Thursday, February 16, 2012

I am bi

A couple months ago I had an interesting conversation with Christopher O'Dell, the blogger behind Grognardling, when he commented on one of my posts:
I wasn't sure whether or not you wanted to self-identify as a "grognardling," but that [asking to be added to his blogroll]'s good enough for me.
The notion that I had to 'self-identify" struck me as a curious thing. I've never bought into the whole old-school vs. new-school  kerfuffle, because I've never really seen the point in chaining myself to one particular style. And that's when it struck me that I was bi.

Bi-school, that is. I take the best of both sides and I ignore what doesn't work. For example:

I understand, and approve of, the old-school notion that dice should never be a substitution for role-playing. You should have a character, not a collection of stats from which to roll dice; i.e. You are not your dice rolls.

On the other hand...

RPGs allow us to be what we are not, because escapism is fun. So what happens if I am an engineer with social anxiety who wants to play a bard? Or what if I want to play a wizard, but I'm not very bright?  It's one thing to suppress your abilities for a more challenging role, but it's impossible to play someone who is better than you without some kind of intervention, whether it is GM fiat or a probability of success based upon a die roll.

So in my games, I fuse the two. If you are playing a glib character, I want you to roll the dice and role-play what your character is saying, and I have the one modify the result of the other. That way, a crappy roll can be saved with a good line, or a good roll can save a foot-in-mouth maneuver -- although neither are as successful as what you'd get if you have a good line AND a good roll.

I like both aspects, and I fuse the two. I try to find a happy medium of role-playing and roll-playing.

I understand the frustration that people feel when they say "Elves are a race, not a class!" and I really like having oodles of options when I am making a character because they allow my to fine-tune my alter-ego just so. But at the same time, I understand that splat-bloat can be a real problem, especially when you're the GM trying to run a game, so it's perfectly reasonable to say "These books and no others."

I think this is a reasonable position, and yet, it's one of the rarest I've seen online. You're either old-school, new-school (or in the case of some weirdos, plaid), but never bi-school.

Aren't there any other bi gamers out there? Surely I'm not the only one who swings both ways like this.

Wait... I think Zak is bi-school, too. So that's two of us. Any others?


  1. I'll throw my hat in this ring. My D&D library consists of books from Mentzer's B/X and Keep on the Borderlands all the way through Type IV's "Essentials" line. I use them all in crafting the Microlite game I run for my kids. My blog is over at

  2. *raises hand*
    But, that be how I am with most things.  Lets take the best from all the worlds.  :3

    edit: hmmm... not the profile I meant to link...

  3. Yeah, I'm definitely bi-school tool. I play as much Pathfinder as OD&D and like both equally on their own merits.

  4. Just to make sure I was clear, the reason I talked about self-identifying as a "grognardling" is because I label my blogroll as "Fellow Grognardlings," so, by being on my blogroll, people who read my blog will reasonably conclude that you're a "grognardling." I don't want to push that label on anyone. I only put bloggers on my blogroll that ask to be put there- that self-identify as "grognardlings"- because I don't want to put the label "grognardling" on anyone without their permission.

    On the other hand, I'm happy to share the label with anyone, like you, who wants to share it, whether they're exclusively Old School or they mix Old and New. I hope that clears up any miscommunication. ^__^

  5. I dunno what the hell I am.

    I declared war on splatbooks more or less from setting out, although I'm not averse to a good compendium now and then.

    I admit to a trace of contempt when the shyest person I know is trying to play the slickest thing since Ventrue invented Presence, but I do feel sorry for them too, and we have Social stats for a reason.

    I don't know whether I turned up at the right time to be sufficiently old-school (apparently the 1990s are waaaay too late) or if playing 'Storyteller' games disqualifies me from the start.

    I just plays me games.  Maybe I'm pan-school.

    I think all this nonsense probably indicates I play D&D like you do, though?

    And I'll say it, because nobody else has yet - this is not what the title had led me to expect.  And yes, I know you planned it that way.  :p

  6. Yeah, I loot stuff from all sorts of different kinds of games for what I want. I've never been too worried about factional identification and all that. 

  7. Heh, I was thinking of myself as "middle school" as in middle of the road, but yes, I suppose bi would work just as well.  I tend to take whatever elements seem to work the best and graft them onto my play style and go with that.  I like the aethetic of old school, but I use what I like from whatever source fills the niche I need filled.

  8. 1.  Most misleading title ever!  I thought this was going to be a really fun post.  
    2.  "I'm pure straight old school."  You've killed your idea by making it sound gay.  (I'd have called you a daywalker.)
    3.  I do take the best of new school and old and combine them. (why wouldn't I?)  It's just that new school brings NOTHING to the table...and that's why I'm straight old school.  It already is the best of both worlds.  Yup.  

    You're kind kind of implying that old schoolers (and I guess new schoolers) are being dogmatic.  Taking "the best of both worlds" suggests that both sides are doing it wrong.  Both sides are already doing this...taking what they like and dropping the rest.  We've already made our choices.

    I do kinda like VtM but wouldn't touch 4e or 3e D&D. 

  9. Welcome out of the closet!  Er . . . the game closet, that is.  Watch out for the old Mousetrap game.  Yeah, it's up on the top shelf.  Um, no, you are going towards it . . . no . . . uh . . . [Crash Smash!] OOPS!  Now you have Rube Goldberg in your hair.  Sorry.

    - Ark

  10.  Sometimes RPGing is one of the few moments when really shy persons come out, and let their most insane inner drives take the helm. Especially when among close friends. The most outrageous toreador character I've ever met was played by a girl who outside the gaming table barely could sum up the courage to look people in the eye.

  11. Rules of Acquisition no.239: Never be afraid to mislabel your product. :)

  12. Provocative post title. I approve.

    I think that I could be tri-school: new, old, and alternative schools.

  13. I am most assuredly plaid. Plaid with mauve pokka dots.

  14. As Eddie Izzard says:  "Shag everyone, wear all their clothes, it's a great life."  ;)

  15. I may be bi-curious. While I encourage rping, I use the AD&D Charisma Reaction Adj. to help adjudicate social interactions. I also like a smattering of Feat type stuff, but it's rather off the cuff and free-form: "You wanna be a beastmaster? No problem. You can start with an Animal Friendship kind of thing."

  16. So is old school considered to be just number crunching and dice rolling, and new school is all about roleplaying and the story? I guess that makes me bi as well-- I've frequently played characters that have abilities that I don't. They'd be able to think of solutions that I couldn't, or socially maneuver someone in a way I can't. But there are times when my character is in line with my natural talents and the character shines. So... yeah. I like there being both components to make the game better. :)

  17. I think in many ways I belong to both schools, and neither. I like simple systems, but I also like story-gaming and am not afraid of being perceived as a "railroader".

    As a DM, I have always used dice rolls in conjunction with player ability.
    Faced with a puzzle? Roll against intelligence to see how many clues you get. Have high wisdom? Roll to see how well you understand the mindset of your opponent.(What you do with that information is up to you). Have high charisma? Indeed... tell me the essence of what you are saying, and roll to see how well it comes out. 

  18.  No, that's not accurate. Any OSR folks want to tackle this before I attempt to answer? I might get it wrong.

  19. If I'm implying, you're stating it explicitly with comments like "new school brings NOTHING to the table".

    Also, the belief that gay is bad, and therefore to be used as a synonym for bad things, is one of the most backwards, insulting, and intolerant attitudes ever.

    So yeah, this is pretty much a summation of all the worst aspects of the OSR.

  20. I will jack up your shitty 1+1 HD fighter with an Attack of Opportunity! So yeah, I guess I'm bi.

  21. You were just as explicit as I was.  

    But I didn't say that gay was bad.  Just that straight males wont do it.  Just like they generally wont wear pink, carry purses, wear skirts, etc.

  22. Ah, so only "real men" play Old School? And everyone else is sissy-pansy-candyass?

  23. Well, I like 3e with some AD&D sensibilities. I also like plain old AD&D as well as Castles & Crusades. Guess I'm bi?

  24. I'll give it a whirl.  

    Old school = TSR D&D.  Draw a maze on some graph paper and run your friends through it.  It's a blast.  Be creative.

    New school = WotC "D&D".  3 to 5 combats strung together with some "blah blah blah".  

  25. Okay Guest, I will say this once, just to be clear.

    My post was about seeking compromise between two different schools of gaming thought. Your comments, on the other hand, are about advancing your agenda that Old School is always awesome and New School always sucks.

    That line of argument is not relevant to this post, and therefore is not welcome here. If you cannot contribute to the discussion in a constructive manner, or continue to spout rhetoric behind an anonymous handle, then your posts will be moderated.

  26. Here are the differences as I understand them.

    Old School:
    * Let the dice fall where they may
    * Nonlinear encounters and objectives
    * Sandbox over Story campaigns
    * Combat as war (in the sense of strategy)
    * Player knowledge, experience and perception is more important than character abilities
    * GM is seen as an adversary

    New School:
    * Dramatic necessity is more important than random dice rolls
    * Story and character development are important
    * An increasing difficulty as one progresses through the story
    * Combat as sport (in the sense of strategy)
    * What the character knows, feels and perceives is more important than what its player does
    * GM is seen as a storyteller or impartial referee

  27. And it's awesome when that happens (my mate Ian is normally quite a docile beast, but he plays an amazingly smooth, manipulative smuggler-rogue-backstabber type when he's in the mood).  My point should have been that it's kind of painful to watch when it doesn't.

    Consider the absent 'and failing' appended where it needs to be.  You're right.  Didn't think it through far enough.  My comments are brought to you by lack of sleep, so I will occasionally put my foot in it.

  28. I don't know that the GM/Referee should be seen as an adversary in Old School gaming. I think that the term "Impartial Referee" is actually a perfect description of the role in Old School terms (the only way a Sandbox works well is if there is no "lust for result" on the part of the Referee). Other than that, this seems pretty accurate. There's a lot of nuance involved, of course, which doesn't come through well in lists like these.

    Also, I think that a link to the discussion of "Combat as Sport vs. Combat as War discussion is in order.

  29. Hello, my name is Thag...  And I am bi too.

    There are times when the chasm between the roll players and role players seemed too vast to bridge.

    It's also when I discovered that the GM job was real work.

  30. I'm straight, I wear a kilt.  My second favorite revolver has pink grips.  A sporran is as close to a purse as makes no never mind.  I endorse Erin's choice of words.  I guess it's because I am secure in who I am; which is what real old school men are.  My sense of self is not harmed in the least with the use of 'bi' to describe the gaming style that I've been using on the table top for almost thirty years.


  32. I thought that was a really concise and insightful explanation of the difference!  Old is about the maze, not always but that's the core of it (and I like this).  I've played enough pathfinder modules to recognize the formula: 3 - 5 combats strung together with some fluff (and I dislike this).  There's aren't talking points I'm reading off a prompter or something.  These are observations based on experience.  Accusing me of spouting rhetoric is putting a weirdly hostile spin on it.   
    You asked for old schoolers to define the difference between the new and the old.  It isn't a line of argument; I was being informative.  A compromise style might be: 3 - 5 set piece combats in a megadungeon setting.   
    But whatever.  If it's not welcome here, then it's not welcome.

  33. I'm 40 y/o (13 days ago, at the time of this post) and have been playing D&D since my 13th summer (and 30+ other PnP RPGs since then).

    For the most part, I've been playing with the same folks, off and on, since that summer. Over the years we've played the 'latest edition' while still maintaining aspects from the previous ones. I don't see how we could not do this, just about every game we play has at least one, some times dozens of house rules or rules from previous editions =).

  34. Hell yes.  I'll play or run pretty much anything.

  35. I know this a bit late, but I just discovered you through the gun blogging community.  I'd say you're far from alone in your stance.  There's a few games out there (Seven Seas for one) that have rules for rewarding good roleplaying with role bonuses.  As for myself, I've had loads of fun dice chucking through a D&D hack'n'slash as well as sessions of Amber Diceless, so I guess I'm right there with you.


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