Friday, May 2, 2008
Schools of Thought
Here's an excellent post on Old School/New School from Grognardia, a subject which I touched on here last month.
There are some very well thought out topics in James' post. In particular, the actual usage of the somewhat tired phrase 'Old School', and what it means in D&D terms. In my own take on the phrase, I simply tried to classify, historically, what Old School means in D&D. James on the other hand takes it a step further and defines the actual meaning. For example:
"the mere existence of the term "old school" only highlights the discontinuity modern gaming has with its past".
"it's important that everyone recognize the central truth that it reveals: a rupture, at some undefined point in the past, between the origins of the hobby and what it has become today".
"this isn't about the superiority of one approach over another, so much as a preference for the older approach".
Good stuff, as always, from Grognardia.
Now, in my own hackneyed style, I was rather heavy handed and took a butcher knife, dissecting D&D's timeline in half, and calling anything before 2nd edition Old School, and anything after it, New School. In my own research and crude analysis, I didn't once mention that there was indeed a rupture in the very spirit of the game, and as James noted, it's debatable as to when or exactly how this rupture took place (unless you might also subscribe to the Dragonlance theory).
My take on things was strictly from a D&D standpoint. I know many do not consider D&D to be the end all, be all of role playing. And you are entitled to your own opinion, even if it's wrong. (I'm joking!).
I broke the term down further into schools of D&D, and I do believe that there are degrees of Old School within D&D. I still have a hard time embracing Moldvay or Mentzer D&D as Old School, but I admit that my take on things is based on personal interpretation. James takes the high road and puts things in black and white. It's about a definite change from Old to New. I would add that this change is not one strictly of 'story telling' philosophy, but also, and in my opinion sometimes more importantly, one of 'rules overload'. The result is that both factors have brought about a devolution of creativity. Or, some might argue, have resulted in more refined, better designed approaches. It depends upon your preference in the end.
In our own little D&D Grognard circles, there are certainly subgenres based on these differing opinions in regard to what's Old School, what's OD&D, what was the author's intent, and even down to the minute details involved in translating a vague passage in one of the original three volumes.
Let's face the facts, though. We all play D&D, or some derivative thereof. We can bash our heads against the proverbial gaming wall as we continue to create divisions and dump even more gasoline on the fires of edition wars. Or, we can admit that D&D and it's descendants have opened up a world of limitless possibilities. We are all fans of the role playing genre, and we are all for that matter sharing the same hobby we love so much. People like choices, and they aren’t afraid to stand behind their decisions, and to defend the merits of their preference. D&D has plenty of choices, and I would never begrudge someone’s personal preference in anything, whether it’s Candy Bars or Role Playing.
So, I agree in James' assessment that the term Old School should not be a derogatory phrase, but rather an acknowledgement of the changes that our little corner of the gaming world has witnessed.
I prefer Old School Snickers, though, for the record.
~Sham, Quixotic Referee