Friday, November 26, 2010

Luddites vs. Amish

A simple question:

Do you feel that the OSR types are more like the Luddites or the Amish?

Luddites, smashing looms
Are we raging against some machine of modernization that we believe will ruin things?

Amish, growing beards
Or are we just opting out of the race for the newest, brightest, and flashiest because we believe life is better without all that?

I have no answers, only the question.


  1. Both would be my guess. Some are one, some are the other. Now you've got me wanting a fry-pie. *sigh* :)

  2. I would love to see the Old School community build a barn in a day...

  3. Unfortunately, it's really a mixture of the two. There's something incredibly inspiring about folks who can say, "I'm happy with what I've got and it works for me. I respect your decisions to do what you do, but I've got my own thing going on."

    Nevertheless, you remember the guys who are smashing looms in the public square and saying that you're an asshole for owning a cotton gin much more vividly.

  4. A little from Column A, a little from Column B, with the balance being determined by how pushy each individual is about the issue.

  5. Well, I was all for smashing looms until the day I could afford my own loom and realized how much money I could earn in a day with my loom, and then I was damn protective of it!

    I admire the Amish, but abstractly and from afar. I watch movies like Harrison Ford's "Witness" and think their lives are so damn picturesque and wonderful... but the reality is probably that their religion is so damn weird that the rest of the Germans said, "Good riddance!" when they emigrated to the US. Plus the apparent high incidence of incest and abuse of women and children in the Amish community... and the totally weird anti-mustache and anti-button thing (hooks and eyes? Are you serious?) freaks me out.
    The good thing about the Amish is they keep to themselves --- a refreshing change in the usual actions of "Americans with weird religious" thing.

  6. I can only speak for myself. I strive to be Amish, but I have my Luddite moments. When I do fail that saving throw, I hope I manage to be more evangelist than Luddite.

  7. I can only speak for myself. I strive to be Amish, but I have my Luddite moments. When I do fail that saving throw, I hope I manage to be more evangelist than Luddite.

    Ditto, although I probably fail my saving throw a lot more often than Robert :)

  8. I too can speak only for myself, and I say this:

    I play the games I damn well want to play, many of which are old games, and I have no beard.

  9. As one of the original [1811-1812] Huddersfield Luddites, I am disheartened to find that after 200 years some people still consider us to be anti-progress.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. We are all in favour of progress, but hold serious reservations about our having to starve to death to secure it!

    General Ronnie Bray

  10. The penny arcade comics about pathfinder just came out and on their forum an edition war predictably broke out. Mostly between D20 and Fourth, but some TSR/OSR stuff popped up too. People were making arguments like "sure Fourth is horrible, tedious and unplayable at high level, but LESS SO than D20"!

    At about the same time the guy from the underdark gazette posted on the labyrinth lord forum that very high level AD&D was "fast, furious, deadly and fun!"

    The point: the OSR is for people who really know the difference between good shit and bad shit. Calling us Amish or Luddites misses the mark by a wide margin. It's more like driving a hotrod and listening to Led Zeppelin instead of spice girls or Justin Bieber or whatever else.

    It's all about timeframe: the 70's. Classic rock, classic cars, classic D&D. Zep was still together when AD&D was written. That blows my mind, because it seems like a different geological era to me... because I wasn't born yet. Things were pretty ok until about '98/'99 when rock died and TSR went bankrupt. Now there's nothing left to do but appreciate what came before because this era disappoints to put it mildly.

    At this rate 7th edition will just a hammer with an instruction sheet that says "strike yourself in the groin with this".

  11. I'll throw my hat in the ring on this one.

    First, a caveat: Many members of the OSR think that D&D is all about the megadungeon crawl. This doesn't necessarily represent how Gygax played D&D. I know lots of people who've played with Gygax and a lot of what went on was very role-play oriented--the combat mechanics only existed to adjudicate fairly. Gygax built the entire Greyhawk setting in order to facilitate roleplaying and adventurous journeys and the game was a lot more than a simple dungeon-crawl in a vast, multi-layered labyrinth.

    Regarding 4th edition, sorry, I think it's not fun. I could go on, but I won't. I'm working on a blog entry that will explain why it's not fun for me and I'll address arguments there.

    Regarding 3rd/3.5/Pathfinder: This remains my favorite system, despite its overly complex rule-sets, massive mountains of expensive supplemental books full of toys, and dearth of real, deep setting material (2nd will always be my favorite era for setting material, but not system).

    My second-favorite system is old White Wolf because it was intuitive and enabled you to attempt anything, although combat was a bitch to run. My third-favorite system is actually OS D&D because it is so simplistic and easily run.

    Anyway, as for 3rd/3.5/Pathfinder, it has its flaws, as I said. It's really complex. Pathfinder classes get lots of supernatural powers that kind of wreck suspension of disbelief a bit and make magic a bit too commonplace (less is more, remember). Anyway, I don't think OSR players are luddites. I think they find beauty and ease of play in simplicity. You don't have to memorize pages and pages of rules--all the rules fit in a pamphlet. But, I find OS D&D to have one major thing in common with 4th edition--both are solely combat-engines. That's it. 3rd/3.5/Pathfinder has lots of rules for roleplaying through problems issues, and challenges that are outside of combat. Also, OS D&D doesn't really allow you to create characters that are mechanically unique. You can roleplay their uniqueness (my fighter uses a rapier and is a swashbuckling hero!) but they're often going to be at a mechanical disadvantage while 3rd/3.5/Pathfinder gives feats and stuff that enable you to make that unique concept actually work. The rapier-wielding swashbuckler isn't really going to survive as well as the fighter in full plate with the bastard sword. At least in 3rd/3.5/Pathfinder, he can take weapon finesse feats and prestige classes that will mitigate his weaknesses with strengths in areas that make playing him worthwhile and fun. Frankly, in OS D&D, he's basically a thief without trapfinding and a slightly better attack class.

    OS D&D and 3rd/3.5/Pathfinder are different approaches to the same theme. I like both. I like 3rd/3.5/Pathfinder better because I like how it encourages customization and immersion. I wish people could realize that both approaches appeal to different people. As for 4th edition, it's a tactical miniature game, not a role-playing game, so far as I'm concerned.

  12. Maybe I should write a new post on this topic so the comments aren't getting burried in a post I did a year ago... Although Google searches on Luddites and Amish do draw hits here, as evidenced by General Bray's visit.

    Anonymous, I can remember the 70's. There was some cool stuff, yes. But there was also ABBA, the BeeGees, and plenty of crap too. And not enough gas to go around for all those cool muscle cars.

    I'm a member of the OSR, so for me, yeah, it's rock & roll and all that. But I can understand where other folks are coming from, thinking it's all old fashioned and obsolete. I disagree, but I can understand it. My point when I wrote this blog was that it's far from obsolete, just a choice most old school players make to either flip newer editions the bird, or simply opt out quietly. Hence my Luddite/Amish comparison.

    Dave - Yeah, most of the rules in older editions are about combat. Doesn't mean that's all that happened/happens at the table, though. And did I ever show you my count of the OD&D pages devoted to exploration vs. pages devoted to combat before you left Korea? Not counting monsters, exploration won.

    So there are rules for exploring, and rules for combat. Anything else, wing it or describe it or act it out.

    Final point, I think there are actually more old schoolers running sandboxes than there are megadungeons.

    Other than those points, I agree with you. 3E/PF still do the same job that TSR's editions of the game did. Just with more bells and whistles. As a player, those bells and whistles are fine with me. As a DM, I just don't want to deal with them anymore.