Is there room for modern gaming to learn from, iterate upon, and pick the best parts of old-school gaming? Absolutely yes.
Is there room for modern gaming to adhere really strictly to the Old Ways without meaningful deviation? Probably not.
That's really the fundamental problem with the OP: it presents this as something of a binary, "take it or leave it" situation WRT "traditional"/"classic"/"old-school" stuff.
I don't really think it's arguable that old-school play contained elements
that were, intentionally or accidentally, hostile to new players. Consider, for example, that there really WERE some people who thought that getting rid of THAC0 was bad because it would let anyone
learn to play. You can't really have that be a genuine current within the gaming culture unless there is some
interest in actively gatekeeping to exclude "lesser" players who don't "deserve" to participate. Obviously, I have an extremely dim opinion of any such gatekeeping.
Some aspects of old-school play, particularly the more adversarial behaviors from DMs (e.g. cursed items, cloakers, ear seekers, rust monsters, etc.) are going to be really really hard
to sell as a positive part of a modern gaming experience. Contrariwise, some other elements may be relatively easy to sell even if they aren't particularly "friendly" or "approachable," e.g. some players really do like the "Dark Souls
"-type experience of having to "read the tells" and figure out how to fight a creature (consider the MANY "puzzle monster" entries in early MMs.) Those two facts combined make it inevitable that SOME new blood CAN be brought in by offering experiences of this type. This then leads us to two critically-important questions:
- What is the relative trade-off between acquiring new blood via old-school experiences, vs. acquiring new blood via "modern" experiences?
- Which elements of old-school experiences are central to making that experiences enjoyable, but which won't make non-old-school experiences less enjoyable in the process?
This is why, for example, I was vehemently opposed to the rather extreme, swingy lethality of the first 2-3 levels of play in 5e, back during the playtest. Vitally, I do not oppose the existence
of high-lethality, ultra-swingy experiences where literally one bad die roll can kill a character. What I oppose is that the designers tried to serve conflicting goals with their design.
On the one hand, early levels are explicitly and specifically meant to be a somewhat slower, smoothed "onramp" into the process of play, so that new players can acclimate. Such a thing is especially important for getting new blood into the hobby, because making the get-into-D&D process too difficult or too stressful will turn people away, guaranteed, simply because of how saturated modern entertainment is and how little free time most people have. On the other, the swingy, high-lethality experience was, just as explicitly, meant to remind classic-game fans of the experiences they knew and loved, where one wrong move can spell disaster, where characters were often a dime a dozen, and where you had to "earn your fun," so to speak. 5e made motions of being a big tent (even if I have deep
criticisms of their success on that front), and that meant offering fans of the old-school styles some olive branches; this was one of them.
But...as I said, those two goals are in conflict. "A smooth and easy introduction" is the antithesis
of "one wrong move is disaster and you'll fail a lot before you succeed." You can't make (or, at least, these designers did not
make) a game that simultaneously has Dark Souls
levels of utterly uncompromising skill expectation AND a gently-sloping progression to ease people into the experience. Trying to accomplish these two goals at the same time, in the same rules, leads to a situation that...doesn't really accomplish either thing. The most common advice I've seen for helping a new player get into the game is either to directly kid-gloves them, which is patronizing and not conducive to getting on board with the game, or to literally start at higher level
, completely defeating the point of having those "ease them in" early levels.
The frustrating thing is that there IS a way to have this cake and eat it too. Novice levels, or whatever one wishes to call them: levels "before level 1," that are an opt-IN system instead of an opt-OUT system. By making them opt-in, you avoid forcing new players to endure them (or, as stated, skip over them and thus waste the "levels 1-3 are a tutorial" benefit), but you still fully support fans who love that feeling of danger, limited resources, and desperate struggle. By making these goals non-simultaneous
, we can easily mix both of them into the game without compromising what makes either one good.
And that's, ultimately, how old-school gaming is going to influence modern gaming going forward....just as all "the styles of the past" things influence "the styles of the present and future" things. That is, we've had the "reaction" period, where faults of prior methods are laid bare and tackled, and now we're starting into an "integration" period, where the successes
of prior methods are drawn on to either address the faults of current methods, or to complement them by covering what they don't.