Erin Smale of Welsh Piper left a comment on yesterday’s post about old-school overload (sarcastic term, folks!) in which he linked to a post of his own from last September. This is serendipitous, as I had seen that post a few months back and meant to comment on it, but never got around to it.
The actual post is basically wondering what purpose the old school renaissance really serves and if the material that’s coming out of it is really much more than nostalgic fanism. Honestly, it’s the sort of stuff that I usually just blow off.
But near the end of the post he writes this:
Could it be that using the OGL to write a retro-clone is really just an old-schooler’s way of making a game his own? Maybe OSR isn’t about nolstagia, or inventing new tools for playability, or even tempting a new segment of the market. Maybe OSR is about taking our hobby to a level that ignores the boardroom and focuses instead on the gamer, the player, and the imaginative GM. We all have our tweaks and variants and house rules. We all have our gaming groups and styles of play. Maybe OSR is really just a statement to the industry that says, in dutiful 10-point Futura, that we can do it too: Let us play, and stop trying to tell us how to go about it.
If so, that’s quite encouraging. [emphasis mine]
That, I think, is a great summary of a lot of what’s going on. It’s the mad days of the late 70s/early 80s, except with high-quality self-publishing and instantaneous communication/socialization.
Even more interesting to me than that, though, was this comment he left nearly two months later:
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, especially if there is the promise of a little money to offset the huge investment of time and effort the best projects require.
The “phase 2 thing,” as Erin calls 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 even a homebrewed Ultima game (also S&W White Box). I’m not exactly clear on what James Raggi’s Weird Fantasy is going to be all about, but it’s no doubt going to be worth a look. Others, like Urutsk: World of Mystery, not only avoid using existing clones for foundation, they eschew the OGL altogether.
I know that lots of people have lots of other projects in the works and we will be seeing a slew of new games and major supplements over the next year or more as they reach completion. Some will tweak existing games and ideas, some will forge new roads, and some will just plain be way the heck out in left field. Or beyond.
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.
Finally, and I kid you not, my 12-year-old daughter is currently working on character classes for her own spin-off of S&W White Box. Really.
UPDATE: It appears that the final revision of this post did not get saved properly, so for the first hour or so today a not-quite-complete version was live on the site. I have corrected this and the final version is up now. My apologies.