A while back, during the comments on Google+ over my 'open letter', I mentioned what I'd been playing in RPGs back in the day. I got an interesting comment on that, which I think really points up the huge cultural gap that exists between me and 'modern' gaming.
I mentioned that I've never really 'played D&D'; I've played "something called Blackmoor with Dave, something called Greyhawk with Gary, and something called Tekumel with Phil"(Note One). Back then - and this was a few years ago, remember, and back then none of these three world settings had built up the mass of materials that they have today. There was, forty years ago, a relative dearth of published information on these worlds, let alone the plethora of sets of rules that we now enjoy in our hobby.
One had to 'explore'. Get up, walk around, ask questions, have adventures. It was taken as a given that we'd all read a lot of the same books and seen the same movies; see also Gary's 'Appendix N'. We all knew what we were supposed to be about, and so we sharpened our swords and our wits and got on with our adventures. "Doing it by the book" was impossible; the book - and the game rules - hadn't been written yet. The GMs of the day came up with adventures and worlds that they were set in, and we played our Faferds, Grey Mousers, Conans, and Belits in these new worlds with all the gusto and swashbuckling vigor that we could.
It was, as I've suggested, 'lighting in a bottle'. We learned to run our own campaigns by being apprentices, and we in turn had our own students. And we didn't have much worry about our roots in what's now called 'wargaming'; we moved from one to the other seamlessly, with games being 'sized' as needed by the events as they unfolded. Even the term of art, 'the campaign', is taken from the kind of gaming that we did; we played princes and kings and generals, and off we went on adventures. Xenophon's "Anabasis" was one of our 'adventure paths', for example.
I think that the biggest difference between our 'pre-school' gaming and today's hobby is the shift in reading habits I've seen in gamers. People don't read books; they read games. Now, this does sell a lot of game books, and does keep game stores in business, but the 'books' section of my FLGS is noted for what I'd call 'a lack of turnover' in the stock.
Well, all right. I can understand this. It does astonish me when gamers visit the game room and are baffled as to why I have lots and lots of books on all sorts of subjects and very few sets of rules on the shelves. They don't read, and they do not understand why I do.
So, next up: Gary, Dave. Phil, and books...
Note One: It's not even my phrase;
Chirine: "Dave, what are we playing?"
Dave: "Oh, something called 'Blackmoor'."