Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Trends in the Old School Renaissance

Now that we are reaching the end of 2009 some definite trends have begun to emerge in the OSR.

Sandbox Campaigns
Sandbox campaigns becomes a part of the general toolbox for old school referees to use to put together a campaign. This will come with a level of product support that is lower than traditional adventures but higher than the near zero stuff we had in the past two decades.

As one of the leaders in exploring this aspect I am probably not the best person to spot a trend in this area other than to say it THE most popular topic on my blog. I definitely plan to support this with products that are not related to any specific campaign.

A niche within a niche because of the volume of writing needed to flesh one out even when tersely written. However unlike the "World's largest" craze that hit 3e a few years back I see this as a enduring part of the OSR not only because of the tradition of having dungeons with older editions but because of the fact the OSR has developed a more compact format than having to describe each room as an encounter.

Making a Megadungeon today can be considered a hard project rather than an insanely hard project like was under the "world largest" craze. I consider the evolution of Megadungeon a good positive example of the impact of the OSR at it developed from many people writing from the viewpoint "Here how I do things". From that a good set of shortcuts and tips developed.

Science Fantasy
I think this area is just developing and one in which the OSR will have a very large impact. While I am personally not interested in Science Fantasy I can appreciate the quality of the work that being done and welcome more of it. There are several products being worked on and all of them have real passion behind them. This is good foundation for a breakout hit (at least by OSR standards) and wish everybody working on this the best of luck.

Weird Fantasy
Not sure if this the best label for this but I see a lot of stuff written with a touch of Lovecraft, weirdness, and other strangeness. Like Science Fantasy this area offer a lot of room for OSR authors to make products that are distinct from what was done in the past and today. I consider much of James Raggi's material to be an excellent example of this type of material as well as Geoffery Mckinney's Carcosa (in the expurgated version)

Concluding Thoughts
I feel that 2009 marks a definite transition of the OSR from it's retro-clone phase. The focus of the retro-clones is now on getting physical books into the game stores.

Regardless of how 2010 shakes out we see more adventures, more support products, more genres being explored by the OSR in 2010. There will be plenty for new gamers looking for something different and for older gamers looking for more support of their favorite edition.

Now for a bit of advocacy

Return of the Supplements

The main reason I included Supplement VI as part of the title of the Majestic Wilderlands is because I viewed the originals as a missed opportunity. I think the evolution of D&D would have gone better if Supplement I - Greyhawk and Supplement - Blackmoor were really about how Gygax and Arneson ran their respective campaigns. Presented as "OK the we have these D&D rules there how I (i.e. the author) applied them."

I feel that the OSR is at it's best when it does this. A bunch of folks publishing how THEY run older editions. Then the rest of us cherry pick what we like to make a more interesting campaign. I think that anybody who publishes a book like this should feel free to put Supplement xx as part of the title. This type of product presents the best of we like about the resurgence of older editions.


Unknown said...

"I think that anybody who publishes a book like this should feel free to put Supplement xx as part of the title."

is the next one Supplement VII? What if there are multiple VIIs etc? What if someone publishes an alternate V or VI?

No right or wrong answers - I've just been curious about what would happen if this trend caught on. :)

Zachary Houghton said...

Also curious on the potential of multiple Supplement IXs or the like.

I really think you're on to something with the explosion of sandbox-style gaming. A trend I hope continues in the New Year to come...

Robert Conley said...

Sure it is an issue. My only answer is it should be left up to the authors to sort itself up them. Otherwise we are talking some kind of quasi-official gatekeeper and I don't advocate.

I will say that the time needed to make a publishable product should make doing this easier as long an author keeps reasonably current on what's being published.

I know for myself I was prepared to change from VI to VII (or VIII) if something was released in the intervening 8 months.

Havard: said...

I like the idea of different publishers recognizing eachothers efforts, thus choosing to use the subsequent number for their Supplement. Small-time publishers can only gain from this kind of attitude.

I found your article interesting Robert! I was fascinated by what you are describing as a rise in science fantasy. This is something I feel should have been done more with Blackmoor. Which other groups pursue this type of game?

Aaron E. Steele said...

Another trend (perhaps): the ever-expanding interest in old-school gaming, and the explosion of self-professed old-school bloggers. Where will that go in 2010?

ze bulette said...

Personally, I look forward to the release of the next few "Supplement VI"s. I really don't take the name seriously or become offended in any way about it at all. Maybe that's cos I started with B/X. However, I DO think that Pink Floyd post-Roger Waters is bogus. But I digress... :)