This'll likely be of interest to Efrem and some others, not so much to some. Your mileage may vary.
This post is not under any circumstances designed to be a debate on the theory of "System Matters" or really any other game system debate. There's no debate. It is what it is.
"Just as a casual observation, anyone who considers the presence of Vancian magic a dealbreaker is probably lost to us, and I'm ok with that.
Personally, I view the pulp fantasy roots of the game as a feature and not a flaw, and I'm glad that there is an edition of the game for people who don't, because that is not a version of the game I am very interested in publishing."
Erik Mona, Publisher,
There is a resurgence in Pulp Gaming lately; specifically in gaming via old school games ala Original D&D, 1st Edition AD&D and the like (new systems designed under the OGL as a loose framework based upon the classics).
The important clarification here is that it isn't necessarily as a "vehicle for killing monsters and getting loot" but as roleplaying as was done at the time (full-bodied roleplaying; playing the hilt out of their character in situations in and out of combat in very loose systems).
The core of the argument is that the systems were designed for IMAGINATION to play the largest portion of the game...not system.
It is steadfastly against newer, more streamlined systems which remove the imagination elements in place of simply being okay to create homebrew/ ad hoc solutions, and play without a "net" of system.
Ultimately: System Doesn't Matter*
*More accurately, if system matters to you...play games where system matters.
Does System Matter?
If it matters to YOU...then yes...system matters. (Play any game only as it was written)
If it doesn't matter to you...then no...system doesn't matter. (Play old-school style)
The largest push on this is coming from a resentment of game systems that posit that the game is written to be encapsulated by the rules/ systems/ mechanics...and if it isn't in the rules...it's not a part of the game.
This is strictly the opposite of many gaming theories that have come forward in the past eight years or so.
The goal of these folks is that the purpose of this old school resurgence is to bring back an interest in gaming that is definitely and very literally"outside the box". Game systems that are purposefully loose (sometimes published in PDF AND DOC formats so you can easily adjust to fit.) so that most of the roleplay elements of the game are free-form and free for imagination to take the front seat in the game, not contained neatly between the lines of the game mechanics.
For a long time these game theories and gaming preferences have been derided as poorly written, very loose and incoherent. The position here is that they aren't loose or incoherent so much as they are designed to place a MUCH greater importance on the players and GM to roleplay the game and use imagination as the very heart of the game and cooperation and trust in GM Fiat...not the system.
GM Fiat is expected. Game systems are guidelines only...and less is better when it comes to anything that would inhibit the role of imagination, specifically social interactions and non-combat interactions...but even including combat interactions when you deem fit (see DM Fiat).
A LARGE chunk of this is based on a trust system where the GM is the final arbiter of the game: cooperate, don't rely on the system to get you around a GM decision.
Some folks are really getting fired up about this. Games, campaign settings and adventures are being developed for this by respectable developers. This isn't just some grass-roots, effort by home publishers...nope...it actually has a following.
I have to admit a bit of admiration for folks spearheading this shift in paradigm away from the more recent trend of one game theory and the necessity of game theory to be this deep academic discipline.
For a while now there really hasn't been an opposition to the modern theories, just a divide between:
a. System Matters (and a large body of academic work developed to reinforce and justify the prevalence of this theory) and...
b. System Doesn't Matter (and the body of work that came before that was based on very little crunchy system and elaborate game design theories and an absolute reliance on imagination, cooperation and GM Fiat).
The former has been lauded as the new age of gaming...where the latter is a throwback to an uninformed age of some sort...leading to ultimately the new way...and the old way. Heavy emphasis has been placed in the past several years that the old way was for some reason "bad" or "not as good".
It's nice to see more than one view for a change.
Now before the steamroll of flamage starts...it is very important to note that this Theory and Resurgence makes no claim of being the one true way, or that it is better than the games built upon the principle that System Matters. Not at all.
Folks that believe in System Matters are wholly free to believe as they wish, and play as they wish...play the games they prefer and go in peace. That style of play and design theory is perfectly valid and okay for those who subscribe to it. Rock on with thyself!
Folks that believe that System Doesn't Matter now have an outlet, a support mechanism, and game theory (such as it is) to back it up. That style of play and design theory is ALSO perfectly valid and okay for those who subscribe to it. Party on!
Play as you like with the games that you like.
Now it seems that it is becoming okay again to like Original Dungeons and Dragons, AD&D and really any old school system that relies on gaming outside the pages of the rulebook and it's not just a hole for the old stinky die hard D&Ders from the old days to play.
It's okay to see D&D as a game for something other than simply killing monsters and getting loot. That's not what it was originally designed for, and it's not the ONLY way to play anymore.
"It's okay to play old school games in old school ways."