In general, I’m wary of public nostalgia. Way I see it, older generations have an obligation to step aside as new ones come into their own. And new generations have a right to forge their own paths to the future, turning traditions on their head, or enshrining them, or transforming them, as they see fit.
I even think that’s true when it comes to my all-time favorite hobby, Dungeons & Dragons. So though I cut my first swath on the 2nd edition advanced rules of the game that changed games forever, I mostly kept my piece when the much-loathed (by many) 3.X editions emerged. Sure, I resisted the switch for a time, but the more I examined the then-new version, the more I liked what I saw.
Eventually, I jumped whole-hog into the 3.X rules, and pretty much ignored the brewing Edition Wars. I packed away my old boxed sets, sold off a lot of my 2nd edition supplements, and forged ahead with ascending Armor Classes, the unified Experience Point Table, prestige classes, and monster templates. Wizards Of The Coast, the company that had bought the rights to D&D, took the absolutely generous and genius move of making the game’s core rules open source, so that 3rd-party small-press publishers could have the opportunity to release their own quirky, unique, brilliant, disturbing, inspirational, or otherwise “different” fantasy games as part of a widely-recognized and respected brand. I probably spent hundreds of dollars over the years, gobbling up all that creativity, wondering when I’d ever find the time to run or play in all these amazing games.
Meanwhile, a curious thing happened, over where I wasn’t looking. Some players, nostalgic for the old ways, noticed that the Open Game Licence legally allowed them to replicate and publish their own games using the rules of older versions of D&D. And so, they did.
At first, it was just a few projects that re-assembled and/or re-organized the given publisher’s preferred version. But it didn’t take long for some of these publishers to start tweaking the old rules in their own ways, turning them into something new.
Me? I didn’t really start noticing this “Old School Renaissance” until relatively recently. I didn’t like the official 4th edition all that much, and there were many things about the 3.x that I was having second thoughts about. News of the impending 5th edition led me to download and read the playtest packet out of curiosity, and much of what I saw there looked… old, but different.
The core of the D&D Next rules is more distilled than what I’d been used to since making the switch to 3.x It read like a simpler edition of the game from days of yore, yet incorporated modern concepts. This intrigued me, and while chatting about it with some grognards at my friendly neighborhood game store (hereafter known as FNGS), I was clued in to the existence of “retro-clones” and the “Old School Renaissance” — which, of course, most of them preferred. And which, of course, most of them insisted was the reason the D&D Next rules looked like an attempt to integrate all previous editions into one. Market pressure, and all that.
And, finally, the grognards clued me in to the fact that a great deal of these retro-clone games are 100 percent free to download.
Upon investigation, I found a wealth of creative resources designed to evoke the feel of the old days while still moving forward… and, not the least concern, to take a lot of prep work off of the beleaguered Dungeon Master’s shoulders. As a rules-lazy DM, I was pretty much sold. Despite my usual objections to public nostalgia.
So, here I am, a goblin-come-lately to the Old School Renaissance. I don’t know yet whether I’ll end up supporting and playing the 5th edition. I’m currently running a 3.x game that I and my players are enjoying.
And in the meantime, I’m starting this blog to write reviews of the various OSR games I’ve found, to show them off to my small readership (which will probably just be my friends for a while), and to stockpile some of my own brainstorms and game ideas (because I have way more of them in my head than I’ll probably ever use, and I figure at least this way others might get to do something with them).
So, welcome to Bobgoblin’s Bastion. I hope you enjoy your stay.