Monday, May 25, 2009
The Definition of Old-School
This topic seems to make the rounds every couple of months, both in the blogosphere and on the many old-school-friendly boards. Of course, its usually expressed that old-school is too ephemeral to define concisely, and long lists of what is or isn't old school are surely to follow. I myself enjoy the discussion, because hey, it is the "theme" of this grossly extended play-date we've been enjoying for the last thirty years or so.
Nonetheless, a concise definition would be helpful, at least in terms of introducing new fans (or reintroducing "former" fans) to the hobby, so I would be in favor of reducing the whole blather down to its simplest distillation:
"Old-School gaming refers to content and/or tone that is from, or reminiscent of, pre-1984 Dungeons and Dragons."
Why 1984 specifically? I guess because it gives the "classic" era of D&D a nice, neat, even decade. Of course its arguable that great old-school stuff came out after (and is still being produced today), and that old-school references a much broader genre of RPGs, boardgames, novels, magazines, and such, but I think there's some merit in having a simple response to the question, "what do you mean by "old-school?" Let's not forget, most folks don't even really understand what the hell RPGing is to begin with ("is that like when you dress up at the Ren-Faire?"), so having a simple response can both explain the phenomenon and open the door for further questions and discussion.
How would you explain it to a 10-year-old? Keep it simple. Of course, in lieu of the above bolded definition, one could offer the cover/picture above.
I think it defines the whole thing very nicely.