Somebody in a comment someplace used that word to describe the way some folks (ok, it was James M., but that isn’t really the point of this post, and James M. was just an exemplar not a paragon) will wax poetic about the early days of OD&D and the true literary roots of the OSR, OD&D, D&D, and AD&D…
I just kind of realized why I don’t get it.
For some of these guys it’s about them finally reading the books in Appendix N and “grokking it” – for others it’s about capturing an imagined style of game or campaign based on old notes of campaigns, patchwork lore gleaned from old interviews and articles, and talking to a few of the old Grognards still left.
I have to say, the map is not the landscape.
Now, part of this realization on my part is because I’m a freak of nature that reads faster than most everyone I’ve ever met. This was great in grad school, and a host of other areas, but made life kind of crummy back when I couldn’t afford to buy books at the rate I read them. FWIW, I can read an average paperback on a couple of hour commute into or out of Chicago on the Metra – I could explain the science of why my brain can do this sort of, but just take my word for it. Combine this with a home, growing up, which had parents who were scifi and fantasy readers (as well as just bibliophiles in general) and I had read probably half of what was in Appendix N before I picked up any RPG at all.
I was playing RPG’s and picking up older books off the shelves of the house long before I was spending my own money on books in any real way. And what I was reading for inspiration and to help me be a better DM wasn’t fiction… it was non-fiction.
I was reading Davis’ Life on a Medieval Barony (which I would love to get another copy of, I liberated it from my parents, and it was lost in a move years ago). When I had money, and wanted to figure out economics for my game world, after haunting my town and local community college library I went out about Vols 2 and 3 of Fernand Braudel’s Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century because it gave me the best knowledge I could find of early economic development (I’d already figured out that in a world with magic, things probably would quite be locked into a feudal stage of development) – I never bought the first volume because it was too much money and I’ve regretted it ever since. They still sit my shelf.
So, I think the real reason I don’t get some of the OSR is because even though I got my “start” at respectably early age – I never had that same experience of discovery that many folks had of “old” scifi or fantasy either as that initial part of the D&D exposure or a current later interest in its roots. I had already read and digested most of what are considered the cornerstones of the OSR literary canon.
I enjoyed them, but I have never held them up as particularly iconic or revelatory – any more than I would hold Eddings or Brust up as such. Actually, I’d be tempted to hold Brust up simply for an amazing literary conceit (two actually) that he’s managed to pull off consistently, but not as iconic to the genre of “gaming fiction”. Even at that age or in that time I was more interested in “style” or “flavor” and in trying to evoke that in my game world, not hewing to some literary canon (either of rules or of literature).
Wow, that’s all a bit of a late-night ramble…