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D&D General The Rubber Band Effect


The Rubber Band Effect is the way I've come to understand the pull toward TSR editions. I started in 1980 with Holmes and played every edition since. I saluted the changes that came with 3e and liked a lot of the decisions made with 4e.

After playing 5e for several years I started to feel the rubber band pull of the old TSR editions. In 2021-2022 I reread Basic (Moldvay), AD&D and 2e. I read many OSR games and other simulacrums. I can't play these games anymore. I've changed.

There is an undeniable tension between my memories of the 'good old TSR times' and 5e. I know perfectly well that 'good old times were not that good. We bickered a lot over the rules. The really good memories stem from an AD&D campaign, not DMed by me, which was very interesting as a player. It allowed me to play a character up to level 12.

The other good TSR memories are from an AD&D2e campaign I ran with a stable group for several years. I developed a region of a continent over time and it was my best campaign.

With 3e, 4e I wasn't able to replicate that either as a player or as a DM. It's not the fault of these editions. The player groups were riddled with problems. Despite playing them for several years, I have no good memories of these two editions. I only have good memories of d20 Modern.

With 5e I was able to replicate an old-school-style campaign - start a small build around it. It went very well for two years. It crashed because two players changed over time. Covid and divorce between the two didn't help. I think I'm still traumatized by this event two years after the fact. This too makes me long for the 'good old times.

Even if I know they are mostly 'pink coloured memories' the pull is strong. My way to cope with this is to play solitary (no DM) sessions of Castles & Crusades once in a while.

I have a stable group of players in their mid-40s but D&D is off the table. They don't want to play C&C either. I GM mostly the AGE system with them. At 57 I have nothing to complain about. I GM every other week and I'm a player in between.

Still, the rubber band is pulling. I've come to believe visiting forums and FB groups is nourishing the longing for my TSR days because I read about other players’ experiences. Consequently, I’ve decided to stop visiting them.


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Mod Squad
Staff member
I've had reasons to think on this recently, due to some things that were highlighted during the pandemic...

For me, at least, it is pretty clear that the things that made play in my younger years great were not about the rule set we were using. Virtually any moderately sound set of rules would do the trick.

But, back in the day, I had a lot more time for gaming. Games were a weekly occurrance, and 5+ hours at a shot. Today, it is every other week, only two or three ours at a pop, and now a lot of it is online, with the communication restrictions of web conferences laid on top. The depth of play that was the basis for the memories of the past requires more time than is commonly available to me now.

By the way, that includes application of Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is crud. But, my memory doesn't preserve the crud well - it holds onto the non-crud much better. With more hours, while the percentage doesn't change, the absolute number of awesome bits I remember is increased. So, I end up comparing many old moments to a few new ones, and the current time thus seems lacking.

So, I am not drawn to a set of old rules. I am drawn to a pattern of play that is difficult to replicate now.


Moderator Emeritus
Sometimes it just takes playing with new people.

I am currently having some of the best sessions I've ever had (and I have had some great times in the past with 2E and 3E) running 5E for friends ranging from 40 to 50 years old who are all either new to the game or returning after a very long break (hadn't played since 2E days!). Heck, much like my youth, two of the players have become my really close friends - one of which was recruited for the game by another player and the other was someone I was acquainted with but didn't know well. Now we all hang out even when not gaming (for example, we went to one player's wedding this past weekend!).

I had to be convinced to run this game 2.5 years ago because at the time I was feeling like no new game was going to match the games of the past - but I came to accept that every campaign and group is its own iteration of the game and it only needs to be fun now, not compared to something else. We may not get to play as often (once every 3 to 5 weeks, as opposed to every week in college and every two weeks in the post-college days) but we still do play 5 hour sessions.

Honestly, with the right group the ruleset doesn't matter much.

Greggy C

Nothing is as good as being 19 years old in 1990, drinking too much cheap beer on Friday night, then playing DnD 1e/2e with your college buddies from Saturday 2pm to Sunday 5am. Thats how we rolled. It was intense D&D, serious stuff, it was DMs world vs Players, it was temple of the elemental evil, tomb of horrors, it was deadly homebrew, it was you make mistakes, you will die. It was glorious. Nothing better than after that final fight, everyone gathered around to watch the constitution % check to see if that character was dead forever. We played for years until level 26.

Doesn't matter what edition comes out now, we will never be 19 again.

4e is my jam... I would drop everything to play a swordmage or warlord again (heck even just a fighter with cool toys) but I too have that rubber band pull back to 2e. SO I get it.

having said that I wouldn't go back. I wouldn't mind a 4e/2e mashup retroclone though (and I have even played around with making one)

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