Old School Somewhat Conflicted GM

It’s sad to think some people lean on OSR style games to justify the same old attitudes of hate, fear, and separation in the real world.

This is now my third take on this article.

I keep getting partway into this particular subject and then bailing out. This is mostly due to the fact that I am concerned about offending someone. I want you all to know I am grateful you are here. Thank you!

I see something of a conflict between new and old gamers, at least on social media.

This usually takes place in the form of the D&D edition wars. Some people learned the game in Fifth Edition. Some of us have been around since BECMI or even White Box D&D. And of course every edition in between then and now has its own rabid fanbase.

Some designers even miss the old editions so much that they’ve redrawn the old rules in newer books. Collectively this is called the OSR movement or “Old School Renaissance” I usually say Old School Rules or Old School Revival. It’s all basically the same idea. Someone takes the original Basic, First Ed AD&D or Second Ed AD&D and puts it back out under their own banner with a few minor adjustments here and there.

The conflict “is not what you think” as one of my favorite YouTube channels likes to say.

The biggest problem I’ve seen lately seems to stem from one of two sources. “Old” gamers who have gotten frustrated with all the immense rules changes and add-ons in 5E who want to go back to simpler times. This is in contrast to the 5E players who have grown up in a more social and political environment who see the older editions as inherently racist, homophobic, or transphobic.

I’m going to pick on @matthewmercer for a moment only because I know good old Matt won’t ever read this or comment on it. (I’m too far below his station.) “The Matt Mercer Effect” as it is called causes tension and sometimes divide at the table because us “Old Grognards” have been running D&D for literally decades without a camera on before Critical Role came around. I’m not saying anyone’s take is better or worse. But sometimes it is a bit daunting to compare one’s own game to the shiny TV/Internet version of D&D. Honestly, I think a lot of new players are intimidated by anything that isn’t D&D 5E or Pathfinder 2E.

Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com
Please understand: These are my observations and opinions based on said. Please run your game at your table your way.
Also, I do not hate Critical Role, Matt Mercer, or anyone else for race, gender, political orientation or sexual preferences. Let’s focus on love, please.

Someone mentioned that most of us “Old, (bitter,) Grognards” hate Critical Role. I see a degree of pretentiousness on both sides and it makes me sort of sick to my stomach if I’m being honest. The “new kids” seem to think that only actual play podcasts like Critical Role are “real roleplaying.” All of us old guys shake our heads when we watch these younger pups with their political correctness and handholding ways. (I get that I sound divisive and dismissive there, but I’m trying to make my point.) Both sides are right and wrong at the same time.

I’m going to be blunt for a moment. The RPG industry was built by old, mostly cishet white guys. HOWEVER, that is not to say it has remained that way or has to remain that way. If the last couple of years have taught us anything it’s that the industry can change. People can change. We’re evolving.

1977 D&D is not even remotely the same animal as 5E D&D. If Gary Gygax and Matt Mercer could swap places for a day and each run the other’s game, I daresay people would be crying and running out of the room from both tables with bruised egos and hurt feelings all around. D&D’s origins are steeped in ___phobic or ___cist behaviors. Again, it doesn’t have to stay that way.

14 year old me was confused by the race relations table in AD&D Unearthed Arcana.

Please hear me out on this one. A LOT of older D&D games contain a high degree of racial tension between the Humans, Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings (The demi-human races that used to have their own classes.) and the “dark races” such as the Orcs, Goblins, Drow, Duergar, and Draconians. The origins of those racial tensions go all the way back to Tolkien and WotC is just now getting around to really changing the basic premise behind races in D&D which I will save for another article.

I’m sort of ashamed to admit it, but I’m a big fan of some of the older campaigns that had some pretty ugly racial blunders in them. My beloved Oriental Adventures, Birthright, and even good old Greyhawk were pretty much a product of an older way of thinking about race. I prefer to keep the stuff I love from those settings and toss out the rest. That’s just how I do it, not that it’s for everyone. There is never a good justification for hate when it comes to race, religion, gender, sexual preference, etc. So, just don’t.

So, yes, OSR gets a pretty bad reputation, mostly from people who use it to justify the same old, tired, closed, narrow mindsets that include hate toward other members of real world human society. It’s really sad to think that we’re in a global age of communications and people can still be stuck so far in the past. On the bright side, we have to learn sometime. Many of us have evolved in our way of thinking as it applies to people in the real world and in games.

On that note, I’m signing off for the night. Please keep praying for peace. Please be kind to one another today. Please keep gaming. Gaming is good. Thank you for being here. I appreciate you.

Casting Call for an RPG Campaign?!?

Take it from someone who has run a lot of convention games in a dozen different systems and never received a dime in cash or been in front of a camera doing it. Take it from anyone who survived the “Satanic Panic” era of Dungeons & Dragons when everyone was gunning for the hobby to be shut down. Heck, take it from someone who was bullied, insulted and rejected for being a gamer on a regular basis by the church, the school, the parents and his “peers.” Y’all kids have it lucky now. Trust me.

Sayyy whaat???

Photo by Monica Silvestre on Pexels.com

I’m kinda passionate about this, so please bare with me? I was passing by a post on #RPGTwitter today that almost triggered me. They were holding auditions for a Blades in the Dark campaign. Auditions? For the cast? Like a TV show? WTAF?!? Okay, I’m triggered.

Not at the folks running the Blades campaign. Your game. You run it your way. Cool. It’s also an Actual Play podcast. I get that.

Matt Mercer and his crew of wannabe gamers are taking it too far, In MY Opinion!

Look, at first I thought Critical Role was a novel idea. Matt Mercer who is a poster child for Wizards of the Coast/D&D hosts a cute “game session” for a bunch of voice actors. Some of the actors are actually quite famous for their roles in anime, American cartoons, and video games. But here lately, I think it’s just gotten completely out of hand.

You know how many game sessions I’ve recorded and/or broadcast? That’s right. NONE. EVER. And honestly, I may never do it. Nor should I have to. I’m still perfectly capable of sitting down at a table in a game store or anywhere else with live human beings and rolling some dice and running original adventures that I have written myself- FOR FUN!

Congratulations, Critical Role. You flushed out this Old Grognard out of his basement. Now look what you’ve done!

And I should say kudos to Matt Mercer for putting D&D 5E on the map. Yay for him and his Critical Role efforts for that. The show has also spawned hundreds of Actual Play podcasts and dramas all over the Internet. I guess that’s cool if that’s what you’re into? Maybe?

I want to make two points about this whole thing and then I promise I’ll move on quietly; peacefully even. First, you don’t need an Actual Play broadcast of any kind to run your RPG. I can’t stress this enough. You need friends, dice, books, pencils/pens, maybe some minis. Cameras, batteries, and laptops not required. No fancy casting needed. No fancy character voices needed. No animators required afterward. Play the GAME for crying out loud!

Second, Dungeon/Game Masters don’t have to be Matt Mercer. I know a lot of people are calling this the “Matt Mercer Effect.” I think they’re giving him too much clout all around. Folks, I’m sure Matt’s a nice enough guy. (He’ll never see this and I’ll never hear from him. Ha ha.) But the one thing people forget, is that he is basically on WotC’s payroll.

Watch what happens when the game switches editions here in a couple of years. Do you think the entire cast will receive all new shiny copies of the latest PHB? Yeah… probably for free. Say what you want about the game and the show, but the people in charge are not stupid. (They do make some serious blunders at times…)

I’m not Matt Mercer. Likewise, he’s no Jeff Craigmile. (*Again, he’ll never see this. I’m small potatoes.) If someone rolled a truckload of money up to me to hang out with voice actors and pretend to roll some dice occasionally? Heck yeah!

But good old Matt will never run anything that’s not made by WotC, such as ICONS, ICRPG, or Starfinder. You’d certainly never get the “Mighty Nein” to sit down and play Dungeon Crawl Classics. I bet money their characters would die so fast in an old school dungeon crawl with a different DM, their heads would spin and we’d spend half an hour watching them all roll new characters.

They know how to make cartoons. They know how to do the voices. But are they gamers? Take it from someone who has spent a lot of hours sitting around a dark basement with five other guys who play RPGs as a hobby- Critical Role’s cast are almost the opposite of that. Yay. They make it look like fun…

Take it from someone who has run a lot of convention games in a dozen different systems and never received a dime in cash or been in front of a camera doing it. Take it from anyone who survived the “Satanic Panic” era of Dungeons & Dragons when everyone was gunning for the hobby to be shut down. Heck, take it from someone who was bullied, insulted and rejected for being a gamer on a regular basis by the church, the school, the parents and his “peers.” Y’all kids have it lucky now. Trust me.

Critical Role might look like they’re playing D&D, but the sweat equity in the game and in the industry just ain’t there, folks. Love em for it, but what you see is what you get. Play the game for yourself. It might not be as glamorous, but it can be a lot more fun. Hey, no cameras- no pressure.

Good for you if you’re only 20 something and just getting into D&D. Good for all the new players. I hope you stick with the hobby, even if times get rough again. If Critical Role inspired you to play or even DM for the first time, hallelujah! Just remember a lot of folks who will never see as much recognition came before Matt Mercer and his cast.

Okay, getting off my soapbox now.

I promise I’ll behave. Rant mode off. Luckily for WotC and their advertising department, I’m a small time blogger with a little bitterness toward their prizewinning show pony. Guess I’m lucky and blessed with a small audience and I can still be grateful for every last follower. Thank you, family!

Take care. See ya soon.

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