Monday, June 6, 2011

OSR Central & an OGL Hackmaster? I

I've been through the edition/system debate many times before, but it seems I always revisit it. And to be truthful this same thing used to happen to me on a lesser level as a gaming teen. I was excited to pick up the latest game at my FLGS again and again. I bought Champions, before it was Hero, Gamma World, Space Opera, Star Frontiers and more and tried to get my gaming buddies excited, but either they weren't interested, I never followed through, or we lost interest collectively.

AD&D was our game of choice, our foundation. Second edition came out post graduation and because several of us, myself included, joined the military right after school 2e never gained much traction with our group. We added ideas and created house rules from 2e, but never really played a straight 2e game. But to be honest, during this early post adolescence our gaming was weak to say the least. So for us gaming was always heavily house ruled and improvised AD&D 1e.

And back then, though the RPGA, conventions, tournament play and official TSR gaming sanction existed we involved ourselves little with all that. It was nice to know, however, that it was out there. It lent a sense of expansiveness and greater possibility to the gaming scene. We knew that we _could_ choose to get involved if we at some time felt disposed to. And as I look book now, I can see that we were not "ready" for that level. In Gary Gygax's book Role-Playing Mastery he delineates several levels of "mastery" of the game. Levels 14 to 17 he describes as follows

14. Play outside your groups campaigns frequently
15. Play in tournaments
16. Make yourself aware of the gaming community and contribute to it
17. Continue to learn and grow even after you achieve mastery

We had attained a rather respectable level of game mastery, but never really took it to the next level, in this case #14.

In the '80's and '90s AD&D and TSR reigned supreme. Even as TSR was hurtling towards bankruptcy the gaming community saw gaming as TSR. There were other games on the mamrket to be sure, and some were becoming quite big. The biggest contender of the time was probably GURPS from SJ Games. But the AD&D experience _was_ gaming.

And I suppose that, more than anything else, is why I love KODT so much. It places itself in a setting where one game reigns supreme as the shared world of 90% of the gaming community. Was this an illusion then? Am I nostalgic to the point of not seeing the reality that was? Is this description I've given some mythical Camelot of gaming never to be regained, exactly because it never was?

Or is there something to this feeling that seems to strike some chord within my heart and soul? And if such a chord can be struck does it not hint at some magic that can be regained, attained and experienced again? Is it not real if I can respond to it in my heart and soul? And even moreso if others can feel the same thing. And the entire OSR community shows that there was something in the past worth retaining.

I wonder if it can be rebuilt among the longtime steadfast games of AD&D who today live in the realms of the OSR. We could create an OSR central and resolve some of the issues that now plague the movement and impedes recreating a community of gamers as existed in the past. Issues such as which core rules are to be used, how are tournaments and sanctioned games to be built and run. This organization (and there _has_ to be a better name than OSR Central) would preserve an old school ethos and rebuild a governing and sanctioning body. Supplements and expansions of the rules would have a place that could sanction them as "official". Gaming infrastructure would be provided for those within the community and once again they would be a part of something bigger than they are now. Note that TARGA took a step in this direction, but it's hard to gauge it's current success given the fact that TARGA is very "open" about what rule systems are used. It is perhaps too loose in defining the boundaries of its kingdom.

Our goal is to preserve the spirit of old Gygaxian Gaming, not to cobble together a gaming golem of a gaming shell. What was that magic he managed to summon into being with those first few books of swords and sorcery gaming? I'm curious if when Gary was forced out of D&D, and warned off Dangerous Journeys, into Lejendary Adventures if he managed to pass on the magic and wonder to his new creation? Having never read but a few passages I'm unable to judge. But I loved the small part I did read. Which makes me wonder if the magic resided with Gary and his mind and spirit.