Friday, May 1, 2009

Swords & Wizardry: I have a good feeling about this.

Earlier, I mentioned that I've had a fantasy game in my head for a long time and that for the last three years I've been actively looking for a system to express it.

I kept an eye on the 'net and grabbed anything that looked like it might do the trick. For some reason I couldn't find what I needed to scratch the itch. It seemed as if the vehicle to help evoke the game that only I knew about would not be found. I began to think that the game was was less a figment of my imagination and more an unplayable figment of nostalgia that at best could be propped up by mementos. The notion seemed more and more real because it was evident that most of the games I tried were fantastic in their own right and were not the precise problem. Through the evaluation process I found some gems that became favorites.

What I didn't realize was that I lost the frame of mind and perspective that helped mold that fantasy game whose origins lie at the nexus of my maturing imagination and my introduction to gaming. During those primordial days of structured story telling I had the tools and perspective but not the maturity to actually run the game that I had in my noggin. Looking back, that era was really about the wonder of possibilities punctuated by more than one Dragon Magazine cover that made me pause and say, "There! That's my game!" I never did manage to pull it off but boy did I have a lot of fun trying.

At some point it became obvious that I should just walk over to the book shelf, pick up AD&D 2nd Ed. and go to town. So I did. I hadn't seriously looked at the books in a decade but in the end I couldn't bring myself to use them. Still they remained at least in spirit the model.

When I saw the OSRIC announcement I thought, "Oh, cool" as memories stirred of my grandfather taking me to the only local hobby shop to look at the modules that lined the shelf. But that's about where it ended. OSRIC contained most of the bits that made me put away my AD&D books. So I filed the PDF away in my gaming folder where I soon lumped other games such as Basic Fantasy and Labyrinth Lord.

So, the process continued until another retro-clone caught my eye. Firstly the cover evoked the right feeling and drew me in. Secondly the rules were well served by the cover as they were of a similar style. I was amazed by what I saw. It was a simple rule set full of implicit flavor that felt wide open taking me back to the feeling of wonder of possibility. I didn't even pause to think that it could be too good to be true. I was too busy reading the book and looking for any and all Swords & Wizardry material that I could get my mitts on. I loved what I was seeing; a game like the one I started this hobby with but simpler!

Looking through the lens of S&W's simplicity I realized that I was framing my gaming approach in a way that fundamentally diminished the possibility of attaining my goal i.e. too much preparation that predetermined large swaths of the setting and thus the direction of the game. I found new appreciation for the other retro-clones as well. All of them bring something to the table beyond a common approach - rules options and tweaks that can easily be plugged into a highly playable lightweight framework.

In the spirit of the retro-clones I put together a light game world premise and set out to see what we could see. The kickoff session was incredibly fun.

I have a good feeling about this.


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