Old School Roleplaying
|This article or section is about something oldschool - and awesome.|
Make sure your rose-tinted glasses are on nice and tight, and prepare for a lovely walk down nostalgia lane.
Back in my day, we didn't have fancy-pants interwebs wokipodia articles to tell us what things were what, we just had to figure it out on our own, and if we were wrong, our buddies would call us out on it in front of the class and the teacher would make us write "I won't play devil games at school." fifty times on the chalk board after class had let out. What was I talking about again?
Here lies the grave of all things good and holy. If you thought the whining over Rogue Trader was bad, you ain't seen nothing yet. This is the central nostalgia fortress, the long house from which the greyest-bearded neckbeards ride out and proclaim what is truly
good and evil Law and Chaos. Herein are enshrined the tomes of half-remembered legends. Great battles, shrouded in the mists of time, are engraved in worn and faded reliefs upon the stone walls of the halls and catacombs. These were the best times ever had by warriors long-too-proud to pick up a sword and once again vanquish the paltry foes of today's ilk. This is what is remembered by the ancients, the stories and campaigns played on the first editions, the original rules, before video games and the internet poisoned the RPG and its players forever and ever and ever!
These are your best campaigns. This is your favorite DM. This is your childhood.
This is Old School Roleplaying.
Get on With It!
Old School Role-Playing is a term used by Grey Beards (the oldest and crustiest neckbeards) to justify why their version of role-playing is better than yours. Usually either clutching a red box edition of Dungeons and Dragons, or even a new copy of Labyrinth Lord (a revision of old Dungeons and Dragons rules), that is the "old school role-playing" system being referenced. A Grey Beard of the Old School is a hyper nerd, to them their system is great, and far better than the thrice-cursed Fourth Edition, and a better game entirely than the unbalanced D&D 3.5, etc. In fact, the past was so full of awesome, everything today is so bad by comparison. Oldest editions were best and back in those days you had to color in your own d20 with a wax crayon and you had to use the theater of your mind and not use pathetic miniatures unless they were sad-looking slug lead that came from Ral Partha. It truly was a Golden Age. It is a nostalgia that is now untouchable. You didn't have to worry about fixed simulationist rules that bored you, like in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. The D.M. was always right (Gygax said so). Rocks fall you die!
In reality people had different experiences that varied. Using rules that thieves have only 1d4 hit points, suddenly every chest trap will kill them. A lot of scenarios were badly written meta-gaming, such as the Tomb of Horrors, where purely going to the front door gets you killed. And all of the infamous Gotcha Monsters were everywhere. The cold and horrible truth is that really oldest is not always the best; because by this logic North America should still be driving
Model T Fords Stanley Steamers. Some groups undoubtedly had a great time with the old rules, but plenty of others had a shit time, and so many problems with the rules that they went off and wrote Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and such instead (where daggers do more than 1d4 they can kill you in one go). Anyhow, if a Grey Beard bores you with his trip to the Shrine of Kuo Toa, and why Old School is Best School, just troll them by saying you play WOW which sold more copies than D&D ever did.
Incidentally, this article was penned by an old fart from the old days, so do not bother regaling me with tales of how good it was. Sadly both you and I are destined to become irrelevant, whilst the kids get into WOW or some other new-fangled computerised crap. Little bastards will never get to know what it's like to die during character creation in Traveller.
Old School Renaissance
If you ever wondered what the anons in /osr/ threads are always going on about, this is it. Everything about Old School Roleplaying, from the rules to the lore to the aesthetics, comprises the OSR (and not solely the style of RPG gameplay). Don't confuse it with the European Renaissance. Even Wikipedia has an article about it!
But that ART Though
Not to end this article on a low note, let's talk about Old School Fantasy Art. Every fa/tg/uy, and I mean every single one of you owe it to yourselves to check out the kind of fantasy art that poured out of the 70's (and the late 60's and early 80's too, shut up). Highly detailed images of wizards hurling lighting into hurricanes, photo-realistic dragons breathing fire down on struggling knights, hideous zombies calling upon their dark masters, and mystics scrying the future from within nebula-stained crystal balls. This is the kind of beautiful imagery that graced the covers of fantasy books, metal albums, and (the aforementioned) roleplaying games alike. It looks like what you imagine when you daydream about mythic fantasy, but somehow even more detailed. It filled many, many tiny neckbeard's eyes with a starry wonder. It certainly made plenty of less-than-stellar RPG books fly off the shelves!
Just take a look at the AD&D cover art!
And what of that metal music, hidden behind those album covers? Just as powerful. Even today you feel the sweeping grandeur of climbing mountains, the harrowed fury of slaying demons, and the painful tragedy of lost cosmic powers. From Black Sabbath to Blue Öyster Cult, and hundreds of other Metal and Prog-Rock bands beyond, that music fueled the imaginations of yet more OSR artists, game designers, and storytellers. Get yourself some.
Parents took one look at these pictures, one listen to this music, and started the motherfucking Satanic Panic. It was dark, it was unbridled, it was powerful. So go get any drink you please, put on any album Rainbow made in the 70's, and track down the gallery of an Old School Fantasy Artist. I promise that you won't regret the feeling you'll find.
- Retroclone: What graybeards argue about using, or eschewing.
- Grognard: What graybeards become if their rose-tinted glasses get welded on too tight.