Friday, August 12, 2011

What Makes an RPG Old School?

What makes a RPG "Old School"?

Is it emulation of one of the older D&D rule sets? How far before the house rules in one of these emulations takes it too far to be Old School? Is The Secret Fire "Old School"?

Is it an older feel to the rules themselves (hard to explain - one of those sentences that either makes sense to you, or it doesn't).

Is it presentation?

Does OpenQuest count as Old School? Basic Roleplay? CoC? Any of the current editions of Traveller?

Is X-plorers Old School?

Edit: Is Old School Hack "Old School?"

Is Old School something you just know when you see it?

I ask because X-plorers and The Secret Fire both seem Old School to me, both were just released (or just re-released in the case of X-plorers) yet I don't hear much about them on the blogs I read. Both are selling well on RPGNow, which is generally the Old School friendly when it comes to sales (compared to DriveThruRPG - both are the same company, different audiences).

I've got thoughts on X-plorers (just got the new PDF) but I'm waiting on the boxed set. I've been rambling about The Secret Fire for about a week so far and I still have more in me. Just a friendly warning ;)


  1. Until joining this blogging community a year ago I didn't think much in terms of old/new school. Games change and players change with them, if you enjoy an original version of a game you kept playing it and didn't worry much about the latest thing. In my mind old school seems to be rules-lite and the current flavor of gaming is rules comprehensive. D & D has been like that since 3rd edition. I am reluctant to say one is more imaginative than the other.
    As far a blogging comments on TSF or X-plorers, I think the OSR community is at a point of market saturation. Perhaps its been there for a while.

  2. Yep, this nitch is getting saturated, and we still haven't gotten Barve Halfing's Deeper Delvings or the actual release of Goodman's DCC.

    I'm not sure if Old School is a notch with much growth potential, but then that can be said about RPGs in general.

  3. D&D is always going to be the 500 lbs gorilla in this little corner of the hobby. Secret Fire, for whatever reason, doesn't seem to have penetrated the blogs much at all; I've been assuming they're talking about it on the boards, but perhaps it needs some marketing help?

    I am seeing quite a bit of chatter about Adventurer Conqueror King, but it is very much D&D with houserules, so that's not much of a shock. I'm also seeing a lot of chatter about Empire of the Petal Throne, which is likewise D&D but tilted at a crazy angle.

  4. Old School (without the modifier added on :) to me represents a period in gaming that existed from about 1973-1989.

    There are many things that link this disparate group of games together and all have their offspring in modern games.

    The popularity of some systems over others just showed how the natural drift occurred.

    Common denominators include things like 'rulings not rules','house rules', 'rule 0', no attempt at 'balance', the 'hobby business' (this would be much like the OSR is today-a single or small group of gamers forming publishing companies) and gaming based more on a literary background where modern games tend to reflect a more video game inspired take on the rpg.

    There are other flags, but to me those are some of the more well known.

    And yes, modern games can be old school. It's not just a time period but an environment based more on hobby rather than industry.

    As for growth, things are going quite well. I feel sad when people think we are failing somehow if we don't have millions and millions of players. That's what ruined the whole thing in the first place for me. I'm glad to see games made by gamers for gamers make a comeback and the fading away of the 'industry' that sees games like boxes of cereal or shoes.

  5. I think that any game played face to face, among friends, with actual books and dice is old school.

  6. This is one of those questions that has a many different answers and some days means different things to me. But the one constant is what Christian said, hanging out with friends, rolling dice, having a good laugh and battling over the last slice of pizza. Systems come and go.

  7. I live in Tallahassee, looking for a game right now. Do you know of any?


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