Tuesday, June 9, 2009
The Importance of New
Its easy to forget, sometimes, the value of "New!" in a hobby like ours. We place a lot of value on products that were yellowing with age 20 years ago. This is rooted, I would humbly propose, in the fact that the company(s) responsible for D&D slowly stopped producing the kind of stuff the osr appreciates: streamlined rules, site-based non-railroady adventures, sword&sorcery influenced settings and monsters, etc. Over time, a strong mistrust of anything "new" or "post-1981-or-so" tends to develop.
Only natural, of course: you get burned enough, and any semi-intelligent hominid will stop putting their hands into the fire.
But along the way, it becomes harder to remember the feeling you had when you picked up your first Moldvay Basic Boxed Set or 1E Monster Manual. These were new, baby, with something unexpected and exciting around every corner. 25 or 30 years later, nostalgia has brought us back to these books, and what a pleasant surprise to find out that this stuff really works good! As many have noted, no rose-colored-glasses necessary - it really is just as fun as you remembered.
Not as much enthusiasm for new books or product lines though. That feeling of "wow, check out this new book!" doesn't seem to be as highly touted in the osr community. More a cautious mistrust, a sort of "yeah, this is pretty cool, but I hope we don't get too many more...".
Again, understandable, plenty of us remember the swollen, nonsense-packed shelves of the 2E and 3E eras.
Hopefully, as the osr continues to build momentum and popularity, it will also be able to walk bravely, blinking perhaps, into the sunlight again with an appreciation for new stuff. It is ok, I would contend, to favor something like Swords & Wizardry over its original source material: the Little Brown Books. Its not heretical to admit that we may know a bit more about self-publishing today than Gygax and Co. did 35 years ago. Layout, organization, coherence, and 35 years of playtesting all contribute towards a more streamlined product. Not to mention personal computers.
There's also that feeling of "wow" when you hold something new in your hands, such as an issue of Knockspell or Green Devil Face. For the time being at least, the osr is in the hands of the folks who actually play it - they are the ones producing new material, not a faceless corporation with profit margins and stock-holder conference calls. As long as that continues to be the case, I say bring on the new stuff. More adventures, more monsters, more magazines.
I trust you, and I'm not afraid anymore.;-)