Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cover me, I'm Going In...

     Welcome to my shiny new blog, The DM from Outremer.  Generally speaking this blog is to allow me to vent express opinions both mundane and sublime on the subject of roleplay games (RPGs).  I'll be posting reviews of RPGs and related material, airing thoughts on various aspects of the hobby, and sharing my (rather casually-paced) construction of a new campaign world from scratch.  Actually, I had originally wanted to post videos on YouTube vlog style, but never could get my webcam to record properly more than once.  Every attempt resulted in yet another weird problem with the sound, the color, or something else.

     Anyway, for this inaugural posting I'd like to tackle the topic of the new "old school D&D" movement.  One of the reasons I decided to start a blog now is that as I was looking for RPG-related blogs to follow I found that most seemed to be dedicated to either D&D 4th Edition (which I don't play) or to older versions of D&D, including "retro-clones" of those earlier versions (which I don't play either).  I freely admit to being greatly taken aback by the resurgence in old school and retro-clone gaming.  I had blithely assumed that all the early, crappy versions of D&D were long dead and buried.  Surely someone had properly driven a stake through the heart, cut off the head and filled the mouth with garlic, burned the body, and finally mixed the ashes in a bucket of fresh holy water.  Well, apparently not.  As far as I can tell, the resurgence is a combination of nostalgic older gamers going through a gaming mid-life crisis harking back to the good old days, a reaction to the rules overkill of 3E, and/or disgust at the mutant horror they perceive in 4E.

    However, I just can't see the attraction of the early games.  Of the pre-3E games I only ever played AD&D and flipped through a friend's copy of the original "brown book" version of 1E.  The original 1E rules were obviously pathetic and I have paid them no further heed.  AD&D did make for a fun game and I had a great time in a campaign run my friend George in college.  We were aware of the clunky bits of the rules but there weren't a lot of other games available back then anyway.  But despite having good memories of those games, I don't miss the rules themselves at all.

     Why would anyone seriously miss the earlier editions?  It's a bit like saying "I really miss writing on clay tablets!"  For instance I love the look of early automobiles, such as the Model T, with the wooden spoke wheels and all.  If I was very rich I'd buy one and occasionally ride around in it on my estate or show it off at classic car rallies.  But I would never consider using one of those early autos as my regular vehicle for driving day-to-day.  They're clunky, no-amenity death traps.  Likewise I'd be happy to own a copy of the first D&D rules as a cool collector's item (I already gave away my old AD&D books), but would never actually play them.

     Don't get me wrong: I am a fan of rules-light systems.  One of my favorites is Big Eyes, Small Mouth (BESM).   But there's a big difference between simple and simplistic, between simple and half-baked.  I would suggest that people take a step forward to better, more elegant versions of "old-school" style gaming rather than a step back into gaming prehistory.  As an example, try out the free beta of the Old School Hack (OSH) rules at  They are written in a clear, amusing, and engaging style.  They are simple, reflect the character of the early games, and yet represent a step forward in design.  I'm hoping to run at least a demo game for one of the off-night sessions we do occasionally between the rare main campaign sessions; if that comes off I'll post some comments from it.

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