On the Summer of the OSR

Gaming is a seasonal activity.

Posts, traffic, discussion, campaigns, all drop off during the summer months, when people are on vacation, outside, riding rivers, seeking pleasure from the world.

Then as temperatures cool, the leaves change, and students return to school, talk of exploring new realms, solving crimes or causing them, or fighting dragons returns. One campaign is run over the winter, or perhaps two short ones.

Gaming is a pretty big part of our culture at this point. Currently gaming on the whole is on an upswing, due to a variety of factors. The OSR has been sending out a concise message that has been heard, if the stated approach to 5th edition is any indication. B/X is in print (Welll, .pdf anyway).

We are in the summer of the OSR. Megadungeons are being published. You can go purchase more than one playable megadungeon in a useable format! You can purchase basic, expert, the original boxed set, 1st edition, and content is being produced across the board for all editions (Yay!). Themed random dungeon generators have been published.

What was once lost, possibly forever, has been found.

But summer doesn't last forever.

The time is now to think about what remains to be done. The idea that a society, technology, or experience grows infinitely is a flaw of human thinking. Ask any railroad owner in 1860, or ancient roman citizen. Things are done, knowledge is lost, and we are left to subsist on what remains.

What tasks remain for us, who follow giants?*

Collation and Organization. Find an article you like? Link to it on Links to Wisdom. Someone have a table you like? Put it on Abulafia. Have you written a blog, but it's winding down? Consider creating a "best of" .pdf or printed book for distribution. At the very least, back it up or contact someone who's willing to host, rewrite, or continue to present the content.

Innovation. The best of a thing can often happen near the end of a thing. The greatest minds act, the thing diminishes, and what is left pales. We already have a usability study in Vornheim, and a new format for dungeon presentation in One Page Dungeons, used to great effect in Stonehell by Michael Curtis. We can do more, better. I've personally talked to people solving the problem of interesting and quick random generation for solo play, campaign design, new strides in dungeon usability overcoming the limitations of the one page dungeon. Look for new dynamic ways to present, store, and use content while the resources are available, so that those that come after will have examples of greatness themselves. Zak mentions visual indexes, character sheet as character generation guide, and weapon tables.

Research. More than one person has a series detailing their thoughts on the 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide. I can link to several places that review each issue of Dragon. But how many people even played Oriental Adventures 1e/3.5, much less picked the book apart for useable information? There remains tremendous analysis left, and a joy in discovering lost secrets and sharing that knowledge with the world.

Play. Glorious, glorious, play. G+ is 90% of a face to face game, and in some ways is better. I've found that the difference between my experience on the forums and my experience on blogs/G+, isn't that blogs are ego oriented, but that bloggers are playing games, while forum browsers are mostly just reading about them [Tweet This]. Test what you play. Want to play Spelljammer? Al-Qadim? Shadowrun 2e? Harnquest? Odds are low of finding a group in real life excited to do so. Having people enthused about being in a specific setting changes the entire tenor of play. Or pick a class you love and have them visit the FLAILverse.


*Any group of people (Gygax, Jackson, Arenson, et. al.) who generated this huge amount of comment, commentary, and play; impacting the lives of millions of people for the better qualifies them as giants. Come to me with your critique of calling them that after you have to run through 10 printings of your game and I'll listen. 

10 comments:

  1. "bloggers are playing games, while forum browsers are mostly just reading about them"

    When forum posters tag something as "actual play," it makes me think that actually playing the game is the exception-- so much so, that such comment has to be marked out as being different!

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  2. I found your “Tricks, Traps, and Empty Room Design” while searching for information to compile a document of my own on room contents and design. Imagine my delight when I discovered the work had already been done for me, and done well. On finding your blog, I quickly downloaded the treasure document and may well end up getting the whole NPC one (and yes, I have told others).
    My game is 1e. I hardly get to play anymore, but it’s still in my blood. I visited a game store for the first time in many years when the reprinted 1e stuff came out, and was dismayed. The new dnd was hardly recognizable and no one seemed to be playing it anyway.
    It’s been great reading a blog that not only makes sense to me, but provides useable content and in a form that doesn’t require hours of digestion and conversion. I really had no idea old school gaming was even still remotely popular.
    Anyway, I got inspired. I’m now 12 pages into creating a random quest generator. Just because.

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  3. I'd be tempted to add one more bullet point to your list, and that's Marketing. Selling a larger audience on why 1e and B/X were so fun, why simple exploration and huge dungeon crawls are so engaging, and letting people know that options exist beyond the latest set of rules. OSR has grown leaps and bounds since its humble beginnings, but it's still a niche. Bringing it to an ever wider audience ensures that the fruits of the movement's labors are enjoyed by more people, and by involving more people you insure that OSR continues to grow and prosper.

    OSR is, to me, an ideology - a set of structures and motivations that were laid out by those giants, and continually expanded on through the years. I believe ideology and the promotion of it goes hand in hand with innovation. Finding ways to bring the OSR mindset to other systems, be it Pathfinder, 3.X, or even more modern systems, can only entice people to look beyond what they know and try embracing something else. The hard work of theory crafting and home ruling done on this blog and others has helped pave the way for many people to integrate the OSR mindset into their games. I find this incredibly exciting and hope it continues.

    In a lot of ways, OSR has become a framework for me to show people I play with that they have options beyond RAW and that there are many ways to play the game. While not every DM or group will be converts, I think many will embrace all or some of the options there, and the movement as a whole will be better for it.

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    Replies
    1. I dunno.

      It's like, what needs to be known, is that there is a type of game for the aspergers martin, the anal retentive powergamer, the laid back beer drinking crowd, the professional - that it's not all nerds in basements.

      Communication and presentation - our hobby is arcane to those outside, and it needs to be made clear, direct, and fun. Marketing will only attempt to appeal to the most people, not communicate accurately.

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    2. I was more referring to marketing as selling people who already game on the ideas of OSR, as opposed to Marketing (with a capital M) to the masses. I imagine there are quite a few tabletop gamers that have never looked into B/X or 1e. The people playing 4e or Pathfinder, or even 3.5, those are the guys I think need to see this stuff. To show them there are alternatives and other ways to approach what they're already doing, and some of it can be a lot of fun. From there, the movement grows, evolves and continues to live.

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  4. That article you linked to made a statement that roleplaying is a possible exception to the recent upward trend in gaming. But, they seem to base that conclusion solely on the demise of 4th edition. Doh!

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  5. I'd love to see more people getting involved in the OSR, even if they aren't playing older games. I'm sure that there are tons of people that have been paying for 30 or 40 years that are actually happy with Pathfinder or 4e or whatever, but have tons of notes and insite into how they played and house ruled the old games. I'd love to see some more good stuff on Plagmada.org too.

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    Replies
    1. That reminds me, I have boxes in the back of the car I need to ship. :-/

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  6. "Come to me with your critique of calling them that after you have to run through 10 printings of your game and I'll listen. "

    Amen.

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  7. "Collation and Organization. Find an article you like? Link to it on Links to Wisdom. Someone have a table you like? Put it on Abulafia. Have you written a blog, but it's winding down? Consider creating a "best of" .pdf or printed book for distribution. At the very least, back it up or contact someone who's willing to host, rewrite, or continue to present the content."

    If nothing else, please this.

    I literally have nightmares about Geocities, and that was just one big thing on one big domain - far worse are the times you find out about something too late, and the blog's gone, overwritten by spam or lost in the whims of third-party hosts.

    Even if it's "rubbish", it's probably worth archiving, somewhere.

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