Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ornithology of Old School Gamers

One of my favorite issues of Dragon Magazine was released in 1989. I know that for many gamers that’s a year that will go down in infamy since it marked the release of 2nd Edition. Issue 144, however, had nothing to do with that. It was a “humor” issue packed mostly with gag articles such as “Cheating Made Easy” by Jefferson Swycaffer and “Cheating Made Even Easier” by Spike Jones. Both articles had my gaming group testing their theories, filing our dice to roll 6’s every time, etc. (nevermind the fact that our whole gaming group was doing it together, in the same room, making the “loaded” dice useless…we did it for fun not to actually use in games).

One of the articles in that issue fascinated me to no end: “Field-Guide to Game Convention Ornithology” by Skip Williams. In the article, Skip went through all the different types of gamers, categorizing just about every type you’d encounter at a convention or even just around your kitchen table. It held my attention because it was the first time I’d ever seen such a taxonomical approach to gamers. In reading, I learned about rules lawyers, Monty Haul players, and all the rest. It was uncanny how the article absolutely nailed every player in my gaming group.

Recently, I’ve been wishing I had an article like that to “decode” the various species of “old school” gamers. I’m constantly running into folks (mostly at my FLGS) that describe themselves as “old school” gamers who seem anything but. Here’s my taxonomy…

Oldus Geezerus: Gamers who describe themselves as “old school” simply because they’re advanced in years. Nevermind the fact that they began playing modern games (the modern way) just last year, if you’re over 30, the Oldus Geezerus says you’re “old school.”

Gamus Geneologicus: Gamers who describe themselves as “old school” because they’ve been playing since the White Box (or, fill in whatever ancient edition you like). Nevermind the fact that they currently play 4E, according to the Gamus Geneologicus they’re “old school” because they’ve been playing various iterations of D&D since the early 70s.

Crabbius Maximus: Gamers who describe themselves as “old school” because they hate the current edition of D&D supported by the current license holder(s). So, those who cling to 3.0, 3.5, or even Pathfinder are “old school” because they reject what is currently “new school.”

Neverus Satisfiedus: A close cousin to the Crabbius Maximus, the Neverus Satisfiedus refuses to acknowledge games printed in this decade as “old school” (because old wargamers consider chainmail players new school, who consider white box players new school, who consider Holmes players new school, who consider Moldvay players new school, etc. etc. etc.).

Ancientus Collectionis: Gamers who describe themselves as “old school” because they take pride in only playing old or out of print games. Often mistaken for the Crabbius Maximus or the Neverus Satisfiedus, the Ancientus Collectionis nevertheless relishes his tattered collection(s) of old books and knows you have to play games at least two decades old to be genuinely “old school.”

Gygaxius Originalis: Gamers who describe themselves as “old school” because they enjoy playing the game the way it was originally envisioned by Gygax (and sometimes, if they’re charitable, also Arneson). For these players, Gary’s rule is law (especially his rules about there being no absolutely binding rules).

I’m sure there are lots of others out there as well as various “mixed breeds” of those noted above. Like the article that inspired it, this post is just supposed to be fun. I know there are no hard and fast rules for what qualifies as “old school.” So, what kind of “old school” player are you?

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