How many is too many? (Updated)

The comments section on my recent post about the differences between racial abilities in 1e AD&D and the new Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion attracted the notice of Dan Proctor and he weighed in a number of topics, one of them the sheer number of games seeing the light of day now that the Old-School Renaissance seems to be in full swing:

I think the real concern people have but have a hard time putting into words is that it is hard to support every clone (ish) game that is coming out or will come out. Many many more will come out, I have no doubt. I think what people are feeling is “support fatigue.”

How many more of these should we high-five before we say screw it, who cares? That’s a legit question, and I don’t have an answer. Honesty I don’t think any of us should feel an obligation to support every new retro game that comes out…one might ask why support AEC instead of OSRIC. I’m not asking anyone to.

I was thrilled to have Dan leave this comment, as it addresses something I’ve been wanting to write about for some time.

In July I wrote:

I’m also wondering how many people actually play multiple systems. Is it uncommon? With so many retro-clones, spin-offs of retro-clones, and new games out there now, not to mention the originals, do many players utilize several of them? Or do most pick a single system and stick with it?

Personally, I cannot materially support (in terms of purchases) every old-school game out there. I cannot even support every one I think is particularly good. First, the financial commitment would be far greater than I can afford. There is a lot of product being released, much of it of very high quality. I cannot even justify the expense of Labyrinth Lord hardcovers at this time, even though LL is my choice of one game to rule them all. There are a few products I’ve purchased to show my solidarity with the creators, and there will be more in the future. But not very many. If I don’t think I’ll use it at the table, I probably won’t be spending any money on it.

But even more limited than my gold is is my time. I simply don’t have time to play all the games I would like to check out. The whole reason I chose to go All Labyrinth Lord All the Time was that I was having trouble getting anywhere on my proposed S&W White Box game. And it wasn’t a lack of interest, as I was (and still am) very intrigued by the power curve of White Box. But there is only so much time in the day and so many players to play, so I won’t be spreading my effort over a half-dozen cool games. Unfortunately, this means that some games I’d sure like to try, such as Ruins & Ronin and Mutant Future, probably won’t get a chance.

I think most players are in the same boat as I am. I’ve made my choice (at least for now) and others will have to make their own choices based on their own interests. Some will pick multiple games. Some will play one or two but buy material for many others. I don’t know which direction things will take, though it appears that there will be a small number “bigger” games and a large number of “smaller” ones.

I’d hate to see good games struggle because things are so diluted, but the market will have its say. Fortunately, the publishing options available mean that nothing has to permanently “die,” and I think that quality material will always be in demand.

If you write it well, they will play it.

UPDATE: From a comment:

Arguably, extra gaming time is better spent expanding a smaller game than grokking a bigger game. Add to that the ease with which publishers can nuance games with house variants and setting/genre tweaks, and yes, we’ll continue to see more titles than we can keep up with.

But I think you hit the nail on the head: the required number of games is as many as it takes to find one you like.

I don’t think that we’ll reach a state of truly “too many” old-school retro-clones and retro-spin-offs. Such a state would be similar to having “too much” beer or “too many” girlfriends.

But (and this is a big “but”) once one finds the right game, beer, or woman, the others usually sort of fade into the background.

UPDATE 2: Grognardia linked to yesterday’s post with Dan Proctor’s comments. That in itself is cool, but I encourage you to check out what James has to say on the subject.

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10 Responses to How many is too many? (Updated)

  1. bat says:

    Barbarians of Lemuria is gaining steam…

    Sorry, just throwing another game in there.

  2. Erin says:

    The question of how much OSR is too much has vexed me for some time; glad to see I’m not the only one considering this.

    I agree with your prediction of more smaller games: time is precious, and smaller games are easier to learn, prep, and play. Arguably, extra gaming time is better spent expanding a smaller game than grokking a bigger game. Add to that the ease with which publishers can nuance games with house variants and setting/genre tweaks, and yes, we’ll continue to see more titles than we can keep up with.

    But I think you hit the nail on the head: the required number of games is as many as it takes to find one you like.

    • Kilgore says:

      Erin: It’s awesome that you commented, because I followed your link and realized that that very post was something I had wanted to comment on a while back. Or, rather, not the post so much as your comment:

      I still maintain that I’d like to see a bit less clone and a bit more innovation, but maybe that’s a phase 2 thing, as some of you have already said.

      I do think we’re going to reach a point (if we’re not already there) where a lot of people go, “Gee, that’s nice and all, but how many 95% faithful reproductions of Game X do we really need?” Some of the existing clones and near-clones have been out long enough and have enough of a following that corrected and improved 2nd versions are out, so they have reached a certain level of “maturity.” I think this refining will continue as (if?) more and more people use the games and provide feedback.

      The “phase 2 thing,” as you call it, has already begun with a number of new rules based on the “first wave” coming to light. These include games like Mutant Future (Labyrinth Lord platform), Ruins & Ronin (S&W White Box platform), and Chgowiz’s homebrewed Ultima game (also S&W White Box). I know that lots of people have lots of other projects in the works, some based on existing OGL platforms and others new builds, and we will be seeing a slew of new games and major supplements over the next year or more as they reach completion.

      For what it’s worth, before I realized the scale of what was going on, I fully intended to do my own take on a sword & planet spin-off of S&W White Box. But there are already a number of similar projects in the works.

      I’m at once thrilled to see what this all brings and a little worried that it’s going to be a deluge.

      (After writing this up, I’ve decided that I will re-post it (with some modifications, no doubt) as a separate post tomorrow.

  3. kenohhkc says:

    I have thought about this for a long time as well. I have had my Red and Blue D&D books at my nightstand for a number of years. I always went back to them for an enjoyable read. They held so many memories, so the nostalgia was overwhelming. This was before I even started RPGing again after a 22 year foray into heavy wargamming with miniatures(one of my great loves). But now, my boys are old enough to know how to play,(8 and 10) and my oldest (16) has played WHFRP and 3rd Ed with us. and I will tell you nothing compares to cracking the Red book and having them roll a character and going through the haunted keep in the back…until LL came out and all the support products. Now we have trashed the 3rd Ed stuff, and are full on Basic/LL players. That is my fantasy RPG of choice. and will be so. But we (our group) have ongoing WHFRP, 3:16, Mutant Future, and old Gamma World and a foray back to Star Frontiers. And a full miniatures gaiming club and slate. I am up to my eyeballs in gaming. and I love it. Not enough hours in the day, but you get used to it.

    • Kilgore says:

      I, too, love all the options. I certainly don’t want anyone to think that I wish there were fewer games or supplements.

      I’m just saying that no one player is going to embrace them all. That’s just fine, as everyone has their own wants and needs. I think I’ve found what I’m looking for, and others will, too.

  4. I understand the fatigue issue as well. While I’m like most other gamers I know in having a bit of system/setting ADD, I’m really trying to keep it all in check these days simply because neither I nor the folks I play with have the time to burn like we used to.

    So I’m sticking with LL/AEC (and Mutant Future, since it’s the same basic rules as LL) for a lot of my actual gaming. Basic RolePlaying gets some action, too, since my players honestly prefer it to anything else these days. And Barbarians of Lemuria just has its sexy teeth too deeply into me for me to escape.

    That said, I’m happy to design for/monkey with a few others, mostly Swords & Wizardry and Mazes & Minotaurs. And, of course, it’s possible that something will come along that will wipe the slate clean and make me start over completely 🙂

    But for the time being, I’m trying my best to maintain my actual play focus on the systems noted above, with LL/AEC/MF, BRP and BoL as the lead horses.

  5. redbeard says:

    What I would appreciate is a clearing house for the various old school flavors with a summary of their differences and similarities.

  6. Pingback: OSR Phase 2 « Lord Kilgore

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