I need to say a few words, just to get something out of the way: I know I told you before that I’d do a review for “Annalise.” I still plan to, but it won’t be right now. I don’t want you to think that “Annalise” isn’t a great game (because it is), I just feel that a play-test is necessary before I get into a full review of the game. I want to make sure I give the game all the credit it deserves. My current gamer lineup prefers to play classic fantasy and science fiction games, and therefore won’t go anywhere near another vampire game. Thats fine by me, it just means that you might notice a trend in the types of games I review (the type that my friends want to play OR the types of games I can trick them into playing). Now that that’s out of the way…

Over the past week I haven’t just been working, I’ve been doing what every college senior does on a thursday night; I’ve been curling up with my grognards. You may be wondering why a youthful rapscallion like myself would spend time learning a form of gaming that emerged a few years before I was even born. To be honest, the simplicity and “sandbox” components of early edition games absolutely thrill me. To my friends and I, gaming has always been about the role-playing first and foremost, rules are there only to provide a frame for our stories. Retro clones are bringing back some of this old school magic (or so they say, I wasn’t there back in the day, so I don’t really know). Some  of the titles I’ve been really digging lately are “Swords and Wizardry,” “Labyrinth Lord,” “Dark Dungeons,” “Open Quest,” and theres many many more. Even better, a lot of these clones are affordable if not free in PDF form. I’ve been tearing through these retro clones for months now, and I’m only just beginning to get a grasp of how these golden age games really differ in feel and intent from the major titles offered today. For me, this classic approach to game mastering is an aesthetic I find to be entirely satisfying.

Two books that are really jumping out at me right now are Goblinoid Games’ “Starships and Spacemen” and “Realms of Crawling Chaos.” The rumors I heard about SnS’s star trekian overtones were confirmed after I read about the “nerve pinch,” “teleporters,” and the game’s emphasis on starship gameplay (as well as the inescapable “Captain Jerk”). I’ve always loved sci-fi in RPG’s, but still this game seems somehow fresh to me (having grown up with Star Wars D20). As a youngster by gaming standards, there is something mythic, incomprehensible even, about the gaming golden age these games embody. I can’t help but wonder where the industry is really going right now. Self publishing is pushing the industry, rivaling even major companies. It’s an exciting time to be a gamer – it feels as though the industry is rocking on a precipice.

As a game master, the cross compatibility between these products is a major selling point for me. As for my player’s, you’d have to ask them… But no matter how hard I press other games, none of them have wanted to play anything else besides “SW/ON” (Stars Without Numbers) for the past several weeks.

The other day I read Matthew Finch’s “A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming,” (author of “Swords and Wizardry”) and was quite impressed. Finch manages to summarize the very facets of “old school” style that have evaded me for so long. As a forum lurker I had a general impression of what these games we’re like, but Finch presented the fundamentals in a way that was both logically and tactfully put.

Even as someone who would consider himself a game veteran (for playing RPG’s for around a decade). The old school renaissance serves to humble me. I love all kinds of RPG’s… but let’s see how long it will be before you see me writing about a game that isn’t under the “Open Gaming License.”

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