Mad Ramblings From a Gaming Nostalgist
by Trampas Whiteman

What do you think of when you hear the term ‘grognard’? Is it someone who is bitter about new gaming books? Does this person hate new things? Or is it a badge of honor? I’m certain that each one of us could offer a slightly different take on what it means, but the fact remains that the word can come with a certain amount of baggage.

Lately, I’ve been referring to myself as a ‘gaming nostalgist.’ For those of you who would remind me that ‘nostalgist’ isn’t a word, I will simply remind you that I am an American and we Americans have been bastardizing language for far longer than anyone. So nyah!

So what does being a gaming nostalgist mean? Well, a nostalgist is a grognard minus the negative connotations. We nostalgists are proud of our origins and seek to keep a bit of that with us. We make no apologies, yet we also aren’t going to poo-poo over everyone else’s fun. We’re the folks who play Star Wars Saga Edition, yet still love our old West End Games d6 Star Wars books – and use them. We’re the folks who play Castles & Crusades, and use both AD&D and d20 versions of D&D in our games. We are not ashamed of our origins, nor do we condemn them. We celebrate those origins.

We’re an odd breed of gamer, having the ability to love the new and the old all at the same time. It also means that we sometimes have a hard time in fandom. We’ve got one advantage in that we can work with a diverse group of gamers, but it can also be difficult working with gamers who are adamant about their own point of view. I have a hard time dealing with fans that have to rain on AD&D’s parade, yet I also have a hard time dealing with folks who have to be down on d20. Despite AD&D’s flaws, did you not enjoy the game at the time? It’s a perfectly workable system and people still play it, so why spoil their fun? For that matter, why rain on anyone’s parade for having fun in a different way than you? Maybe I’m more of a story-driven gamer, but if Joe Gamer prefers a tactical minis-based game, why should I spoil his fun?

Being a nostalgist also means that you have your own style of play. Do your 4th edition games carry with them a 2nd edition feel? This reminds me of Necromancer Games, whose tag-line of “3rd edition rules, 1st edition feel” really set the tone for all their products. It was a formula for success, as evidenced with their highly-successful Tome of Horrors. I know that as I go forward in the world of Dragonlance, I will always keep the feel from the Margaret Weis Productions books with me.

A nice mix of the old and new can lead to a lot of fun in your games. Celebrate your origins, but don’t be afraid to try new things. Respect others. Above all, play the game your way.

Comments (4)

AkiDecember 15th, 2008 at 1:52 pm

RQ3 for life. Glorantha is still a great world and although the rules are somewhat broken, they are still fine. Although, admittedly, my gaming experience only goes back about 21 years, so I’m not sure I qualify as a ‘nostalgist’.

GrungydanDecember 19th, 2008 at 1:16 pm

Amen, brutha. My hat of d02 might no no limit, but more power to the people that like it. :)

I have the same feeling though, with respect to the fact that new rules don’t automatically mean that the old ones are bad, and liking old games doesn’t mean I can’t or just won’t like new ones. That happens to be the case for me with D&D specifically, but that’s not because the new games are “bad” in some way. They just aren’t for me. But a few of my favorite games are very recent, and some of them are nearly as old as I am. I think a lot of new players stand to learn a lot from reading and learning the old systems, and that a lot of true grognards are missing out on a lot by not checking out anything published after 1980.

LordVreegDecember 29th, 2008 at 5:26 pm

Well, I certainly qualify. I freely admit I had enough problems in the older systems to make my own a quarter century ago, but I also constantly seek the better story-driven game, no matter what system or setting. My biggest episodes of looking down my nose deals with immature games, NOT systems.

Lord_of_SorrowJanuary 8th, 2009 at 2:53 am

DH, I agree with your statements here, particularly about the “having fun” aspect of gaming, no matter the rules. I, however, am not a gaming nostalgist…

… I started with D&D 3.0, and the rise of the d20 system. What’s truly strange however, is that I had an urge to find the origins of my chosen hobby, to understand those origins, and ultimately understand where my hobby stood today.

To be perfectly candid: I prefer those origins. There’s something about them that really calls to me. Unfortunately, the modern incarnation doesn’t grab me.

I really wish it did. But there have been various events that turned me off to the company (one of those being the cancellation of a certain license) – and further things (like the digital initiative) that crushed my interest in the product. As you pointed out in another blog post, we must all vote with our dollar.

I’ve gotten my hands on the newest edition of D&D through friends who have invested in it. I don’t know if I’ll be able to enjoy it. There was a certain feel to the older games that still does wonders for my imagination. They inspire me. The newest edition does not.

There are undoubtedly others who are greatly inspired by the newest edition, as I’m sure that there are people who genuinely like the MechWarrior collectible game – and I’m not going to tell them that they can’t enjoy it, but I’m certainly not going to play.

I’ll stick to my complicated critical hits system, and silly Punching and Kicking tables, thank you very much. ;)

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