I started following Christian over atChristian links to another blog (I'll let you follow the trail and leave credit for tweaking me with Christian) which discusses the following quote:
We don't explore characters--we explore dungeons.
I did a little Google-fu and the quote seems to originate with someone whose screen name was evreaux and posted on some of the old edition boards, like Dragonsfoot, a few years back. As with any good provocative quote, it could be interpreted a number of ways. I found discussion of this quote had gone on in a number of blogs and a couple of view points in particular also struck me, in an uncomfortable way.
Before I continue let me reveal my bias. I am an old school sympathizer. We played 1E for 15 years and enjoyed every minute of it. Sure we house ruled the heck out of it, who didn't. There are certain elements of older D&D that I cherish and we attempt to keep those elements in the core of how we play - regardless of edition. However I am not OSR proponent, nor am I an old school purist. I kind of like how Christian put it on his blog a couple of posts ago - I am a masher.
So back to the quote. Some folks said this sums up old school gaming perfectly. Since I don't claim to be a purist, my first reaction was not - No, you are wrong! It was more - if that is true, does that make me more or less old school? Judging by how uncomfortable the quote makes me feel in regards to describing our gaming, the answer would be it makes me less old school. But that also makes me feel uncomfortable by suggesting I have pulled far from my roots.
Do we explore characters? In some sense we do. To outwardly deny it would be untruthful. In the adventure exploring characters is not the primary goal, the primary goal is the adventure. However, as part of that we do explore our characters to some degree. However, exploring characters is not neurotic angst, nor navel gazing, nor whining, nor characters paralyzed with inaction until some internal conflict is resolved, and nor characters so dysfunctional that is derails adventuring, and nor neurotic angst. (You said neurotic angst twice. I hate neurotic angst). Perhaps it is more accurate to say we grow characters. So if we grow are characters is that somehow anathema to the spirit of old school?
Another thread suggested that old school must be roll your six stats in order with no mods and play it as rolled. OK, we all know that was the starting method and I'll grant if you are a purist there is no other true character generation method. Again, I am no purist. In some of those threads the devil is 3E with its pick your own stats method of play. But I say wait a minute.... Long before that edition was a twinkle in someones eye we were rolling 4d6 and arranging as desired for some of our games in 1E. Did that make us heathens, unclean players of AD&D, an abomination in the eyes of the old school gods? Then I must ask, why couldn't you run a 3E game and roll 3d6 in order? Well of course you can but is that old school? I will choose to not attempt an answer. Whether it is old school or not is less important than is it fun or not.
I prefer to describe how we play as - We adventure and grow characters. I do not desire static characters but character growth happens as part of adventuring not as an independent item. So we adventure first, and characters grow during adventures. You make beer out of water and grain products. Which is more important? You can spend loads of time arguing about it, but try to make beer without either one and see how far you get. You can tell me that beer is a poor analogy to my D&D game, but in my thirty plus years of gaming the two are inextricably woven together as dear friends.
So - no bad/wrong fun argument here. Just some introspection against some old school definition discussion. Why do I bother? Mostly because I want to continue to have our game evolve but stay true to the have fun part, and continue to make sure the ratio of time spent in the game to the amount of fun we have remains high.
The dice never lie. Cheers.