Tuesday, July 13, 2010

From The Desktop: My Final Stance on the OSR Debate

My Final Stance on the OSR Debate

As many might well remember, this whole recent debate started with me distancing myself in a public statement from the OSR Movement, here.

No less than 30 minutes later, James Raggi posted this here.

The interrelated issue was this.  It is an honor issue with some of us TSR alumni, meaning, we stand by defending to the core our traditions which we are steeped in from being swept away, or minimalized, or compared to others with such broad categorizations.  Jim Raggi's reactions are here and here to Tim Kask's rebuttal and my supporting views.

For the record, here are my final thoughts on what I believe I have experienced about the OSR, its publications and its present and future.  And I say this not as the very first publisher to have released a product in 2006 to start this whole ball rolling, but as one who just continued rolling the ball that had been started so long ago, and in that matter, once again with the help of myself in 1973/74.  That is to say, that my observations are based on inforned inquiry that no other can equal by comparison as the inquiry starts at two milestone points and has contined to this very moment.

I am not part of the OSR, I never was and will never be.  For that natter, when OSRIC was first to be released the fellows in charge of that came to me and wanted me to participate with that.  I cordially delcined.  The whole issue of OSRIC's potential and merits were discussed in many threads on Dragonsfoot; some saw it as a good thing, others saw it as not needed.  I was among those who saw it as not needed.  And do note, if there was anyone best positioned to produce a D&D clone then it was myself.  But further note:  I have not done so to date.  Many asked why, and even more wanted me to do so, but I wouldn't.  I have explained my reasons to Allan Grohe and to others, and they are not as simple as "Well, we have the books already," as many might assume.  But here are the reasons as I know them and as they have grown and come better into focus through watching the "Clone Wars" (joke intended) rise over a short space of 4 years.

Very simply the reasons are:  I did not want to relive the past and I do not want to relive the past now.  I am a professional game designer. I want to design new things; and I have gone on record more than once in stating that here and elsewhere.  This has perhaps to do with my exposure to so many games and designs in my life, including RPGs.  Within that context I want these designs to reach out as examples for all as to what they can aspire to, just as Empire of the Petal Throne or D&D did through their publication.  This is my aspiration and no other.  I feel that if one strives for the best that the money will come, so one need not worry about that.  Setting such examples also raises the bar of the industry and brings in new players and in the case of RPGs, new DMs as well.  Bringing them in, again, and as I've stated so many times here and elsewhere, does not mean keeping them engrossed and participating--only good product and a sustained comittment to grow those who enter into to the hobby accomplishes that.

I do not feel that the OSR overall and as a group of companies is striving for that in whole.  And here is  my main reason for that:  There are too many clones of the rules.  IMO as a designer on one hand,  as a publisher on the other, and as a player on yet another, there are puzzles, consequences and obstacles galore with this now real development.  I could make a long list of the salient ones, but I am not here to lambast or to consult, but here's a big one out of the bunch from my "designer's" side:  all of the time spent with designing these iterations could have instead been given to producing a really rock-hard innovative product that captured the attention of the industry at large (like D&D and EPT did) or even could have earned a CRA at Origins, perhaps; it might have produced such a resulting wave of exposure to have grown the industry in a proportion it had never seen to date. Instead, time and effort was given over to various iterations which are fine as is, but really accomplish the same thing while directing attetion over and over again to a circluar motion.  This is a great disappointment to me, but when I thought about it, not unforseen.  Some of us got the idea, but unfortunately most did not.  Up and coming designers were empowered to create afresh, but instead imitated time and again.  This is fine if that is what you want to do, but even D&D finally had its weaknesses and they began to show when compared to many other product lines (such as Chaosium's).  Its strength was in the overall bones of the matter, but its life is, and has always been, what you add to those bones.  And independant companies and designers cannot nurture that strength to life without products which innovate and at the same time set examples for new waves of people to come who will be in part our indsutry's future game designers.

IMO, most everyone is playing it safe.  Was D&D safe when first projected as a product idea?  Heavans no.  It was out there.  People lambasted it, marginalized it and said it would never for too long occupy a serious gamer's shelf.  We heard it all.  Reduplicating it ad infinitum is a fine send up, but what really is telling is how much innovative flesh is added to it and through that how much punch such products deliver in a market now becoming saturated with sameness.  IOW, is this a short term "Can I do the same"? proposition or a long term, "I see what I have to do"?  Unfortunately, my gut feeeling says the former, though time will tell.

As for the rest, it has taken its course. It is not about US and THEM, it is as I said at JtL's Blog: it is about the ideology of "I".  As for being (in or part or with or through) the OSR by default, I reject that for creative and philosophical reasons.

(inserted transcript edited at request of original poster)

As a further step to point to the ridiculousness of this postulate, I recently phoned an old group of gamers I have been geographically removed from for years.  They still play AD&D with some house rules like many do.  After chit-chatting about old times, I got down to the crux of the matter:  In his estimation, I asked my friend, over the years how many players were still playing and how many had they brought into their games (and board games as well, as they are gamers, not just RPGers).  The groups varied from 4-7 over the years with 5 being a good average.  They estimated that in their years of play (and this is an isolated area of Wisconsin) that they had had as many as ten new players exposed to the game and out of those 2 still represented new full time players and some inactive and/or part time, possible players.  I asked him (I will call him B.) if they had ever heard of the OSR?  My friend said exactly this:  "What?" I explained; and he admitted that they had been doing just fine without it, but wished it luck.

And that's what I'm doing...


Restless said...

What's that sound, like a ripe melon being thumped? It's the sound of my forehead hitting the desk thanks to all these inane pissing contests and arguments.

Rob Kuntz said...

If that's all you got out of my post then that is all you wanted to see. Please don't hurt your head in the meantime. ;)

Dan of Earth said...


Did you ask this same group if they might be interested in a new, innovative game? I suspect that after all these years of playing AD&D they would have switched by now if that's what they were looking for. I can't speak for the "OSR," whatever that is, but for me and Goblinoid Games that is the crux of the matter. I understand where you are coming from creatively, but for me there is value in keeping old rules in print. I have various reasons for that which I can go into more if you like. To strive to innovate is noble, but innovation is not the only legitimate goal. I'm speaking of innovation in game rules specifically. Innovation in adventure design, monster design, etc. is another matter.

I do see your point though when it comes to the question of how many clones we need. But I suppose that's a question each publisher needs to ask himself/herself. It's their time to waste, after all, and in the end if it brings joy to them then I don't see the harm. I suspect that as more come out the issue will resolve itself. I can't see the wider gaming community getting too excited about too many more, even if slightly tweaked, etc.

Will Mistretta said...

"I did not want to relive the past and I do not want to relive the past now."

Says the man who republishes his old campaign notes for a living...

Not that I don't buy the hell out of them, but come on, man.

"There are too many clones of the rules."

There are a lot, lot more products that aren't sets of rules than ones that are. The vast majority of classic D&D-compatible products released in the last few years have been modules, campaign world sourcebooks, periodicals, etc.

"all of the time spent with designing these iterations could have instead been given to producing a really rock-hard innovative product that captured the attention of the industry at large (like D&D and EPT did)"

I don't feel you're really grasping the point of these products. I play classic D&D. I don't really want or need a new RPG game. There's hundreds already and many more on the way, no matter what OSR folks do or don't do. I just want to be sure that classic D&D rules stay in-print forever. Bonus points if they're free to download. Clone rules succeed on both fronts.

That's the goal, preserving the game we love by making it available to all in perpetuity, not to make the "next big thing." And what's wrong with that?

"IMO, most everyone is playing it safe."

Most everyone has always played it safe and always will, in all areas of life. That's the nature of the beast.

In the end, Matt Finch probably said it best:

"I, myself, think of the OSR simply as a descriptive term for the increased communication (via internet) between gamers who play out-of-print D&D. It's not a perfect term, it's simply the term that caught on. Perhaps it applies better to the creative output resulting from the better communication platforms - substantive messageboard posts, free game material, the evolution of cottage publishers like me and Dan, the blogs, and the new conventions like GaryCon and NTRPGcon."

That's it. The term OSR denotes that the online classic D&D community has come a long way from hoping that TSR's lawyers don't get your childish "Complete Guide to Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" .txt file pulled from CompuServe.

As Raggi put it: There are no gods, no masters, no dogma, certainly no "Star Chambers", just a hoard of gamers who love classic D&D and are determined to keep it in print and support it by producing new compatible product and buying such. You can append "movement" to it and act like that means something sinister (or something at all), but that's your hang-up, not mine.

Cimmerian said...

There's nothing wrong with some back and forth discourse for that is how we define our landscape. Does not appear abnormal in any form to me and you can bet there is more to come as unpleasant as so many find it. Comes with the territory as it were....

Regardless of which territory's flag you want to be a part of or avoiding all associations, it is important to note that participation brings more unseen possibilities and varying creative input. The cream rises to the top and the chaff sinks. How an individual conducts themselves along the way may well influence how their creativity is received. Again, correcting itself.

I will say there seems to have been a lot of dubious information brought forth in these comments with others riding the wave as fact. Beware!

Restless said...

No, I didn't even read more than a few lines. I think seeing it at the top of my newsreader just made me post that as a primal scream into the darkness. I don't have an interest in the fight other than ending the fatigue I feel from the community drama. The amount of blather devoted to this topic from all corners has been tiresome. The eternal arguments are what pushed me away from gaming in the first place (rules lawyering, "but that's not how it really works in the SCA!" and the whole edition shift from 1e to 2e).

I am just wondering when stuff like this (plus discovering that the things that pushed me away the first time are still there, in spades) leads me to tell my gaming friend, "well, you're right. I'm not going to bother to get a pen-and-paper game together. Send me that WoW trial you keep offering me." What kills me is that the people who want to grow the hobby or publish for it or whatever are often the same ones who make it such that people like me, who loved gaming as a kid and really want to come back and be an active gamer, hesitant to get back into the hobby.

Rob Kuntz said...

Hi Dan, how are things?

No, did not ask them that one, but they are always interested in same so if that comes to pass that comes to pass. TMy freind did state that they divide a lot of tine between Axis & Allies (and variants) and AD&D, as well as a good game of Diplomacy when they can find 7 to play the full game. Other than that, they have been doing the same thing since I knew them back in 1986, and having a blast doing so. In order to get them to move I suspect that the game would have to be quite different than a clone of D&D as they, like me, find no reason to pay for the same fun factor over again, even if this would mean better rules organization (a hurdle they overcame years ago). They're an open bunch (don't know some of the new names) so anything goes if it's cool.

As far as I am concerned we needed a set for OD&D, Advanced and for Basic, just like the old days. That's it. Now we just have people tweaking here and there. Plus I believe some miss the point. It's about going forward as dozens of other companies have done.

Bottle City was in part a look into the way we did it then but only one avenue of expression and there are so many more. People have been pressing me to get out the old Greyhawk dungeons I made and Castle El Raja Key, but I have recently gone through that same realization: and it's that these are just not needed (that is why folks have not seen me publishing anything in a while as I am reorganizing my concerns with that).

Other than that, if you take a wide look at the past and project that into the future, D&D stands as only one example of what has stood the test of time. Games created before then have a longer record in the board game and miniatures game markets and some concurrent with D&D are still even being published. Depends if you are farsighted and wanting to make lasting contributions like D&D and others have done. I get the idea of keeping the spirit alive, I have been a great champion of that, and if anyone says differently, it's BS.

Perhaps it would be better to hear my views by phone and for me to hear yours? Drop me an email Dan.

Rob Kuntz said...

@Restless: Yeah. I know what you mean. I in fact usually ignore such controversial postings (Take a good look at this blog's posts and you will find the current editorial to be the only one, otherwise the content is all game and game theory and game history related).

However, philosophical and creative differences have come to a head;but I am soon clearing the deck and it will be back to company and gaming related stuff as it was before this necessary bump occurred.

Happy gaming!

Rob Kuntz

Rob Kuntz said...

@Cimmerian. Thanks for chiming in Chris. How's the Urutsk scenario coming?

Tom said...

Hello Mr.Kuntz,

I see the mob has slowly parted. What direction do you think your future projects may take you? Are planning to take another direction or are you still going publish D&D related material?.

chrisrobert said...

White print on black background is tough on my eyes...

Rob Kuntz said...

Sorry about that Chris. There are work arounds, like subscribing to the posts and reading them inline in your email.

My eyes aren't what they used to be so I know what you mean.

Tom said...

Just lower your screen's brightness which makes it easier on your eyes to read black on white. I did that and my eyes don't get as irritated as many head aches.

Rob Kuntz said...

@Delve: Hey Delve. My intents will be posted very soon and some are already known (i.e., assisting Kyrinn S. Eis with her wonderful rules /and/ World of Urutsk).

I am not dropping out of design, have no worry there.

mxyzplk said...

I don't think these lines of reasoning hold much water.

There is product development and innovation within bounds all of the time. Some people churn out completely new unique games (and the RPG world is littered with those, 99.9% of them aren't winning any awards). Some people publish stuff for existing games, or variations, including the products for/variations on the OGL. Some people publish for older D&D. Casting yourself as a brave independent artiste because you are making OGL products from your old campaigns and the OSR as derivative because it's making products based on older D&D bits doesn't make any sense to me. Publishing OGL supplements is not any more innovative, groundbreaking, or unique snowflakey than making 1e clone material. Not that there's anything wrong with it.

If what you're saying is "3e/d20 is better than the old stuff so why do stuff based on the old stuff," that's a legit game preference opinion but it doesn't seem like that's what you're saying. Why is developing for the older games "reliving the past" but developing for OGL not doing the same - is 10 years old the statute of limitations for being out of date? You realize OGL isn't the newest version of D&D any more right?

If you don't want to put out old-D&D-version products, or be associated with the OSR, that's fine, but you go on to essentially denigrate them with reasoning that has absolutely no logical coherency.

Heck, I'm not an OSR guy, I play Pathfinder - but I crawl the OSR blogs because I see a lot more actual content development and innovation happening in them than in many other places. IMO it's not so "old and busted" as you make it out to be.

In closing, I'll note that I hadn't heard of Pied Piper and your own post-1980's products until OSR links led me to them... It seems to me that small publishers may not be acting in their best interest if they tell sources of interest in their work to go blow.

Rob Kuntz said...

I did mot say "Go blow," to anyone in fact. I stated my views coherently. The rest is answered in my post as is, nothwithstanding your skewed interpretation of it.

Good day, sir.

Joethelawyer said...

Here's my final take on the whole damned mess.

First, I like and respect Rob and James as people as also like and respect their work. They're both very creative people. I've spoken to them both via email and the phone with Rob, and via chat and blogs and boards with Jim. Rob consented to a very long interview, full of personal questions, which will be posted to my blog one of these years, when we ever finish it. That being said, I'll attempt to speak my mind rather than mealy-mouth and worry about offending. I'll just state how I feel, my observations based on my understanding of the two individuals, without sharing personal info, and let the dice fall where they may. They'll probably both hate me after this, but whatever. I have to say it as I feel and see it.

As to the OSR: I don't like revisionist history and dogma. I do see some of that, and it grows as the OSR grows. Then comes bull and politics. Then the judgment of the good/bad/right/wrong way to play D&D rears its ugly head. It's what happens in every organization/movement/type of thing where people come together. It's a natural occurrence. It's inevitable. Some people see it growing, some people don't. I see a lot of the early signs of it, being a hater of it, and my early warning system is going off.

Some people say they won't be affected, that they play how they want to regardless of the groupthink. Fine. Maybe you won't be. But for every one strong individual there are at least 10 or more insecure follower types, without a strong a personality, who can be infected with groupthink and Kool-Aid drinking. That's undeniable, though the ratio may be debatable. That's who I'm worried about.

As it stands now, the most vocal among us are, unsurprisingly, the people with perhaps the strongest streaks of individuality. To an extent, those people are in common agreement on certain things, and post their shared views to the world. Those shared views become impressed on the impressionable as “the way it is” just by virtue of being the most common and available reading material. All things are compared against it.

Then impressionable follower types then preach the one true way to the world, as read on the blogs and boards of the OSR.

So then what the heck is the OSR spreading? If it's spreading at all in any real numbers, which is something I question, it's spreading groupthink instead of unlimited creativity and play, which was the intent of the creators of the hobby, and some of the earliest desires of those who starting rediscovering their gaming roots a few years, and coalesced into a group of people we now call the OSR. (I'll note for the record that there's a ton of people that never left, like some at Dragonsfoot, and thousands all over the world, who still play the games they grew up with.)

People then lose focus on the whole reason for the thing in the first place: to enjoy playing older D&D games, and to share our games, creativity and fun with others.

Joethelawyer said...

part 2

As to the labeling of who is part of it, and who is not, I've stated my opinion on that here:


Let me just add that the problem in my with Jim's post on his opinion of who is in the OSR and who is not, is this:

You can self identify and part of a group. No problem. You will always have others consider you part of a certain group or subset. That's just part of life. There's nothing you can do about it. However, Jim's post made it sound like he was telling others that they were part of something, defined by a certain set of subjective criteria, and THAT THEY THEREFORE HAD TO CONSIDER THEMSELVES PART OF IT, WHETHER THEY LIKED IT OR NOT, BECAUSE THE GROUP AND THE GROUP'S CRITERIA MADE THEM PART OF IT. That's the key difference. In other words, it came across as telling people what to think. It smelled of the dogma I spoke of earlier. Hence my speaking out about it on my blog, as I hate dogma.

After speaking with Rob and corresponding with him via email for close to a year, I can honestly say he has one of the strongest streaks of individuality I've ever encountered. He has his own sense of integrity and set of personal beliefs which he tries to live by every day of his life, which compels him to speak out like he has. As such, you can understand why he was riled up by Jim's post, which made it seem like Jim was implying Rob was part of a group and should consider himself thus. Rob's not a follower.

He also isn't a guy who constantly goes out there and says “I deserve respect for my accomplishments.” For the most part, he lets his creations speak for themselves. I know Jim is a big fan of Rob's work. He has stated so many times. I'm a fan of Jim's work and Rob's work, and have stated as such to each of them about their own work, and about the other guy's work. In terms of the products each produces, I think both guys have a lot in common. Both exhibit a lot of creativity, and their modules are great examples of pushing the limits of what's out there today.

Rob doesn't need to OSR for sales or credentials. He was there at the beginning, and doesn't need the name recognition. Jim does. Of course he is going to push the OSR as a brand under which to market his products. I think Rob gets that, and doesn't mind outside of the groupthink component of it. What really pissed him off I believe is the lack of respect not to himself, but to the whole thing HE was part of, and the group of people at TSR he worked and played with in its earliest days. I honestly don't think Rob is as personally offended, as much as he is offended at the revisionist history, creeping dogma, lack of focus on play and creativity, and a betrayal of what he considers the core of D&D, and a lack of respect for people who made the whole thing happen in the 70's, culminating for him as the blog post that broke that camel's back in some of Jim's posts recently which exhibited some of those things. It wasn't all about Jim, is was building for a while I think.

Joethelawyer said...

Also, I think Zak S made a valid point above when he said “I don't know man--has there EVER been a renewal of interest in a thing where the originators of the thing being renewed didn't clash with the renewer?”

I think that's a lot of what's going on here too. Different generations always take things in different directions. The earlier generations, the ones who created something, are often shocked, offended, and outraged at where their creation goes. Jefferson was not pleased with where America was heading when he died, and Einstein hated the fact that his theory of relativity was needed in creating atomic bombs. I think its the same thing with Rob and Tim, and maybe others from the old days who haven't spoken up yet. It's just human nature that some bit of ego is involved, though it seems more so with Tim than Rob, and feelings are hurt as people feel due respect isn't being given or shown, not so much to the people, but to what the people created and what they believed and intended it to stand for.

Rob did a ton of work and out a lot of effort into the game in the early days, and as such he deserves the respect of anyone who has ever rolled a d20. I suspect that Rob would consider the highest form of that respect to be creating something that breaks the boundaries of the games we play today, and the games we played in the 70's---or at least don't do crap that impedes others from being able to do that, through regurgitation of old tropes, misrepresenting the past, or being part of something that dogmatizes and sets rules and boundaries on creativity.

I think Jim has a helluva future ahead of him. He is doing what others aren't in his modules, and he is trying to open the tent wider to grow what he considers to be the OSR, by bringing the works of other publishers to his display table at conventions to sell. His take seems to be that a rising tide raises all ships. I think for that he needs to be commended. But he still wants to earn a buck, and he honestly believes that the OSR exists, that it is a good thing overall, that the dogma is not there in any damaging degree, and that its useful in bringing others to the table. It's also useful in growing his business.

Joethelawyer said...

Plus, he has a bit of an ego himself. I think everyone who goes to blogspot and creates a forum for themselves to speak to others does. It takes a certain level of ego, if not narcissism, to stand up on a soapbox uninvited and say “Here I am. Hear what I have to say!” With Jim its also tooting the horn of the OSR so as to keep the movement alive, so the business opportunities grow. That's completely understandable., but also its understandable why it may irk others as it has. From ra-ra comes dogma.

That being said, I think Rob may be off in one area: many if not most people don't care about the spread of creativity and play, and other ideals of his and the founders of the hobby and TSR. I understand that Rob is a person who wants to put that out there and make it grow, and so the fact that he sees a group which takes on the trappings of earlier his creations and is using it to stifle creativity through dogma and revisionist history is especially galling to him. However, his ideal is not the greatest and highest form, because ideals in themselves are subjective. To criticize one group's ideals primarily because those ideals create something that runs counter to your own ideals, is inevitable perhaps, but since ideals are in themselves subjective, from a higher perspective the battle over ideals is the same as the battle over raisin bran or corn flakes. I don't think its a black and white as Rob describes, but I understand that his core set of beliefs make him feel as he does. I think that there is perhaps some good that can come of the OSR, mixed with the bad. I'm sounding the early warning bell of dogma though, and I think if it continues, not much more will come of it in terms of spreading the hobby's original core values of pure unstifled creativity, which is what attracted most of us to the hobby in the first place I think. But understand that the good and the bad are also subjective, especially when it comes to something like this. It ultimately comes down to what an individual wants for their own individual games and the hobby.

Some ideals are perhaps more important than others, because of their ability to affect more people through belief in those ideals, but ultimately as any student of history knows, ideals come and go based on the time and place you live. You just have to pick and choose a set of beliefs to get you through the day, and let you live a life that makes you happy, and let others do the same, because in the end it doesn't matter anyhow, we're all worm food. Anything we leave behind is going to be used and perhaps corrupted to suit the needs of those using it. It's depressing but true. I think Rob believes he is seeing that now, and I can understand why he thinks it sucks.

Joethelawyer said...

As to points of view on the matter, imagine a brand new car that has been sideswiped. A person standing on the side that was smashed looks at the car and says “what a piece of crap.” A person on the other side says “What a beautiful car.”

We all come to this with a certain viewpoint, based on out life's experiences. That creates a certain point of view. In spite of our differences, and the differences of opinion on this matter and where I think they're coming from, which I've tried to outline above, at the end of the day we all roll a 20-sider to hit something and like to have fun with our friends playing DnD. On that basis, we have far more in common than we do differences. If we try and understand the other side's point of view, I think each side can find some truth on the other side. Life is rarely black and white, and is usually full of shades of gray. Hopefully we can find some common ground and work together to grow the aspects of the game and hobby that we all love and share and have in common.

I've not really spoken about Tim's post, because honestly I don't know the guy, or of him. No offense intended to Tim. I'm not a scholar of DnD history. I know the role he played in the early days of TSR within the company, and as such I give him the respect he is due for helping to create a game and a hobby I love.

My personal hope for whatever we consider this OSR thing to be is that it breaks loose among the general populace before dogma takes hold and stifles it, and my nephews and nieces have lots of people to play old versions of D&D with in the style of game they played with their uncles and aunts around a kitchen table when they were kids.

Hopefully it gets there.

Joethelawyer said...

the end.

Rob Kuntz said...

I read your full postings twice over and for the most part agree. Incisive. Deliberate. To the point, rending the matter down to the bone.

Rampant individualists rarely see themselves in mirrors and are more in projection mode.

I will be considering what you have posted the more as I give it the further attention it deserves.

Thanks Joe.

Anonymous said...

...here are my final thoughts on what I believe I have experienced about the OSR, its publications and its present and future. And I say this not as the very first publisher to have released a product in 2006 to start this whole ball rolling...

Blimey Rob, are you claiming to have singlehandedly started the OSR? Surely I must be misreading that statement?

Anonymous said...

I do not want to relive the past now. I am a professional game designer. I want to design new things...I want these designs to reach out as examples for all as to what they can aspire to...I feel that if one strives for the best that the money will come, so one need not worry about that. Setting such examples also raises the bar of the industry and brings in new players and in the case of RPGs, new DMs as well. Bringing them in, again, and as I've stated so many times here and elsewhere, does not mean keeping them engrossed and participating--only good product and a sustained comittment to grow those who enter into to the hobby accomplishes that.

I do not feel that the OSR overall and as a group of companies is striving for that in whole.

There's some problems with this thinking. Firstly the OSR is happening within a hobby industry made up a amateurs, but that doesn't preclude such people from accessing professional printing services, or striving to produce the best product money can buy, and to say otherwise is quite unfair and misleading.

While amateur publishers of course want to turn a profit and succeed in business, for many of them their prime motivator isn't creating a successful business that can pay them a regular wage, but to produce a great product that people will have fun using. In other words the hobby itself is more important than the money. TSR went down the path of money first, it had to of course, but we all know where that leads. An amateur or semi-professional publisher has the luxury of being in the business first and foremost for the love of the game, something a professional can't afford. This is not naivety, just the way it is.

You say "only good product and a sustained comittment to grow those who enter into to the hobby" brings people in and keeps them in the hobby, but you don't believe the clones do that? You obviously haven't spoken at any length with some of those clone publishers or spent much time watching them in action. These people, indeed most who self-identify with the term OSR, do so for exactly the same reason as you - to bring in new people and keep them. That you don't believe the clones don't offer either "good product" or a "sustained comittment" matters little, time will of course tell. Saying you know what level of motivation and commitment another person has is a big call.

As has been mentioned by others, the OSR, by its very title, is all about keeping alive old school games, especially TSR D&D. There are literally thousands of new and innovative rpg's, and while it's admirable to strive to produce yet another in the crowd, the simple plain fact is many of us still enjoy playing the original one. And there's nothing wrong with that. And neither does that preclude growth in this corner of the hobby, as the "R" part of OSR has clearly demonstrated.

It doesn't take much reading of the forums and blogs to know that the retro-clones have been instrumental in not only bringing lots of non-old school gamers to the fold, but seeing a growth in complete and utter newbies. That you personally haven't seen evidence of it doesn't mean it's not happening. The testimonies are out there for the reading.

Bottom line is nobody cares if you want to be labelled as part of the OSR or not. Nobody cares if you don't like the term. What is disappointing is your failure to see the OSR for what it is - a hobby industry that is punching well above its weight, achieving great things and growing our hobby, and dare I say it, keeping alive your legacy.

Oh and of course we shouldn't overlook the fact that the people involved make up a huge percentage of your potential customer base, the people who may or may not hand over their hard-earned dollars to buy your products.

mxyzplk said...

Well, I had hoped for better than the standard "harrumph" non-answer, but I kinda figured. Bottom line - pots hate kettles, it's the way of the world.

Rob Kuntz said...

David: In answer to your first:

"Blimey Rob, are you claiming to have singlehandedly started the OSR? Surely I must be misreading that statement?"

I stated that I was the first to publish a product )in 2006 Cairn of the Skeleton King) which is the truth. There was no OSR then (there were Old School references) and I claim only that. I have been here since the beginning not only of that but of TSR, thus the 2 milestones. I did not consider it a revival, btw, but a ccontinuation of what I had done through Creations Unlimited 1986-1988. Cheers.

James said...

JoetheLawyer said: As to the OSR: I don't like revisionist history and dogma. I do see some of that, and it grows as the OSR grows. Then comes bull and politics. Then the judgment of the good/bad/right/wrong way to play D&D rears its ugly head.

James Raggi making a blog post, does not a Dogma make. So he says something, some people post their agreement, others their disagreement. Suddenly, there's dogma, politics and a Threat to our Individuality!

And for the record, I respect anyones assertion to their right to be seen and treated as Individuals. But I bloody well Demand, the same respect. All too often, when people criticize the "OSR," that respect is not extended. The so-called "members" of the "OSR" aren't fungible. Nor are we Mr. Raggi's, or anyone else's, pet Sheeple!

Rob Kuntz said...

David: The d20 movement brought in lots of folks too, and it did publish some good content, but it failed due to a relieance on competove features. Having 11 versions of the rules is a competive feature in business.

Creators, IMO, should be forwarding non-compettive features. What I saw in the 11 iterations (duplication) could be the very tip of reiterating other things too, no.? It's fair to assume that such a mode might be possible given the circumstance. The apple does not fall to far from the tree. Do I hope that? No.

When Mr. Raggi says, "We can do better" or offfers encouragement, it's OK, right?

When I offer my years of constructive insight, it is unwarranted criticsm?

OK. Why do you continue to say that all are amateurs? It's not so. Micahel Curtis is no amateur, and at this point, neither is Matt Finch and others. I don't get that. They are being professionally recognized for their work. They have risen (like I did in the day) above that and earned their stripes, so to speak.

I do not dismiss amareur press or game publishing. I am a rank and file defender of it, in fact. For those who wish no more, then my considered opinions will fall on deaf ears; for those who wish more, maybe it will help, that's all. Cheers.

Chad Thorson said...

Mr. Kuntz,

I'm glad that you're still creating great gaming material and hope to see more. That's really all the so called "OSR" wants to do as well. We don't have to identify with each other but I'd hate to see the original TSR team have a wedge driven between the second generation of gamers (I'll admit I'm a Johnny come lately, I started gaming in '84).

I think outside of this, most of us would get along quite well.

One thing that confused me about Pied Piper's stance on the OSR was the fact that Noble Knight has you listed under the genre: Old School Renaissance. So I originally thought that you supported it, so I thought "Great, one of the old guard is promoting 1E!" I was wrong, and it's really not a big deal but that is a bit confusing.

Good luck on future works, I hope there's plenty more to come!

Rob Kuntz said...

Atom Kid. Thank you and I agree,

As for NKG description Aaron had no other place to put me so I am there by default. It will no doubt be changed to something indicating my grouped works soon enough. There are different designs/essays/fiction from me forthcoming which fall outside of that moniker and no doubt it will be changed then. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

David: The d20 movement brought in lots of folks too, and it did publish some good content, but it failed due to a relieance on competove features. Having 11 versions of the rules is a competive feature in business.

While I understand that you don't believe a multitude of clones is helpful, most are variations of one game and pretty much all are easily compatible with each other, just as the various versions of TSR D&D are. And while most newbies can find this state of affairs naturally confusing, most find answers to their questions quickly on the various forums and blogs. This is pretty much a non-issue. What is an issue is the need for the retro-clone community to do a better job publicity-wise getting people to understand this easy compatibility.

The truth of the matter is that there are but three main clones (S&W, LL, and OSRIC) and a host of variations that are often more house-rules than actual clones, but again this fact may not be obvious to those not familiar with the scene.

When Mr. Raggi says, "We can do better" or offfers encouragement, it's OK, right?

When I offer my years of constructive insight, it is unwarranted criticsm?

Now you're just putting words into my mouth Rob, I said or suggested no such thing. Perhaps you're getting my comments mixed up with those of someone else?

Why do you continue to say that all are amateurs? It's not so. Micahel Curtis is no amateur, and at this point, neither is Matt Finch and others.

I guess we have a different idea about what the word "professional" means. When I use the word I'm talking about someone who makes a living off what they do. I don't believe any of the publishers within the OSR umbrella make a full time wage out of their RPG publishing efforts. I look forward to the day it happens, but I don't think we're there yet. I do believe there have been a couple who have tried, but I don't think they have been successful. But I'll be more than happy to be proved wrong.

Timeshadows said...

I'm so glad that you all are part of my MZOG (Mystic Zionist Order of Gaming), since you are all doing the same sort of thing I am doing (writing games, adventures, producing art, etc.)
--I'm really gratified to read how many new gamers are flocking to the MZOG because of you, and your love of The Old Ways.

Keep up the good work, and ignore those confused folks who disagree that they are part of the finely crafted machine of MZOG.
--All things work toward the furtherance of MZOG. All rules-sets are mirrors of MZOG. All worlds but a subset of Urutsk.

Thanks again, all, I'm so proud of you.


Rob Kuntz said...

David: If I misinterpreted your comments I apologize. I have never posted so much in such a compressed time period.

Professionally recognized is making professional pay in royalties, flat rate payments; professional is also making it into the mainstream (like Curtis through Goodman did with Borders); professional is also being awarded with an accredited award marking an achievement. Professional can also be being paid a pay check for your work.

Many fine artists of wide repute often work secondary jobs so that they have the time (and no pressure) to create great pieces; and these too are considered professional by critics and their "community." I might add that when one rises above the norm but is still not recognized (too often happening in our US culture) that they maintain professional standards if not "officially" recognized.

Sagaar said...

I am fat because I eat too much. It will affect my health and quality of life I know.

But I am not part of the obesity epidemic! How dare you insinuate such a thing! I am an individual and get to choose how other people interpret the meaning of my actions.

John B said...

Hi Rob,

I have always thought of it as the old school middle ages, not the old school renaissance and we're still very far from the old school enlightenment.

The OSR is far too divisive for my tastes, and this current stink just proves the point even further in my mind.

JimLotFP said...

>>I know Jim is a big fan of Rob's work.

This is 100% accurate.

Rob Kuntz said...

And I have responded to Jim mailing me his works by email that they have merit, though the Grinding Gear rose above the others, in my estimation.

I wish you luck in your endeavors, James. There is no reason at all that every one cannot co-exist, but I am a critical SOB and that will never change, I fear.

jgbrowning said...

"I stated that I was the first to publish a product )in 2006 Cairn of the Skeleton King) which is the truth. There was no OSR then (there were Old School references) and I claim only that."

As far as I remember, the PDF of Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom was in the hands of customers before Cairn of the Skeleton King was, be that only by a week's time or so. In addition BFRPG and OSRIC were also in the hands of customers before CotSK. And lets not fail to mention Castles & Crusades as well, which proceeded the rest of the OSR by years, and which, to the best of my knowledge has been the most successful offspring of the OSR to date.

Matt Finch said...

Perhaps a clearer way to approach this is the question of what would happen if the term "OSR" were eliminated from the lexicon. What is that term really used for?

Here is the issue - is there now a shorthand term for what happened after 2000, when Steve and Mark founded Dragonsfoot and then Footprints (free 0e-2e materials), when TLG published Castles & Crusades (was that 2004?), the foundation of the Grognard's Tavern and K&KA (2005?), the almost-simultaneous release of OSRIC, Cairn, Pod Caverns, and a 1e module from Kenzer at GenCon (2006), the publication of Labyrinth Lord (2006 or 2007?), Swords & Wizardry in 2007 or 2008?), Fin's ODD board (2008?)and then the conventions, GaryCon and North Texas (2009). These are all steps that represented FAR more activity than in 1999 (except in 2e). How would one refer to that?

It's not a logical proof, but my point is that the term "OSR" is what's used to describe those watershed-type events and the increasing activity in between. Eliminate the term OSR, and there's no shorthand. It's more precisely described as the Internet Era of Pre-3e Gaming Communications with Concomitant Upsurge in Resource Availability. But OSR is easier to type than IEP3GCwC...

Now, there IS a movement, actually. Many people are part of the IEP3GCwC (OSR) community JUST for gaming resources and good conversation. These have no agenda, and that's absolutely, totally, completely fine. These guys are the core of the internet IEP3GCwC community. They are not a movement.

The movement is the group of people who want to spread the hobby, just as there are some model train guys who just want to talk about model trains and some who want to spread that hobby. Our particular movement on that is NOT the OSR; it is not organized (indeed, the TARGA attempt to organize it in order to provide resources for such folks fell apart). It's purely a set of individuals doing their own thing. Most of the publishers (esp. the retro-clone publishers) chose to publish because they fall into this group. They aren't members of this group because they are publishers. (why retro-clones are a good tool for spreading the hobby is a discussion for some other day). Your folks in Wisconsin, if they aren't on the internet, aren't part of the IEP3GCwC because they aren't on the internet - the IEP3GCwC (or OSR) is a phenomenon based on the internet's increase of communication speed and community and the products it has spawned.

The grow-the-hobby movement has absolutely no coherent ideology beyond grow-the-hobby. One group focuses on spreading the use of original books, despite the hurdles. Another group uses retro-clones because of the zero buy-in cost for new players. Everyone uses his chosen edition for introducing new players at cons or expo games (another reason for the clone-proliferation is to provide zero-cost resources for more members of this group). All these guys differ - sometimes quite violently - about how to accomplish the goal and what the goal is. Even though the grow-the-hobby movement is truly a movement, it is a grass-roots and utterly individualist one. I'm proud to be involved in that, but I certainly don't claim that all gamers have this responsibility. It's almost like a separate hobby from the gaming itself. Merely the joy of seeing a new gamer suddenly "click" to a different style of gaming.

And yes, there are plenty of gamers who have VERY strongly held subset-views about how to play. Edition wars, sneering, or (in a much more productive vein) discussing what the different ways of gaming ARE. But this is a third group, and even if they represent "movements," they are nowhere NEAR monolithic - in fact, they are almost by definition at each others' throats all the time.

The OSR, or IEP3GCwC, isn't the "movement" part of our community.

Rob Kuntz said...

@ JB browning: Of course I meant print product in relation to the two and of course defer to C&C's presence, but as a derivative and not pure clone of the game. In fact OSRIC' successfully argued this point coherently in pre-releease as well. Cheers.

Rob Kuntz said...

Matt, I just awoke and read your points. I will give you my reactions when properly java'd up. Hope you are well.--RJK

Robert said...


There’s more than just the clone rules-systems. There are modules and settings and DM toolkits and more.

There’s also a reason that the primary clones are given away for free. OSR publishers aren’t primarily about selling the rules. They’re about selling new (mostly non-rules) creations.


Finarvyn said...

1. Rob, I salute you for your part in the cretion of OD&D. OD&D is one of the greatest things to happen to me in my lifetime and, with around 35 years of playing it, has been a huge influence in the way I turned out. As a father, I now teach my children to play RPGs with the basic spirit and philosophy of the original. Thank you!

2. The irony here is that none of this conversation would be happening if WotC (and Hasbro) would have listened to the old timers years ago and kept OD&D and AD&D in print. Make 'em a parallel product line with 3E and 4E. If they had kept it all in print they would be raking in the cash and there would be no reason for others to clone the rules. I, for one, would have been a lot happier if I could have just bought new copies of the old rulebooks.

3. I hope to see additional products from the early days, done in a format compatible with the early rules. I have almost a complete set of your Pied Piper products, Rob, and love them. Any chance I have to see the original campaign is like gold to me! Thanks for all that you have done!

Falconer said...

Hey, Rob. Falconer, here! Now, you know I’m your biggest fan, so I’m going to be blunt here. Your old stuff is good AND your new stuff is good, so, other than creative restlessness, why withold one half of your Ĺ“uvre? I’m sorry I haven’t been following the larger debate, so I don’t know if there is some sort of principle involved, but I do urge you to take a balanced middle road and at least let us see a trickle of old castle levels!

Philip Michael "Falconer" Sokolov

Rob Kuntz said...

Matt: Would you contact me at rjk@pied-piper-publishing.com as I do not have your email. Thanx.

Rob Kuntz said...

Robert: Yeah I know all this, and if you read all the comments I even mention the iteration comparison. Nice to see you about. Cheers.

Rob Kuntz said...

Phiilp! You old grognard. How are you and the Mrs.? Still in the Illinois area?

You come hand and hand with FIN, huh? You guys are too much.

Nothing is certain in this life, we all three know that. Just hearing of FIn's experiences with his children kinda makes it all worth it, huh?

As for you, Phil, and for FIN, I shall weigh it heavily and with your thoughts in mind. If either of you have the chance, write me: rjk@pied-piper-publishing.com

VERY NICE hearing from both of you. Thanks.


rafael beltrame said...

im nobody here. i didnt live in the 1ed years, i dont know and didnt play with any legend like Rob or Tim, i dont even went to a international event. 2ed was the most popular D&D game when it came out here in brazil, so 3ed and sometimes even 1ed gamers look down at me (well, im not a poor little fella, just telling you guys). the thing is, the "old school" here was 2ed gurps and 2ed ad&d, but with internet and such, many people are discovering the real treasures hidden in the knowledge of men like the Lord of the Green Dragons. I like the old school, and feels like i need to call it like that: old school. i feel bad that some people took this name and transform the meaning i put on it as to something that pretend to be new and better. oh well, dont know if i make myself clear. Great post, its always a pleasure to read from people who really understand about game design and have one thing that cant be learned unless over time: experience.

Robert said...

I’m having a hard time getting your point, Rob. I took “iteration” to mean the clones. Each being yet another iteration of the same circle. Can you clarify?

What I’m reading is that you want people to create new stuff and push the boundaries rather than just repeating what has been. What I see is that people are creating new stuff and are trying to push the boundaries. They may fall short, but they’re trying.

The point of disagreement you cite are the clones. You think they are unneeded. I happen to agree. (Though I do think that some of them have value whether they are needed or not, but I digress.) Those people only created those clones, however, because they felt it was necessary to their primary purpose...which is exactly what you say they should be doing.

Of course, Raggi took the opposite path to some others. He started with trying to push the boundaries with toolkits and modules and only came around to developing a clone when he later felt it was important to his primary purpose.

So, the OSR publishers seem to be primarily doing exactly what you are suggesting they do. They have secondarily done something you think is needless.

Am I misunderstanding you?

Rob Kuntz said...

Hi Robert: How I answered very much the same question with David M, above, was... [my quote]:

"David: The d20 movement brought in lots of folks too, and it did publish some good content, but it failed due to a relieance on competove features. Having 11 versions of the rules is a competive feature in business.

Creators, IMO, should be forwarding non-compettive features. What I saw in the 11 iterations (duplication) could be the very tip of reiterating other things too, no.? It's fair to assume that such a mode might be possible given the circumstance. The apple does not fall to far from the tree. Do I hope that? No."

That this too often concludes in even the large publisher ranks (i,e, such as in WoyC's case and 2E Splatbook runs, et al) should make it a viable concern, especially with an outstanding example of this "mode" already in view. That is all I am saying. Not commenting on the quality of such things as already published, as I know there are some good ones out there. Just the same, I believe that Michael Curtis tops the leaders here for innovation with The Dungeon Alphabet. I hope to see more of that kind of truly creative, push the envelope, type of design rather than tried and tested adventure paths. YMMV.

Rob Kuntz said...

Rafael: Thanks for the wise and kind words. I agree. Things are what they are, but game on buddy, 1st, 2nd. OD&D, whatever. As long as you are having fun, that's the matter, not anything else. Cheers!

chatdemon said...

I've had my disagreements with Rob in the past, but in this case I have to wholeheartedly agree with him and Tim. When I read Mr. Raggi's post (I read the LOTFP blog now and then, but nowhere near regularly), I was honestly pissed off. The attitude isn't exclusive or new to him though, I've seen it for a while among the OSR people, publishers and fans. The one never fail exception is BFRPG, which is always modest and humble, and usually overlooked in the "movement".

I'm all for new content; monsters, magic, adventures, rules options, etc. I've settled into referencing OSR stuff on my blog, when I infrequently do so, as optional material for Classic D&D (Mentzer's edition is my system of choice). I have no interest in new rulebooks as a whole or jumping onto a fan bandwagon for a "new game".

With me, there is also an element of begrudging publishers who now expect to get paid for the fan material that many of us have been offering up for free for years or decades on fan sites, netbooks, forums, discussion lists, etc.

But in the end, the line is drawn when some up and coming publisher decides to attack those who built the playground. Hell, I rarely agree with Rob on much of anything, but I never deny his credit for the development of the game. And again, I'm not singling out Mr Raggi. I don't know him, I haven't read enough of his work to judge it, and I've seen the same attitude from other notable OSR movers and shakers. James just happens to have set the sparks of this fire, and I apologize in advance for any implied personal attack.

Rob's recent stuff (Maure Castle, Bottle City, etc) was great, even though I had to convert it back to Basic D&D, hehe. James' megadungeon (Stonehell?) gets rave reviews. Much of the Labyrinth Lord stuff is good quality. If I like it, I'll use it, I don't care who publishes it.

But at the end of the day, I play D&D, not d20, not OGL, not some clone game. Can't everybody look at things from that point of view and get back to having fun instead of trying to pimp the OSR clone of the month?

chatdemon said...

A correction:

I mistakenly attributed James Raggi as the author of Stonehell Dungeon. James is actually behind the Death Frost Doom dungeon. My apologies to him and Michael Curtis, the actual author of Stonehell.

Rob Kuntz said...

Hello Chatdemon (once again): Could you post this fellows web address please:: :The one never fail exception is BFRPG".

Also your blog url would be nifty too, so I, like you have done, can check out your take these days.

Happy Gaming Chat.

chatdemon said...

Chris Gonnerman's site for Basic Fantasy RPG is http://www.basicfantasy.org

BFRPG isn't a true clone, it's more akin to C&C, heavily modifying the OGL rules to capture an old school style of play while retaining modern mechanics. It's also rarely the topic of any of these OSR flamewars, which is why I mentioned it.

My blog's at http://stockingthedungeon.blogspot.com

redbeard said...

This post is meant to support Matt Finch's declaration of the IEP3GCwC and to further note that the increase in resource availability is concomitant with increased participation in the game.

In our group's experience, the various iterations are different enough so that individual groups and DMs have their preferences, yet similar enough so that complementary creative material is compatible.

We use Rob's work (Dark Chateau, Maure Castle for background and setting, Bottle City inside Castle Zagyg) and would be eager to see more of Rob's original work as springboards for our creativity and gaming. Just as easily, we use work "made" by others self-identified as part of the OSR. We've taken pieces published for nearly every iteration of old school DnD in addition to our own adventures and setting material.

The precise iteration, or game system, that our DMs prefer is Castles & Crusades. Some of the players would rather be playing Labyrinth Lord, but we all keep gaming.

We've got a community of 15 players, some of whom had never gamed before, some of whom hadn't gamed for years or had only gamed with DnD 3.5. The seed of the group found itself in Dragonsfoot and those of us who's gaming hobby involves the internet do consider ourselves part of the OSR/IEP3GCwC.

For myself, to the extent that I bring new people or material to the hobby through our game, through my blog or through conventions (and possibly some day publishing), I do consider myself part of the 'movement'.

Robert Conley said...

The OSR/IEP3GwC is the way it is because of the freedom of the Open Gaming License. The OGL is NOT the only thing go on but it is the fuel that feed most.

And freedom is messy. There is going to be no fixes save that what an author/publisher does by their own efforts. Either alone or with others.

One consequence is that the community is shaped by those who do. Write materials, organize events and so on. There isn't a whole lot a person can do about another person in a group like the OSR/IEP3GCwC except by doing their own things. Although some conflicts can be resolved by one on one conversation through email or if you are lucky face-to-face.

The crux of the matter is this; the Old School Renaissance is not about playing a particular set of rules in a particular way, the dungeon crawl. It about going back to the roots of our hobby and see what we could do differently. What avenues were not explored because of the commercial and personal interests of the game designers of the time.

Each individual that participates decides for themselves what avenues they want to go down. Some choose to go down a well-trodden path others go further afield.

Finally that the main point of the OSR/IEP3GCwC is to play and support older editions of the world's most popular roleplaying game. In my view games don't age, they could be presented better or clearer but OD&D is much fun (or not for some) to play as it was back in the day. I am sure many younger OSR authors will go on to try their hand at other games and designs but the OSR is mostly about (90%) older editions of D&D and as long there is interest in older editions of D&D there will be a OSR.

Rob Conley
Bat in the Attic Games

Akrasia said...

The comments by Matt Finch and Rob Conley are spot on (as usual).