I spoke last year about my dislike for the direction Wizard of the Coast took with the D&D franchise (and Star Wars as well). While I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a crusty old school gamer, the real reason behind my preference is because I came of age with a group that didn’t need all that much in an RPG. The groups of people I tend to play with, and most particularly the group I played with for years, simply didn’t need a lot of rules to:
a. create interesting and unique characters, or
b. have fun playing a game
I’ve not spoken much about the characters (pun intended) I spent most of high school, college, my late twenties, and early thirties gaming with; but to call them imaginative is probably a slight, as they seldom took the obvious path. When they designed characters, you knew they were going to come up with a concept no one ever envisioned. It was particularly evident because the group was never motivated by a need to Min/Max their abilities, meaning you always wound up with an inspired/goofy/twisted/entertaining mix.
At times, you’d wonder if they were even serious — a depraved priest of an angry deity (Greyhawk), a kobold barber (Al-Qadim), or a moody, ostracized mage/thief (Greyhawk) — yet without fail, whatever they cooked up not only worked, but provided an internal push in terms of shaping the campaign. This in turn inspired the way I GM and how I go about evaluating games.
It’s the primary reason I’ve returned to an old school gaming philosophy. I do enjoy other games, but invariably the ones that resonant with me (the Cortex and Savage World lines, for instance) are equally stripped down and easy to use.
As I commented in One long orgy of role-playing, I’ve gotten interested in Castles & Crusades over the last eight months, largely for this very reason. It’s essentially 1e AD&D with a few refinements to create a clean, update to a fantasy classic. So, while I’m going to stay out of the debate over the old school vs new school, I have to admit that even when I’m playing a newer game, I’m still designing like an old school game master.