Wednesday, July 16, 2008
One Grognard's Vision
As a Blognard and Neo-Grognard, I often enjoy reading about other fellow D&D players various old school campaigns, adventures, and rules. There often seems to be an air of old school acceptance amongst many of my ilk. What I mean by this is that if your campaign is considered too ‘over-the-top’, it isn’t acceptable to the true Grognards. Things should hew closely to the rules, and the worlds in which these adventures take place should be rooted in classical fantasy, and have a certain verisimilitude about them. The other stuff is too far out and considered immature, childish or often hackneyed.
When I returned to the D&D scene recently, I was exposed initially to some serious grognardation. There are more than a few forums across the fabulous, wondrous internet that espouse these values. D&D and the campaigns in which it is set should be serious affairs, not prone to ideas which bend the very rules of reality. As if there are rules in fantasy gaming to begin with. I have more lately come to recognize that there are indeed many old school gamers who take delight in the possibilities of the genre, and aren’t as narrow-minded as I once believed this sect of old guard, grumbling veterans to be.
I accept that individual GM’s might want their personal campaigns to look and feel downright medieval, but I also accept the gonzo visions of the Hargrave School of gaming. When I say the Hargrave School, I mean no disservice to the other influential GM’s out there who were clearly working independently of Arduin, it’s simply a catch-all phrase I use to describe the anti-Gygaxian approach to D&D and it’s descendants.
I have referenced Mike Mornard in the past, aka Old Geezer, and much of his insight into the history of D&D has certainly opened my eyes to what it was really like before AD&D sent it down a very narrowly focused path. I’ve come to the conclusion that most of the so called Grognards in and about our little gaming world are more so disciples of Gygax, Greyhawk or AD&D than of true old school gaming. There were no rules of acceptance, players and GM’s exercised and invoked the actual spirit of the game, and did whatever they felt was fun at the time. Realism and historical influences be damned.
This is not meant to be an attack on any single gaming approach, as I mentioned I respect and enjoy any good game. I also realize that one cannot simply write off either gaming style because it might not fit into what your individual preference might be.
And so in these few short months I have come full circle back to my somewhat gonzo old school roots. Blackmoor, Greyhawk, Arduin, Tekumel; these are all possible settings, each worthy of note, but each different and not the standard for D&D. These were examples of exactly what an individual referee might do with the concept of D&D. Might one of these be your favorite? Sure. Take the concept of D&D, using what I call the Empty Room Principle, and mold it into whatever you think will be enjoyable for you and your players. "Go Nuts", as they say.
I recently came out of my shell a bit, and shared some gonzo Junk From My Closet from the old days. You know what, I ran a crazy over the top campaign back then. Funky items such as Cloudburst were commonplace. Through it all I managed to achieve a certain campaign balance, and damn it everyone had a blast. Would we have had a blast playing in Gygax’s vision of D&D, running around Oerth battling the Scarlet Brotherhood? Probably. We pushed the envelope, though. High levels were explored; cosmic interplanetary struggles were undertaken; extraplanar, epic battles were spilled out across the table top; Gods and Demons slugged it out next to the player characters; but through it all, there was a balance. Characters died, goals were lofty, challenges were intense.
It was all my fault in the end. I’m the one who had to constantly home brew and tinker to keep things interesting. You see, it was a Monty Haul campaign to some, but to us teenagers experimenting with the D&D concept, it was pure heaven.
~Sham, Quixotic Referee