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Let's set the record straight...

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It's nice to see the many discussions that always seem to show up time and time again, here on the internet or in face to face chats, concerning Old School and New School. I would consider myself an OS gamer, considering I began gaming in the late 80s when 2E DnD was first released. From the 'good old days' to present, I have had the opportunity and good fortune to play and run a variety of systems. However, I'll focus on DnD, as 2E was my first and still is my favorite system...this excludes about 95% of the material presented in the black cover Player's Options edition released before Wizards purchased TSR.

From my perspective as both a player and a DM, old school gaming was and is much more focused on keeping things fluid. Old School gaming was not, is not about who wins, the GM or the players. In my experience, it was about keeping things moving fluidly or as my group used to say 'Story, not detail!!' The books would be at the table, opened only when spells were being cast. If you made a bad choice, something bad happened to your character or in some instances the group. I saw as a GM, and enjoyed as a player, far more party cooperation than what I see today. If the group didn't work together, chances are things would go poorly or would be a lot more challenging at the very least. Only once can I recall playing with a GM who genuinely felt the goal of the GM was to turn the PCs into blood pudding. The rest, wanted to have as much fun as the players. I can tell you, if Old School gaming really had GM vs. Player as the order of the day, with GMs TPKing group after group, I never would've made it past a 2 or 3 sessions. If there is a real difference between Old School (2E and earlier) and New School (3E and later), it's the evolution of characters as they advance. Old School characters didn't start off as being heroic, so much as evolving into a hero, New School characters start off heroic and evolve into Legends. One is gritty without rules crunch, the other is forgiving with lots of rules crunch.

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  1. SDJThorin's Avatar
    Well said!
  2. jpatterson's Avatar
    I'd say this is accurate from my understanding, it is the way I played, though I wasn't able to play with any real group, for any amount of time, and not really "oldschool" like is being discussed, but from my friend's stories, who definitely DID play and run oldschool, this is also their experience and seemed to be the general "temperature". The rules tended to be enforced, among them anyway, a bit more strictly, but it didn't mean the DM was out to "get" anybody, just that they were more hard-and-fast with their by-the-book-ishness - one example is, one DM would spend hours or days, even back in the early 80s, creating minutely details NPCs, reading pages of backstory and verbose prose and introductory narration and wordy introductory quotes, then the players would attack and kill him - the DM would bark "Well that's JUST GREAT!" and grab the NPC sheet, crumple it up with both hands, jump up from the table and stomp out of the room and come back about 45 minutes later to continue the session. It was all in good fun.
  3. outrider's Avatar
    As a old schooler, I would tend to agree with the blog above. It is indeed different between 1/2nd ed and 3 and above.
  4. Malachi57's Avatar
    good info. I played 2E way back when and still have the old books, but I was too young at the time to understand the mechanics. So I would identify more with the newer generation. This has given me a little better insight to what was going on back then. Great job Dytrrnikl!