There’s obviously a lot of nostalgia wrapped up in the Old School Gaming scene – I mean, I openly admit that the reason I prefer Top Secret over Top Secret / SI is almost 100% nostalgia (it pains me to admit that just about everything in SI runs better than the original).
For a lot of the OSR scene, we play our “original” edition of D&D – that game that was our breakthrough into the world of D&D and in most cases into RPGs as a whole.
My favourite edition of D&D (hands down) is the 1981 B/X set. It is 100% my jam. It is so open and refreshing even now. And I think that’s the feeling that I associate with it because by the time it came out I had been “stuck” playing AD&D1e with all the rules from the books for two years. I was introduced to D&D via OD&D in ’79 (the AD&D PHB and Monster Manual were already out, but the DMG hadn’t been released yet, so the two different groups I started with both ran on OD&D with varying amounts of AD&D material in the mix).
It was only a few months later that the DMG dropped and I was suddenly in 3 groups all running AD&D “by the book” (segments, weird initiative systems, weapon vs AC modifiers, weapon speeds, tons of spells…)
I yearned for a return to the OD&D games which, while somewhat arcane, were at least simpler.
So when the 1981 edition dropped, it was a breath of fresh air for me. It was a return to the wide-open and simpler feeling of our OD&D games, but so much improved in writing and mechanical systems. It took me a bit to get used to elves being a multi-class instead of switching classes from adventure to adventure, but I was sold.
I believe I’ve played B/X D&D at least twice a year since it was released – but most years playing at least a few dozen games (some years playing as many as three different campaigns at once).
I gleefully ditched AD&D as a rules set at that point, instead it became a bunch of optional subsystems and rules that I generally ignored – I treated it the same way as I treated the Arcanum RPG which we plundered for material just as much as we did AD&D.
AD&D2e came and went, ignored by me except when I was playing in other people’s games because the BECMI Rules Compendium came out around the same time and I was able to get people into that instead when I was running a game… and we’d just slip back to 1981 B/X instead of BECMI.
I ran a few thousand hours of third edition D&D when it showed up. It triggered some of the same feelings in me that looking through the AD&D books did – a sense of discovery and cool arcana that I will hold dear – but also a sense that this was all “too much”, and I also ran B/X games during this time.
My nerve damage occurred almost exactly when 4e came out, so I never even really got to see it – because that’s also when I got involved with the online old school games & gamers … finally a large crowd of people who were perfectly happy to sit down and play B/X D&D with me again.
B/X D&D isn’t my original D&D, but it certainly is “my” D&D. It was at least the third edition I played, possibly the fourth. It was somewhere in the early double-digits for RPGs I had played by then (Traveller, Bushido, Top Secret, Boot Hill, Metamorphosis Alpha, Gamma World, Tunnels & Trolls, Villains & Vigilantes, and Space Opera got spins at the table before B/X showed up).
I’m so glad I can still find people willing and HAPPY to play and run it today.