Saturday, June 8, 2013

Grumblings & Grognards (or - why I am less Groggy and more Nardy)

Been playing the D&D game since the very late 70's. Does this make me a 'grognard'? Since I was about 8 or 9 years of age then, probably not. Grognard means, "Old Guard." These are the grizzled veterans of countless historical miniature wargames and minutely detailed boardgames. These are the tabletop soldiers that recreate history. They take their pastimes very seriously.

 Maybe I was born too late. Maybe I just never had the proper exposure. Whatever the reason, I'm not a modern history buff. If it happened after the Renaissance, I tend to get bored. I'm a fantasy buff. That's why I got into D&D. But, I was introduced to the game through people who were college-age or younger. I've never gamed with one of the "Old Guard." Now, I am approaching the age where I could be called a 'grognard', but the hat just doesn't fit. I am of the "Mid Guard."

I'm one of those guys who believes D&D has made pseudo-natural evolutionary leaps through the decades to reach the shiny and overblown point where it now resides. No one ever "took my D&D away from me" or "ruined the hobby for us all." I am not that guy. I'm not going to tell you "you're running your game wrong." I'm not going to tell you what edition of the game to play. Hell, I play three different variations of the game myself.

These were "My D&D." And, I never even played BECMI. I went from B/X to AD&D. While I'm being truthful, I also never really got to play the Holmes version more than once or twice.

Moldvay/Cook D&D is the greatest edition of D&D ever. Why? Because that's the edition I essentially started with. It was the image of D&D I had from the start. That makes it the best.

For me.

From the very beginning, the writers make it clear that D&D is a flexible framework meant to be adjusted to suit the game or campaign at hand. The introduction to Men & Magic mentions:

If you are a player purchasing the DUNGEONS and DRAGONS rules in order to improve your situation in an existing campaign, you will find that there is a great advantage in knowing what is herein. If your referee has made changes in the rules and/or tables, simply note them in pencil  (for who knows when some flux of the cosmos will make things shift once again!), and keep the rules nearby as you play.  A quick check of some rule or table  may  bring  hidden treasure or save
your game "life".

And I'm pretty sure every edition since has insisted that the rules presented are meant as a structural base upon which to build YOUR game. Some people take this to mean that the rules aren't really rules. Others take it to mean that the game is just fine, as long as it is played THEIR way. Both are equally (in)correct. I view the rules as a foundation upon which to build a mutually shared gaming experience. For the game to be mutually shared, all participants must be using the same rules. Whether those are by-the-book or adjusted by house rules makes no difference. Everyone involved must have access to and knowledge of whatever rules are going to apply.

A lot of the self-proclaimed grognards I know or follow are insistent upon their edition of D&D as the one true game. Their hallowed rulebooks are like a bible. Immaculate and unassailable. Any poor sap that came into the game later than that is simply playing the wrong game. Well, that's not in the spirit of D&D and I find the attitude disgusting.

If everyone is having fun, the game is a good one. By all means, evangelize "your game." I find most D&D players to be open to trying different editions of the game - even older ones. They just want to game. The adventure is the important thing. I've run every edition of D&D up to 3.5/Pathfinder with no significant impact upon the quality of my adventure. The rules ARE important - but they are not the adventure. The DM and the players are the adventure. For me, the best games are those where the rules are all but invisible.

Some like their D&D fast and loose. Some like their D&D structured and balanced. A lot of us seem to like our D&D somewhere in between. In many cases, nostalgia plays a big part. Younger gamers just don't play from that perspective, I guess. The game they're playing right now is the best game. If you live your gaming life by the credo, "The old school is the best school," then you might be a grognard. I salute you. But, I don't necessarily agree with you. If you have a problem with such disagreement, then I urge you to play YOUR game at YOUR table in YOUR cloud of nostalgia. I feel that gaming is about sharing and camaraderie. It should be about inclusion, not elitism. Sadly, there are those who will take ANYthing to such extremes...and they give the rest of us a bit of a bad name.

Geekdom and Dungeons & Dragons have finally come into their own. They are verging on "cool" in the modern age. I'd rather show those qualities that got us here, rather than backslide into the dark ages of the hobby where we were mistrusted, misunderstood, and, if we were lucky, pitied. If I had my way, our revered grognard elders would lead the way.

No comments:

Post a Comment