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An Open Letter to Implore You to Play Old Games

Ficino

Rascally Rabbit
Validated User
I'll cop to enjoying some old games. For instance, I'd play the original Empire of the Petal Throne in a heartbeat, if I could find a group that was interested; I still think it's the best introduction to Tekumel. I'd probably house-rule some elements of it rather aggressively, but that's not really any different than we did when we were playing it back in 1976.

I'll admit, though, that one reason I like and would play older games is that I did play them when they were new. But I don't think my continuing enjoyment of them is simply, or mainly, nostalgia--it's a bit more complicated than that. I learned to play with those old games and they helped set my tastes in gaming. Not in a linear fashion, of course--a person's tastes can change over time, and in part my preferences can be reactions against those early systems--but they are still at the roots of my attitudes. Therefore, someone younger, who started with different games than I did--Fate, PbTA, whatever--might well not find older games attractive (though, of course, they could, like the example given upthread). Their tastes were formed in a different matrix than mine.

Games, it seems to me, are fairly similar to some other products that combine utility with aesthetic elements--e.g. furniture, clothing, etc. Styles seem to come and go. There is a significant pressure to reject and denigrate yesterday's models. This pressure has many roots: the logic of consumer capitalism, conspicuous consumption, the adversarial relationship between generations, etc. These are of course in addition to any objective superiorities the new models may have over the old, if we can speak of such superiorities in items whose only real purpose is enjoyment.

Analogies with those other products suggest a partial explanation for the OSR movement. In clothes, furnishings, etc. what is slightly old (a decade, maybe two--it depends on the product) is just seen as outdated and inferior to present products. But considerably older items can be seen positively, as 'retro' or even antiques, to be valued for their difference from the present. Without questioning the importance of the OGL and similar issues in creating the OSR movement, I wonder if part of the equation isn't simply that the games involved had become old enough to seem cool--about 30 years old at the movement's beginning.
 

rstites

Active member
Validated User
I mean you are probably right about the broad community. But it's a risk assessment and stress thing.
That's fine. I tried to clarify that I'm really thinking more of mechanics and systems than the community there. I don't know if that matters.

For example, the only OSR game I've ever purchased is Godbound*, and I feel like I could easily do any discussion of it that I'm interested in here, and I think Crawford is considered a good guy. I don't need to go to an OSR community to discuss that game, and really don't need to go to any community to play it with my friends. (I've also played Stars Without Number several times too and highly regard it also.)

* Really it was a gift from someone who's a member here, so I'll put this here just to note that I didn't forget that! :)

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.
That's an interesting comment. I've argued before that 5e D&D plays just like people were playing, or trying to play, AD&D back in the 1980s, and that's a huge part of its success. It's what most people want out of an RPG IMO.

That style of play had already diverged significantly from LBB OD&D, and arguably from much of what was written in AD&D. (It seems to me that the written portions of AD&D were largely ignored for several very understandable reasons.)

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.
I owned the James Bond game and thought it was really cool, but never played it and then sold it off years ago. I regret that now. Yes, you can talk RQ around here pretty easily. (FWIW, that's what I was thinking of when mentioning OSR games earlier too. You can discuss those here too, if you decide to talk about them.) I'm an old RQ2 player, having run more RuneQuest than any other RPG over my entire life.
 

mac40k

Registered User
Validated User
I got my start with Melee/Wizard/The Fantasy Trip and therefore backed the Kickstarter for the new edition now that SJG got the rights back after all these years. However, that was knowingly just a nostalgia purchase. I really don't have much desire to relearn the rules, much less try to teach them to others at this point. Similarly, I devoured the BECMI-era D&D Known Worlds Gazeteers and the nostalgia factor was strong enough to get me to purchase all the pdfs when they became available. But just as with TFT, I have no desire to actually run anything in that setting, let alone that ruleset. TEW for WFRP1e remains to this day my longest running and most satisfying campaign ever, but I have zero interest in running WFRP1e now. In short, I need a far better reason to run an old game than purely nostalgia. What does an old game do that something else newer, that I'm already more familiar with these days doesn't do and/or do it better?
 

Ficino

Rascally Rabbit
Validated User
In short, I need a far better reason to run an old game than purely nostalgia. What does an old game do that something else newer, that I'm already more familiar with these days doesn't do and/or do it better?
It seems to me that you have answered your own question--for you, they apparently do nothing you can't get from a more recent game, and you prefer those more recent ones. So you shouldn't run the old ones.

The rub in the analysis is 'do and do it better.' Rpgs are not practical tools, like rakes or cellphones. With those tools, I think we could reasonably say that one model is objectively better than another. So this new rake covers a wider swath of lawn, does less damage to it, has an easier-to-grip handle, or cleans up more quickly than the old model. In that situation, the new rake is, more or less, doing the job better than the old.

But all rpgs do is produce entertainment and enjoyment. For some people, the older models may do that better than the newer ones. This is most likely, I think, for people who played those games when they were new and whose preferences are shaped by them, but it could be anybody. There's no accounting for taste. For those people, it makes perfect sense to play the older games, if they can find someone to play them with.
 

Heavy Arms

Registered User
Validated User
It seems to me that you have answered your own question--for you, they apparently do nothing you can't get from a more recent game, and you prefer those more recent ones. So you shouldn't run the old ones.
I'm not sure it's as concrete as that. Not every new edition or new iteration is going to get the "new hottest" treatment or actually do everything the previous versions.

The edition/iteration wars over Vampire: the Masquerade and Vampire: the Requiem is a decent example here. When VtM was originally ended and VtR released... it was extremely contentious. Even if most fans saw/conceded the VtR rules were better (even in their first version with some serious warts), rules aren't everything. oWW was a company that capitalized heavily on people that enjoyed RPG books as books first and gaming tools second; a group that got more value out of deep lore/backstory and the continuing metaplot. VtR promised (and largely fulfilled) to go back to a state where the setting was more mysterious and flexible with less established facts, less universal setting elements, and so on, and not have a significant metaplot to follow. That's a decision that made VtR more useful to some fans, and less useful to others; despite not being a purely objective assessment.

VtR didn't get the "new hottest" bug and only a few grumbling grognards were clutching to their old VtM books. The creators wholly acknowledge that at least in hindsight they made a mistake by being too close to a reboot of VtM instead of stretching out farther into VtR being it's own thing, which had a real impact on sales. It wasn't nostalgia thing, or a familiarity thing, but a real functional difference in what the games offered to play. VtM continued to offer things VtR didn't, to the point where the creators of the current books actively don't want them to offer the same thing to just appeal to different (if overlapping) audiences.

VtM 5th Edition has likewise gotten a mixed reception with a lot of people wanting to stick to the older editions (even if the newest of the older ones) based on the changes made.

There are other examples like the Shadowrun 1e-3e vs. 4e and later divide where people didn't like SR changing it's aesthetics to be more "modern" instead of embracing staying retro. Even if SR might not be old enough to be retro, the original SR cyberpunk aesthetic definitely is. Lots of people haven't been satisfied with and of the Star Wars games since the original WEG ones and continue to play despite their outdated mechanics because the newer ones don't necessarily do it as good.

So there are definitely cases for older games to make to mac40k for at least some games. There are things that might not be objective assessments, but are still fact influenced informed opinions that some older games do have things to offer newer versions don't. It doesn't mean everyone should go back to VtM Rev/20, or SR 3e, but there are reasons to suggest trying them out besides nostalgia or familiarity.
 

manwhat

Thoroughly mediocre GM.
RPGnet Member
Validated User
The rub in the analysis is 'do and do it better.' Rpgs are not practical tools, like rakes or cellphones. With those tools, I think we could reasonably say that one model is objectively better than another. So this new rake covers a wider swath of lawn, does less damage to it, has an easier-to-grip handle, or cleans up more quickly than the old model. In that situation, the new rake is, more or less, doing the job better than the old.
Imagine we have two RPGs.
RPG A has the core resolution mechanic of "when you do something dangerous, flip a coin. Heads succeeds; on a tails, the group decides what happens instead."
RPG B has the the core resolution mechanic of "when you do something dangerous, slap yourself on the side of the head, then flip a coin. Heads succeeds; on a tails, the group decides what happens instead."

Unless you enjoy slapping yourself upside the head, RPG A is a superior RPG for the immense majority of people.

If you agree that my facetious example is still logically true, then logically there are RPGs that do roughly the same job, but where one is overall better than the other.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
So there are definitely cases for older games to make to mac40k for at least some games. There are things that might not be objective assessments, but are still fact influenced informed opinions that some older games do have things to offer newer versions don't. It doesn't mean everyone should go back to VtM Rev/20, or SR 3e, but there are reasons to suggest trying them out besides nostalgia or familiarity.
Though even as a fan of some older games, I think it really doesn't do to blow off the networking hit you can take doing that. For better or worse, all other things being equal, games currently in print and supported by their publisher have an advantage when it comes to finding people, well, actually willing to play them. So before you invest too much time an effort looking at Swordbearer, you should probably make sure you have people who won't turn up their noses at it, and it may be a much harder sell than a more modern game, even if still off the beaten track.
 

Knaight

Registered User
Validated User
Though even as a fan of some older games, I think it really doesn't do to blow off the networking hit you can take doing that. For better or worse, all other things being equal, games currently in print and supported by their publisher have an advantage when it comes to finding people, well, actually willing to play them. So before you invest too much time an effort looking at Swordbearer, you should probably make sure you have people who won't turn up their noses at it, and it may be a much harder sell than a more modern game, even if still off the beaten track.
This seems a bit overstated to me. Granted, I have an unusual degree of leeway because of how I built up a group, but if you've got a group willing to play not-D&D you've generally got a group willing to try a wide variety of games.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
This seems a bit overstated to me. Granted, I have an unusual degree of leeway because of how I built up a group, but if you've got a group willing to play not-D&D you've generally got a group willing to try a wide variety of games.

I think if you'll ask around you'll find that isn't typical. There are plenty of people who only have a limited variety of games they'll play (often of modern or at least still in print vintage) and others that right out will not have anything to do with a game they've never heard of. There's a wider gap between "only D&D" and "play most anything" than you may think.
 
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