May 27, 2009

Surveying the "Old School" RPG Concept Independent of D&D

There's been enough rumbling about the "Old School" movement that if it were to be put into seismic terms California would now be west of the continental shelf. I've mostly been avoiding the arguments up until now because it seems the universal consensus was that 1st and 2nd Edition D&D constitutes as Old School and any game that plagiarizes them is worthy of the tag. This debate might have some validity, but as an intellectual pursuit didn't interest me in any way. However as a writer and designer of games I have to look at the idea that "Old School" as a marketing device may help me sell my game so now I'm forced to look at the concept and see if there's anything to it I can use, because like it or not a buzzword is a buzzword.

So here's a few concepts that I encounter in games both old and new. You the reader can tell me if they're:
  • Old School
  • New School
  • Not Old School or New School
  • Antiquated and Obsolete
  • Fundamental in All Games Old and New


  1. The right side of the quiz is cut off when I look at it in Firefox 3.0.10 on Vista.

  2. It's cut off in IE7 on XP too. Need to adjust the iframe width I would assume.

  3. FIXED.

    sry, i was tied up in the lab.

  4. Few of what you list are causally related to being an old school game. Sure, some of them may have been common in old school games. But putting them into a game won't magically make your game 'old school'.

    Now if your game included mechanics that focused on player skill/ interaction with the world rather than character abilities or on enabling GMs to follow rough guidelines rather than attempting to create a rule for every situation, then you might be able to call your game 'old school'.


  5. None of that stuff is really old school or new school, I think. Except maybe for box sets, and that's mostly because people have since realized that it isn't really very practical to release things that way.

    But I had to pick antiquated and obsolete for random character backgrounds because, well, really, what's the point? Ew.

    Also, emo elves are fundamental. You can't have a game without them. Even if you want to, they'll still show up. They may show up in the guise of, say, Toreadors, but they'll show up. There is no escape.

  6. Have to say that having been in this hobby since it's inception, I've seen aspects of all this stuff both in early games and in later games too. I wouldn't necessary say any are characteristic of either school, since game designers of both schools were notorious of borrowing things they liked or saw in other games into their own.

  7. To me, Old School games are much more simplistic and imaginative than the newer games. So many new games that I've looked at have been far too complicated to be able to just jump right into them.

    Less rules = Less Lawyering = More Play = More Fun.

    I long to play Basic D&D again... I'd still throw out the Vancian magic system though, and replace it with a more balanced system I made up years ago, where spellcasters can cast all day, but at lower power levels.


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