Beauty and the Beast may be the most perfect film in cinematic history, and this scene may most perfectly encapsulate one of the purest and best of human emotions - the longing for adventure, or wanderlust:
If an alien came to earth and asked me to demonstrate why it is that human beings set musical accompaniment to drama, I would show them this scene. I can't think of a better specimen to illustrate how music, words and visual performance can combine to both replicate and also simultaneously refine and distil a sensation all at the same time. How could one possibly explain wanderlust in a more accurate way than what is achieved here in a mere minute of screen time?
This feeling lies at the core of human experience. For where would we be without it? Still scraping bits of flint from the bottom of the Rift Valley to fashion into cutting implements. I certainly felt it as a youngster, dreaming of life beyond the grey limits of the horizons of northwest England, and I feel it still, when I recall the tingling feeling of anticipation when turning up at an airport for an overseas trip, the smell of the freshly cleaned interior of an aeroplane when you first step on board, the excitement of stepping out of the door of a hotel in a foreign city and how it dispels the tiredness of the thousands of miles you have just traversed.
It's at the core of fantasy fiction too. The genre has from its very beginnings been defined by characters who, whether reluctantly or not, have thrust themselves from the comfortable obscurity of home into the drama and wonder of the Great Beyond. And readers have also traditionally responded to the centrepiece works within the field - whether by David Eddings or Michael Moorcock - because those books have allowed such feelings to be vicariously savoured. You will, I am sure, identify with this. It's certainly why as an adolescent I devoured this stuff by the wheelbarrow, and why I still cast my eye over the Fantasy & SF shelves in bookshops whenever I visit one, hoping to discover something that looks like it will instantiate that feeling. (Though these days, it never seems to.)
The OSR 'braintrust' rightly, I think, spurned the wide-eyed high fantasy of the late TSR period in favour of a return to OD&D's more down-and-dirty, rogueish roots. One of Zak's best contributions (he did have some) was the observation that this made running an 'old school' game so much more effective and straightforward. But he was hardly alone in noticing that it is so much easier to make a campaign based around player agency if they are greedy tomb-robbers rather than the cast of characters from the latest Wheel of Time knock-off quest novel. The central argument here is simply that if the PCs are down at heel, misbegotten rogues, with the aim of getting rich quick, they do not require the DM to generate a narrative for them to follow - they drive their own agenda. This was contrasted with the Dragonlance approach, still so depressingly common among mainstream published adventures, in which the DM's job was to come up with a complicated 'story' through which to lead the players by the nose. This distinction needed to be drawn, in order really to make clear what the whole point of the OSR was.
However, in overemphasising this aesthetic, let's call it, of rogueishness, the feeling of wanderlust - of playing an RPG as a kind of vicarious exploration of the 'Great Wide Somewhere' - has I think been undersold by what movers and shakers remain in the OSR and its penumbra. This has not been helped by a general preference for dark settings, which one would hardly be interested in exploring for their own sake if one were unfortunate enough to be born into them. The overall effect has often been to make OSR settings and materials feel somewhat cynical and mean-spirited, and out of touch with what makes the very exercise of fantasy so appealing. What has been downplayed is a sense of adventure.
We could all use a bit of Belle in our lives. Capturing that sense of wanderlust is something I want to bring to the table (both figuratively and literally) in the year to come.