Monday, December 13, 2010

Wherein I Betray The OSR (Well, Just A Little Bit)

I work with this dude I'm gonna call "The Oatmeal Kid".  The Oatmeal Kid used to play D&D with some of his homies -- a couple of whom I know.  He still has some dice and stuff, and plenty of good memories.

The Kid also has a son.  We'll call him Bonesy, because this is my blog dammit and I'm listening to Jean-Luc Ponty and so get outta my face and also that's what his dad calls him.  Lad's 11 years old.  Finds his dad's dice.  "Hey, Dad, what's this, eh?  Eh?  Eh?" happens, and BOOM the kids wants to get his game on.

Swank times, sez I.

But I thought THIS.
So The Oatmeal Kid comes up to me and asks about the state of D&D, and how can he get Bonesy set up to game, and so on.  Cheerful ambassador that I am, I hook The Kid (the Oatmeal one) up with links a-plenty to some retro-clones.  I gave him some dice and stuff.  Good to go, right?

Well, Bonesy musta dug it all because today The Oatmeal Kid told me that he and Mrs. Oatmeal want to buy the boy some D&D swag for Xmas.  He asked me, "I was thinking of getting him the fourth edition.  What do you think?"

Right then, my stomach twisted.  I was -- well, remember that time you were on Corumna Alpha III and you had to nuke all the chromazebras to ensure that the atmosphere stayed mucus-free?  It was just like that.  'Cause I knew what the boy had to have.

Reluctantly, I zapped The Kid a link to WotC's page for The Red Box That Isn't The Red Box No Matter What Color It Is.  I tried to find him a freely-downloadable quick-start, but no go.  So I wrote him this e-mail:

Most companies publish a free "Quick Start" product, usually downloadable, which teaches basic rules and gives you a taste so you can try before you buy.  Not so Wizards of the Coast, sadly.  I'd refer you to some other commercially-available games that do have such quick-starts, but here's the thing:

They're not D&D. 

In other words, 4th Edition (4E) is The New Hotness.  It's what's In Stores Now.  It's The Brand Name.  His homies are more likely to have heard of (or be playing) D&D in the form of 4E. 

4E is not the D&D you played with Erko and your pals.  That stuff (Erko ran 1st and 2nd Eds. of AD&D back then, I know for a fact) was born of the free-wheeling spirit of the late 70s and early 80s.  4E is much more guided by Magic: The Gathering and other card games, with more rigid rules, more pre-programed options and more...

...fuck, it makes me sad to talk about it. 

But then, before I clicked SEND, I added the following:

Your choice.  You know the kid.  My suggestion?  Give him the WotC Starter Set and a copy of the latest Castles & Crusades Quick Start, and tell him: "This red box is how they play it now, but this Castles & Crusades stuff is how the co-creator of D&D played his own damn game before he died". 

I don't know how this is gonna play out, but there it is:  I gave him the choices.