Monday, 11 October 2010

The British Old School Revival? Lets see?

I came across this blog article courtesy of another blogger. It does an excellent job of describing the history of the RPG industry in Britain, even going so far as to point out why the British Gaming industry took the direction it did.

My following comments will make a hell of a lot more sense if you take the time to read the original article (on Fighting Fantasist - heres another link)) first.

While I myself lived through many of the same events as the Fighting Fantasist - and can empathise closely with the nostalgic sentiments contained within the article, by it's strictest definition I would have to class myself as a hybrid British-American style old school gamer. Or even an American-style old School Gamer, rather than a "British style" one. At least, going by the argument presented within the article I'm responding to. Hell, before I read the artictle I hadn't even thought there was a difference!

While Fighting Fantasy, Warhammer and WFRP have all certainly influenced my preferred, dark, gritty, melancholy DM style, I can't deny that American games such as 0D&D had (and have) a far greater greater role in my gaming history and development than they did for the blogs author.

For one thing, I was introduced to Fighting Fantasy and Games Workshop through the red box D&D edition. Not the other way around as the article suggests is the case with most UK gamers. In fact, I stumbled across Glasgow's Games Workshop store in Queen Street because I was desperately trying to track down the "Dragon and George" wargames store (which did a sideline in RPG's and RPG Miniatures) that I'd stumbled across a few years before while out shopping with my favorite aunt and uncle. As it was, a box Of GW oringinal plastic Space Marines (circa 1988), a box of lead Haelequins and the 2nd ed Ad&D Players Handbook were the eventual result of that happy accident.

Yes, artists such as Blanche (and those other greats that featured in the original Warhammer 40k Rogue Trader book) and Pat Mills (of Slaine and 2000AD fame - actually, he might have been the writer rather than the artist, but either way he was still a huge influence) were more influential on my gaming -and fiction- style than the original TSR artists (whose style I never really warmed to). Yes I still have every 2000Ad comic from issue 500 right up until the mid 2500's (it was a weekly comic). Yes I cherish my treasured White Dwarf magazine collection and still discuss classic scenarios, like the Dark Rise Over Irrilian mini-campaign (ground-breaking for it's time) and the Druid's Grove with my fellow old fogey's. But even so, when I think of Old School, it's still the Red Box, 1st ed Ad&D (2nd ed had just come along when I started gaming. Most local gamers I knew resisted the edition shift for a while) Harnmaster and RuneQuest 3rd ed that I think of first.

Not Fighting Fantasy, not Lone Wolf, not Judge Dredd, not WFRP. And sure as hell not Chainsaw-bloody-warrior.

Though they all pretty awesome games, I have to admit. And I did like killing zombies with my chainsaw. Hoo-Yah!

In any case, it's interesting to see the development of gaming in Britain from another point of view, from another Brit. It's just that in this case our particular gaming experiences over that same time period have been so different. But then, I was only 8 years old ("I'm nearly nine!") in 1988. Perhaps it was because I seem to have come across gaming so much later in the decade than Coopdevil, Fighting Fantasist's author. It may very well even be because I was younger (I haven't checked Coopdevils profile yet so I'm not really sure of his age, but I suspect he'll be a bit older than me) during this formulative period for the gaming industry. Were TSR and other non-GW licensed games more prevalent in Britain in my early days, as oppossed to his? Possibly. GW (and White Dwarf) started to become much more GW-centric a year or two after I bought my first issue of White Dwarf magazine (Number 86 I think it was. The featured adventure was "A Murder in Lofton". See? It really was as good as the article says). Or were American games and supplements such as those produced by TSR simply easier to get a hold of in Glasgow than elsewhere in Britain? Frankly, I'm not sure. But I'd love to hear other peoples opinions -from both side of the pond- on why our respective outlooks could be so different. Likewise, if anyone can point me at similar essays on British Gaming History and the "British OCR Revivial", I'd appreciate it. I'd love to take a look.


Coopdevil said...

Yep, you got me I was 36 this year! Probably the youngest you can be and still remember the first of the Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wold books during the huge early 80s craze.

One day I will have to do a follow-up and point that out I think!

Dangerous Brian said...

Ah I was wondering! That probably does explain why our viewpoints and experiences are so similar, and yet so different.
Thank you for writing your article, I enjoyed it immensely. I had never even considered that there might be an alternative "Old School" philosopy in Britain. It really set me to thinking about what (and who) my influences really are.

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