In some quarters of the Old School Renaissance gaming sphere, the words “story” and “plot” are denoted as a crappy, boring and utterly despicable way of running a game.
The way of Deviltry.
And reading texts like Matt Finch’s “Old School Primer” and some blogs, you get the impression that everyone played mega-random hexcrawls “back then”.
We must have been so un-OSR, because we never did that back in the day (well, maybe the “Isle of Dread” counts as a hexcrawl…?), and neither did any of my other gaming buddies from other groups.
Another interesting thing is that this discourse is limited to the OSR scene. I follow (and sometimes even get to play) a bunch of other gaming systems, and this topic has never ever emerged, not even in the Classic Traveller forums. Why is Old School D&D the only game where story and plot gets the boot? In other games this is so a non-issue. What does get the boot in most games is railroading.
I get that this is a reaction towards the extensive railroading increasingly seen in modules from the 2nd and 3rd edition (can’t say about 4th, since I never read those books). And if railroading is the problem at hand here, I’m not sure that tossing out story and plot in favor of totally random gonzo-gaming is the right way to handle things. Yes, random hexcrawls can be fun, but to be honest, I get bored of them quite quickly, just as of megadungeons. Play them for a change, yes, but not all the time.
I’d rather play and write adventures with a well conceived story and plot, but instead of relying on random rolls all the time, instead be flexible and respect the decisions the players make even if they totally crash the story behind the scenes. Of course, random table rolls, random encounters and wandering monsters have their place. If they are customized to the story, and if they make at least some sense in the greater world.
So, I’m keeping my plots and stories. And a healthy bunch of random tables for various situations. And an open and flexible mind when I GM. But I will never, ever join the ranks of OSR-talibanism.
Of course, I missed out both 2e, 3e and 4e, as I stopped playing D&D just before 2e hit the shelves. Maybe that’s why I’m not buying the random hexcrawly thing.
But I was there, in the early years, so you don’t get to tell me “how it was done back then”.
And yes. I’m Old School.
Ask my kids.