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An Open Letter to Implore You to Play Old Games


Registered User
Validated User
This is a bit of a weird one, but it's something I've been thinking about more and more over the years. New game editions are great—they are fun, they have new baubles, they have tightened up rules.

But old games are also great. Even older editions, that have been replaced. They have nostalgia factors that are priceless, you probably already own all the books you'll ever need to play them, you know the rules like the back of your hand.

There are pros and cons to both new and old games, but generally I see a default assumption that one is always better off playing the most recent edition. There are several perfectly valid arguments for this:

1) They fixed all those problems. You know, those problems? They are fixed now.
2) They support the companies that make the stuff we all enjoy.
3) They are easier to find because they are in print.

Those things are all true, but often they are taken to be a much bigger deal than they really are. For one, the newest, latest, greatest edition will also be picked apart and criticized over the years. We will look back at Xth Edition in the future as being old, clunky, broken, open to abuse etc. I guarantee that. Secondly, we can still support the companies that make the stuff we all enjoy. A lot of the newer edition stuff is backwards compatible with the older stuff. And for a lot of games out there, you can buy PDFs of the old material straight from DrivethruRPG or another website and that supports the company a lot! It's literally costing them nothing to put an old PDF up for sale and it is monetizing an old series of books that is otherwise no longer making them any money. Which brings us to the third point—a lot of old, out of print games are actually still very much in print through online PDF and POD sales!

Then there are a bunch of claims that really aren't very true:

1) Newer games are shinier. They just look so much better than old games.
2) Old games are not fun. New games are much more fun.
3) It's much easier to find players for newer games.

Firstly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One person may drool over the latest full-color edition with modern artwork. For me, it is extremely (read: pretty much impossible) to beat the warm-gushy feelings I have for the artwork in my old books. The reason is probably entirely nostalgia, but nostalgia is a great source of the fun for me with gaming. Nostalgia is not a bad thing at all! Secondly, old games ARE fun. I believe I can prove this claim demonstrably. Thesis: If the 1st Edition of your favorite game was complete butt, then the game wouldn't have lasted long enough to get to the latest edition which you love. Finally, I often hear that it is much easier to find players for newer games. That could be true in certain venues like hobby gaming stores, where they only have the latest product on the shelf, but I am not sure... I haven't really been in a brick and mortar store in some time (they're just not in my area). There are three other places one typically runs a game: 1) at a gaming convention, 2) with friends in the privacy of one's own home basement or 3) online. In the first case, you have a captive audience. Usually they won't even ask or care what edition you happen to be running, in my experience. They sign up for the scenario that you put in the blurb, not the particular edition! For the second one, if you are all nostalgic about an edition, probably your friends are too. The most common place I see people playing old editions is with groups of friends. Finally, the third case is much like the first... in my experience, players are often ambivalent about edition differences. They sign up for the campaign (or the one shot) that you are advertising.

So really, there is no reason not to play old editions. Love yourself, don't be ashamed, and roll them dice ;)


We See You
Staff member
Validated User
Here's my reason: I don't want to.

Moderator Text:

Then you also don't need to show up in a thread just to deny its premise. Don't threadcrap.

Which means you can leave the thread entirely.


RPGnet Member
Validated User
We still have a bunch of old editions around the family home that we play, for good or ill but mostly for fun. Our Shadowrun is 2nd ed., as is our Exalted. Our Champions is a mix of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th editions which we made work at the time without too much trouble. Our D&D is a mishmash of our old 1st ed. stuff, the 3.5 that was current when we introduced our eldest to gaming, and new stuff.


Unregistered User
Validated User
I think it's really a shame that some people get it in their heads that all "change" is necessarily "improvement." And I think it sucks that this shiny new things mentality is often used to steer people away from experiencing older games by trying to denigrate them as flawed, outdated, incomplete, etc...

One of my favorite things about the OSR movement isn't anything material that came out of it, but the fundamental ideological drive: that there was value in older games not because they did something better or worse, but because they did it differently, and how they used that mindset as a starting point to go back and re-read them. That kind of open-minded intellectual curiosity often feels like a rare commodity; there are still lots of people who write it off as simple nostalgia, even though a big chunk of people who show interest in OSR never originally played the games that they're "re"-visiting.

Long Live Retro! ♡

Michael K

Social Justice Dragon
Validated User
There are several older edition settings (Shadowrun '2050' 1E, Forgotten Realms AD&D, some others) but I wouldn't play either with the original rules unless somebody paid me to do it. In fairness, I have drifted away from many rules systems I liked way back when and usually run some Fate / Fu / Risus amalgamation these days for every setting I like to play in.

So, I'm all for using the old fluff, I'm not much for using the old crunch.


Registered User
Validated User
For me, i think the need to have more streamlined rules and fixes is pretty high. I'm 48, kids, job, etc. So there is that need to have the smoothed out system for 'new systems' that i learn. (meaning new to me, not necessarily new to being published)

I have a few old dogs (RIFTS/Palladium, GURPS 3rd ed, some d20/C&C) that get a pass as i know them inside and out and prepping and running isn't a chore.

But i struggle to absorb new rulesets (new to me) and i don't have the energy or time to learn an older system and navigate its nuances* (as opposed to calling them warts or bugs*)

Does that make sense?

Now playing? Anytime a GM wants to run, I'm game. That's a whole different story. :)


Registered User
Validated User
I do, I referee Traveller. I buy modern games and mine them for ideas, but I always return to Traveller.


Avoiding the Fallout
Validated User
Done and Done.

At work, we have a game group that plays every other week (under the auspices of team building) during work hours and we just finished a D&D campaign (Well D&D by way of Basic Fantasy) and now the person running it is going to play and I am going to run a game.

What game am I running? Gangbusters 3rd edition. I have it all planned out. The players are prohibition officers and I have 9 pages of notes for the game just to get started.

I have had my Gangbusters book (Which wasn't cheap since it is out of print) for a while and I am excited (and I think the players are too) to get playing.

Our first game is this Friday.


Trying to be a bird
Validated User
Is this even really new advice? I mean, isn't the whole point of OSR to take things from old games in a modern context, including, one assumes, sometimes playing old games?

Not that I think it's bad advice. There are certainly advancements made with new editions, but some games never got new editions.
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