I don't care.
Don't misunderstand. I'm not one of those 'why can't they all shut up and just play?' people. Bloggers can't shut up. Nor should they. But as will be clear in a moment, I'm more interested in describing a type of game or a style of play that we shall call Old School, for lack of a better term. On the other hand, defining the OSR movement--when it started, why it started, who started it, and then of course the inevitable (for some) what went wrong, who led it astray, etc. etc, and so on and so forth--is not my bag. Among other things, I wasn't there. If you were there, that's great, and my sincere thanks if you contributed to resurrecting or bettering Old School gaming in even the smallest way. But in a certain sense (and don't take this in the wrong way) I don't really care about that either. Or rather, I'm not going to swoon because, say, in your opinion Encounter Critical was more important or characteristic of the movement than Swords & Wizardry or whatever. Indeed, if you make that sort of claim coupled with the logical fallacy of claiming that it's true because, well, you were there, that's just going to annoy me. Partly because I'm jealous of you. I'm lazy and usually late to parties anyway.
So what is Old School? Just to be scrupulously fair, balanced and non-confrontational, let's discuss that question partly in reference to an entity we'll call The Man. Also for the fun of it, and very uncharacteristically for this blogger, the following 25 propositions will be asserted briefly, with little extra detail or explanation.
- The Old School is not The Man.
- The Old School wants you to do the imagining. The Man wants to imagine things for you.
- The Old School treats you like an adult (even if you're a child). The Man condescends to you (even if you're an adult).
- The Old School wants you to roll up a character. The Man wants you to build one
- The Old School gives you 100 pages of rules (or 25 pages of rules with multiple columns and really tiny print). The Man gives you 400 pages of rules and 500 pages of description (see 2. above).
- The Old School's text is difficult to read because the text is small. The Man's text is difficult to read because there's an image overlaying it.
- The Old School wants to kill you (often or at least sometimes). The Man wants to hold your hand through 29th level.
- The Old School wants the wandering monster to be randomly determined. The Man wants your solving a puzzle to be randomly determined.
- The Old School isn't 5e. The Man wants you to think that it is. (If you disagree, that doesn't make you a bad person. I hope we can laugh together over a beer sometime...at how wrong you were on this issue.)
- The Old School doesn't want your money, or at least doesn't want very much of it. Or when it does, it gives you a really nice collectors edition that you will always treasure (even if you get it two years late). The Man wants to sell you multiple 'Core' books at $50 apiece, and then wants to sell you additional 'Core' books with numbers added to them--'Core Book 2', 'Core Book 3', and so on--for $50 apiece. It will also cost you an additional $50 to have your hand held through 9th level (not including the battle mats).
- The Old School wants you to become a hero. The Man lies to you that you already are one.
- The Old School speaks Chaotic. The Man speaks Abyssal.
- The Old School defines you by your actions. The Man defines you by your character sheet.
- The Old School wants you to explore dungeons. The Man wants you to explore your character's sexual preferences.
- The Old School is sexy. The Man is a sex theorist.
- The Old School offends you (sometimes). The Man is offended by you.
- The Old School wants to see what happens. The Man wants to plan things.
- The Old School loves your unpredictability. The Man hates it.
- The Old School gives you good art, sometimes even great art. Or at least it wants to when it can afford it. The Man wants to pawn off tacky looking videogame-like images on you as art, thinking you won't notice.
- The Old School gives you art that stimulates your imagination. The Man gives you art that stimulates your torpidity.
- The Old School is C.L Moore. The Man is Katherine Kurtz.
- The Old School is a brilliant amateur historian repairing shoes in his basement to provide for his family. The Man is a $400,000 Kickstarter.
- The Old School embodies diversity. The Man preaches it.
- The Old School wants you to make choices. The Man wants you to be part of his story.
- The Old School is you and me. The Man is too. Or it's who we're tempted to conform with or suck up to. We don't have to.