I am undecided as to whether or not I can count myself among the number of ‘old school’ or not. On the one hand, I can appreciate arguments about limited resource playing (set number of spells, hit points, items and so on instead of that 4e crap), the DM making a final ruling on more open-possibility game, a greater abstractness with regards to combat and the like ... sounds good to me, I’ve been playing that way all along.
On the other hand, most of the loudest ‘voices’ crying out for DIY-D&D also seem to have something to sell – a module, a new published copy of ‘old’ game rules, whatever else they can dream up. And yes, this sure is old school ... I remember hating that freaking approach then, too.
Play your OWN game with OUR ideas ... bleh.
I am all for reading other people’s blogs and succouring ideas from them. Ideas are everywhere. But a pre-made module is NOT an idea. It’s a cage, and it is designed to make DMs dependent on other people inventing the dungeons and other people inventing the story line. Back then, the argument was that a new DM could get their start with a few new modules, before learning how to write modules themselves. Yes, DIY modules, written exactly the way TSR wrote them.
Like I said, sounds like old school to me. Old school bullshit.
I hope the gentle reader can understand me here, because I’m about to explain why I never gave a shit about Dragon magazine.
Without bothering to go look up on Wikipedia to find out how long the magazine lasted and during what years, I’ll rely on my memory, since that’s really all that matters to me. Yes, there was a magazine that was a huge influence on the game, particularly in the 1980s. It did run for more than 240 issues (I think the last one I saw was #244). In the beginning it had some good comics. I read Fineous Fingers avidly, and later What’s New (note the link on the right; couldn’t find one for Fineous). Murphy’s Rules were sometimes funny.
I suppose I read the editorial with every issue, and I remember we did have arguments about those editorials back in the day ... but I can’t remember a single one. The actual substance of whatever I may have read in those days has blended together into one large pasty wad. I can no longer deconstruct the source.
I do remember the magazine always had reviews for games (call shilling for the advertiser), a new list of monsters, a new list of spells, or of gods, or of traps, and generally one or two ‘adventures.’ What I remember most about the adventures was that they all sucked. Never used them. Never got an idea from them. It was just more mucky duplicating of the modules I mentioned above. Same old thing.
I seem to remember some of the monsters got used, but none of them stuck in my world until the appearance of the Fiend Folio (in which 60% of the monsters were laughable, ridiculous things – I own the internet rights to www.flailsnail.com if anyone wants to buy it from me). The gods were entirely worthless. I told my players if someone liked a spell from Dragon magazine, they could research it in my world and I would allow them to use it. No one ever did such a thing.
Beyond that, the magazine had advertising. Loads of advertising. For games I didn’t buy, for modules I didn’t want, for crap I didn’t need.
So you can imagine how I feel when I hear someone quote not only the item, but which issue from the Dragon it came from.
To me, this sort of thinking - along with the endless creation of jazzy stuff meant to jazz up a world – IS old school. It reflects perfectly the dumbass mindset of those days.
This game doesn’t need ‘old,’ it needs a Renaissance. I can’t ask for a complete ban on products (since I’ve pitched a few on this blog), but let’s not pretend that modules and DIY go hand in hand, hm? I do need a list of traps, and a list of new monsters. But I need new traps and monsters ... but I need them to actually be NEW – not just retreads of other monsters. I don’t need sixty new colors for slaad; I don’t need twenty new materials for golems; I sure as hell don’t need another humanoid race with less than 4HD. And I don’t need these things inside a module, I need them in a written form that resembles a Biology Textbook. Or an Engineering Textbook.
I need a method to map a three dimensional castle that doesn’t require fourteen pieces of paper or my getting a degree in graphic design. I need treasure tables that are simple simon, that enable me to ‘plug in’ new ideas I have for giving my players treasure – and I need those treasure tables to be based upon what people are carrying, what they’re keeping in their living quarters, how far they’ve pimped out their ‘ride’ and how much they’ve dressed up their guards and servants. These treasure tables don’t need to be in another goddamn paper module where they apply only to the Gold City of Freaksburg, they need to be in a full-ass excel spreadsheet that applies to EVERYWHERE.
Don’t give me another ‘storm damage table for ships at sea’ that has six possible outcomes in toto ... I invented that thirty years ago. Do some research on spars and holds and forecastles, and tell me how many seamen I need to make the ship go at optimum turning speed – tell me where those seamen are positioned on-board and how many years experience they have. I don’t know sailing, people ... some bastard out there that plays this game must, and they ought to be working on this, right now. And the same goes for spelunking, construction, farming, blacksmithing, political assassinations inside a monarchy and god knows what else. I’m not going to be happy until the twenty page pamplet is written on “How to use a sword from a hand glider.”
I need meat, and that is what this hobby needs. MEAT. Not more swill, not more buttfarting, not another three-page dungeon or another list of gods with 200 words or less written on each one. Meat, people. Give me meat.