Monday, September 21, 2009

"The Holy Inquisition finds you guilty... of HERESY!"

"The dark night of fascism is always descending on America,” said Tom Wolfe, “but it always seems to land in Europe."

So we keep hearing about how the OSR is all closing ranks and imposing purity tests on folks to make sure they're not engaging in “deviant behavior.” Only I have yet to see it happen. Maybe I'm not reading the “right” forums (I'm actually pretty much out of the forums thing, but for a some brief passes through RPG.net, these days). Maybe I'm not reading the right blogs. But I just don't see it.

Jameses Maliszewski and Raggi seem to be leading the charge into the future, but it sure ain't a strictly regimented one. Mr. Maliszewski keeps swinging back and forth on thieves and gives us four-armed martian PCs while Mr. Raggi is apparently creating unique adventures the likes of which nobody has seen before, and only avoiding controversy of Carcossian proportions because, hey, it's Raggi, and what else would you expect?

I can't find anyone of any significant standing in the OSR telling anyone they're doing it wrong. I see a lot of “this is the way I do it” and “hey, this worked really well at the table last night.” I see a lot of people playing games and building dungeons and starting magazines. Folks are tossing out rules and building new games and making houserules. They're embracing Vancian magic, or rejecting it for something else, or creating their versions of books which were promised by never published, or playing with alternative experience systems, or creating emo-devouring monsters based on pre-raphaelite nightmares, or...

I don't see purity flamewars or inquisitions or blacklists. People keep talking about how the long dark night of fascism is all ready to smother the OSR in its shadowy tentacles, but I couldn't tell you where it's actually landing.

Art by Jean-Paul Laurens.

14 comments:

ChattyDM said...

I think you see it in the comments. How even Jamie Mal and Mishler get caught in flamestorms on their blogs. I've seen a few.

What slays me the most was that the games Old School Gaming is based implied that you could take them in whatever direction you wanted.

In fact, only in the 1e DMG do you see Gary trying to create a unified style of playing (probably to launch the RPGA), probably trying to close the Pandora's box.

Having played and DMed S&W, I know that being expected to house rule to my heart's content is a good feature of 0th edition gaming.

Chris said...

Last crash of the jackboot I heard was some defining who is OSR "waaaah!"-ing over at Dragonsfoot a few weeks back ("I R ole skule! U R not!"). Apart from that it's been a thousand flowers in bloom on the blogs and forums.

E.G.Palmer said...

Well, I don't know about you guys, but I intend to begin by annexing the Sudetenland to Greyhawk. The OSR needs breathing room!

The Rusty Battle Axe said...

I think you see it in the comments. I've seen it occasionally in these places, although it apparently is more prevalent on some bulletin boards (e.g. Dragonsfoot). Every once and a while a blog post will generate a slapping match in the comments that usually have little to do with the original post and even less to do with actually playing RPGs. It is there that the purity police sometimes show up. I think it creates angst all out of proportion to the content of the comments (I know it does so for me, if I allow it to, which is incredibly stupid on my part as I don't these people and they are not at my game table. "Eh, so what?" has become my mantra on these things).

Jeff Rients said...

"I think you see it in the comments."

Should I really give a crap? So what if people are talking smack in Jamie Mal's blog or getting bitchy on one of the old school forums. I don't see any organized boycotts or censoring of heretical art or artists. For the first time in friggin' DECADES people are putting out more groovy stuff than I can keep track of. No purity police is going to be able to hold back that tsunami.

James Maliszewski said...

Every once and a while a blog post will generate a slapping match in the comments that usually have little to do with the original post and even less to do with actually playing RPGs.

Emphasis mine.

As someone located at Ground Zero for a lot of these dust-ups -- there's one going on right now in the comments to the third part of my interview with Ed Greenwood -- I'd say that 95+% of them have little or nothing to do with old school gaming and much more to do with the usual Internet "discussion" dynamics. Like our host, I keep hearing about all these autos da fé supposedly happening everywhere, yet, strangely, I never see them. I figure, as Grand Inquisitor, I ought to be kept appraised of when this stuff is happening.

Chgowiz said...

@Troll - you rock! I love the posts and discussion about the non-event. :)

Now start makin' some content or the OSR secret service will be at your door at midnight... ;)

(Word Verify drarpo - the nickname of the OSR Sekret Poleese.)

Oddysey said...

I've seen a few arguments about whether or not 4e is "old school," and I could see how that could get described as OSR fascism. But the refreshing thing about the OSR is -- as you've pointed out -- everyone important in it is just too busy to get involved in too much of that. As far as I can see, people discuss what they don't like to play primarily to get a better idea of what they do like.

@chgowiz If you've distracted Trollsmyth from his DMing duties with your talk of the OSR secret service, we will have words. ;)

Chgowiz said...

@Oddysey - come git sum! ;)

James Maliszewski said...

I've seen a few arguments about whether or not 4e is "old school," and I could see how that could get described as OSR fascism.

I guess I'm not sure what "fascism" means in this context anymore then, because this seems to stretch the definition of the term beyond the limit.

BigFella said...

There are those out loose in the world who seem to take someone's professing a preference for something as an attack their own preferences. If you come out and say "I like cake." there is inevitably a pie eater out there who feels slighted. (Me, I operate on the principle that "You can't eat another man's lunch." Also, I will happily accept cake or pie. Or donuts.)

I think it's part of a deeply ingrained desire for consensus that's part of our instinctive programming as social plains apes. So deeply ingrained that people will paint themselves as targets of oppression even when they and their preferences haven't even come up in conversation.

It ain't a zero sum game, folks. Me liking "old school" play doesn't mean I'm gonna come to your house and slap the dice out of your hands for playing it differently. Fascism ain't people just disagreeing with you.

Oddysey said...

I guess I'm not sure what "fascism" means in this context anymore then, because this seems to stretch the definition of the term beyond the limit.

Oh, I didn't mean it was a legitimate argument. Just that there exists a chain of reasoning, however specious, that goes from "4e isn't old school because X" to "you're telling me I'm playing wrong!" This is the internet, after all.

S'mon said...

I guess a few people have proposed some kind of controlling authority for the OSR, to give it the direction it supposedly lacks.

These proto-fascists don't seem to get anywhere, though.

Zak said...

I totally didn't realize until the 2nd time I read this that you linked to Mandy's Death Frost Doom review here.

Glad you thought it seemed worth talking about.