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An Open Letter to Implore You to Play Old Games

Random Goblin

Esquire
Validated User
I'm definitely in the camp of people who don't reject older games outright, but also don't embrace them automatically just on the basis of their oldness. In general, I know the kinds of things that I want a game to do, and so if a game does those things, I am interested, regardless of whether it is new or old. Hence, I love old-school D&D, Classic Traveller, Pendragon, and I also love PbtA games, Blades in the Dark and Fria Ligan's Year Zero games, but I have very little interest in actually playing any edition of GURPS, Vampire the Masquerade, Space: 1889, anything W.O.I.N. or Spire: the City Must Fall.

I suspect that, when push comes to shove, this is the case for most people. We all have a sort of mental framework for what we want games to do, and the age of the game by itself isn't really the determining factor. So a plea to play old games really only makes sense to a person who (1) has categorically rejected older games on an incorrect assumption that they don't do what the person wants a game to do and (2) actually has the bandwidth and interest to try additional games.

It's really lovely to go back and discover that an older game actually does the thing you want games to do after all, but it's sort of the product of a confluence of factors that's not always going to happen. So I feel like, at best, I can urge people to not rule out older games categorically.

EDIT: And I don't blame anyone for steering clear because of toxic scenes. I think that a lot of the toxic scenes are easily avoidable and have accessible non-toxic counterparts, but I also really don't blame someone for just not wanting to take the risk, especially when there is a lot at stake. There are like a million games out there and nobody has time to play them all anyway.
I also don't really understand why an open letter imploring people to play older games is needed, or what it's supposed to accomplish. Lots of people are already playing older games! So many older games have vibrant, thriving communities. It's probably a better time right now for retro gaming than ever. So it's not like older games are gathering dust and not being touched.

If the problem is that the people in your gaming circles don't want to play them, then it seems like the right move is to convince the specific people you want to play with to try the games you specifically want to play. Open letter's not going to do that.
 

kvltjam

Async
Validated User
Presentation matters to me, and I find a lot of the old-school really hard to follow. Add to that a love of heavy wargame-style simulationism and, well, a lot of old games aren’t for me. Now, having said that, I’m starting to fall in love with neoclones like Whitehack - games that take the bones of old-school D&D and build new lean systems out of them.

Plus SWORD DREAM is a thing, and that scene still loves OSR and DIY gaming, but with politics that better align to my own.
 

E.T.Smith

A Most Sincere Poseur
Validated User
As for the OSR, well... Between Smith, Tarnowski, and the other edgelords, my friends and I prefer to mostly stick to other rpg communities that make us feel welcome and safer. This is not something that's going to be changed easily or quickly.
The OSR is an extremely broad category, and from what I can tell it's not remotely united in view, on anything. ... Basically, I'd highly recommend looking at the games you're interested in and skip the ones you aren't, and judge them on their own merits (including the developer) because I think it's a very diverse group.
rstites, I think you're missing Rose Embolism's point. It's not the products themselves, or even those few toxic creators, its the enabling communities around them. As noted by others in this very thread, there is a regressive strain in OSR fandom. And it's completely reasonable to not want to risk encountering that strain and simply avoid that whole scene, especially when there are other ready fandoms that don't require navigating a minefield to engage with.

In my own case, I really like the best the OSR has to offer, but after some bad experiences as a community organizer in it the last couple years, I don't really want to promote it as a whole anymore. I can't in good conscious recommend other people seek it out when I know there's bad stuff lurking there, even if there are particular games that, taken in isolation, are great.
 

rstites

Active member
Validated User
rstites, I think you're missing Rose Embolism's point.
I got the point. It was just offering alternatives, such as just going directly to the source and using the actual old games, as those aren't OSR and neither are most of us old timers who've been around playing them forever. That seemed more inline with the OP anyway.

In my own case, I really like the best the OSR has to offer, but after some bad experiences as a community organizer in it the last couple years, I don't really want to promote it as a whole anymore. I can't in good conscious recommend other people seek it out when I know there's bad stuff lurking there, even if there are particular games that, taken in isolation, are great.
Do you really think this is any different than the RPG as a whole hobby? I'd assume in any given hobby you're going to run into that somewhere.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
Do you really think this is any different than the RPG as a whole hobby? I'd assume in any given hobby you're going to run into that somewhere.
It might be. The only place I've hit quite the density I hit with parts of the OSR community was in Post-Apocalyptic gaming fandom. It probably doesn't help that there's at least a couple big bright stars of that community who are really toxic.
 

E.T.Smith

A Most Sincere Poseur
Validated User
I got the point. It was just offering alternatives, such as just going directly to the source and using the actual old games, as those aren't OSR and neither are most of us old timers who've been around playing them forever. That seemed more inline with the OP anyway.
It's inaccurate to maintain that there's a clear gap between folks playing retro-clones and folks playing the original texts. I understand it's appealing to think that there is, but they overlap pretty freely. And it's unkind to expect someone to make the extra effort of dodging bad elements just to get to play a game, when alternatives exist without the added strain, and what they're risking is real emotional pain. We're not talking about dealing with merely social awkward nerds, the bad elements are outright bigots projecting real abuse.
Do you really think this is any different than the RPG as a whole hobby? I'd assume in any given hobby you're going to run into that somewhere.
Yes, unequivocally. I went years justifying the bad smell in the OSR with a similar, "whelp, assholes are everywhere" attitude. But eventually I couldn't deny that interacting with OSR spaces required putting up shields that, say, boardgame and story-game communities didn't.
 

rstites

Active member
Validated User
It's inaccurate to maintain that there's a clear gap between folks playing retro-clones and folks playing the original texts.
I suppose. I was mostly just thinking of the systems there, as the old ones are out and freely available now, so you don't have to interact with anyone or think about active designers you'd prefer to support or not support. (Most of the designers are gone now, and those who aren't are pretty inactive.)
 

Rose Embolism

Registered User
Validated User
The OSR is an extremely broad category, and from what I can tell it's not remotely united in view, on anything. Really, it's probably a good 50% of the RPG products out there over the last decade (depending on how you want to define OSR). Basically, I'd highly recommend looking at the games you're interested in and skip the ones you aren't, and judge them on their own merits (including the developer) because I think it's a very diverse group.
This has already been mostly answered, but let me give you the bicycling analogy.

There are two routes to the destination. One is a dedicated bike path. the other is going along a busy street that has no bike lane, cars whizzing by at 60 km/hr, etc.. Now the majority of drivers are OK, but there's going to be some that are distracted and won't see a bucyclist, others who won't care, and a few who think it's hilarious to bash a bottle agains the back of the head of a bicyclist. And even if one gets there safely, there's the stress of cars going at freeway speeds inches away.

Given the choice which would YOU choose?

I mean, the last time I poked my nose into an OSR group, a guy was going off about the 'SJW Stalinists at rpg.net.". I didn't stick around to see what others had to say.

I mean you are probably right about the broad community. But it's a risk assessment and stress thing.


I'd also note that there tends to be a reasonably large crowd of us grognardly types around here who are happy to talk about those games, and I think we're a reasonably friendly bunch. I don't really identify too much with the OSR - never followed the blogs or the clones when that was the central premise - though I certainly enjoy several of the 2nd generation games that diverge more from the originals.
There's also the fact that for the most part the gameplay the OSR people talk about bear little resemblance to what my experience back in the late 1970s and early 1980s was. Even on a fundamental level, things like "Rulings not rules" just sounds odd to me.

And recently I was pretty much told that my and my gaming community's finding fault with Traveller was because we didn't read the rules properly. Guys who cut their teeth on Squad Leader couldn't comprehend the rules. There's a reason I barely even talk about Traveller here. And then when I dissect what I liked about Traveller, and what I would want from a current Traveller campaign, I have to question whether old school Traveller would even match my needs.


That's the thing here: most of the ones I look back to as being really good, are still available and the most modern version isn't that far removed from the original. Really, only D&D has diverged that much mechanically.
That's one thing: I don't regard D&D as having diverged all that much, mechanically. It still has the six rolled attributes, and levels, and classes that are recognizable from AD&D, and hit points and weapons doing dice of damage, and monsters and dungeons and experience. Toss it back into 1981 and people would shrug and say "OK, that's an interesting bunch of house rules", and roll up some characters. It hasn't even diverged as much as the house rules that became Runequest. Arguably some of the versions of Traveller have changed more.

But as far as old games go, I would love to play James Bond again, because it feels so modern. It's the perfect example of taking the premise of a game and making every rule support it. I still think Runequest 2nd is a perfect little gritty sword-and-sorcery system and setting. Either of those would be fun to run at a convention. I may even do posts on those. But I can do that here.
 

CK!

Creator of Things
Validated User
And recently I was pretty much told that my and my gaming community's finding fault with Traveller was because we didn't read the rules properly. Guys who cut their teeth on Squad Leader couldn't comprehend the rules.
As a guy who probably resembles that remark, does it matter that I never made any comment about anyone's reading comprehension or ability to read the rules?

Does it matter that to try to put me in a an "OSR Box" to make a point about how terrible "The OSR" is terrible is kind of nutty. (The last game I just played with my Monday night group was Unknown Armies 3rd edition. The last game I ran for my Monday night group was a kids as wizards game I hacked out of PbtA).

If you're going to be upset about things be upset about things. But there's no need to go reaching and contorting things to make your point.
 

vegetalss4

Registered User
Validated User
As a guy who probably resembles that remark, does it matter that I never made any comment about anyone's reading comprehension or ability to read the rules?

Does it matter that to try to put me in a an "OSR Box" to make a point about how terrible "The OSR" is terrible is kind of nutty. (The last game I just played with my Monday night group was Unknown Armies 3rd edition. The last game I ran for my Monday night group was a kids as wizards game I hacked out of PbtA).

If you're going to be upset about things be upset about things. But there's no need to go reaching and contorting things to make your point.
I think you might be misunderstanding Rose.
If I am reading their post correctly, Rose implied that the claim them and their group couldn't comprehend the rules of Traveller was obviously wrong, on the basis that said group cut their teeth on Squad Leader (which I presume is significantly more complex/dense).
She isn't drawing any equivalency between OSR people and people that cut their teeth on Squad Leader.
 
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