This September, I will make one small effort to spread the OSR (renaissance or revolution?) to a new generation. My day job- I’m a History professor- brings me into the intellectual and cultural world of a very different generation. In terms of gaming, there is a risk of never ‘jumping’ the generational divide and imaging the practice, process and meaning of gaming to be very different than my own. In short, can “Old School” (whatever it might mean) really gain traction with those not there for the first run? Is the virtue of the game merely familiarity? Are old players simply more interested in old games? And, most importantly, am I open to learn from new players as much as I hope they will learn from me?
Overall, the focus of the OSR (with a few exceptions) has been D&D derivatives. I imagine much of this has to do with its popularity in the old-days as well as the great gift of the Open-License. Put simply, why as the OSR yet to re-ignite the legion of genres and games? Here I find the issue of the game and playing the game particularly relevant. For example, in Matt Finch’s excellent A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming, the question of how to play is more relevant than what is played. In this case too, fantasy remains the ‘gold-standard’. In terms of play, is there Old School beyond dungeon (or hex) crawling? Perhaps clues can be found in early efforts (such as Top Secret and Gamma World) to entertain new genres? Perhaps in these cases, we may find that OS play just didn’t work?
The question then is whether playing the games we played differs from how we played them? If, as luminaries such as Greenwood and St. Andre stated at OSRCon 2012, the players matter, not the rules, am I just interested, like an antiquarian in showing people things I liked? Or was there something unique and special about that time, something this generation doesn’t have or, perhaps, doesn’t want?