Monday, March 22, 2010

I Have to Admit

This is a pretty cool ad. Thank to Jeff Rients for the original image.

63 comments:

  1. By and large I agree- I find the "You're no Hero" line to be a bit presumptuous, though (as in it seems to be telling me how to play). I'm sure I'm just being a tool, though.

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  2. Very pulpy-sounding.

    @Aos, I know where you are coming from. As a rule, I dislike games that try to force "tone" for my campaigns. My suspicion, though, is that the ad copy probably indicates more about power levels and types of foes (and things like alignment mechanics) than whether PCs can or will act "heroically."

    Though, to be honest, I am skeptical of needing a whole new game to be able to manage this.

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  3. Huh. Cleric doesn't seem to notice he is sinking. Stupid cleric.

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  4. Color me cynical, but from where I sit this just looks like an attempt to cash in on a growing (or not) movement. I mean, title copy imitating the Basic D&D title typeface and artwork more reminiscent of the graphic design 80's RPG's than contemporary design?

    I'm surprised you like this, James, given your oft-stated view that new old-school products need not/should not mimic the design of their forebears.

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  5. I'm a big fan of Dungeon Craw Classics so I'm looking forward to this. Nice to see that they're using Roslof too!

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  6. I gotta agree with ChrisB. This seems like cashing on in by a "Big" company on the ODD market.

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  7. The ad is good. I'll wait for the game, though.

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  8. I love the text of the ad. If you read it, it almost sounds like a chant. Which makes it even cooler.

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  9. I like it as well and I think that copy is great as it sets a clear expectation that this is different than the current crop of big publisher fantasy games, or maybe I just like cut-purses and not rouges.

    As for Goodman Games "Cashing In" on OSR they have been publishing OSRIC compatible modules for awhile and it makes business sense to have their own propriety license on their version to ease in rules changes and references, as well as maybe make a few extra bucks, thats what companies do.

    Sure the OSR doesn’t need another retro clone, but a big publisher getting into the game and selling one does increase the chances that some folks will check it out that won’t check out the current crop of free system (the old if its free it can’t be good mentality)by companies they have never heard of.

    As I see it this is Goodman Games chance to release a lot of OSR compatible modules that you can use with their system or any of the other systems currently out there, that’s the beauty of old school.

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  10. This is probably one of the OSR topics that generates a lot of heat but very little light: whether to pay homage to the old-school art-style, or blaze one's own distinct path.

    The advantage (and disadvantage) of the former is that it makes the offering readily identifiable as a product of old-school thinking.

    I like the use of the old D&D title-copy. It says to me "i'm extreme old-school, you got a problem with that?"

    As for the "you're no hero" line, that says to me "this is a game of mercenary dungeon-delving, we're in this dungeon to trick, threaten, sneak, bluff and rob our way into getting rich, not save the world."

    There are lots of systems out there for those who want a heroic "rescue the princess and save the world" kind of game. From the ad, it appears this is not one of those systems.

    I don't know that I need another old-school rule-set, but if this turns out to be as much fun as they make sound from the ad, I will be picking up a copy.

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  11. Cash-in or not, it sounds good, and from what little we know of the mechanics, it might be worth stealing ideas from, if nothing else. Personally, I'd love a game that was compatible with all these retroclones and old games, but brought some fresh mechanics along with it. Whether DCC will be that game remainst to be seen, of course.

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  12. I'm surprised you like this, James, given your oft-stated view that new old-school products need not/should not mimic the design of their forebears.

    To provide some context, this was a flier distributed at GaryCon II this past weekend, so the audience was a decidedly old school one. Likewise, the DCC line has always imitated the look of the old TSR trade dress, so I'd have been surprised if they didn't continue to do so now that the company's launching a full RPG based on the property.

    You're right that I don't normally like this stuff, but my fondness for Jim Roslof's recent work has overcome my wariness and, as an ad, I think it's pretty effective in piquing my interest. Whether that translates into actually purchasing the game is another matter.

    On the larger issue of Goodman attempting to "cash in" on the old school movement, I don't think that's worth worrying about. For one, I think the market's too diverse for any single company get a lock on it. Our corner of the hobby already supports multiple retro-clones as it is, along with several related old school games. One more won't do us any harm. Furthermore, Goodman's released some excellent old school products over the last year, so it's not as if the company's just swooping in after trashing the Old Ways, unlike some other companies we could mention.

    We'll see. I am intrigued by the ad, which is what good ads ought to do, so Goodman gets points from me for that, if nothing else.

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  13. Pretty good ad.

    Do that have a rules system that is just as intriguing though?

    Now we wait and see.

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  14. I'm with Brunomac: someone has stolen the cleric's feet. From now on I shall call him "Stumpy." Alternately, "Excessively High Density Man" (as opposed to the fighter's identity as "Surprisingly Low Density Stabby Man").

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  15. Having just played a zero-level radish farmer in Goodman's game at Garycon last week, I thought the "You're no hero" quote was pretty apropos!

    As for cashing in, every OSR person publishing something for money is "cashing in" to some degree or otehr. As far as I'm concerned, it is just more grist for the mill - the more materials, the better, so I hope more people try to "cash in." Market forces will kick in sooner or later, anway, if too much material gets published.

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  16. I had a farmer (w/a chicken) and a shaman - both with 1 HP and lousy stats. Somehow they both survived. I guess being a bit cautious has it's upside.

    It uses a very stripped down version of 3ed - no feats, etc.

    Seeing as I had never played 3ed, I was a little lost at first with some of their verbage. Combat was quick and deadly. I think we had at least 8-10 dead. But with most of the PCs only have 1-2 hit points, it didn't take much.

    Overall, it was fun! I'd be interested at taking a look at the rules, but I'm not sure I'd buy it - 1ed seems to work just fine for me. I'd take a gander at any of the adventures though. It did pique my interest.

    Oh, my exposure comes from the playing Joe Goodman's game at Gary Con as well.

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  17. I'm surprised that I've never read an OSR blogger ripping on the Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure line.

    Those modules suck ass with a straw.

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  18. I love it, it's fun!

    I guess I don't get how it's telling anyone how to play. "Hero" doesn't have to mean "lawful good".

    See: Han Solo, Ash, Achilles, (you get the idea).

    Oh, and I disagree completely about that DCC sucks--I've found it a wonderful line with lots to like in the way of setting.

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  19. I thought it was actually OLD for a few seconds, I was looking at the numbers and thinking 'what does two-o-one-one mean?'

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  20. I love the look of the ad, and like others here, I thought it was an old ad at first glance.

    Are they cashing in on the current old-school movement? You bet, and I can't wait to help them along.

    Zero cynicism on my part. I love that they're doing this.

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  21. You're right that I don't normally like this stuff, but my fondness for Jim Roslof's recent work has overcome my wariness and, as an ad, I think it's pretty effective in piquing my interest. Whether that translates into actually purchasing the game is another matter.

    I would add that the accompanying text is spot on; better than the illustration even, as far as piquing my interest, though it ends less strongly than the whole.

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  22. "I'm surprised that I've never read an OSR blogger ripping on the Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure line. Those modules suck ass with a straw."

    I'm gonna have to pick up and review a copy of one of the DCC modules. I'm curious to see if they're really as bad as all that.

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  23. @ Paladin in Citadel:
    In my experience rule set =/= play style. For example, back in the day we played many over the top epic campaigns with AD&D. Also lotr style epics do not contain within them the sum and total expression of what the term "hero" is. Look at the Sinbad movies for a good example of what I mean here. Sinbad is totally a hero, and I could run "Golden Voyage" with an unmodified 0e. I'd play the rich kid who smokes too much hash, or maybe Carol Munroe's cleavage; it's hard to decide. However, I realize that I am likely in the minority in this regard. Did I mention that I'm a tool? That said, there are plenty of systems that cater to the down and dirty style of play this game seems to be pushing. It matters not they can all be twisted to fulfill my needs, but unless they offer something new and/or special I'm not likely to drop any cash on them.
    As for the art thing- I'm with James, more or less, except even back in the day I wasn't crazy about the D&D trade dress.

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  24. I agree that it is a cool looking advert (although I too am puzzled by what is happening with that cleric's legs).

    As for the system, though, I can't help but suspect that this will be a repeat of Castles & Crusades, viz., an attempt to reconstruct 'old school' D&D with some 'modern' ideas about RPG systems.

    Finally, I disagree with the generalization about the DCC line. Some DCCs are indeed very weak, but some of them are quite good IMO. A mixed bag overall.

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  25. A stripped-down third-edition rule set could be interesting. It all depends on what they keep as core and what they jettison as add-ons. Could there be an OSR-compatible core at the heart of 3E, as this ad suggests? I'll certainly take a look.

    Justin Alexander was working on a promising project like this called Legends & Labyrinths, but its release has been delayed for a year and a half so far, alas.

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  26. Click on Jrient's blog and check the character sheet.

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  27. 1) if GG is "cashing in" they've been doing it a real flippin long time. Maybe even before people called it OSR. Certainly before I found the OSR. There's some 50+ adventures in the DCC line (some of which they've licensed to be converted to OSRIC I believe), stuff before; "wicked fantasy factory" series and stuff after; Dungeon Alphabet, and that Raggi monster maker I can't remember name of.

    2) Hello clueless! "Cashing in" is what businesses do. It's their reason for existence. Not saying you gotta like it but bitchin that a ball is round is way pointless.

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  28. I believe the cleric is standing in water/ liquid . . .

    the fighter is at a higher vantage point, but the ground is still moist

    as for game design;
    skills in (simplified),
    but out with
    feats, psionics and prestige classes

    enjoy

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  29. Pop quiz: Which of the 4 character description lines sounds least compatible with the "You're no hero" dictum?

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  30. Pop quiz: Which of the 4 character description lines sounds least compatible with the "You're no hero" dictum?

    I'll go with the tight-lipped warlock. It's those long-dead secrets that make me suspicious. The rest of them are irredeemable scoundrels.

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  31. > Likewise, the DCC line has always imitated the look of the old TSR trade dress, so I'd have been surprised if they didn't continue to do so now that the company's launching a full RPG based on the property.

    Imitated the imagery, yes, but as far as Goodman Games was concerned the Old School was dead - witness the fiasco with the 1e DCC 12.5 module where their print run was all of /60/ copies, thinking that was as many as they could sell. :p

    Good to see a change of heart, regardless of motive (and no doubt positive in there, too :)

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  32. Really? Is the fact that this is produced by a "mainstream" publisher and issue? It's just that sort of thinking and talk that gets OSR folks labeled and bunched in with other elitist hobbyists.

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  33. Aos: "What is heathen-slayer?"

    I'll go with that.

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  34. I just don't see what the justification for this is. We've had the games (and innumerable clones of such) to do this forever.

    File under "Castles & Crusades, Hackmaster, utterly pointless."

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  36. Strange thing that is.
    When some OSR hobby publisher announces that he will create another clone, the whole community is backslapping for months. Even editing and re-packaging an existing clone gets lauded like the second coming.
    But when a well known publisher announces that he will create an old school RPG the community gets aggravated.

    Comments like "utterly pointless" are not heaped at those hobby publishers still creating their own clone (and there are at least 2 out there).

    @ Eli Arndt:
    That attitude is not elitism, it is pure snobbery.

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  37. There're already more clones than I think is good, and I'm not overwhelmed by excitement at the idea of some sort of stripped-down 3e (if that means OGL, then I'm definitely out).

    IAt this point, 'd far rather someone like Goodman picked up one of the existing clones and made it their "house system" than fracture the market even further.

    FWIW, I felt the same about Basic/Expert back in the day: what's the point of two very similar systems which are trying to give the same sort of game? Stop wasting time with more bloody rules fluff and give me some crunchy settings and ideas I can actually use to play with the rules I have.

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  38. "When some OSR hobby publisher announces that he will create another clone"

    "Another clone" is not pointless at all, if you're familiar with the retro-clone movement and what its designs are intended to facilitate (easily publishing new material using the old rules).

    What's pointless is a whole new "old school" game from scratch when both the originals *and their clones* are already both serving that need.

    So if you really don't grasp the difference between, say, OSRIC and Castles & Crusades, or Labyrinth Lord and Hackmaster, that's your basic misunderstanding, not mine.

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  39. I like the ad much better when I substitute "we" for "you":

    "We're no heroes.

    We're a reaver, a cutpurse, a heathen-slayer, a tight-lipped warlock guarding long-dead secrets.

    We seek gold and glory, winning it with sword and...yada yada."

    My problem with the project is that Goodman has always presented us with a caricature of "old school", as evidenced by the line "when every NPC was meant to be killed" on their old DCC line of modules. This seems likely to continue that approach.

    That's what it was like in the old days? No, I think not. I was there, and not every NPC was meant to be killed.

    Putting Roslof, Otus (whose stuff has gone decidedly downhill, IMO), or Holloway artwork on the cover doesn't make the content "old school", whatever that is. But it has and will likely continue to sell copies of the product. Gotta hand it to them for being able to survive, let alone thrive, in the current state of the industry. I've never been a customer, and don't plan to be, but obviously someone is.

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  40. There we have it, now Old School is not HOW you play the game, but WHAT game you play.

    That is the snobbism I was talking about.

    Thinking about that, it might be a reason why James Mischler went out of business. He produced C&C compatible stuff. And C&C is not old school as Will pointed out.

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  41. Awfully bloodthirsty ad copy there. That's one thing that strikes me as decidedly unlike the late-70's RPGs, which (to my eye) deemphasized the whole 'blood and filth of the weak' nonsense that this ad is putting out. (Blood of a dragon? Swell. Dragons are forces of nature. Blood of, say, a deranged religious zealot? Now we're into creepytown.)

    Of course this a cynical, even contemptuous ad - but it's only an ad. If the game is good it will advertise itself.

    They should bundle a digest-format edition of Raggi's Creature Generator with the new game.

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  42. Not to fight or anything - the ad's/Goodman's particular interpretation of what pulp dungeon-crawling feels like just strikes me as bloodthirsty, and I didn't see that fact being called out. As much as anything, OD&D is a good game for comic fantasy shenanigans; the defensive self-seriousness of so many subsequent fantasy RPGs is one of the shortcomings of the genre.

    (All WotC's published materials have been embarrassing on this score - lacking the poetic grimness of Warhammer and the good nature of TSR's pre-2e materials. That 4e's abstract combat system is a return to the cartoonish abstractions of early RPGs gets buried under the lamentable aesthetics of the new stuff.)

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  43. I'm really surprised at the poo-pooing here about this product which, BTW, most of us no nothing about it.

    AFAICT, those who did play it at GaryCon (and old-school con BTW) seem to enjoy the game.

    Holding judgment based upon an ad is pretty stupid.

    ALL OSR RPGs need to be examined on their own merits and people will make personal choices on what they like.

    Statements like:

    File under "Castles & Crusades, Hackmaster, utterly pointless."

    don't help the OSR movement. IF anything, it detracts from it, and it's based solely on personal opinion and conjecture.

    What's the worst that could happen? Maybe it's (GASP!)a good game?

    And if it's bad? So what? It hurts nobody but Goodman Games.

    There are plenty of OSR-type games out there, so if one doesn't make it...oh well.

    Let's judge it by it's content not by it "cover", as it were.

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  44. OSR now means Old School Reformation?

    Are we going to argue over the "one true box"?

    -Eli

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  45. "Are we going to argue over the 'one true box'?"

    What's to argue? I was under the impression that all of the various D&D versions released prior to Gygax's ouster from TSR collectively constituted the "one true game" and that the OSR movement was about primarily popularizing and promoting their continued use.

    If that's not so, and anyone has the right to represent their own, brand new games as "old school D&D" with no dissent from that viewpoint tolerated? Well, that's a problem. It's called a completely incoherent movement without the necessary foundation of a single guiding principal or goal.

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  46. Statements like:

    File under "Castles & Crusades, Hackmaster, utterly pointless."

    don't help the OSR movement. IF anything, it detracts from it, and it's based solely on personal opinion and conjecture.

    What's the worst that could happen? Maybe it's (GASP!)a good game?


    Well, but one of the key claims of the OSR as an organized movement is that OD&D and AD&D are good enough on their own, and still have the power to attract new players. Even the less-than-inspiring OSR materials that fail to bear out this claim still flow from a preservationist feeling (and a feeling of responsibility both FOR and TO the tradition).

    At a certain point it really is counterproductive for this particular group of guys to keep churning out more-or-less substantive variations on the old games - particularly if the OSR folks share the goal of keeping Gygax's rules in print and 'officially' supportable.

    It's not clear, of course, that this Goodman game represents supersaturation. But as they say, Folks gotta get paid. For those not already living comfortably, that's the big deal, no?

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  47. And let's be frank: if C&C and Hackmaster aren't moving the field forward, why in the world *do* they exist? Better to amplify what already exists, perhaps.

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  48. @Wally,

    There are those who feel that the OSR thing is more about preserving the style and feel of those older games we loved in the past and less about preserving the games themselves.

    One main issue I have with the OSR idea that the Gygax rules should be it is that these rules really aren't available and out there. Sure you can download them someplace or hunt down ragged copies or pay collector's prices for new stuff, but not everyone wants or has the means to do so.

    The retro-clones or original works with OSR feel allow for that same "vibe" to be enjoyed through new, living product lines. They also allow for *gasp* innovation that perhaps benefits those earlier versions without damaging them.

    I am sure there are a host of things that even Gygax himself would have like to have added or tried at one some point.

    -Eli

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  49. @Will,

    I am not sure OSR even knows what it's all about. You ask ten people who consider themselves OSR folk and they'll likely give you different variations.

    Incoherrant movement? Guiding principal?

    We're talking about sitting in dim rooms, rolling dice and pretending to be somebody else for a few hours at a time. This isn't government or social reform here.

    I really think this whole thing is really taking itself a bit too seriously. Honestly, I couldn't give a damn who wrote a game if it's fun. Is a game any less OSR because it doesn't have the holy mark of Gygax on it?

    -Eli

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  50. There we have it, now Old School is not HOW you play the game, but WHAT game you play.

    To be fair, what game you play is important. Otherwise, there'd be no point in not playing the latest edition of D&D whenever it comes out.

    That is the snobbism I was talking about.

    What's snobby about rejecting a particular game as not being old school? There are lots of fine RPGs that aren't old school. I've played and enjoyed many of them. Heck, I've written for many of them, which, in the eyes of some, excommunicates me from the old school fraternity.

    Thinking about that, it might be a reason why James Mischler went out of business. He produced C&C compatible stuff. And C&C is not old school as Will pointed out.

    I cannot speculate on what caused AGP to have such comparatively poor sales, but I don't think his choice of system was a huge factor. I'm no fan of C&C myself and I was happy to purchase many of his products, which almost universally impressed me. If others did not feel similarly, I'd be amazed if their being for C&C was the primary factor.

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  51. That actually isn't true. Goodman released sort of "generic" 1e compatible conversions, sort of like PPP does, but he won't touch OSRIC as a brand at all. Just a random bit of info. ;-)

    You're right, of course. I guess I keep forgetting how OSRIC is still viewed in some quarters.

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  52. James, you didn't mention BFRP. It's been out since 2006 I believe. Version two is available now and it's beautiful.
    And it's free. And the Lulu POD copies are at cost and inexpensive.


    You're right. I often forget BFRP because it's the one clone-ish game I've never played.

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  53. Are we talking about being able to use the same character stat blocks with little modification or simply the big-picture stuff?

    It's a complicated question. For a great many old schoolers, D&D of some form or another is all they're interested in, so broad mechanical compatibility with D&D is important. Others have wider interests and are quite happy to see more "experimental" old school designs that don't cleave as closely to the D&D mechanics.

    My post was primarily a response to the notion that there are already too many mechanically similar D&D clones out there and wasn't intended to address the bigger question of whether all the old school movement is about is D&D. To that, I'd say no, with the caveat that D&D, as in the wider hobby, will always be the 800 lb. gorilla, so it's not surprising to see much of the conversation dominated by it.

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  54. Can some other posters, or maybe even James himself chime in and clarify if OLD SCHOOL is a philosophy on HOW TO PLAY the game or about WHAT GAME TO PLAY?

    Why can't it be both, at least in part?

    I continue to maintain that mechanics matter by setting a tone for play and expectations in players. Certain game designs actively work against putting old school philosophies into action. In the hands of an able referee, you can make almost any system serve old school ends, but, after a while, why try to row upstream? That's why I personally feel that what game one plays can be as important as how one plays it. This is a position not everyone in the old school movement shares, but I think it's a defensible position nonetheless.

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  55. I am sure there are a host of things that even Gygax himself would have like to have added or tried at one some point.

    Certainly, but you must remember that, despite imprecations to the contrary, many of us reject the things Gygax wanted to add. Unearthed Arcana, for example, is widely disliked among old schoolers precisely because it changes many aspects of D&D.

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  56. Is a game any less OSR because it doesn't have the holy mark of Gygax on it?

    Does anyone really hold this position or a position even remotely like it?

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  57. Yes,

    They have. Every time somebody upholds the idea that something other than red box or OD&D is somehow lesser or that retro-clones are hurting the movement or whatever.

    Though nobody has used my words, which were intended to be as comedic as they were pointed, they have expressed that very same feeling countless times in blog posts and comments made across the net.

    Heck, just a few comments back, Wally nearly said as much.

    -Eli

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  58. Heck, just a few comments back, Wally nearly said as much.

    I am very possibly the polar opposite of 'representative of this online community.'

    That said, knockoffs are lame and boring and don't advance the state-of-the-anything, and the OSR is careening toward Knockoffland if it isn't parked there already. Variations on D&D are still D&D, more or less; variations in branding don't help anything. The Goodman RPG could be good or bad as a game, but it feels unnecessary.

    Check out the OSR sidebars: nearly all the folks are playing Gygax games or retro-clones. As James just said: "For a great many old schoolers, D&D of some form or another is all they're interested in, so broad mechanical compatibility with D&D is important."

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  59. For those who have never played old school games but want to get into them or who are coming back to them after some time, what exactly are they to play if they cannot get their hands on the vaunted "proper" rules?

    If the question is what do retro-clones and "knock-offs" do to advance OSR hobby, then my answer would b to keep it alive beyond the years of the aging fellows (myself included) who enjoy their style of play.

    Accessibility and availability is the main advantages of the clones or new products that attempt to revive that style of play.

    I just don't understand the amount of irritation that these sorts of things generate. Whatever happened to playing the games you wanted to and leaving others well enough alone to do the same?

    -Eli

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  60. Wally said...
    The Goodman RPG could be good or bad as a game, but it feels unnecessary.

    This is a characteristic shared by every game ever created in the history of ever- with possible exception of strip volley ball.

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