Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Proliferation and Convergence

The OSR looks more like this...

The Old School Revival started for me that moment when all those TSR PDF’s suddenly disappeared from Paizo’s web store. The release of the mondo-different 4e triggered the spawning of arguably the first monster retro-clone: Pathfinder. But what’s caused the crazy Linux-like proliferation since then…? I think it’s mostly to do with that license thing. It’s a mystery to me as to how all that legal stuff works, but I think whoever set that up really let the genie out of the bottle.

I think Traveller players have a much harder time. So much of game’s canon is available… and it’s crying out to be synthesized, boiled down, retuned, and reworked. But it’s just not going to happen apart from a few referees that roll their own private house rules.

GURPS I think was engineered from the start to be a toolbox for tuning up your own role-playing game. I’d play its second edition maybe to experience what Steve Jackson had actually wrought before all those other designers got involved, but apart from a few people who have hung on to third edition, there just isn’t much call for a bifurcation of the fan base there.

...but the commercial side of anything starts to look like this real fast.

Something like CAR WARS… if you pick it up again, you can choose a starting point of either pocket box, deluxe, compendium, or 5th edition… and from there maybe pick and choose three or four really good rules from the entire corpus of CAR WARS material to tune the game to your tastes. That’s about all you need to do there because the Platonic Ideal for the game is only just out of reach….

So yeah… D&D retro clones? That game was horribly ill-defined at the beginning. It’s still an open question as to what Plato’s hypothetical edition would look like– and anyone that’s read three issues of Fight On! is capable of taking a stab at it. With a distinct, free retro-clone already available for whatever version of the game it was you got started on, it’s hard not to tinker with it. But mainly it comes down to the company that owns the D&D brand going out of its way to alienate significant chunks of the fan base. And when those alienated masses sit down to show the world how D&D should really be done… they can actually share it thanks to the same licensing mumbo jumbo that allowed scads of mediocre D20 products to overflow the games stores midway through the last decade.

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3 responses to “Proliferation and Convergence

  1. RogerBW December 29, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    The thing that surprises me slightly is that, with at least one free retro-clone in existence (there are free ones, right?), people feel the need to publish their own rather than saying “mine is like this, but with this bit taken out and that rule changed”. In other words, I’d expect something like the loose community of rules-tweakers that grew up round D&D first time round, rather than this fragmentation.

    But the whole OSR thing leaves me kind of cold anyway. I don’t mind the occasional dungeon bash, but that’s not really why I role-play these days, and it’s certainly not why I’ve kept on doing it for 30+ years. (I know, a minority of a minority…)

  2. Brendan December 30, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Nice graphical contrast there.

    Isn’t there a version of Traveller under the OGL? My guess is that the dedicated Traveller fan base is just much smaller than D&D. Though it seems to be coming back a bit (Thousand Suns and all, though I’m not sure how similar that is to Traveller).

    • jeffro December 30, 2011 at 2:09 pm

      The current license holder has a lot of leeway right now, though Steve Jackson has some residual rights and Marc Miller continues to develop T5. Avenger had this idea for a sort of revised classic Traveller, but it got axed when Mongoose closed the deal…. I haven’t seen evidence of anything similar to that since. I’m not sure what the deal is. (And I’m not sure what the implications of the T20 version are, either.)

      I hesitate to try to find out more. The classic Traveller referees I respect/admire seem to get shouted down by rabid-fans-of-an-edition-I-shall-not-name on the forums this past while. At any rate, there is not as much call for dozens of Traveller clones when you can get practically every piece of vintage material for the game on CD Rom.

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