Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Decade

The roaring twenties are back.

The gaming blogosphere is cracking jokes about pairs of natural 20s and double critical hits. For years and years now, I've used "roll under" attack rolls in my D&D games, so a roll of 20 is an automatic miss at my table. (Not a critical fumble, I don't use crits anymore, just a plain ol' whiff.) It's the kind of thing to make a DM feel lonely. Segregated from the wider gamer culture.

But then, this whole decade in blogging was one slow realization that (a) I am definitely segregated from the wider gamer culture, and (b) that's not such a bad thing. The Old-School Renaissance really started drifting away from being a TSR-D&D-centric movement around 2011, so I can almost say that it's been a decade since I had a real home in the OSR. I've managed to rediscover old-school gaming on my own, and I've come to understand that what I want out of it isn't a renaissance anyhow; I just want to play some good games, sometimes with my friends and family at home, and sometimes with total strangers at the local game shop who become friends.

No need for proselytizing and evangelizing old games. They're good enough to stand on their own. All it takes is exposure through play, and players come to understand what's valuable about OD&D or 1st edition—they come to see that vital spirit that's lacking in 5th edition (or really any edition of D&D that does away with XP-for-GP). One gaming group at a time, I suppose, is the best anyone can manage. I'm okay with that.

More importantly, though, I find that I rather like what the isolation from the OSR does for my creativity. Ever since the 90s and my AD&D 2nd edition days, I've relied on the internet—on netbooks and forums back then, and on blog posts and free pdf downloads in more recent years—to fill in my campaigns, to do my prep for me.

Sites like this were 90s gaming for me.
(Well, sites like these and Baldur's Gate.)
Compare this to how a DM must have prepped for a game in the 70s or 80s, with nothing but some graph paper, some library books, and one's own imagination, and you can start to see what I'm getting at. When I don't rely on the internet to fill in this dungeon level or that map location for me, I find that I can do better on my own. I can be creative in the way these games were meant to foster creativity.

This is also a boon that came unexpectedly out of making Engines & Empires not-wholly-compatible with B/X since I published the stand-alone Core Rules in 2017. It's a nice way of having my cake and eating it too. The engine under the hood is still B/X: the same ten minute exploration turns, reaction rolls and surprise rolls, morale checks and hit dice, those things are all there. But the skin on the surface of an adventure? The character classes and spells and magic items? Different enough that creating my own dungeons is often easier than converting existing ones. In that way, I get to be playing my same old OD&D using mechanics I know and love, but I've also forced myself to create for my game in order to play it properly.

So what does gaming in 2020 hold for me? Hopefully, I'm going to create a real campaign—meaning, a new mega-dungeon that incorporates everything I've learned about the form since my first attempt (Shade Abbey) at the end of the last decade. That dungeon has been my go-to campaign tentpole dungeon for a decade now, and I still want to properly write it up and publish it; but it's got glaring flaws. Shade Isle needs to have its geography scrambled around a bit before I can call it good.

In the meanwhile, I need to make a new dungeon for the new decade. Something my regular players (wife, brother, neighbor, close friends) haven't experienced before. I haven't had the time to do this in recent years because of school, but now my grad school days are finally drawing to a close, and so I'm hoping that I'll actually have some time to do this now.

Well, it's a hollow hope, but it's more than I had in the 2010s.

1 comment:

  1. I always liked E&E, and I liked the way it was different. I've come to prefer "based on old D&D, but it's own thing" rather than "here's a slightly idiosyncratic restatement of some form of D&D."