One of the first questions we’re already being asked here at Old School Quarterly (OSQ) is: what do you mean by old school? After all, there are a number of different definitions people use, particularly when it comes to the Old School Renaissance/Revival that often seem to contradict each other, and sometimes set people’s teeth so much on edge that entire pissing matches start out all of the Internet. Trying to define old school seems to be one of those classic blunders, such as “never get involved in a land war in Asia”, “never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line”, and “never read the comments online, EVAR”.
To us, an old school product is:
- Any version of Dungeons & Dragons, although we’re focusing on pre-Third Edition, and perhaps some Fifth Edition2
- NOT JUST Dungeons & Dragons though, but other games that were published between 1974 and the early 90s. Pretty much any game published in the 20-25 years of the hobby’s early history falls into this. This includes many classics from the hobby’s early years3
- Games that focus on the Game Master as the primary adjudicator/judge/central authority on how interactions between the game world and the players occur4
- Games that offer a framework for play with the ability to make rulings rather than having a rule for everything. Broad rather than specific, if you will. This ties into the above
- Games that let players exercise their imaginations and personal problem-solving skills, while still giving meaning to the game system and characters
- Games that recreate – as clones, simulacrums, revisions, or are simply inspired by – the above type of games in mechanics, setting, or play style. And it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition.
- Products that support the above in print, electronic, or otherwise
- Something that lets older players recreate the way we played games years ago before the Internet became a thing, with a focus on community, but also on using newer technology, playing newer games, and with a newer understanding of society and how we play interact5
The purpose of the magazine is to provide content to help support products that meet this definition.
So, we’re not going to get pulled into all of the different fringe arguments that surround the old school gaming community with regards to storytelling, game theory, or industry/community politics UNLESS we think it’s something that’s important and can provide excellent content within the pages of the magazine. We have a utilitarian bent for the magazine: we want to provide content that you can use, or draw inspiration from. The more of it, the better. That can be done best, we think, with adventures, scenarios, tables, dungeons, supplementary material, and lots of other content like that. That other stuff has its place, but its place isn’t in our publication.
Also at the moment, we’re not planning on doing reviews or short fiction. Because of the immediate nature of the Internet and the plethora of other publishing options available for this, reviews are something that OSRToday will be handling. Short fiction is something that takes up a lot of space in a small format publication like ours, space that we’d rather use to help support game products directly with utilitarian content. So, that too is something that will be covered by OSRToday. Although we recognize the importance and need for such content within the wider realm of gaming; imagination begets inspiration begets imagination.
So, there you have it, our line in the sand here at OSQ. Rawr.
1. And you know what, it’s cool if you don’t agree with it. But we’re the ones publishing this magazine, so we’re the ones making the determination about what old school means to us and what gets included or not. We hope you’re with us on our definition. If not, we hope you’ll still give us a fair shot. We might have stuff you like.
2. The Fifth Edition has had influence from the OSR community and integrated elements from all previous editions.Technically the Third and Fourth Editions of the game were a marked return to the origins of Dungeons & Dragons with the core use of miniatures and tactical combat at the center of combat, so there’s an argument to be made that there are old school elements in those versions of the game. But that’s a pissing match that we’re not getting into. See the next footnote for more details.
3. And no, we’re not getting into the whole pissing match about storytelling versus non-storytelling games. We’re here to chew bubble gum and roll dice. And we’ve got plenty of both.
4. See the above footnote.
5. The type of play evoked during games of Dungeon World are similar to the way many of us played games of Dungeons & Dragons and other games years ago: players get to do awesome stuff, there’s resource management, lots of badass monsters and dungeons to defeat, and a great time to be had by everyone playing. And just like the differences between a 1974 Dodge Charger and the 2013 version, there may be a different lick of paint and different engine under the hood, but you still get to where you need to when you put the pedal to the metal. As Stephen King’s Man In Black from The Dark Tower series would say:”the world has moved on”. And it’s up to all of us to make the best of it.