To those who don’t know: Lewis Pulsipher has been around in RPGs for a long time.
If you open up the AD&D Fiend Folio, you’ll see his name credited to monsters like the Elemental Princes of Evil and the Poltergeist. He contributed articles to Dragon magazine back in the 1980s (one of my favorites being “Be Aware and Take Care” from issue #79). And I’ve kept up with his blog over the years. Interesting stuff. He brings with him years of insights when it comes to the hobby and game design.
Then I read his recent post on EN World: Consequences and Reward in RPGs, and wasn’t sure what to think.
It reiterated and summarized much of what he has said on his blog:
- Role Playing Games these days just aren’t like what they used to be.
- Back in the day, consequences mattered in RPGs. Now only rewards matter.
- There’s little or no conflict in today’s mainstream RPGs, just story. Losing and character death isn’t much of an option.
It sounded very much OSR. The only thing missing was “rulings versus rules” or “I prefer an old school ‘rules lite’ system.
However, the article derailed when he compared modern trends with trends in tabletop gaming. You’ve probably heard them before: now-a-days kids get trophies for participation not excellence. And so on. Et cetera. Ad nauseum. Because of this, games are now reward-based, rather than consequence based. They are no longer challenging.
Some EN Worlders certainly didn’t like this comparison. The term “old geezer arose” as they set out to debunk Pulsipher’s claims.
And guess what?
I used to buy into Pulsipher’s philosophy and the general philosophy of the Old School Renaissance. It’s why I started the old blog d20 Dark Ages, and contributed my fair share of rallying against newer editions of D&D. It was hip. It was the “in” thing at the time.
Not so much anymore. The article served as further evidence why the OSR has played itself out, and may have not had much of an argument to begin with, just a lot of questions and observations as to the state of the hobby and why they didn’t like it.
Any problem they had with D&D “X” edition were soon solved with games like Swords & Wizardry, OSRIC, or the venerable Castles and Crusades.
That’s one reason I really liked the OSR. Some amazing material came out during its hey-day for those who preferred “old school” D&D and RPGs.
RPGs have changed… for the better. Who really cares about “reward-based” gaming versus “consequence gaming.”
Now you can whatever edition Dungeons & Dragons you want. Go find something that you and your friends like. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was great for its time, but now you’ve got OSRIC. The rules are clarified and streamlined. The same thing goes with Swords & Wizardry and Original Dungeons & Dragons. If you don’t like D&D 5e, go play Pathfinder…
…or the hundreds of other RPGs now available out there.
And if that doesn’t work, you write your d20 heartbreaker under the Open Gaming License.
And if you believe that mainstream RPGs now-a-days exist in some sort of flawed state, because its they’re “reward-based” rather than “consequence-based,” or they focus too much on story, well guess what? They’re here to stay.
So here’s my question (to Mr. Pulsipher or whomever has problem with the current state of modern RPGs:
If mainstream RPGs are “reward-based” (perhaps as a reaction/reflection of what modern society wants, or perhaps not), and you prefer a “consequence-based” RPG system (every edition of D&D is available) and are playing that, then what is the real issue here?
What’s the real problem and what’s the solution?