Monday, April 05, 2010

Having Fun

What’s up with the recent rise in interest in the OSR?

There certainly seems to be a lot of it. That’s a good thing for us and for the gaming blogosphere in general I think. Doesn’t answer the why though, but I think if you spend some time comparing OSR blogs and more general gaming blogs, it’s not too hard to find a likely answer.

A lot of the general gaming blogs out there appear to specialize on advice for GMs. This advice is largely about handling problems that are assumed to be wide-spread in gaming. (Even if the problem isn’t necessarily wide-spread, it behooves the blog writing about it to imply that it is, for obvious reasons.) So you get a lot of talk about all the troubles cast in the path of the erstwhile GM: problem players, getting a group to meet regularly, integrating newly published material into an ongoing campaign, 4+ hours of gaming and prep for 30 minutes of fun, and, after all that, GM burnout.

You don’t see much of that in the OSR. There’s a lot more “hey, we just played and you won’t believe what they did this time” and “look at this new thing I made” or books and stories from the age of pulp you might have missed but should really read or wacky things to do with old monsters or brand new spells and stuff like that.

In short, the folks blogging about the OSR sound like they’re having fun.

Ebullient enthusiasm plus cool toys is pretty much the backbone of Games Workshop’s marketing juggernaut. The new minis are always “wicked cool” or whatever the phrase is this week, and the games are always great fun. The tournaments are always jammed with massive crowds of folks having fun and enthusiastic about this or that army, the forums are always brimming with eagerness to see the new toys and arguing about which are the best in the heat of tabletop battle.

I’m getting something of the same vibe from the OSR. Folks just like you are making adventures and settings the likes of which nobody has really seen before. Folks just like you have pooled their skills and enthusiasm to make new games or new magazines or new companies to showcase their skill. Or your skill, since the DIY attitude invites you to join in.

Watching other people having fun is enticing. Being invited to join in on the fun is only more so, and when there’s actually fun to be had, it’s addictive.

It’s not all sunshine and free pony rides, of course. We have our stumbles as well, and our occasional little flame war. But the majority of OSR stuff I’m reading is upbeat, optimistic, and having fun. We don’t say, “Damn, wouldn’t it be great if they made box sets like they used to?” We say, “Hey, who wants to see this awesome boxed set I’m making?” So long as that can-do spirit continues, the OSR will have a bright future.

Art by Jean Charles Meissonier.


Badmike said...

"Folks just like you have pooled their skills and enthusiasm to make new games or new magazines or new companies to showcase their skill. Or your skill, since the DIY attitude invites you to join in."

And new conventions....the rise of NTRPG Con is a direct result of the influence of the OSR on the mood of the marketplace. People want to go to a convention where "their" games aren't ghettoized or regulated to some back corner in the basement.
We definitely have a DIY vibe, and it's nothing fancy, but there is a lot of fun happening at the con.

Dungeonmum said...

This is great, and really, what RPGs are supposed to be all about. Nice to get to the crux of the matter.

PatrickWR said...

QFT. This is the zeitgeist of the OSR, it seems to me.

Al said...

Good points, all.

Zak S said...

Here's a possibility:

Old games or heavily DIY games are less popular, and generally played by veterans--these people are likely to be playing with their friends or a group they formed themselves.

The other games are new and are more likely to be played with a group that formed just because somebody posted on a message board and lives in the same city.

In other words: all the players in a DIY D&D game are likely to know each other and be friendly, whereas this is less true with a game that has more widespread popularity.

Playing with your friends is less of a managerial challenge than playing with whoever showed up to play whatever new game.

So: this may have less to do with the quality of the games or gamers and more to do with the social dynamics of the different gorups involved.


Could be wrong.

I live in LA, so what do I know?

trollsmyth said...

Zak S: Very well could likely be. Though the prevalence of OSR folks running demo-style one-shots, recruiting new players, and talking about building new groups would seem to imply it's not universally so.

Plus we've got folks like Jeff running his games every other week at the Armored Gopher. Granted, that sort of thing is likely to self-select for an older, more mature audience, and just about all of these are being run by older DMs with years of experience under their belts. So it's probably safe to say the jury is still out on some of this.

Andreas Davour said...

I hate fun.

Mike(aka kaeosdad) said...

Vets have already been there, done that, moved on and are just sharing their shit. Plus the demographic I'm noticing seems to be comprised of people with a whole lot of time on there hands who are very dedicated to their tabletop hobby.

A lot of newbs/mainstream gamers are new, learning the ropes, sharing advice, and experiencing much for the first time.

There's also a third category of bloggers who have passion but need to be highly efficient with their time. Not much content being cranked out by that crowd, mostly general gaming dialog.

Then there are the uncounted fourth group you seem to have missed that are heavy into DIY, but are not paid any attention to by the OSR crowd due to their choice of system.

trollsmyth said...

Mike: Have any links for some of the better folks in that last group you'd care to share?

I'll admit that this one is heavily tilted towards varieties of D&D. I'm afraid the RPG blogosphere is far to broad for me to even keep up with even a tiny corner of it.

Norman Harman said...

Much truth in this. There's also other reasons for the differences in each "scenes" blog topics. DIYness of rules, DIYness of bloggers/audience, under/overabundence of published commercial materials.

Gotta agree there does seem to be more playing and less punditry.

Mike(aka kaeosdad) said...

Okay, d&d specific:

A few 4e blogs off the top of my head produce(or have produced) solid homebrew content: at-will, encounter a day, initiative or what and sly flourish all regularly post items, plots, and house rules.

Non old school game session recaps are everywhere. I don't think I need to point that out. Just check out the rpgblogger feed.

Original worlds? Spirit of eden is the only setting blog I can think of. Hell most of the homebrew campaign settings I've seen aren't even in the blogosphere. Check out Obsidian Portal, or pbp communities such as Myth Weavers.These sites aren't blogs but are still a vital part of the tabletop gaming community and are utilized primarily to simply game. But that wanders off point as this post is about the blogosphere.

The DIY mindset is not OSR exclusive. It is a tabletop gamer requirement. The main difference? Within the blogosphere the OSR is a flag for solidarity amongst tribal minded gamers.

Like others I have also thought about coming up with an acronym, or some fancy term to describe why I play 4e/Pathfinder, but I decided fuck it. It's just D&D. I'll call it D&D. That's what it is and that's what I play.

Anyways, I spent a good deal of the time that I was planning to use tonight to work on my campaign responding to this post. I enjoy your blog, but c'mon man fun is being had all around

Stuart said...

The DIY mindset is not OSR exclusive. It is a tabletop gamer requirement. The main difference? Within the blogosphere the OSR is a flag for solidarity amongst tribal minded gamers.

Yes. Strongly agreed.

trollsmyth said...

Mike: Thanks for taking the time, I do appreciate it.

Yeah, I do kinda imply that blogs outside the OSR are not having fun, which is not my intention. Only that the fun to frustration ratio seems better in the OSR than outside, though I may simply be looking at the wrong blogs.

Part of this is just my surprise at how little not-having-fun stuff is out there. Part of it is my utter amazement at the quality of the fanzines. (And that's not to take anything away from fanzines that don't consider themselves part of the OSR, like Wayfinder and the like.) This stuff is good and comes with a very strong anybody-can-do-this vibe (even if it's not entirely true).

Anonymous said...

@ZakS: The spread of the Red Box movement (West Marches-style campaigns scheduled using a forum) suggests that people welcome the managerial challenge of playing old-school D&D with whoever shows up! I know that at New York Red Box we both make a concentrated effort to recruit newbies to the forums and also not infrequently get players from people just walking by the cafe where we play and seeing the old books and funny dice.

I think that the social dynamics of such a network do interact with the game being played because in DIY D&D you have to agree to consensus adjucation, trust the DM to give you ways to be cool without having it written on your sheet, give up some opportunities to assert superiority over other players via your character optimization skills, etc. That isn't to discount the fact that a lot of the people who are excited by revisiting the Red Box are in their thirties and have acquired some personal maturity, but we do frequently have teenagers at our games too.
- Tavis