Friday, January 7, 2011

Where's our EPT and Blackmoor? Is the "OSR" doomed to retreads?

This all started because someone asked John Adams (he of Brave Halfling Publishing) over at the Swords & Wizardry forums about doing the old S&W Core Monster Book as a Whitebox release.

Something snapped in my head - it was painful - and over the past couple of days, the following blog post wrote itself in the cockles of my heart. So here you go...

I think we (the people who actively support/write/advocate old school style of play - call it what you will) can, we should, be doing better.

Look, I know John Adam's gonna do what John's gonna do to make a buck. And yes, 90% of our little band of 137 grognards are going to snap up WB Monster Book, WB Advanced Classes and all the other stuff that people want in order to either have the latest and greatest of the brand or because they want to show support to the little press. At the end of the day, I really don't begrudge John, or Matt Finch, or any of the small press / old school related guys making a buck. I know I made a buck or two on my Ref Sheets, as Bullette pointed out over on that forum thread and that's OK.

I think we can and should be doing better.

Where's our EPT? Where's our Blackmoor?

Where is the truly different and unusual that will have people really rolling? The only one that really pushed boundaries, so far, has been Carcosa. No matter what you think of the subject matter, the point is that Geoffrey took D&D/OD&D and went somewhere very different with it. I loved it. I've used a lot of it as stuff to prod my games along. That's why I love the crazy and wacky from Fight On magazine. That's why I have orcs with guns, fallen shiny spheres, crazy creepy dolls and a whole bunch of other stuff that my players might never see, but it's there because I'm inspired to put it there.

I may think Raggi's an ass, but I dammit sure respect him for trying to do something other than a retread. I may not buy his stuff, but I give him props. There's little other stuff coming out that I want to buy though, because it really is more of the same. Same orcs. Same plate mail. Same Stinking Cloud (except when Matt Finch forgets to include it) and just more restating of the same stuff we've been doing for the past 30 odd years, but with a shiny new name on it.

Say what you will about Alexis over at Tao but at least he's trying to perfect the craft of AD&D and push it into areas that some of us just back up and say "Woah, you are one crazy mofo... now how do I do that?" It's new, it's fresh and it hews true to the old school camp while taking us places where we need to go.

Where's our EPT? Where's our Blackmoor?

We should be doing better. We've been doing this little old-school stuff for what, almost 5 to 7 years now? We have retroclones of virtually every D&D flavor you can think of up to 1989. We have a retroclone of a Chick tract, for cryin' out loud! Are we really that tapped out that we can't do something different?

An orc is an orc. We can describe the same orc in 50 different retroclone ways, or we can do something new with this orc. Mash him with Mr. T. Put a laser in his hands. Put a laser on his head. Do *SOMETHING* different with the orc but please don't restate him with WB stats, then with Complete stats, then with OSRIC/AD&D stats, then with Holmes retroclone stats and on and on and on...

Look, I love the style of play that the original editions give us, but I also hope to see inspiration and movement to something that explores the places we haven't gone. OK, I may be derivative myself, but at least with Ultima RPG, Modern OD&D, I was trying for something new. That's why Tombs of Hultep Koa remain hidden. It's retread shit and I don't want that.

At the end of the day, I hope John makes a buck. If he does that with the same Orc with a shiny new label, Gods bless him and I hope it does well.

I just hope he does something different... or SOMEONE does something different. Otherwise, I think we're just going to end up cutting the same game into tiny pieces and saying the same thing until it just doesn't matter anymore.

I want 2011's EPT.


JMiskimen said...

I came to a similar conclusion months ago and agree with you 100%.

(Still working on Project 6 in between gaming sessions just in case anyone has been watching


Carter Soles said...

Very well said. By and large, I am a derivative type creator myself, but have recently launched a megadungeon project where my express aim is going to be to push myself out of my comfort zone and f#*% things up a little bit. Maybe that's all any of us can do.

Anonymous said...

I agree that if there is going to be a worthwhile community it must not be a complacent one. Not everybody can be an innovator, but collectively we could all reward innovation with our time, energy and even money. But, the only way to stop unnecessary retreads is to stop supporting them.

Robert Conley said...

I was surprised not to see many of the Swords & Planets work I heard about in 2009 be released in 2010.

I think the main problem is that 90% of us are hobbyists and our release schedule reflects that.

My own opinion if you have an EPT that you want to write go ahead but there is a lot of mileage even with the traditional roster. Look at the enduring popularity of romance novels.

The trick of course to create interesting things. Interesting settings, locales, adventures, and personalities.

It can be "out there" like EPT, or something largely straight out of history like a Song of Ice and Fire.

And we can go on all we like about what makes up interesting things and good products but in the end it is a crap shot what catches on and what doesn't. And so we need quantity.

And we will get it by the virtue the fact the OSR is built on Open Gaming which allow anybody to jump in.

Stefan Poag said...

Well said!
On a similar train of thought, I wonder if creations like 'Empire of the Petal Throne' and 'Blackmoor' were created and later became pre-packaged game settings. If the 'history' is right, Arneson tried to figure out a way to get his Napoleonics gaming group into fantasy and created Blackmoor along the way. Which is one reason why I found the circa 1977 'First Fantasy Campaign' booklet to be such interesting reading --- there are a lot of 'margin' notes in it where Arneson says, "The players did this so I came up with X, Y or Z." Perhaps this gives a different setting than someone sitting down with Rules Cyclopedia in hand to 'write' a 'setting' or an 'adventure' for a D&D game. Perhaps the Blackmoors and EPTs are the result of a more organic process?

Erin Smale said...

Well stated. Unfortunately, I think the core driver behind OSR, by definition, discourages innovation.

That said, I agree with you completely. Without anything new, it'll become a passing fad in a couple of years.

Also, this:

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for your kind words regarding Carcosa. I hope you take a look at my Isle of the Unknown, due for release this spring. It is an island hex-crawl that can be plopped into any D&D campaign.

It has over 100 new monsters, with no standard monsters at all.

No standard magic items at all.

Dozens of spell-casters, with no standard spells or spell-casters at all.

Everything in it is new, and nothing in it is a retread. I've talked about it on my blog:

I personally think Isle of the Unknown is at least as good as Carcosa (and probably a little bit better). I hope you will feel the same way.

mkotschi said...

I hate to say it but, I think the OSR still needs to grow. The more folks that play, the more of a chance someone will come up with something off the wall. I mean come on how many of us are there really, a few thousand, tops? That said the best game I have found recently done up in the OSR tradition is not Fantasy, SciFi Stars Without Number is a great game and much of its sandbox generation could be adapted, at least in theory for sandboxing a Fantasy game.

But like Rob said a number of Sword and Planet campaigns were initiated in 2009 but never materialized in 2010. Hopefully we'll be more lucky in 2011, I know I'm waiting for Planet Algol.

Pat said...

OK. I should have something out in the next 4 weeks.

That's a reply both flippant and serious. I'll do stuff, but it'll be the stuff I want to do, and I have no idea who will care or think it's different. There will be laser guns though.

Also, questions along the lines of "Why aren't you publishing something different?" can always be answered by the same question - "what are _you_ publishing that's different?"

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

I have to laugh at the "1 dislike" vote on the post.

I'm really glad to see I'm not the only one though.

@James - everyone's got their yaya and their comfort level. I don't think we're likely to see the cessation of what I'm viewing as "retreads and splatbooks", but I am hoping that the more creative cream rises to the surface.

@Rob - my hope is that the old school spirit ends up being more than just the OGL, but also the view that we can tap into the zeitgeist of the original version AND the creativity of the lot of us. I refuse to think that true creativity can't happen in this area.

@limpey - very good point and I'm sure they were organic. If you look at some of the campaigns that have been released - Rob's Majestic Wilderness (that's him up there above you...), Carcosa and Alexis's crazy realistic D&D Earth - all those are definitely organic. I have to believe there's more there that we can find, tap into, and eventually share. That's one of the reasons my shakedown of Modern OD&D is public - I want people to tell me what an idiot I am or what a brilliant guy I am. It'll only get better by being played and growing from that play.

I just want to see more of THAT versus the same orc with WB stats, Core S&W stats, AD&D stats, etc...

@Erin - I don't accept that. I think innovation will happen when individuals are inspired to innovate. Whether it happens from old school flavor or new school doesn't matter to me, as long as I can use it, feel it, have it in my old school games. I don't hew to an "OSR" definition, so I'm not sure how we could/should allow any definition to constrain us.

@Geoffrey - you're welcome. I call 'em like I see 'em. Your Carcosa book sits in my OD&D box along with the 6th printing of the original 3 along w/Greyhawk and Blackmoor. If your new stuff works, that's awesome! Please clone yourself a few times. :D Old school publishing needs you.

@Makotschi - maybe that's because there's a lot of fertile ground in Sci/Fi and Swords/Planets?

@Pat - for me personally, I can only point to my Ultima RPG and my Modern OD&D as ways I've tried to push beyond the simple D&D stuff. Ultima has a different magic system, a different character progression, space combat, naval combat and a different environment. OK, it's D&D. OK, it's a retread of a CRPG, but I wanted a different thing. Call it a first attempt. Modern OD&D, I guess is a retread too? But it's all I got. I'm a tinkerer, I take something and I tinker with it. I'd love to make a Sumerian/Mesopotamian fantasy world and I still hope I can get good enough to do it someday.

Chris Kutalik said...

I guess I hit my own snapping point too recently. I love the retro-clone that I play, LL, but it just seems strange that these rules (even ones as completely plentiful and cheap to procure on Ebay like AD&D first and second edition) keep getting re-packaged and re-sold with so little innovation.

But we do have some EPT/Blackmoors in our midst. Timeshadow's Urutsk is one example. We just need more!

Absolutely agree with Limpey as regards Blackmoor and EPT evolving organically. It was something I had in mind when starting my own recent experiment with domain level play (a heavy dose of being influence of the FFC in fact).

I started to write up what was essentially re-treads/sythensis of previous D&D attempts and then stopped myself and thought shouldn't we be more creative and open-ended with these projects?

Bighara said...

Not to TOTALLY pimp, but stay tuned for a MAJOR release from FMG in the next few weeks that gives people something like what you're talking about. =)

At least, our hope is that it gives folks something new and interesting to do.

Anonymous said...

Nearest thing to the scope and ambition of EPT is Urutsk. Pars Fortuna is the nearest thing to S&W's Arduin. Elegia the 8-bit/D&D crossover doesn't get enough love. Starcluster 3 is a damn good sci-fi ruleset.

The problem with a WB bestiary for me is if all it does is restat the OD&D monsters or those from the S&W Monster Book it's a dead product - lets have more new monsters from the forum members - make it a community project - or has that moment has passed and the goodwill has gone, lost in a sea of product ?

The more LotFP becomes less directly compatible with B/X (like with the new spell allocation) and James Raggi pushes his muse, the better.

Xyanthon said...

I've felt the same way so I'm working on something right now. I want to change the magic system up a bit, do some different things with classes, create all new monsters, all while still utilizing the underlying ruleset as a framework to build upon. The magic system I'm working on will be supplemental to the existing rules so you can use it or not. If you're curious, you can check out what I'm doing at my blog (shameless plug):

Desert Scribe said...

Seems like all these games, even Carcosa and Lamentations of the Flame Princess, are pretty much someone's packaged up house rules. Not that there's anything wrong with that; they're very original and creative house rules. But even with all the different flavors of ice cream you can come up with, in the end it's still ice cream.

Desert Scribe said...

Still, as reader and as a player, I'm enjoying all the new flavors! I hope it continues for quite some time.

x said...

I am truly enjoying everyone's work right now and in the economy we have being able to have people afford to play the old school method is very important. Not everyone can afford an original game component. There is a lot of gaming out there for low/no dollar and that's a good thing. People are learning to take from this and add to that again and that's a good thing.

The new is starting to happen. I like the Good Guys AND the Bad Boys. There is an energy right now that is palpable.

My current project is moving at a snails pace due to a personnel shortage and the fact that I have to design the game mechanics from the ground up to fit the setting. Trying to strike a balance between the old school and the new while creating something original is difficult. But it is happening...Forsaken Souls: The StoneGate Sagas I hope will be fresh and accessible from many different entry points. There will be room for Solo, Sandbox and Epic play and even a setting specifically for young players that let's the parent decide to what degree the more controversial aspects of gaming are included.

Most importantly the project is centered on the idea that if you like something keep it...if you don't change it...make it your own.

And,imho, that's the way it was always meant to be.

Stephen Simpson said...

It's a nice idea and a legitimate one, but ...

Commercially? Maybe doesn't make so much sense.

Everybody always says that they want something "new" and "different", but when an author, TV producer, or film director actually delivers that, people often go "ooooh, that's too weird - no thanks!".

So, we get countless rehashings and remakes of the crap that has sold well for decades (if not centuries).

There are a lot of creative people out there, and a lot who have the mentality of "I don't care if it sells, I'm going to do it because I want to do it, dammit". THAT is when we'll get the next EPT or Blackmoor or what have you.

But from a commercial standpoint? Nah, not gonna happen. Too easy to go back to the tried, true, and trite and hoover out the money from the wallets of those who don't actually like to be challenged by the new and different.

Jay said...

I think the White Box is just really just the blank slate to get you started. Or think of it as the "vanilla" that you can make your own sundae--or better yet, add your own ingredients and create a whole new flavor.

It's still relatively new so I expect those new flavors will take time to emerge. It seems like supplements and setting material are making up the first wave. Maybe in the next, we'll start seeing more fully realized, complete games.

FWIW, I think Terminal Space might be one example of a complete game, but if I recall it's OE, not so much WB, but I could be wrong.

Will Mistretta said...

I'm happy as long as people are playing the games they love the way they love to and publishing things they're passionate about.

You can't force this sort of thing. There's no sense in being oddball and experimental for its own sake, whether your heart's in it or not. That certainly doesn't describe Tekumel's origin!

And you're cherrypicking from the past anyway. How many EPTs has there EVER been in relation to comparitively "vanilla" gaming releases?

To the "OSR": Just play what you love and publish what you love and the rest will follow.

Will Mistretta said...

And make no mistake: Some of us LOVE that same old orc. Passionately.

Certainly, I went through a stage when I was younger when I had nothing but scorn for the concept of "fantasy as comfort food." Mark Rein*Hagen would have been proud.

That was a long time ago. Nowadays, I've not only come to peace with it, I revel it in.

Things like Carcoa are fun, too, but more as infrequent diversions. I always come back to basics.I love me that orc.

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

@Will - and I completely understand. *I* love my orcs and my familiar D&D. I play it, I blog about it, I write for it and I paint minis for it.

Yet there's something about writing/publishing the same orc over and over, where the only difference is we put LL, or S&W WB, or C&C, or S&W Core or S&W Complete or OSRIC or LOTFPRPG or any other retroclone brand on it... and it's the same orc. You could easily open OSRIC and covert the sucker to any other.

It just seems to me that we have the opportunity, the energy and the ability to come up with more.

Retreads will always sell.

Let's sell something that brings us forward, not treads the same place over and over.

Zak Sabbath said...

I feel like there isn't so much a dearth of new things as a dearth of new things -in published form that you can buy-.

I mean, Noisms at Monsters and Manuals, World of Thool and Planet Algol, for example were all exploding with new ideas. And it's free. That's great, right?

Really, who needs products when you've got ideas?

---A Guy With A Product Coming Out

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

@Zak - because in a world where we're seeing the same orc in print, I'd rather see Thool in print.

velaran said...

The next Mazes and Minotaurs and/or Encounter Critical is what I'm looking for. Carcosa was also intriguing, but dark HPL inspired Swords and Sorcery Fantasy is a staple at the table for me.(Though I'm gonna buy Realms of Crawling Chaos from Goblinoid Games for LL.)I'd say that creativity and innovation filtered through more vivid imaginings in any genre is what's needed. I'd like to see a good old-school espionage game emerge. Sci-Fi'd be good , too. On a side note, where is this year's Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game? A crappy license turned into Gold gamin'!

Just downloaded the Ultima rules, and they look pretty cool. I'm gonna see what my Ultima-loving friends will say when the Ultima Pen and Paper RPG promised back in 1992 is finally in front of their eyes!(Albeit not by Richard Garriott, no matter what the The Official Book of Ultima Second Edition says!)

@Will Mistretta:
Intentionally creating the next 'masterpiece':
Sound advice. These things are not easily forced, and when they are the end product usually isn't that good.

Being strange, for the hell of it:
That can be awesome! See Encounter Critical, Empire of Satanis, World of Synnibarr, etc...

True. Mainly due to fans sticking with one brand/genre, though. Empire of the Petal Throne, Kult, Skyrealms of Jorune, Earthdawn, Undergound, and the like shouldn't have been overlooked, imo.

To the "OSR":
Best advice so far!

Timeshadows said...

"I'ma workin' as fast as I can."

The death of my father and the forced re-housing that resulted really knocked a lot of wind and money out of the equation, but URUTSK: World of mystery is in its final stretch to the release line.

My week over New Year's in Minneapolis with not only Jeff Berry (but Don K, and Deborah N., among others) of EPT fame was a resounding success for UWoM, and it has inspired at least two folks there to try their hand at GMing the game. I ran a game with 15 PC, and there was a shortage of chairs, and I received nothing but congratulations on the setting and rules, so there's a chance UWoM may be worth the wait.

I think there are more and more great new things cropping up, but they are not as illuminated by the OSR's narrow-focus of coverage, as some of it deviates strongly from the past's formula of success -- which still holds much in the way of fascination and devotion (and in many cases with good reason).

It may take this year before more 'new' ideas begin to receive the exposure they deserve, but it cannot happen if the Old Ways are al;l that are desired by those of us who enjoy the Classic Play mindset.

In any case, I've resolved to throw away negativity, and embrace positivity (yes, even after that recent bat-scat micro-rant which has been expurgated), and I hope more of the rest of the OS crew will do the same, while retaining our characteristically-unique grumbling and grognardish group-identity's ... charm. ;D

All the best to All,

Zak Sabbath said...

Well ok, but that's more about justice than about whether we have decent toys to play with, right?

And, hey, I'm all for justice but I also think we should enjoy this golden age where people are trading ideas and links like madmen because they love playing and not be blind to it even if it doesn't produce things you can hold in your hand.

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

OK, now the "Don't Like" vs. "Like" clicks are just amusing the shit outta me!

C'mon "don't like" guys... speak up! What is so bad about wanting more than just retreads? Why is that scary or bad?

@veleran - Thank you. I hope you like them and you give me some feedback. I would cut back on some of my other gaming to have the opportunity to run tabletop Ultima for a long period of time versus just short playtests. You are a lucky gamer. *sigh*

@Timeshadows - do you have a freely available version or something that demonstrates the game? It occurs to me I've never seen your game. :/ Good luck to you, I know you've been working on that sucker for awhile.

@Zak - it's about.. best use of time/energy, I guess? If I were somehow John Adam's voice in his head, I'd be like "John... John... go find some of the craziest, coolest, most 'not the same orc' stuff you can find and publish it and make the old school gaming world turn inside out like they did over Carcosa, but you can add to the advancement of the original game, not go over the same ground... and go buy a motorcycle and head out to Sturgis with that bald guy from Chicago, on the way, pick up those hot babes and... " Oh .. uhh... wait, nevermind. You get the hint...

Wait, Times... did you call us charming? Aww :) Happy New Year to you too! :)

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

@Geordie Racer:

You said:

"lets have more new monsters from the forum members - make it a community project - or has that moment has passed and the goodwill has gone, lost in a sea of product ?"

You mean like what Zak S. is doing here (, or where I've tried to do the same here (, and here (

Jamie said...

The most creative folks that I've seen in the RPG blog world also tend to be the most altruistic. In the comments on one of his World of Thool posts, Scott said that he would never consider making people pay for Thool material and honestly, I think that's for the best.

As a sounding board and public space for people to post their damned cool ideas, I think that the blogs are ground zero for the kind of innovation you're talking about.

Anonymous said...

Well, personally, I'm a shitty writer and not very creative, plus I procrastinate and forget most of my good ideas because I never write them down and my grammar sucks especially the runon sentences.

So don't expect the next big thing from me.

I also happen to think I'm pretty representative of most of the so-called OSR crowd.

Couple that with actually trying to come up with something new, and well, hey, there isn't much room for innovation. I mean "Robotic Slave-Taking Space Cowboy Ninja Wizard Orcs of the Red Planet" may sound neat, but its just a mashup of existing tropes, right?

Anonymous said...

C'nor -that's exactly the attitude and exuberant activity I admire :)

migellito said...

A short sidenote for me, personally: genuine respect and appreciation for altruistic free-idea open sharing VS. having a very hard time feeding my family and needing to add any funds to the equation I possibly can = trying to come up with something worth charging for, but feeling like a dick about it.

Scott said...

I deeply appreciate but am surprised by the level of esteem people continue to exhibit for the old Thool material. I had (a lot of) fun with it, but I attribute most of the goodwill to the following factors:

* it was around before the big OSR explosion,

* it was inspired by [stole from] some authors who weren't mandatory name-checks at the time but who've become more so in the meantime,

and, most importantly,

* not many people actually got to see it when it was a live, going concern.

I couldn't draw up a better blueprint for undeserved nostalgic buzz, and I suspect that as an ongoing daily enterprise in today's climate, it would strike most readers as a letdown.

I wouldn't call myself an altruist so much as someone who doesn't want to turn his hobby into something for which he's answerable to the public. As long as I charge nothing, I retain the absolute right to tell everyone in the world to kiss my ass. It's not a right I often exercise, but it's one I treasure above diamonds.

If I take someone's money, then I owe him something and I cede some of my freedom. I'm just not willing to do that with my hobby. The concessions I make to the world in order to pay rent are bad enough.

So far from being an altruist, I'm a next-level selfish crank. :)

For my money - which is to say, none - the most creative blog out there is Teleleli ( It seems mostly unread and uncommented-upon, but I consistently enjoy the posts and aesthetic, and it's definitely not a retread.

dogrodeo said...

There is plenty of EPT/Blackmoor style stuff out there, its just not for osr rule systems. Most people coming up with truly inventive settings usually base those on new inventive rules systems.

Scott said...

There is plenty of EPT/Blackmoor style stuff out there, its just not for osr rule systems.

Examples? I love both settings and would love to see that sort of thing, regardless of system.

BlUsKrEEm said...

I'm going to have to agree with much of what geordie said. there are some great gems out there you just have to look.

I have complete faith that Urustsk will one day get the respect it deserves and be hailed as one of the great settings along side Tekumel, Oerth, and Talislanta.

I do like Elegra, but if I were to hilight the gems of the OSR I'd point to Mr Higgins other work: Engines & Empires Campaign Compendium. The World of Gaia is detailed in exsquiste detail, and the books presentation is spot on. E&E's only "weaknesses" are its use of modernisms and its reliance on LL (although pretty much only for monsters.)I still think Engines and Empires is one of the most ambitious products the OSR has produced and it's a shame that it barely gets a mention these days.

The recent wave of OSR in space games deserve quite a bit of praise as well. X-plorers, Stars Without Number, and Terminal Space all took a basic premiss and the tools that the clones gave us and some very inovative and unique products.

I think 2011 is a year we will see the OSR expand into new horizons. We will still see dozens of cookie cutter Kill the Orks adventures, but I think the boundaries will be tested and there will be an audience for the oddities.

Timeshadows said...

ChicagoWiz: I had the Alpha/Beta .pdfs up for at least a year, and now they are being hosted by folks I am not affiliated with, if one looks for it on the web, one can find copies of the out-dated version.


I don't intend on putting out a second Free version, and am entirely unapologetic for wanting to be remunerated for my hard work on the setting I have created over the past 26 years. This is not a hobby for me, but I do play it regularly as enjoyment, so I guess my hobby time is when I am at the table, but the work-hat is on when I am here at the keyboard.

Personally, I don't think the 'free = good' paradigm is applicable to professionals, and every time I post something on my blog ('for free') it is there for folks to enjoy. If the Alpha/Beta pdfs were up there for as long as they were and folks weren't convinced they wanted to purchase the game, I don't think giving away a second set of rules 'for free' would, either.
--I have given readers of my fiction freebies (an entire Novella, and a few short stories in fact), but I don't see the need to give a novel away for free.

Timeshadows said...

BlUsKrEEm, et al.: Thanks for the kind words. :)

Kent said...

You make a good point Chic Wizard. I don't believe anyone has displayed any talent worth paying for with the exception of Geoffrey who rode on (or created) a wave of interest in a faithful unflinching presentation of CAS-lovecraftian fantasy but Im pretty sure Geoffrey has little left to say of interest judging from the scraps relating to his next release.

I don't think Raggi is an ass but he has contaminated this little community, inadvertently and by example. Like daft vain unappealing women aggressively and tastelessly in love with their own image, every second blogger thinks his monster dreams are gorgeous and he should be remunerated for their waking contemplation, and if need be that his poverty exonerates this desperate grubbiness. Grognardia's selfless petty god's project looks impressive from the outside but there is something lobsided about the talent among the artists compared to writers in this scene.

Money for talent alone. And so no money at all say I.

Pat said...

If it's all crap, what are you doing here, Kent?

Publish or shut up.

Kent said...

If it's all crap, what are you doing here, Kent?
In two years reading around the forums from a hundred recommended works EPT, The Wilderlands and Jaquays stand up to scrutiny. Im grateful to have been introduced to these and to filter them out Im tough fibered enough to have endured the execrable daydreams of the typical blogger with a smile.

Publish or shut up.
LOL. Thats the osr mantra alright. ie Publish every old shite.

p1r8z0r said...

Sine Nomine said...

Personally, I think one part of it comes down to a limited talent pool, while another part is the extremely demanding alchemy required of any game that would both be recognized as OSR and as a work of unique creative skill.

There are only so many MAR Barkers in the world, and in the small population of OSR enthusiasts, the odds are against another cropping up. By the same token, the OSR community has built a fence around the past, with many participants very willing to read out a particular product as being "not old-school". The odds of a given product being both strikingly innovative and pronouncing the right shibboleths to win over a majority are extremely small.

I wrote Stars Without Number because I think there are some real mechanical advantages to going with an OSR approach in a game. It freed me to pay minimal attention to well-worn aspects of combat, character generation, and basic world rules and focus my work on providing game-specific structures for supporting sandbox sci-fi play. And yet despite the fact that the game is 3d6-six-times-in-order, use-EPT-rules-for-hit-points, descending-AC orthodoxy, some people honestly and truthfully aver that it just doesn't feel "old school" to them. And if a work as creatively modest as Stars Without Number can't pass that test, EPT2 has precisely zero chance.

taichara said...

I still have the various projects I'm still batting about my various notions (the Egypt-analog, the elemental project, my various dabblings with magitech and even an expanded-and-adapted version of the Final Fantasy hack), but I haven't felt an urge to really push and release/publish them. They haven't felt like they would fit with the goings-on of the OSR, I suppose is one way to express it.

I don't know if that supports your statements or works against it; probably neither but leaning towards yes, said projects being not quite "vanilla" OSR but certainly not Blackmoor by any stretch ...

I had more to say earlier in the day when I commented, but it appears the interwebs ate that post. More if I recall what the other thoughts were --

Will Mistretta said...

"any talent worth paying for"

"little left to say"

Hahaha! Talk about so pompous it's insane.

I think somebody has accessory fodder for a game about lounging about pretending to be magicians and dwarfs confused with the next Great American Novel.

migellito said...

There are many things produced by those in the osr which I feel are very high quality, and definitely worth the small amounts asked for them.

I'd pay for Dyson's one-page dungeons, and certainly his mini-mega.

I will certainly pay for copies of S&W, S&W-Whitebox, and LL, even though they're not mutually exclusive. They're cool. I definitely want to get Hyperboria when it comes out too.

Not everything needs to be groundbreaking and revolutionary. Things like that are awesome when they come along, and I think we're due for another one, yes, but I adamantly believe the baseline material is ripe with merit.

Although I had heard of them, I was never exposed to EPT or Blackmoor or Thracia or Wilderlands until a year or two ago. Yet, incredibly, I was still able to have amazing fun and enjoyment with D&D from 1981 to 96. How was it possible?!

Kent said...

I think somebody has accessory fodder for a game about lounging about pretending to be magicians and dwarfs confused with the next Great American Novel.

For the next Great American Novel I would be willing to part with One Onion, an American Onion.

Although I had heard of them, I was never exposed to EPT or Blackmoor or Thracia or Wilderlands until a year or two ago. Yet, incredibly, I was still able to have amazing fun and enjoyment with D&D from 1981 to 96. How was it possible?!

Perhaps you came up with your own material as I did and had no need for third party works.

Anonymous said...

I bet Tombs of Hultep Koa wouldn't have been shit - that CODCon Egyptian dungeon you put together was damn good fun to play through.

Stefan Poag said...

Quite the busy thread.
Since no one is (presumably) giving free cigarettes to children as a part of the 'OSR' or unplugging kidney machines as a part of the 'OSR' or exterminating the last white rhinos as a part of the 'OSR,' it's hard to me to see the logic in kneejerk opposition to someone working on something in their spare time and selling it to those who want it.

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

@limpey - did you read the post or just make a judgment based on the title? Here, let me summarize:

Hardly kneejerk.

Complete agreement that people are gonna do what people are gonna do.

Desire for some really forward looking, non-derivative stuff.

And the subsequent comments that show we've got some cool stuff already out, but much desire that this continues and grows as a trend, versus the same orc over and over.

Hope this helped! Have a great day!

Zak Sabbath said...


I could be wrong but I think Limpey was not responding directly to the post but rather to some of the other comments on it.

Stefan Poag said...

Zak is correct... I was responding to the responses... sorry for the confusion.

DMWieg said...

"I pity da foo' dat don't bring a laser to da dungeon!"

-The last words your character ever hears.


The only products I'm interested in anymore are things that do something different. I don't need the D&D rules with another name and cover; I already own them. I don't need another slew of modules that imitate, even visually, old TSR modules. Some of those were great and I'm glad I own them, but I don't need anymore. I want more stuff like Carcosa, Engins & Empires, Urutsk (TS, you can bet I'll be buying a copy when it comes out) and the like.

And finally, to veleran: More like "where is this decade's Street Fighter?" :)

Timeshadows said...

Ryan: Thanks! :D

> scribbles notes about laser gun wielding, street fighting, anthropomorphic, transforming, undead, ninja-viking kids <


DMWieg said...

Argh. ENGINES and Empires.

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

@Scott - you're always welcome back.

@limpey/ZakS - thanks and apologies for magic missile-ing the darkness.

@Geordie - no, it was bad. I mean yawning bad. Remember the review I did last year on Ice Tower of Salka? I really did not like that module. ToHK was in that vein. What I realized is that to make ToHK sing, I have to have a setting that supports it. I have to have my fantasy Mesopotamia be alive so that the module is alive. In other words, I need to play it for a few years before I can truly put something on paper that will live.

I think that's why the old AD&D modules worked so damn well. These were living campaigns that had playing behind them, that had the richness of the authors.

That's what I'm hoping happens here, and I've learned a lot in this thread and the chatter around the blogs - there are some good things out there that I was unaware of or peripherally aware of. Now I have a lot of reading to do.

@Sine - the publishing OSR may have done that, the cheerleaders may have done that - but I have not put a fence around what I will play and run in my preferred style of play. I'll happily steal/tinker/adapt/adopt from anywhere - as long as it reflects something I appreciate in gaming.

That being said, there are my preferences and most of the splatbook/MMORPG focus these days doesn't reflect it.

Open up Fight On. It's an amazing book, with some crap, but a lot of good and gems. There was another comment about there being a lot of good stuff on the web, if you want to mine it. That's another point that I failed at making... that there is stuff out there that we don't need the retreads, if we work at it and make it our own. I don't need a module to come up with a dungeon, I can find it on the web. There's enough interpretation and reinterpretation freely available. I'd like to encourage as much new/push-the-limits stuff as I can. More cowbell, more Rients, more Mr. T meets laser-toting sharks - less Tolkein and more stuff that we've come up with on our own.

None of this is negative - someone's gonna write the next orc-restat and be thrilled at it and that's awesome - but someone's got the next really "out there" thing that nobody else has thought of, or dared to put on paper, and they're doing it.

@taichara - may I make a gentle recommendation?

Screw what the "OSR" thinks.

Publish your stuff because it's YOUR thing, it's YOUR love.

Who gives a rat ass if the so-called "OSR" publishing world does or doesn't get it?

Someone will. That may inspire them to share back, to tinker with it, it might inspire you to go to greater. I think people who appreciate the openness of older edition gaming will welcome it.

Everytime you feel held back by the so-called "OSR", just imagine Pikachu sending a lighting butt plug up this guy's ass:[2].jpg

No, really. :) "This is an outrage!" "Chuuuuuuuuuuuuu!!!!!!!"

Matthew Schmeer said...

Here's the OSR's EPT, or at least a first swipe at it. Or maybe this is just a retread:


Stan Shinn said...

Here's my contribution for something new for the OSR: Lost Empires RPG, a very different set of rules that have an old school feel. You can check it out at If nothing else, I think you'll like the artwork :-)

Clovis Cithog said...

You dont have to buy the book,

but feel free to read my blog's
glossary and monsters section

Enough vanilla fantasy,
how about trying a science fantasy setting based on a world that written
before Conan,
before Fafhrd,
before Cthulhu and
before Gandalf ?