Monday, March 8, 2010

The OSR (or whatever you choose to call it) Has Been RockingOut

Do people really not realize how much the OSR has accomplished? And not theoretical bull shit "pointers" on What is Old-School or How to Play retro. Concrete, real, practical stuff. Stuff that has gotten more people sitting down at tables (virtual or real) playing games. That, (more) people playing games, is the only goal worthy of effort and praise. I've been following things online and off for a couple years, bad recession years even, and I've witnessed an incredible amount of action, releases and growth. Below are the OSR's accomplishments that I can remember at the moment.

Multitudes of retro-clones. Hobbyist, semi-commercial, and commercial. Several are now available at your FLGS. For expanding our hobby, that is huge!

Several lines of printed support materials. Some published by "big" names such as Goodman Games. Adventure Games Publishing, Black Blade, Carcosa, The Majestic Wilderlands, Stonehell, Green Devil Face, and more; Lulu's OSR, Noble Knight's OSR.

Shedloads of electronic material. From very "professional", to very DIY (still creative and interesting, just not polished and pretty). Classic Dungeon Designer's Netbooks.

The North Texas RPG Convention, going on it's 2nd year. This is one of two game conventions primarily focused on old-school RPGs. At least I believe GaryCon leans towards the older ways.

Two print periodicals Fight On! and Knock Spell. SEVEN issues of Fight On! Couldn't be arsed to add up the pages but it's 1 and 7/8 inches on my shelf. Knock Spell has produced only three issues. But issues with all the production values and slickness of any Dragon or Dungeon which ya know aren't actually printed anymore.

A Red Virus is spreading, already infecting Red Box NY, Calgary Red Box, and Vancouver Red Box. Your city could be next on the list. [I was gearing up to infect Austin with the Red Menace but WoTC's redbox announcement has me paused]

Traditional Adventure Roleplaying Games Association. It's auctions, it's successful efforts to get people playing games. This and the The Escapist are how you spread awareness of and grow a hobby.

It's not all fantasy either. Thirteen issues of The Star Frontiersman, one the best looking DIY products I've ever seen. Content is killer too. In the retro-clone spirit they slicked up all the Star Frontiers and Knight Hawk Rules in the same style. And some modules for you to game with as well.

One Page Dungeon Format would have been enough by itself but the community organized a contest (two of them actually) and encouraged more people to bust out a dungeon.

I don't read forums. But, I have read many of the fine modules and supplements produced by the folks of Dragon's Foot. Similarly, I'm guessing more than a few of the finished products I see were birthed and raised at Knights & Knaves or the OD&D Boards.

Endless blogs (see blogroll to right for sampling) with new magic items, monsters, maps, character variants, house rules, reviews, commentary and, yes, pointless ranting/punditry/whining/whatever. If it's not useful to you, stop reading. It's not any harder than that.

Numerous new campaigns started. Dozens, hundreds? of gamers having fun, playing a game in whatever way they like. (as evidenced by play reports posted online. I'm sure there's many more unreported. I know of six gamers personally.)

If you want to keep abreast of all that the OSR is producing there's no better resource than TARGA's "This week in the OSR" posts by James Smith.

Finally, on How to Play Old-school (actually one particular old-school). The Old-School Primer works for me. It's not condescending bullshit, it's not telling you your game is wrong. It's all about getting people to play. It acknowledges the very real fact that the style of play it describes is likely not what most non-grognards are accustomed to. It introduces them to this different style so that they're more likely have fun when they sit down and play. In fact, after reading it they are more likely make whatever game their own, playing it with their own specific style.


  1. When you put it all together like that, that's pretty freakin' awesome!

  2. Great post! I can tell you for a fact that I don't think NTRPG Con would exist in it's present form if not for the huge strides in the OSR these last few years. I'm more excited about gaming now than any point in the last 15 years or so!

  3. Much ado about nothing, it seems.
    TARGA does not "grow" a hobby, how self-delusional.

  4. @Anonymous - I question the worth of responding to your pathetic troll, but...

    The hobby is people playing games. <a href=">TARGA's ITGW</a> has caused games to be run that wouldn't otherwise. That is growth.

    Go be a loser somewhere else.

  5. Hi Norman,

    Just out of interest which games that TARGA have organised are verifiable increases in the number of games being played? I see 4 games listed and none look like huge newbie fests.

    I'm sure the old school stuff has brought back some gamers but mostly what I see is a vibrant community talking to itself. I don't see any evidence of more people playing games, compared to the evidence we saw of more people playing games when D&D 3e came out. Unless the goal is actually 'getting more people playing OLD SCHOOL games" in which case I'm sure more people are, if only because rule sets are available.

  6. @Nick - speaking for myself, my November TARGA game brought 4 people into an OD&D game and none are on the Intertubes or involved in the OSR. Same with the OD&D game I ran at Gameday - none were associated with the OSR. I know at least half of the people going to the B2 marathon I'm running on ITGW are not affiliated with existing old school games/campaigns or the blogosphere.

    More importantly, the point is that we're trying, we're starting somewhere and there's no harm in trying. I'm curious why such negativity exists at TARGA. Would you care to share why?

    One final data point, you might be interested in going back last year on my blog to see where I ran a volunteer non-scientific but informative survey that showed that the vast majority of people who were switching to old school games/retroclones self-identified as disgruntled 3e players.

  7. One more data point - my mutant future campaign has introduced 9 brand new players to tabletop RPGs. I would never have even heard of Mutant Futurew were it not for James Mal's review of it at his old school blog Grognardia. Mutant Future introduced me to Labyrinth Lord, which I in turn showed one of the players in my group (Carter of Carter's Cartopia blog) who has since started his own LL game... introducing several more total newbies to the hobby.

  8. @Chgowiz - I'd never heard of TARGA till now so there's no hostility just curiosity. The hostility may come from two things (I'm not saying either are true). One could be claims like this post which, to my mind, slightly overstates the importance of the OSR. The second could be that the OSR seems to revel in taking players from other RPGs.
    But there's certainly no harm in doing something and having fun doing so.

    I'm a disgruntled 3e player myself and I'd happily play in a retro clone (I'm in Singapore and don't know of any going) but I'm, always a little suspicious of 'movements'. I went with other games rather than old school ones when I gave up D&D (mostly WFRP)

    @Carl - that's awesome!

  9. @Carl
    One could be claims like this post which, to my mind, slightly overstates the importance of the OSR.

    I see nothing wrong in saying "Hey, we did good! That's awesome!" Why is that a bad thing?

    The second could be that the OSR seems to revel in taking players from other RPGs.

    I guess I don't see it as much of "taking players away" as it is "showing people there are alternatives to $100 board games and RPGs that are still fun and valid."

    If they choose to abandon their existing version, that's their choice. If they do both, that's their choice. No skin off of my back, as I'm playing what I like, how I like it. It's the D&D for me.

    I'd also like to point out that such generalizations aren't exactly fair.

  10. Thanks Chgowiz and Carl for saving me from having to look up links. Nick, it was Chgowiz play reports and my own experience at running games at FLGS/in public always attracts new players that formed basis of claim TARGA has gotten (more) people out playing games.

    Also, I guess it depends on what you read cause in stark contrast to your perspective "slightly overstates the importance of the OSR" this post was in direct response to the many times I've seen claims that the OSR has done nothing and/or is nothing more than a few old dudes struggling to reclaim their youth or bunch of do nothing bloggers, that it's not commercially viable, and similar FUD.

    As far as taking away from other RPG's. Only the most casual gamers I know play one RPG. I've just bought that $100 WHFRP game (for $50 on ebay, rock!), my friend buys tons of WoTC mini's and many 4ed, a 2ed DM I know bought 3.x stuff for ideas and reference.

    Finally, It's not an US vs THEM thing. It doesn't matter what get's you in the door, as long as you stick around and have fun Growing the hobby, is growing the hobby. It is good for everyone.

  11. Dude! you forgot otherworld miniatures - producing old-school minis for the OSR - and going from strength to strength.


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