Monday, July 11, 2011

Nobody Likes Old School?

Okay, that title was designed to be inflammatory. It was at least designed to make you look. The real dilemma I have right now is that nobody wants to play with me! Okay, it's not exactly me they're rejecting it's the games I wanna play.  I got a wee bit mad at them at first. Called them some nasty names. But just on my blog ... it's not like I did it in public or anything.

Seriously, I have been trying to get a Hackmaster Basic game, a HM 4e, Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG playtest, and a 1e game for awhile now; and I've got no takers. Well, they agreed to humor me and began rolling up PCs for HM4e, but quickly dumped it. So I'm currently running a Pathfinder game for the summer group, and no one wants to take it over so I can run an earlier or new OS version. And even if they were willing to take it over I would probably have no one wanting to play in my game with an active PF game going on.

I've also got my hobby shop owner really wanting me to run a 4e encounters session at the FLGS. He rarely carries RPG stuff, and says if he has a hope of supporting anything it's likely to be 4e. They run a very successful Friday Night Magic game and he thinks a Wednesday Encounter session would be as popular or moreso--but he needs an experienced and forgiving DM to organize and run it. He also wants the DM to be an adult that he can count on. He says I'm perfect for it. But I keep trying to talk him into supporting an OS game, or a small press game; but while he says I'm more than welcome to run the game at the store, he's unlikely to be able to support it much with print sales. He's a small store with a small customer base.

Sigh. It's like I can't get away from the inevitable. As many of you know I began the blog under the auspices of 4e, but over time changed the focus to old school gaming. I've been all over the page on this, and I'm right back where I started. Lately I've really struggled with the lack of cohesion in the OS community. It's fine if you've got a group of OS players that are willing to play each week in classic OS style. But you can forget it if you want anything like larger gaming community. And moreover, I'm afraid that the decentralized nature of the OS publication endeavors makes for lots of repetition and variable quality. I mean there's Dragonsfoot, and there's Knights and Knaves, but those forums really are just individuals exchanging opinions on what has been, and discussing ideas that have been explored dozens of times before. Literally I have a tough time finding something new to read or talk about there.

But even that's not the real difficulty the OSR seems ill-prepared to answer. As I've talked about before: there is no central OS authority. Support is diffuse at best and often very slow in coming. Lots of people spend time duplicating the efforts of others by rewriting rules again and again after their own preferred fashion. I started one project like this myself, before somebody cut me off at the pass; and believe it or not was just considering starting another one as well. How many times can we cut down the same tree? In my opinion this is all due to the fact that we lack central authority. Some would say this is good, sort of like the free market. But, we are not just talking about economics here. We are talking about a social endeavor that cries out for some organizing factor. Thus far, as good as they are, Dragonsfoot, K&K, and even TARGA have all failed to bring the movement together. If we desire to make contact with other old schoolers outside of th net, we are left with a small group of conventions that cater to OS games like Garycon. And if you're like me you can't afford to get to any Cons more than 6 hours away. TARGA was designed to bring OS gamers together but it didn't work. To be fair I geuss the OS gamers didn't support it. I put myself on the list to be a regional rep in Utah, but no one ever called or contacted me. And when I sent requests on how I could help or what I should do, never received any notice or contact. Now the TARGA website has been coopted by some gambling site and they have a minimal Facebook presence.

If you follow my blog at all you will recall that just recently I was contemplating a radical shift in my focus to try and be an old school clearinghouse. A place where old schoolers could come and find everything in one place; I was also hoping it might develop into Old School Central and perhaps succeed where TARGA failed. Suffice it to say the cold hard hand of reality slapped me down but quick. The reasons why it didn't work were all those mentioned above and more. I just don't think it can be done in the current old school environment. Don't get me wrong, some good stuff is being put out there. I like some of it. But it simply lacks the kind of community that other games are providing. Other games like D&D 4e and Pathfinder.

Some might say they are able to pull this off due market share or economic power. But either way the situation remains unchanged. And you would think building a community doesn't take market share or buying power. It simply requires that the community be willing to come together around something more than an idea. Hell, even if they would actually come together around that it might be different, but they don't seem willing to.

And the real trouble for me, is that hereabouts there is nobody that wants to belong to that community anyway. This blog was my attempt to connect with that community. But that's all it's been--an attempt. It's one more old school blog amongst the hundreds if not thousands out there. It was more successful in some ways when it was a diary of our gaming experiences for 4e. Now, this doesn't mean that I'm stopping the blog, oh no. But here I sit writing old school rhetoric and philosophy, yet I'm playing a very modern iteration of the game, and being begged to play the latest version. When you're in my position and trying to build a gaming community it seems kind of counterintutive to pull so strongly against the stream. With the intentions of building gaming in my own small neck of the woods I've now effectively isolated myself by edition division. I and my blog is just spinning the wheels and we're stuck in some pretty deep mud.

It may simply be time for me to bite the bullet and move over to the table where there are acutally players willing to play.

6 comments:

ADD Grognard said...

I find that maybe your approach may be throwing you off a bit.

The OSR is truly the Original D&D and it shows in what you are seeing as problems.

There is no central authority.

There isn't supposed to be. And the closest we come to someone fitting that description...well...they are gone.

But we were left with the most important piece of advice anyone could leave us: It's your game. You are the final authority on your world and what goes on in it. The whole point is it's not supposed to be cookie cutter...or balanced...or any of those other modern war cries made by a dwindling industry about the 'right way' to play.

My favorite part of gaming (and my poison was always AD&D1e just for a reference point) was the toolbox approach. I was blessed to play in a group where three of us DM'd. Now THAT was some good gaming. Young guys, trying to one up each other on the coolness factor and blow the other players minds. We always had full seats and then some because those who didn't play would watch like a spectator sport. We were having fun!:) And that really appeals to people. So much that if there isn't room at the table that they would watch and have a good time as well.

I must confess I have only recently come across your blog and haven't had a chance to read your archive but I run Eternal Keep and that is how I keep up with everything that is going on.

If you are serious about kicking it old school I'll bet there is someone in this community who can help.

Don't give up yet. You will find your own path and walk into a world of unlimited possibilities.

And may all your rolls be 20's :)

Greylond said...

For those not going to GenCon, some of us over at the Kenzer&Co forums are getting some gaming together online, using MapTools and Ventrilo. Games on the schedule are HackMaster Basic(with material released from KODT and HJs) and Aces&8's. Possibly more!

Chris said...

Hey, thanks guys. I really appreciate your comments. It helps to know I'm not just shouting into the void : - 0

@ADD Grognard: I do really like the idea of no central authority governing our creativity--but what about some sort of Old School Association or something. Some place to bring us together. Or do you think, as I fear, that we are all too individualistic to come together for something like this? I mean unless you are under the banner of a certain version or publisher it's kind of hard to feel liek you even have a community.
-
And I was just wondering. You seem to be a 1e guy, like me. Do you really feel the OSR is based around Original D&D? I've begun to feel like the true sandbox of D&D is 0e; but I'm so in love with 1e. I've just never thought of it as restrictive. Maybe what I need to do is take 0e and make it my own. Thoughts?
-
And thanks for the heads up on your blog. Most excellent work! I've sent you an email about including my blog there, and posted a link to yours on mine. Thanks!
-
@ Greylond: Hey thanks Greylond. I would love to play Hackmaster -- basic or 4e. But I'm not a big fan of pbp/forum or skype gaming. I may be that desparate soon though ; - ) And I'll admit, of publishers currently releasing new material, Kenzerco and Goodman Games are close to my heart.

Thanks for talking to me guys.

ADD Grognard said...

We sort of have that beginning now with The Old School Renaissance Group.

http://theosrg.blogspot.com/

The news of the booth at GenCon plus this helped a lot:

Saturday, April 2, 2011
The OSRG wins Gen Con Marketing Fellowship & Assigned Booth Number!
The Old-School Renaissance Group has been awarded a Gen Con marketing fellowship! This means that we're going to have a 200 sq ft endcap booth instead of a 100 sq ft normal booth. Additionally, we're going to be featured in a special area of the Gen Con Indy 2011 program book. Also, we've been assigned booth number 1541 in the dealers hall. You can download a PDF of the dealers hall.

So thanks to everyone in the OSR and to Gen Con for making our first show even that much better!



I don’t think there will be one vanilla version because the majority of us see this as what went wrong in the first place. Keep in mind, most of the material out there is compatible with almost everything else. There are even Rosetta Stones for conversion.

I think a lot of the original members of the group see OSR as standing for 0e and there have been some heated discussions on that. In a way it’s why I sort of fell in behind Randall Stuckey and his O.S.S. (Old School Style) description. It’s not about any one set of rules to me. It’s about a style that developed during a certain time period being re-visited and revived not just by older players but young folks as well. Check out http://grognardling.blogspot.com/ for one take on that scene.

I believe we build the game we want to play regardless of publisher, edition, etc. That was how I was introduced to the game during the peak. We borrowed from whatever we wanted. Books, movies, other game systems it didn’t matter. You added the stats, put the story together grabbed your maps, dice and books and off you went. One of my favorite sources then was the Creatures and Treasures series. When you have 3 DMs who all know the Monster books backwards and forwards it was nice to drop a new critter in to shake things up :)

It’s funny, I put Eternal Keep together so that I could keep up with what was going on because I hate readers (seems like I always had 1000 unread messages-ugh) and it proved useful to a lot of folks. I start everyday with a visit. Glad you like it.

My blahblahblah blog is at http://addgrognard.blogspot.com/ and my development blog (yes, another soon to be publisher here :) at http://forsaken-souls.blogspot.com/ .
And before you write off playing online check out this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahGRNINGf64

I think this type of play will grow rapidly. It seems to have the right blend of tabletop and online experience that could bring together many people and provide the playing field for smaller games as well. With this type of play as few as 500 people could be an entire customer base for a system and in the hobby business as opposed to the industry that’s enough to keep people producing. I use this as my own target goal to add back not only the employee that I lost last year but start buying custom art as well.

Ok, I’ve droned on enough. Now I gotta get you added (sorry, I’m behind this week-medical issue) and welcome to the neighborhood.

ADD Grognard said...

We sort of have that beginning now with The Old School Renaissance Group.

http://theosrg.blogspot.com/

The news of the booth at GenCon plus this helped a lot:

Saturday, April 2, 2011
The OSRG wins Gen Con Marketing Fellowship & Assigned Booth Number!
The Old-School Renaissance Group has been awarded a Gen Con marketing fellowship! This means that we're going to have a 200 sq ft endcap booth instead of a 100 sq ft normal booth. Additionally, we're going to be featured in a special area of the Gen Con Indy 2011 program book. Also, we've been assigned booth number 1541 in the dealers hall. You can download a PDF of the dealers hall.

So thanks to everyone in the OSR and to Gen Con for making our first show even that much better!



I don’t think there will be one vanilla version because the majority of us see this as what went wrong in the first place. Keep in mind, most of the material out there is compatible with almost everything else. There are even Rosetta Stones for conversion.

I think a lot of the original members of the group see OSR as standing for 0e and there have been some heated discussions on that. In a way it’s why I sort of fell in behind Randall Stuckey and his O.S.S. (Old School Style) description. It’s not about any one set of rules to me. It’s about a style that developed during a certain time period being re-visited and revived not just by older players but young folks as well. Check out http://grognardling.blogspot.com/ for one take on that scene.

I believe we build the game we want to play regardless of publisher, edition, etc. That was how I was introduced to the game during the peak. We borrowed from whatever we wanted. Books, movies, other game systems it didn’t matter. You added the stats, put the story together grabbed your maps, dice and books and off you went. One of my favorite sources then was the Creatures and Treasures series. When you have 3 DMs who all know the Monster books backwards and forwards it was nice to drop a new critter in to shake things up :)

It’s funny, I put Eternal Keep together so that I could keep up with what was going on because I hate readers (seems like I always had 1000 unread messages-ugh) and it proved useful to a lot of folks. I start everyday with a visit. Glad you like it.

My blahblahblah blog is at http://addgrognard.blogspot.com/ and my development blog (yes, another soon to be publisher here :) at http://forsaken-souls.blogspot.com/ .
And before you write off playing online check out this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahGRNINGf64

I think this type of play will grow rapidly. It seems to have the right blend of tabletop and online experience that could bring together many people and provide the playing field for smaller games as well. With this type of play as few as 500 people could be an entire customer base for a system and in the hobby business as opposed to the industry that’s enough to keep people producing. I use this as my own target goal to add back not only the employee that I lost last year but start buying custom art as well.

Ok, I’ve droned on enough. Now I gotta get you added (sorry, I’m behind this week-medical issue) and welcome to the neighborhood.

Chris said...

Wow! ADD Grognard. I feel almost like a noob. Your advice is spades! I had no idea the OSRG was out there. I'm checking out all the links you suggested and incorporating them into my blog. Seems like lots of people were further ahead than I realized. Crow is tastier than I thought!
: - )