Saturday, March 29, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day Twenty-Nine

What OSR product have you enjoyed most? Explain why.

By total coincidence, I started this blog right when the whole OSR thing was just getting off the ground. I knew Grognardia "when" - that sort of thing. It was fun to go along for the ride, to watch the first wave and second wave of posts and products, watching the evolution from close-readings to retro-clones to neo-clones (and, of course, less fun to watch the inevitable degeneration into petty bickering, in-fighting, and dick-measuring that accompanies the emergence of any sort of grass-roots creative movement).

Along the way, I experimented quite a bit with OSR tropes and themes. Because, frankly, the OSR style of gaming was actually before my own time, and to me the OSR was less an exercise in nostalgia and more a way of engaging with the history of gaming and reevaluating certain bits of received wisdom.

At the end of the day, I decided that "purist" OSR gaming (megadungeon-centric crawling, murder-hobos and high PC mortality, super-gonzo fantasy, etc.) just wasn't for me. But it did lead me to embrace my love of old systems like BRP and to gain a greater understanding of what I want out of a system, and out of my fantasy gaming.

In retrospect, my favorite output of the OSR (to date) have been the so-called "neo-clones" - the games that took old-school D&D and did something new with it. Out of all the neo-clones, the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG has proven to be my favorite. Which is a bit ironic, as I initially rejected it out of hand when it first came out.

I'm particularly pissed that I didn't pick up the limited-edition gold foil cover when I had the chance.
It was published at a time when I was pretty much done with the D&D-centric world of the OSR, and was sick to death of the glut of clones coming out at the time - I had bought several and been varying degrees of unimpressed. Everything I heard about DCC seemed to indicate that it played to the OSR's sacred cows, of which I was avowedly uninterested in. And so I took a pass.

Last year, however, I stumbled across a blog post on Age of Ruins about using DCC to run Dark Sun campaigns, and I was sold. Any system (like BRP) that can easily handle running Dark Sun immediately nets approval points in my book, and I saw that DCC didn't necessarily have to be about dungeon-crawling, despite its name - that it was more about a certain attitude, one that lined up naturally with Dark Sun and appealed to a certain personal sensibility.

In fact, as I started looking up published modules, I saw an abundance of delightful creativity, and once I bought and read the rulebook, which was full of more of the same and (even better) written in the breezy and engaging style I look for in a rulebook, I realized I'd found "my" OSR game. The absolutely fantastic art didn't hurt, either.

I ran a short campaign set in the Anomalous Subsurface Environment setting, and found the world and the rules went together like peanut butter and chocolate. I used Tower of the Stargazer for the character funnel, and that also adapted perfectly. In the end, the high character mortality rates proved too derailing for the two-player group I was running, and so the campaign was put on deep-freeze. But I really want to return to DCC (and the ASE world) one day with a bigger group. It's the game that got me excited about open-ended sandbox-style "D&D" again, and I've only begun to plumb its depths.
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