I discovered that, yes, Warhammer was delightful, and golly, we had summer jobs, and that meant paychecks that could pay for Warhammer books and toys. Then we realized that summer jobs also meant odd schedules, which all added up to only playing with our $200 plastic army men a handful of times.

Fortunately, when I got to my new college, there was a game group, and I joined their game of Vampire; the Masquerade, where I encountered edition-hate towards Vampire; the Requiem, which I prefer (due to more cohesive mechanics). This led me to dwell on the "Old School Renaisance" taking place amongst the fantasy gaming community, where else, on the internet.

First off, I love Dungeons & Dragons. All of it. Barring White Box, I more or less own every edition (I tend to lump all the Basic/Expert versions together, since, well, they're just different iterations of the same base rules suite). I cut my teeth on 2e, ran my first year-long campaign with 1e, tried my hand at rules-lawyering with 3e, threw that all out the window to get as simple as possible with B/E, went back to 3e because it was the only game in town, and fell madly in love with the weird Final Fantasy Tactics style of 4e briefly before making a complete roundabout back to 1e and then Shadowrun 4e. I may indeed have ADD. Which is rather fitting, and a pun I'm already regretting in the worst way but refuse to remove based on principal.

I understand the loyalty some people have to specific eras and editions. I really do. The sheer amount of game you can squeeze out of a single edition is amazing. Also, we are geeks. Geeks have loyalties. I've engaged in numerous debates over why Marvel Comics is the best ever and DC is made of stale pork rinds. But come on. Gaming is fun. I don't like to limit myself to individual editions, because I'm a busy guy. Also I have a poor attention span that I can and do attribute to Sonic the Hedgehog on Genesis and sugary cereal. But my point is that each edition of D&D does something different that I like.

I love B/E because it's simple. Sometimes I don't want to have to reference seven hardbound rulebooks to run a game. I love 1e because it's complete and delightful. It has a plethora of classes and races and magic items, and it's just a nice game. 2e I can easily lump in with 1e, because other than THAC0, which I actually kind of like after a peverse fashion, it really hasn't changed much from 1e that I can notice. Well, thieves get better skills, but whatever. I love 3e because it calls to each player to build and tinker with their character to make the destinct hero they want (mechanically, of course, because personality can be done with just the barest hint of rules). I love 4e because it lets you feel like a big damn hero, kick some goblin ass, and look good while doing it.

Granted, there's more to the Old School vs. New School argument than that. Style of play in terms of rules is a big issue. Older games made you describe what your character does, not just roll some dice. It lets you get into your character's head, and feel like yes, you really are in a rank dungeon populated by grim-faced horrors. New games, however, allow you to get bang for your buck by briefly describing an action, deciding if you fail or not, and getting on to the next room and kicking more ass and robbing more dead bodies of their gold like a bright and shining beacon of good.

I guess there's no real point to this post beyond my putting thoughts down on. I just feel that some people get so caught up in their loyalties to editions and eras and styles of play that they lose a little something; fun. Whatever you adhere to in your gaming, if you aren't having fun, you should step back and consider a new hobby. I've read too many posts on discussion threads where people rant and bicker and just sound like hollow shells of people who used to have a blast playing D&D, but got lost along the way after the release of a new edition or two. No hobby should consume you so much that what used to make you happy just makes you bitter and jaded and sneer down your nose at those who have different tastes than you.

In the end I have no authority on anything in gaming. I'm just a hobbyist. I'm probably more than a little wrong in my views. In the end, all that matters in gaming is fun.