Happy 2010 everybody!
I felt shitty after the Xmas and decided to take some time off in order not to cramp my style any further...
But now, I'm back! Hopefully with a vengeance!
During my week off, I was thinking about my main problem with this blog - the fact that after almost two months, I'm still not running an old-school DnD game! Why is it so?
The answer is (unluckily) simple: I can't form a gaming group. It's not that I haven't been trying. I think everyone here knows how difficult it is to get a group of nice people (who have lives and problems of their own) together and play but here in Polandland, it seems twice as difficult! At least for me!
The reason for this, is the fact that the gaming culture developed differently than in the west. Let me elaborate...
The hobby arrived in Poland in the second half of the eighties and bloomed in the early nineties. The late beginnings shouldn't be a surprise, only with the fall of so-called communism and the introduction of the free market was it possible for small publishing companies to emerge and game materials be printed and freely imported from the west.
The golden age of Polish gaming could be linked to the appearance of the first gaming magazine called Magia i Miecz (Sword & Sorcery) in 1993. The first issues were devoted solely to publishing the first* Polish RPG game called Krysztaly Czasu (Crystals of Time), which was an extremely rule heavy AD&D clone.
Over the course of time, the magazine became more and more popular, covering more systems and the subjects linked to gaming, fantasy and sf. In 1995 Warhammer Fantasy Role Play was published, becoming a default "entry" system for the next 10 years. Not long after, other popular systems followed - all the World of Darkness, Call of Cthulhu, Earthdawn, Cyberpunk 2020 and finally even AD&D (which was in house print circulation for a long time, but was published quite late)...
This is where the going might get weird for all the dungeoneers - D&D never made it into the Polish public consciousness... And what I mean is that, in Poland, when people who have vaguely heard about the hobby want to address the subject, they will usually speak of "playing war hammers" or something like that. Of course, DnD is acknowledged by the gaming community as the ancestor, but is generally looked down upon (along with Warhammer) as simplistic and "not-serious", sometimes even addressed as "primitive"...
To be fair, this has changed a bit since in 2004 the Polish edition of 3.e, followed by the new Warhammer, were published. But that introduced a new generation of gamers, rather than changed the attitude of the "old' ones.
But back to the point!
This short outline is meant to give you some background on why I find it so difficult to explain why oldschool DnD is cool.
Because the tradition of playing DnD does not exist, few people understand what kind of atmosphere I want to invoke! And explaining isn't so easy! Usually when I get to the point of explaining how OSR postulates using rule light game and the flow of the story/adventure over loads of pseudo mimesis, people either look at me like I'm crazy**, or ask why not use "a better rule lite-system like FATE" (which, btw. I like a lot). Not many people see the old school elegance of the DnD rules and fall for their charm. In fact I'm close to explaining it by playing people this vid, which in my opinion really captures the spirit of OSR.
Finally there is a problem of the Polish Cult of Role-playing/acting. Somehow the presumption that good playing is synonymous with good acting is extremely strong. Few people here understand that good acting during the game doesn't stand in opposition to being silly, introducing Tables of What Happens When You Are Drunk and keeping in mind that what you are doing is playing an artificial construct of rules according to which you get Xp for gold just because it's cool.
So yeah, getting people to play is difficult... Especially that I have an adventure laying around for some time now and feel that both I and fishlemons are getting restless!
Maybe I'm just trying to make it too perfect! I really don't know now... Maybe I should run it gonzo-style like Zak does? But for that you still need a set of right people, or at least so it seems to me...
Recently I've even started thinking about running a solo introductory adventure for fishlemons (mainly because of this post). Still, it's gonna be her first time and I'm not sure if that's a good way of introducing her to the hobby, which after all is mainly a social activity.
*the question of what system was really the first polish language one remains disputable. The first officially published game was entitled Oko Yrrhadesa (Yrrhade's Eye, this is how the 1995 book version looked like), it came out as an article in the 1990 issue of the magazine Fenix. However, there are legends about first drafts of Time Crystals and a home translation of AD&D Player's Handbook circulating as early as 1987.
**somehow "realistic"rules are extremely popular in Poland and the belief that mechanics should describe the game as accurately as possible is quite widespread. On the other hand all the oldschool random tables, which I find entertaining on the meta game level, are discarded as something primitive!
all art by Jarosław Musiał