Saturday, August 6, 2011

No D&D 5e and No Basic 4e!!

I've been checking a bunch of live blogs and twitter feeds from GenCon this morning. Finally got the low down on what WoTC is looking to over the next year. Ready for this? Free cookies with every D&D purchase! Yipee!! No, wait, I think that's only at GenCon. Too bad. I might have actually bought something ... if it was chocolate chip.

No, the big news is that there is no news from WoTC. Kind of funny really. But the lack of hype was so    apparent that I think many people were beginning to wonder. Lots of 4e junkies seem happy. Both with what was said and what wasn't. And to tell you truth so am I. See 'cause not only is there no 5e on the near horizon or a scaled back basic version of 4e. There was talk of D&D getting back into the minis again--not sure what they are planning here, but lots of their new minis are only released with board games. And that's what they've got on the horizon. More board games stuff. They are announcing lots of new MGT-like cards for D&D play to add in goodies and such to your play. Sort of like Monopoly "Get Out of Jail Free" cards. Let's you do "neat" stuff in the game. And they are releasing Ravenloft for next year's setting. Likely because they just dumped lots of buckage in the Ravenloft board game. There's no word yet on what the setting release will look like, some say it's sort of a Gamma World kind of release, others say that it can be played like GW or as a D&D setting. There was some mention of a "new way to play" that may still foreshadow an expansion of the essentials line to allow a "basic" approach to the game. Regardless of what they are saying tho' Essentials aint rules lite. It's kind of like stripped down 4e.

So why does all this make me happy? Actually because it clears the field. WoTC and the current D&D brand is getting further away from real roleplay and more to board games, CCGs, minis based games, one shots and most likely DDO. It's like they either feel RPGs are not where it's at anymore, or it's like they realized they are losing the battle and trying to expand into other areas. Feels like Lorraine Williams is at the helm again. Gamer Hater.
Which leaves the rest of the real RPG community wide open for development and expansion. Paizo, GURPS, Troll Lords, Kenzerco, Mongoose, Green Ronin, the OS crew and on and on. That makes me happy. It sort of like makes WoTC a non-entity in regards to RPGs. Yes, I realize I'm overstating it. But I'm sure you get my point. And, yes a part of me was worried that 5e would actually be a good game. It would steal numbers from the excellent stuff going on right now in the real gaming world. And at heart I'm a weak kneed pansy when it comes to checking out new games. I like reading them, trying them out. And in my current state of mind that is not a real good thing. I mean I am so desperately looking for a replacement game to hang my hat on that it would be easy to be seduced my the big commercial giant. My save vs charm magic has always been low.
And just check out the Old School Renaissance Group's booth! They have some awesome pictures at their website and from what they say business has been good! And evidently Paizo's game room was bigger than ever before and word is they are a company on the ascendant. Their showcase was their Ultimate Combat book, stacked high on tables across their booth space. Which was good, because they evidently sold like hotcakes. And Monte Cook has published a 2 part release of his Ptolus project with them, that if I'm reading right also saw release this Con. Margaret Weis dropped a bombshell in announcing she'll be producing a new Marvel RPG. With 16 books lined up for production already over the next two years sounds like she'll be busy to say the least. Might have to check that out too. Wonder if they'll have Peter Parker or Miles Morales for Spidey? Both if they encompass all Universes I suppose.

Overall sounds like a good Con this year. No big blockbusters, just lots of gamers playing lots of games, and buying lots of stuff. And no matter who you are new school or old, young or wizened, don't try to tell me you don't wish you had been there. I certainly do. With about a thousand bucks on me. Okay, I could make do with five hundred.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Gen Con News!

Okay, not really news, but news about news. Whatever the heck that means. I've been scanning the typical sites for Gen Con goodness and so far RPG Blog II has the best "feel like your there" coverage. And today he mentioned that there was a misconception that WoTC isn't selling anything. They evidently are, but it's not being played up very much. Kind of interesting and  filled with a certain feeling of foreshadowing given that rumors of 5e are running fast and furious. We really won't know until the release seminar on Saturday afternoon. But it's still fun to speculate. Meanwhile stop by RPG Blog II and check out the fun he's having patrolling Gen Con.

Blog of Holding did a good write-up of the WoTC, R&D Q&A session, which is worth a look. The interesting thing is that they are incorporating an optional Honor mechanics release soon. Wow! Since they are also considering an attribute based check system, I love it when things come full circle. First everyone borrowed from D&D, now they are borrowing from everyone else--Hackmaster and C&C. Kind of says something, eh?

There's more out there for sure, particularly the new offering at the OSR booth Adventurer, Conqueror, King which looks really cool. I just found out about this and thought they weren't ready for release! Another Gen Con surprise. Kewlness. But for now that's what struck my fancies. We'll see what comes of tomorrow's goings on.

Wish I was there!

The OSR: A House Divided?

"A house divided against itself cannot stand."
-Abraham Lincoln

ADD Grognard tried to warn me: "This next step your about to take is a doozy." But I was foolhardy, and just overcofindent enough to think that it would be easier than he was making it out to be.

I had been planning on publishing some of my gaming stuff. I had thought I had come to the conclusion that the OSR is supportive of this kind of thing. That the purpose of the OSR was to keep Old School Style playing alive and well in whatever form possible. If you've kept up with my blogs you know my opinions on this, developed over intense debates with myself. That if you play a retroclone you are playing it because you think it is better than the original rules in some way shape or form. Without trying to defend that anew: that you will play the game that you think is best. Also, that the best thing to do in this day and age was embrace the OSR because in it stands our best chance at preserving our style of play.

So, I was ready to start isolating the best publishing vehicle for my material. For those of you who aren't clear on what exactly I'm doing I had decided I would help "expand" the old school arena and by extension my own favorite game; and publish adventures I had written over the years that I felt merited such production. I wasn't out to produce a new game, that's a big job. Moreover I knew what the perfect game was: AD&D. Hadn't others already cloned it? No, at the most I might put out some of my campaign material, but my goals were, I felt, modest.

It just remained to find the best game to go with. Now mind you, I'm talking not only about a game to publish my stuff within, but also a game that I would be primarily converting to. I figured if this is the route I was going to go (publish my own material to keep the flame alive) then I would also want to play that game. I had narrowed the field fairly quickly to two: Basic Fantasy RPG and OSRIC. I spent the day looking over these two and the evening scouring the forums and internet for clues, resources and previous conversations by people looking to do the same.

Ouch. I thought it would be a simple matter of choosing the best game that fit my needs. How wrong I was.

Let me first say that I really like what Chris Gonnerman is doing on principle. He put out his game for free, and them committed to putting out resources for free. He is generating community around his game based on everybody sharing their stuff. Very nice. What held me up some was that compared to OSRIC, BFRPG came up a little short of AD&Dness. I actually like the game quite a bit. And the "missing" AD&Dness is trivial at best. Rules I probably didn't even use when I was playing. It was a tough call really. Did I risk going with BFRPG which was a little different than the game I was used to, but probably more like how I played? Or do I stick with a relatively known quantity and go with OSRIC?

Well I decided OSRIC would probably be best since it was most like the game I knew. Stick with what you know, right? I was a little sad about it because I really liked the feel of the BFRPG community I had seen thus far. But I felt good sticking with my original goal of staying as true to AD&D as I could. I spent the next hour or so reading through the OSRIC licenses, hilighting and annotating until I felt like I had a pretty good handle on how this needed to go. Then I turned to their community. I had been there before, but I'm not a regular on many forums, tho' I do have a presence on several. So first, off to Knights and Knaves to scour their forum for info and advice on what I was thinking about doing. I mean surely there had to be lots of people doing what I was contemplating, right?

I spent hours, finally giving up at 2 AM, reading with increasing dismay the tone and opinions of the most vocal of the oldschool community. I can't stress enough how important this is. Because these are my potential readers. People I would hope might want to download my supplements. In the end, I not only had decided they probably wouldn't, but that they would lambaste me with criticism if I tried. The hideous vitriol out there against the OSR by the OSR community itself shocked me beyond belief. For every encouraging remark there were ten salvos aimed to destroy any would be game writer's aspirations.

The deeper I got I also discovered something I had always suspected myself. That the big names in the OSR  held opinions much like I had held before. That retro clones were never designed to replace the original books. That they were there to serve as a vehicle for publishing your own material for the original games, or that they existed as an introduction to new gamers or non-old school gamers to the original works. That it was expected that you would use retro clones to try out the game to see if you liked it, and if you did you would buy the original books and play exclusively with them. It was true, hard-core old school. And it was what I had thought and believed all along.

By the end of the night, as I switched off my computer and turned off the light I was troubled and uncertain. For the longest time on my blog one thought had come up again and again. Community was as important as the game itself. It used to be in the days of yore almost everyone played the same game. And if you didn't play the same game you played a game by the same company. And then there were those few on the fringe who chose games from other small companies. I would even dare say, by complete conjecture alone, that it was an 80/20 split. Now? Now we're all on the fringe, and the fringe gets farther out each day. There are only 50% are sticking with the big boy. About 10% are with the the new startup Paizo. The other 40 are spread out all over gamerdom--even within the OSR there is little agreement.

It makes me wonder how long it can last. If gaming is a house it is slowly splintering into a thousand feudal fiefdoms warring with and against each other for each and every peasant they can garner. And the OSR itself is divided against itself. I mean the sheer number of retro clones and variants speaks to that somewhat. Yes, it does also bear witness to the creativity and imagination of the fan base. But it would be different if the bulk of the OSR was excited about what everybody else was doing, but my excursions last night led me to believe there is a large vocal portion that truly aren't. We are either cheering our own projects, or shouting someone else down. We are working against ourselves. There are only so many gamers to go around. If everyone creates their own game then who's left to play it? We've got to get behind something. And it's got to be more substantial than the idealistic notion that the OSR is about "expressing your creativity". I mean that's great but not if noone appreciates or admires your creativity by playing it. And there will be as many in the movement shooting you down as cheering you on. No let me correct that, most will be shouting you down and if you're lucky a few will cheer you on. But I don't think either camp is doing anybody any favors. This movement is so fractured it risks complete dissolution.

Remember this? Well it came to mind alot yesterday as I read the opinions of many of the old school forums. I mean jeez! Can't we all just get along?

That was when something dawned within my own mind as well. Can I really blame them? Don't I often feel the same bitterness and anger myself? Absolutely I do. I also realized something else as well. Recall my number one reason someone would play a retro clone? Because it's better right? The problem is, deep down inside, I don't think OSRIC is better than the original AD&D books. It's nice, it's well organized, it's professionally done. But it aint "it". I was compromising that belief based on the fact that clones allow me to contribute my own material. Which is fine as far as it goes, but actually playing a retro clone over the originals? Well, it would never last for me because at heart I know that I don't think it's better. But the answer isn't for everyone to go back to playing teh originals either. It's impractical and in the end a limited solution at best. There are only so many originals left out there.

Now, don't get me wrong. Lots of people have commented on the fact that I'm up and down and all over the place half of the time. But see, what I'm really doing is playing out my own process of inner debate and discussion for the world to see. We all make decisions and then reevaluate based on new evidence. That's where I'm at right now. There seems to be no solution. Or a hundred different solutions. So why would I publish material in that environment? It makes me wonder, it really does. And it has also caused me to cofnront my assumptions and personal beliefs again. The solution that presented itself previously may have been ill-advised. I'm not exactly sure at this point. I mean I could just go to a warmer community like BFRPG. But that game just doesn't seem "better" for me. I mean for all that there's the incredibly supportive and growing Castles & Crusades comunity and the stuanchly loyal Hackmaster community. But none of those are an exact fit for me.

And yes I have considered the fact that there are those in the old school that trudge on with their visions held tight in spite of the civil war raging within the community. Those that look forward, write their games, and seek to reestablish what was lost. The only trouble for me is that noone has really achieved that in my eyes. There are so many trying to do that, that the movement is simply increasingly splintered and everyone is a castled lord in their own eyes setting up their own kingdom with visions of reestablishing Camelot.

One thing  makes me smile though--Gary might like the idea that he has become the Once and Future King. And his brief time of glory on earth was indeed Camelot.

For in truth what once began with this:
Has, sadly, become this:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Why Use Open Source Retro-Clones For Publishing New Material?

Okay everyone knows I love Hackmaster and Castles and Crusades. I also love lots of things about the new swords and sorcery based RPGs coming out like Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea and the very excellent Crypts & Things (thanks again for the heads up on that one Drance--can't wait to get my copy). But in considering what system to write within I would prefer an open source system. Let's talk about that for just a minute. Because it may seem like I'm preferring a clone over a commercial system. I've always been a little sensitive about brand loyalty, so I'd like to explain myself.

The OSR has brought about a flowering of fan-based game production. In many ways it has restored the early days of the hobby when everyone was so excited about the game that they were as busy as dwarves in the mine churning out new creative material. I mean let's face it, there wasn't much to 0e and the assumption was that you would create your own worlds and adventures for your friends to enjoy. That was the way the hobby was done back then. When AD&D got rolling the supplements were coming out fast and furious. I and my friends started gaming in 1981 and there were so many commercial adventure modules coming out that we could stay busy for some time without ever running out of material. Sure we homebrewed a few, but not right at the start.

The ethos of D&D had changed. It was assumed that the company provided everything for you for those of us who came right after the full release of AD&D. And this trend continued in greater and greater measure right up to about 2001. You got your gaming from the man. Now, of course we built and brewed our own. But not necessarily under the assumption that it was better to do it that way. There were exceptions of course, but by and large build your own was an ethos of 0e. It wasn't until after about 5 or 6 years gaming that I decided building my own was more fun than just taking what TSR gave me. I still remember the massive continent spanning mega-dungeon we finished just before HS graduation. More fun than we had ever had before.

Well, the OSR has brought back that old ethos in spades. Not only are people brewing their own adventures en masse they are now homebrewing games too! And that's great. Although I must admit, I've had mixed emotions about it really. For along time I always thought it better to have a central company or game authority to which people could turn for game dissemination. I even tried to be that for a short while on my blog, collecting the OSR under one roof. It as short lived. The OSR wouldn't really cooperate. Not the people but the movement itself. It's not meant to be "collected under one roof". What I missed was the fact that the OSR is a central authority in and of itself. Granted it's a loose, grassroots, decentralized authority. It's more of an idea and a principle than an organization, but it's very tangible and powerful. The past few years have more than shown that.

So, could I write submissions for a commercial game? Yeah, I could. Not a lot of big commercial publishers take or like submissions unless they have a venue for them. Hackmaster does have Knights of The Dinner Table and their Hackjournals. Castles & Crusades has the Crusader magazine. And while I'm not knocking them by any means (I _love_ KoDT), the stuff I have right now are not exactly perfect fits for either game. You see, HM and C&C have a certain tone and feel that seems to me determined by their setting. For HM it's Kingdoms of Kalamar, for C&C, After Winter's Dark. They are both awesome settings, but my current works don't quite "fit" the feel of either campaign setting. I know I'm being short sighted here. I mean C&C and HM can be used for any setting. Just like AD&D of old you can brew your own. But to really get the "freedom" I desire I need that old 0e ethos.

The fact is the open source retro-clones give you an anything goes sort of feel. The idea behind alot of them are to keep things as simple and straightforward as possible leaving as much open to interpretation as the game allows. I always point to Swords & Wizardry as the ideal example of reproducing that "the field's wide open" sort of game. I know that Brave Halfling is putting out Delving Deeper to more closely emulate 0e rules and play. And that's fine by the way. There are lots of people who prefer to still play with the original little brown books. But what Matt Finch achieved with S&W was to create a 0e type template upon which people could imagine whatever they want. Some might argue, and actually many have, that he did it even better than 0e did. I am one in the latter camp. Matt produced rules that were well organized, well presented and "just enough" to run a game out of the box and create from there. the original 0e was much more chaotically organized and by 1977 added onto in great measure.

And that is what lots of fan-based game writers are looking for. A wide open field where anything goes. A backdrop game against which they can let their imaginations run wild. That's what I'm looking for anyway. Because my creations are very much my own. By that I mean they have my flavor. They change rules where needed, add new monsters, NPC types, diseases, and often aim for a strongly evocative tone that is distinct to the way I like to do things. When creating I don't want to be constrained--not much anyway. And this, my friends is what the OSR is all about.

--Stay tuned later today for a consideration of which clone would be best for me to create within.--

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Time to Get Busy

So I've done lots of thinking and reconsidering over the past few days. I've come to some conclusions and have decided to move forward on several fronts. First, I'm going to start publishing some of my stuff. I've played AD&D for over 30 years and have amassed a considerable library of homebrewed material. I'm fairly saavy at what works and what doesn't, and I know the game about as well as anyone else who plays it. So my gaming works just need some polishing up and rewriting to make them OSRIC compatible and they are ready for release.

In order to facilitate this I've built a separate site Sleeping Wizard Press where I will be giving updates on product progress and release info. I am also an amateur author. Have been for years and years and well ... years. I've never actually submitted anything for publication; but I may also be releasing some of that in a separate line from the gaming material. My brother and I have also been working on a few projects together that may see the light of day at some point.

Please know I am not doing this to get rich. Right? Most of the material will be available for free or for minimal cost via download. Although I am considering doing some of it by print on demand from Lulu. We'll see how things go. The cost of any projects are simply to justify my time. I do have a family and a very loving wife that indulges my gaming hobby quite nicely. But if I am going to start spending more time writing there has to be some justification. So, nuff with all that, k?

The real reason I'm doing this is because I have been in gaming limbo for over ten years now. Ever since AD&D was dropped I've looked for a new gaming home, for a purpose in the hobby. I've discovered quite a bit of that in running the RPG club at the school where I teach. I've had the pleasure of bringing over 60 or more kids to the hobby of gaming, and more importantly given them a place to belong at school, an opportunity to find like minded friends, and have received numerous parent testimonials about how good the club has been for there until then very shy child who always hated going to school. It's been quite gratifying.

I must admit that I've missed having a close group of adult gaming buddies that I game with every week. Haven't had that since my early college years. But I am going to be running a monthly game at Wild on Hobbies our Friendly Local Gaming Store (FLGS) here very soon. The idea is to bring people into the store in the eyes of the store owner, and I can't begrudge him that. He deserves all the help he can get. He's a fellow teacher at the school where I teach and is barely breaking even with the store. He's said many times that it's more like a service he provides instead of a money making endeavor. So I'm glad to do all that I can to help. It may bring me together with a few older gaming friends too as a side bonus, and that would be just fine with me.

But I still needed something more. I kept lamenting the end of my favorite game and playstyle, but was really hung up on trivialities. It took me a long time to notice this, but my old books were just hard to let go of. I knew there were clones that played very similarly or in some cases better than the originals. I had run several sessions with them and some long term campaigns very successfully. But I always pined for my old books. I longed for everyone at the table to be playing with those venerable tomes at their side. It was of course nostalgia, and comfort that kept me from realizing that these new games enabled everyone to play again, easier and more fluidly than ever before. In exactly the same style if not the exact verbatim rules. I was, in short, missing a golden opportunity. I could be a part of continuing to support and keep alive the old school gaming that I love so much. I could do that by supporting the endeavors of others in the field and in producing my own new material to extend and enliven the game.

Hence Sleeping Wizard Press. And my new found excitement and purpose. They say you have to hit bottom to get better, to transform into something more worthy and beautiful. At least that's what the alchemists teach. Well, a few days ago I hit bottom. If you missed it you can read about it here. Suffice it to say that I do miss Gary. I've been thinking about his little known work Roleplaying Mastery that he wrote some years ago. In it he talks about levels of progress in the hobby. And one I've never quite felt like I had achieved was to give back to the hobby. Well, I guess I started doing that with the RPG club. But I was always scattered as to where I belonged even amidst the club's goings on I couldn't feel at home with any game. I still felt like my game was gone. I'm sure Gary lamented that as well, even when he was still with us. But the biggest tribute I could give him was to keep that early style of play alive and burning brightly. So now I'm giving back to the style of play I like the most by providing others with material for them to enjoy. Hopefully it does a little to keep the ever-burning flame of Gygaxian style play alive and well.  It has given me so much it's all i can do to give back a little as well.

Cheers Gary! True, Gary tis gone ... But Long Live Gary!!!

Still Teaching Us From Afar

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Seeking What Was Lost: Or What to do When Your Favorite RPG Goes Out of Print.

"Nothing in this world is forever.
But others may have found what you've lost."
Alexander "Ka Blog" Osias

After yesterday's blog post some might wonder what the heck will he say next. Given that the post was quite an emotional venting, it might be hard to follow up. But no, thanks to feedback from those out there in net-land I've been given food for thought.

First, we all know that Gary Gygax was a great man. Not the only great man of gaming, but he had the fortune of being thrust to the front for a pivotal period in the hobby's creation. He's not perfect, not of us are. But I did alot of thinking about Gary yesterday. And the funny thing I realized is that I didn't think about him too much when I was a younger gamer. I just gamed. In a way that's a shame. I could have learned so much more about him and his thoughts if I had taken the time. But I was too busy enjoying his game! See, 'cause what I was focused on then was not the industry, the creator of the game or even the larger gaming community. I was thinking about our next session. About my next adventure that needed prepping and about meeting the needs of my friend's and their many characters.

And that got me to questioning myself again--what was it that I really missed? Was it the game? Was it the foundational industry of TSR? Gary? No. It wasn't any of those things exactly. It was the shared community of friends that took place in an imaginary world that was driven by the one game we played. I asked myself if AD&D had never been and Steve Jackson had been the creator of RPGs would I be vapidly addicted to GURPS instead of AD&D? Very possibly. It could have been Tunnels and Trolls, Hero, or any other of a number of systems if they had been my intro to the hobby. It was AD&D by fortuitous circumstance. What really mattered is that me and my friends were getting together and experiencing an imagined world of magic and adventure. The game had become secondary, background, watermarked behind the vivid color of our our adventures. They were what was important.

Now, I will say that AD&D fit the bill for the kind of fantasies we enjoyed telling. It's impossible to know what came first the fantasies or the vehicle in which to have them. But somehow they achieved a certain synergy in our collective minds and AD&D became the chosen vehicle for us to tell our stories. But the other essential ingredient was the group of friends to game with. They were as important or more so than the game we chose to play. So truly, it's not what you game it's who you game with.

I now play with a variety of players. They come in all sizes, shapes, personalities, and preferences. Some I have really enjoyed gaming with. Some I most definitely have not. But running the club and managing so many groups makes member acceptance a higher priority than my personal preferences. I can't simply turn someone away because I don't like their gaming style, or behavior or personality. As a "teacher" of RPGs in the public school system it is my role to teach to all who come as long as they obey the rules. Honestly, at times this can be a chore, but in the end it's worth it. However there are those years and those groups that sometimes really click. We tell awesome stories together. Stories that get retold again and again and ascend in our minds to the status of legend. This has happened in OSRIC, in C&C, in Hackmaster, in Pathfinder, in 3.5, and yes, even in 4e. So those moments do come, and confirm for me it's not what you game it's who you game with.

So my favorite game has gone out of print. Call me silly, but I've been very loathe to let it go. Call me late because it happened over 11 years ago. The knowledge that it's actually not commerically supported in it's current form anymore hampered my enthusiasm. Yes, anyone can continue to play with their out of print books. Lots of people do. And that's fine. There are a number of excellent resources out there making new material that is very compatible with older systems. So you can find any number of new modules and supplements to play with, and tweaking a module to fit an older system is quite easy. But it doesn't quite work the other way around. Tweaking a clone to read exactly as an original core rulebook is a bit difficult. In fact it's illegal. So it's quite a bit harder to use the old books side by side with a new clone. As I've said before it's better to use all clone or all old print books. This has always caused me angst for some reason. I think I was connecting the real magic of an older system with the "books" and not the synergy. But I've begun to realize that it's not what you play it's who you play with. So if your favorite game goes out of print, don't sweat it. Keep your old books. All is not lost.

Fortunately there is the Old School Renaissance. The OSR is there for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to preserve older styles of play. However some might argue that it's prime prupose was to preserve those styles of play by creating systems which would allow continued production of new material and support for certain game styles. The OSR is also very closely related to the Indie game publishing scene. Scores of gamers are now releasing what might be called variants to old school games. Games that retain the spirit of the old school style, but are decidedly different in one or more ways. Many new games are also coming out that have at best vague connections to old school and are radically different in their approach and execution.

The fact is there are numerous options for players looking for what they may have thought was lost. And many of these games may exactly emulate what you were used to playing. The best of all most are absolutely free for download via the internet. True, some of the OSR has gone commercial, creating high quality clones and variants on old school themes. But either way the OSR is your solution when your favorite game goes out of print. Because not only are there now close recreations of just about every game earlier in print, there are also increasing fan and commerically produced supports for these games. All you need to do is hook up with an OSR game that fits your perferred style.

Now, it's very likely that if you are currently gaming when your game goes out of print you know this and are ready and prepared for what is coming. It is much more likely that you are, like I was, coming back to gaming after a hiatus. You want to play the game you left off with only to find the industry has bulldozed your magic woods a long time ago. You my even try the latest commercial version of the game bearing the title you're familiar with, whether it be Dungeons & Dragons, Traveler, or Runeqeust. Only to find that it's not the game you recall at all. Have no fear, the OSR is here. It is very likely that someone somewhere has reproduced a very close simulacra of your preferred game and that there is an avid fanbase producing support material still today.

Heavens bless the OSR!

The next step of course is to keep your gaming group alive, or to build a new one. That can be a little tougher. Especially for us adults. I have found that in most large cities you can always find a group of people willing to play an old school game--even if they be few. However, in smaller towns or rural areas it may be a bit harder. If you're lucky enough to find a hobby shop you can start there, but you may still struggle. I certainly have. You may have to step out of your comfort zone and play some play by post or email games. Maybe you can arrange a game by Skype, or use software like Maptools. There are a growing number of resources out there. I'm beginning to consider them myself even though I have always avoided these types of game environments. I prefer to game face to face at the same tabel with my friends. But it's better to have
Skype or email gaming buddies than no gaming buddies at all.

This last part however, is very important. Because once again it's not what you game it's who you game with. The people that you game regularly with are more critical to your game's success and your enjoyment than the edition or model. Now, I'm not gonna say that Edition doesn't matter at all. It does. I persoanlly have a very hard time with 4e, don't really like skill based systems and tend to game fantasy. So if you already know you like a certain version, iteration or edition of a game then finding a good group with a similar creative agenda is very important. In this too the OSR is improving. The OSR community is growing and reaching out more and more. So it is easier than ever to hook up with fellow OSR gamers. You just have to make the effort.

For you see, I'm really writing this for myself. If you read yesterday's post you might get the impression I'm so fed up and bummed with the situation that I'm gonna give up. Well, I can't do that. I always come back to gaming. And Old School gaming is where I thrive. What I really need is a good steady gaming group. The groups at school are great, but they are not feeding my need for a real close group of dedicated gamers. Longtime gamers that are interested in collective worldbuilding on an epic scale. It may take some time to find gamers like this near me. But I'm, gonna start looking. For Alexander's right, "Nothing in this world is forever. But others may have found what you have lost."

Monday, August 1, 2011

What Are we Looking For? Settling on a Game of Choice.

So I spent yesterday pondering. Lots of things really, but mainly about games. Big surprise, huh? I recall once reading a books about horses some years back. My daughter wanted a horse and I was trying to self-educate. Anyway, the author said he had been through many hobbies, but he always came back to horses. I wondered while reading that statement, what it was I always came back to. The answer was easy of course. Games. Games, particularly roleplaying games--have always been my hobby of choice. There were times that I gamed less, in college for instance, but I always felt like I was missing something. And that something was gaming. For me, there was truly nothing like it. Yes, table-top roleplaying games were my hobby of choice.

So that got me to thinking yesterday. Sundays are a quiet time for me and my family. Conducive to pondering and intrapersonal ruminations. Anyway, I'm thinking about games of course, and my mind turns to my game of choice. Is there a game I always return to? For the longest time my game of choice had always been Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. It's what I started with, it's the structure in which I was most comfortable imagining and creating. It held lots of memories. It spoke the fantasy language I was familiar with. It had connections to people both met and unmet that I respected and admired. It was my game.

It has only been in the past few years, well it seems like a few but I guess it's almost been over a decade now, that I have been nursing a slowly breaking heart. It seems silly really. It seems childish. I mean it doesn't feel that way to me. This sadness and sorrow of loss feels very real and very present and very, very large. It aches really. For you see, it's like I wake up and am so tired of all the other games, of all the industry crap, of all my debates and diatribes and false starts. I decide to walk out to the horse pen. Back to the horses. I get dressed in my comfortable riding jeans, pull on my boots, grab my dusty saddle and careworn bridle still supple from thousands of loving applications of of saddle soap. I open the back door wondering where me and my horse will ride today. Along the ridges behind the property? Perhaps in the deep creek valley where the shade of the Russian Olives is so cool. Maybe towards the badlands and their beautiful, bleak mesas and hidden draws. Perhaps somewhere we've never even been. I reach the stable, which is unusually silent. I open the gate, clucking my tongue which always brought him running to me in anticipation of a long, sweet ride. But he doesn't come. No nicker, no whinny, no munching of hay in the back of the barn's shade. I search each stall, concerned. More worried with each step I end up back in the stable yard. My saddle hanging limp in my hand now, bridle dragging in the dust. And slowly the shocking realization dawns fully. He's gone. And I know he's just not gone for awhile. He's really, truly gone. And he's never coming back.

And there the metaphors die. Because the natural course of action in the scenario above is to go out and buy a new horse. Now, anyone who knows anything about owning pets. and not just owning them, but really loving them, caring about them like they were one of your family, knows that when one dies or is lost that you can't just replace it. Just buying a new one never does the trick. You need time to mourn, to grieve. And then after a while you will get a new horse or a new dog and you will end up loving it as much as the one now departed. You will still miss them, and that pang of loss never quite goes away, but the new love the new joy and companionship of your new pet makes the grief much easier to bear and at times it seems as if it never existed at all.

I've looked for new games. I've played dozens of games in an effort to find some new game of choice. I've even played retro-clones, and tried to dedicate myself to preserving that spirit of games gone by. Nothing has filled the hole. Nothing has fit the bill. I've wondered why, I've contemplated, written and talked about it with literally hundreds of people. I've thought I've come to decisions lots of times. But nothing seems to stick. nothing seems the same.

A common attack levelled at the Old School Renaissance gamers is that they are chasing nostalgia. I've talked about this before, but I don't think that's a fair assessment. We have truly lost something. We're not just talking about pining for the good old days. We/I have tried to "get into the spirit of things" now. I've played new games, and new old games. And I've even tried to gather all my old books and play AD&D like I used to. But even then it seems to be dead. It's like playing with a dead horse, or at best a stick horse. I suppose that's because noone I've played 1e with really wants to play. They humor me, but complain alot. But it's more than that.

Gary is gone too. ... ... ... Is it too dramatic for me to say that something died when he did? I'm not sure that's the case, but it makes me wonder. What else could it be?

So now I write about games. I still game. Pretty much whatever everyone else is willing to play. I hate to force my game choices on everybody else. That's a pretty sure way to make a game session fall flat. So I game other games. But they're flat for me. I try and hide it. I put on a smile, everyone loves my GMing. We tell stories that they seem to really enjoy. But me. I'm lost. And I feel like I'm the only one in the world who feels this way. You know that old saw about feeling alone in a crowd of people. Well, I can feel like gaming is dead in a crowd of gamers happily gaming away. I make comments at times, about games, about the old school, about what used to be ... but noone really seems to get it. To be fair I live in a small community and gamers are few and far between. I run the RPG club at the school where I teach, but that's a different ball of wax. Lots of gamer turn over from year to year as kids move from grade to grade. And they are kids after all. Most are new to gaming and need slow introductions to the hobby. Most of the older gamers have turned to MtG or Warhammer. Easy one session runs that fit into their adult schedules.

I can't help but feel that I'm still missing something. It's like I know what my hobby of choice is, but the stable is empty. It's like it's gone. I mean the hobby is there, but for me it's gone. Gone with TSR, gone with 1e and with AD&D, gone with Gary and Dave. Gone. And I'm left standing there at the gaming table, my book bag hanging limply in my hand, dice bag dragging on the floor. Speechless. A tear forming at the corner of my eye.


I miss you Gary ...