Age Before Beauty?

This thread on RPGnet contains a discussion on why people still play early editions of D&D instead of 4e. Some of the options presented by the original poster seem to miss the point, but the debate looks healthy and energetic.

As for myself, I run old-school D&D because it’s clean and simple and flexible, requiring little prep and allowing me to wing it without feeling like I’m breaking the rules. The thought of writing up 3e stat blocks again makes my brain bleed, and 4e looks far too rigid in format and playstyle for my taste.

What about you? Why do you play old-school D&D instead of the newer editions?

10 Responses to “Age Before Beauty?”

  1. 1 Naked.
    August 11, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    I can’t imagine there are many systems where someone can plop off the street and be playing almost immediately. OD&D really suits the kind of experience Red Box NYC seeks to host; or vice versa.

  2. 2 FredH
    August 11, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Speaking purely as a player, the sheer speed and simplicity of the system appeal to me–certainly in comparison to 4e. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that nostalgia is also part of it, but only a part.

  3. August 11, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    I hate the character optimization part of newer editions. I like the ethos of doing the best with what random chance has given you. I like fewer rules and more decisions made at the table.

  4. August 11, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Simplicity and spontaneity, hence old; near universal familiarity, hence D&D.

  5. 5 Robert Fisher
    August 11, 2010 at 4:25 pm


    Could probably use some updating and clean-up, but I think this is still as valid as when I first wrote it.

  6. August 11, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    My experience pretty much parallels yours. Plus, I’m very much about customizing the game to fit the setting material, and those old versions house-rule very cleanly.

  7. 7 Greengoat
    August 11, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    I tend to think of each of the editions of D&D as a different game. Red-box plays differently than white box which plays differently from AD&D 1st which is different from 4E, etc.

    The simple rules in old school seem to be the biggest plus for me although there are issues within the “canon” rule-sets (I am looking at you treasure tables). And then the familiarity of game is the second biggest reason, there are a lot of old player you can pick up, just like you can pick up a lot of newer players in 4E.

    I think that, in total, the nostalgia is both a plus and a minus. I enjoy playing the game I had as a kid but I have trouble thinking outside of the presumed “backdrop” of old D&D. Conversely, I have no qualms about making 3E or 4E as weird and different as I want.

  8. 8 bevisiscariot
    August 11, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Ditto what everyone else said. Also, as a dm, it’s sooooooooo much easier for me to be creative (the whole point of the game for me, really)and write my own stuff – worlds, adventures, rules, npcs – with old school rule sets, as opposed to having to utilize those nightmarish stat blocks you mentioned. Additionally, there’s a lot less record keeping, so players’ attention can remain where it should be: on what’s happening in their imaginations. Newer versions take a lot of control away from the dm and put it in the hands of the players, which is kind of like taking control away from the referees (in a football game or whatever) and putting it in the hands of the players (a mess, lots of fights). Lastly, because I’ve always stressed imagination in my games (no battlemats, no minis), I’m not interested in any game that forces cards, tokens, online tools or any other keep-paying-to-get-more nonsense on me or my players.

  9. 9 maldoor
    August 11, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    Two reasons, I think.

    The first reason I prefer the older rules: they are are easier to use with a group of people who have limited time to game and to read/learn games. Most of us at NY Red Box have jobs, spouses, children, and gaming has to be able to fit into whatever time we have left over.

    The older rulesets are cleaner and closer to a set of principles than the detailed situational rules of later games. Like in chess or go (to use extreme examples) the simple set of rules is easy to learn and quick to apply, but flexible enough to produce a whole variety of complex gaming situations.

    The later rulesets tend to be more detailed, arguably more realistic or internally consistent or balanced or what have you. But the weight of that detail fences you in; you have to have the time to read and absorb it, and then actually heed all the rules during play.

    Second reason is atmosphere. The older rules promote a gritty, deadly game with focus on exploration and judgment. They are deadly, and the starting characters produced by the rules are not all-powerful. To live to second level, players need to know how to avoid fights, run away, and to problem-solve. Newer versions of D&D (and many other games) from the start provide more skills and powers to characters and have a healthy mechanical system of interlocking skills, boni, resolution mechanisms, etc. and so the emphasis naturally shifts to solving problems through character traits. This seems to push games to a more heroic feel.

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Past Adventures of the Mule

August 2010

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