Monday, March 31, 2014

There and Back Again - A Giant's Holiday

Well, I have been 'there' and now I am 'back' but I would hardly call it a 'holiday'.  This giant's life has been turned around more times than the clothes in the dryer. My household has changed, my life, and my whole day's activities.

What hasn't changed is my love for old school gaming, role playing games in general and my family. Although, not necessarily in that order. I have been playing 'Pathfinder' which while it is a good game and well supported and loved is not any part of the 'old school'. 

I have been taking part in the discussion over at Paizo, "Recapturing the Essence of AD&D in Pathfinder". For the most part the discussion has been pleasant and informative. There have been a few people who view such a discussion as an 'Us vs Them' proposition or a slur on the way they role play. Some are simply incapable of understanding what the essence of AD&D is. That is understandable, they never played the real game uninfluenced by the games of the modern era and more importantly by the computer games that came after.

Finding common ground amongst the old school gamers is easier although by no means universal. Some simply had bad experiences (often tinged by the general suckiness* of being a teenager and an outcast one at that) others started gaming with 2nd Edition or later and believe that those represent the old school feel you got from the Holmes 'Blue Box' or the bigger AD&D hardbacks that came out just shortly afterward. They are not entirely incorrect but by the time we hit the 2nd Ed. we were deep in the gestalt of the popular mind. The D&D Cartoon had come and gone hundreds if not thousands of columns had been written about D&D and the public at large had expectations about what D&D was coming into the game.

For the most part the old school players have found two different options (besides playing AD&D) first is to look at one of the retro-clones or retro clone 'feel' games like 'Dungeon World', the second is to slim down Pathfinder to the core book or perhaps their 'Beginners Box' edition.

Half of the participants took the first position as a direct attack on Pathfinder. They found the idea that Pathfinder lacked something that AD&D had to be actively offensive. The ones that focused on actually recapturing the essence made some very interesting observations.

Pathfinder players have come to expect a level of magical items and wealth that any AD&D player/DM would would immediately recognize as a 'Monty Haul' campaign. Well beyond Monty Haul as a matter of fact since those same players need the magical items and wealth simply to participate in the game in the manner expected by the players/GMs. Every campaign expects the same.

The second thing that was discovered was that nearly all the modern players of Pathfinders also thought of their characters in terms of what their characters could mechanically could do rather than in the character's personality, history, back story. 

Old School gaming is all about the real feel. If the player says, "I'll stop these goblins here! The rest of you stay back and prepare to defend the village. Com' on you green-skinned cowards! Come out and face the ax of Durgan Stone-Hand!" He's probably old school. If the player says, "I'll block the passage here using my set shield maneuver giving myself a plus three to defend and forcing any creature larger than tiny to roll vs acrobatics minus three to get to me to make their attack of opportunity." You're probably not playing with an old school player.

*Yes I know 'suckiness' is not a word however it perfectly describes the 'teenage experience' in one way or another.

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