This is not a retro clone post, nor is it an old school post. This is about the original games that so many games today get their inspiration from.
I was back in my home town over the weekend to visit my brother. Grognardia's post was fresh in my mind and was something I was thinking about during the long drive from Chicago to Springfield. We were meeting my parents, sister and brother at the local mall, a mall that during the heyday of my D&D days was one of my FLGS. Of course the Waldenbooks were I had bought so many books and dice was gone. As was the B. Dalton's where I had bought my first set of clear dice.
In my home town they are redoing the downtown area that had been busy in my youth and then died. While it is nice to see it coming back one thing that I won't see back is "Belobrajdic's Book Store". They were closer to me (Springfield was 30 miles away from Jacksonville), but they did not carry as much stuff. Belobrajdic's ("bell-o-bray-dick") did have Dragon magazine. I eventually became a subscriber, but not for another 20 years almost. I think my first issue was 85 and then I bought it as my meager job as a paper boy would allow.
Waldenbooks, B. Daltons, Belobrajdic's, and even Black's Hardware (for miniatures) all share something in common. All were places I connect with the Golden Age of D&D. And all are gone.
Today I spend my time and money at Games Plus. A place I would mail order when the above stores would not carry something I wanted, like Eldritch Wizardry. But what did this trip down memory lane teach me?
Well. Try as they might, and they do try very, very hard, the Clones just can't capture the same feeling of those early days. The Zeitgeist is gone. I remember hearing a rumor that Belobrajdic's was going to stop selling D&D due to the "Satanic Scare" of the 80s. You just don't get that these days.
Every book was something new, every purchase was tinged with anticipation and excitement of new worlds to explore.
Some of it isn't just Zeitgeist. Some of it is age and all that goes with that. I don't have to save or anticipate anymore. If I want a book I go buy it on my way home from work. There is sits on my desk or game table till I get a chance to read it. Back then I got the S-series of modules and read them cover to cover all the time.
New games help. Pathfinder and D&D 4 give me that thrill of the new. Clones scratch my nostalgia itch. But none really combine them all very well.
You can't go back to the Caves of Chaos anymore. The monsters of old are gone and there are Eladrin, Tieflings and Dragonborns in the Keep talking about needing Warlocks or Sorcerers to help them complete their quest. Clerics talk about healing surges, druids spend more time in animal shapes and have forgotten the trees. It is a new world out there full of change. I can't bring back the old felling or the old D&D anymore than I can bring back the stores that contained those memories and books.
I might wax nostalgic, but I look forward to the next new purchase and the new worlds it will bring all the same.