One of the complaints raised against the old school movement -- often good-naturedly, often not -- is that its most vocal proponents revel in "primitivism," which is to say, a philosophy of "older is always better." The complaint has merit, because it's sometimes true. I know I've indulged in primitivism over the course of the more than two years I've been immersing myself in the Old Ways. Contrary to legend, it was in fact v.3.5 of D&D that led to my re-evaluation of the editions I'd played as a kid. I felt then, as I still feel now, that the game had, both mechanically and stylistically, strayed from the things that attracted me to gaming in the first place and so I wanted to go "back to the source." Given that context, I suppose it's inevitable that I'd dip more than my toes into the primitivist pond.
Historically, the response to perceived decadence is often a reactionary one, sometimes an extreme one. I think that's part of the reason so many of us, including guys like myself who weren't involved in the hobby pre-1977, turned to OD&D and embraced it as our own. Initially, there was more than a little impishness to my casting aside all that came later. It felt good to metaphorically kiss off the brandified, cookie cutter thing the hobby had seemed to have become.
But then a funny thing happened: I found I really liked and preferred OD&D for itself. This wasn't a political statement or a publicity stunt; it was love. Not my first love, of course. You can never go home again and, as I've repeatedly stated, my first experience of D&D was with the Holmes edition, so I have no nostalgia for the LBBs. Rather, I found that reading -- and playing -- OD&D elicited a feeling not unlike I felt 30 years ago when I cracked open that box and tried to puzzle my way through its pages with my friends.
In many cases, I've found that I've softened my initially-hard stances of certain issues -- thieves, for example. I've also broadened my conception of what constitutes "D&D." In both cases, it was because of my embrace of primitivism that I was able to see things more clearly than I had before. If anything, that's been the main thrust of what I've been trying to do here on this blog, however haltingly and occasionally embarrassingly: understand D&D and the earliest games of the hobby in the light of their history. To do that, you have to take the games as they are -- don't assume they're "broken" or "less evolved" or any of the myriad other jibes made against them by gamers who've probably never read them, let alone played them.
I'm doing that and it's giving me a better perspective, one that simultaneously confirms some of my long-held opinions about the hobby and challenges others. It's a messy, confusing, and often frustrating experience but an immensely satisfying one too. It's resulted in one of the most intense periods of writing in my professional life, making and meeting new friends from across the globe, and, most important of all, some of the best gaming I've had in decades. All in all, a pretty good score.
But the process is ever ongoing, like all the best things in life. I'll keep posting the results of that process here for as long as I have them. Thanks to everyone who's come along for the ride.
(This is, quite coincidentally, my 1000th post since I began writing in March 2008. Go, me.)