I was away for a good portion of today, owing to a family obligation, but I brought along with me as reading material the three rulebooks that make up the second edition of Chivalry & Sorcery, which I have on indefinite loan from a long-time correspondent. I'd read select portions of the rules before, but I'd never read them all cover to cover until today. In doing so, a few thoughts occurred to me.
As I've noted before, "old school" is not, despite the preferences of a great many old school bloggers, the equivalent of "rules light." Plenty of old school games -- the entire FGU catalog, to cite just a few examples -- were quite complex. Now, it's perfectly understandable that, in the face of monstrously exhaustive modern RPGs, many of us have sought refuge in the comforting arms of simpler games. Simplicity is a common element of old school RPGs, but it's not, I think, a defining element and it does us all a disservice to imply that it is. Reading C&S reminded me once again that complexity is not anathema to old school gaming and indeed many complex games better illustrate other characteristics of the Old Ways better than do simpler ones (the preference for multiple, distinct sub-systems rather than a unified mechanic, for example).
I also found myself more strongly compelled to give C&S a whirl than I ever have been in the past. I'm not entirely sure why, as, in many ways, it's a pretty bland, flavorless game. Its distinctive elements were its very involved character generation, combat, and magic systems and its "realistic" treatment of medieval society as a backdrop for fantasy adventuring. Yet, somehow, this mixture started to work for me and I began to imagine that it might even be fun to play a game like this. Perhaps I'm merely sleep deprived, I don't know.
In any case, between this experience and my recent inquiries into Gygax's Dangerous Journeys, I am starting to think that one of the things the old school renaissance has really yet to produce is a complex, even rules-heavy RPG. To date, the scene has been obsessed with "simplicity." Again, let me stress that there is great virtue in simplicity; it's definitely my preferred approach to rules design. But, that said, there is room -- perhaps even a need? -- for a game built on old school principles that bucks the notion that "old school = rules light," because that was never true.