Thursday, November 13, 2014

In a Way, I've Always Been Old School

Over the past couple years, I've kept drifting towards and away from the OSR "movement."  Almost like tides; I'm easily frustrated by "hobby drama" and when confronted with people acting childishly about a game, I tend to move away for a while, but I'm always drawn back to the "Old School" gaming scene.  As I'd mentioned previously, I'd gotten my start playing RPGs with D&D 3.x; it's not like I'd grown up playing D&D in the 80s (I was born in 1987), drifted away, came back to gaming years later and found the new version of the game too different from that of my youth.  I rolled my first d20 in September 2005.  So it's not that.

Reflecting today, I realized that it's because I'm far more in touch with the sources that influenced the early generations of D&D players then I am with the sources that influence my generation of D&D players.

I didn't grow up playing video games, for example.  My family didn't buy a console until the Wii came out.  I still don't play video games, or computer games for that matter, practically at all.  I'm fairly certain I haven't touched a controller since I graduated college in 2009.  I'm not saying that as a means of acting superior, I just honestly never felt any interest in video games.

I did, however, grow up reading - a lot.  Up until the end of high school I went to my local public library at least twice a week for reading material, and a lot of what I read was "old school."  I read A Princess of Mars when I was in the 5th grade (same year I read The Hobbit for the first time).  My library had the entire Barsoom series in hardcover, a matched set all with the Michael Whelan covers.  I devoured them - to this day, John Carter represents a standard of virtue and "manliness" that I strive to live up to, and Dejah Thoris was my fantasy woman when I hit puberty -- and she's remained the standard of womanhood (yeah, she gets kidnapped and is a damsel in distress quite a bit, but she's also a scientist, a stateswoman, and willing to sacrifice for the good of the whole) that I hold potential girlfriends to.  Hell, I give copies of A Princess of Mars to girls after I've been dating them for a while because I feel like that book is a better key to understanding who I am as a person then any other physical object could be.

For that matter, I paraphrased a Barsoomian saying in conversation with my supervisor at work today - faced with the prospect of having to essentially carry an entire department that's shown they can't find their asses with both hands and a Know Direction spell, I simply said, "Leave me my head and one hand and I'll still get it done."

By 8th grade I was reading H.P. Lovecraft and I'd gotten on to Conan the Barbarian as well, in the Ace paperback editions edited by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, with the Frazetta covers.

I still haven't read the Lord of the Rings trilogy in its entirety, and the Silmarillion holds no interest for me.

So my fantasy background is informed far more by Pulp sword and sorcery, weird horror, and sword and planet fiction then it is by "high" fantasy.  And looking in Appendix N...Burroughs, Lovecraft, Howard, Smith...all the guys I grew up reading...are prominently featured!

And while I got my start with the D20's one I hate running.  I hate "balancing" encounters, I hate how powerful PCs get and how fast they do it, I hate the giant stat blocks and the endless lists of feats and spells and powers that PCs get.  I don't feel physically capable of preparing for all that, and that feeling of inadequacy in the face of the rules makes me feel horrible, like I can't run a decent game.

And for what it's worth, I've played all of maybe a half-dozen sessions as a player in the last five years, and one of my players has told me he prefers me in the DM chair because he feels like he can't live up to how good a DM I am.  Maybe that's a bullshit excuse or flattery, I don't know.

But look at that...a background in pulp fantasy literature with an emphasis on grotty, gritty adventure with a strong likelihood for death, dismemberment and worse, fighting sorcerers, cultists and slavers instead of world-threatening "Big Bad Evil Guys"...

Is it any wonder I keep gravitating back towards "Old School" D&D?

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