A Brief Thought on the Importance of 4e to the OSR

There is a recurrent theme in Buddhism that crimes and attacks against Buddhism and the Buddha only serve to strengthen Buddhism because of the illustrative lessons they provide. Devadatta preached “wrong” Buddhism, decided to take a nap mid-sermon, and handed it over to guys who said “Remember what that guy just said? That’s the perfect example of ‘doing it wrong'” and brought his followers back to true Buddhism. Taira Kiyomori, whose crimes against Buddhism were so great that he boiled alive in his bathtub from his own evil, was then heralded as something of a ‘reverse-saint’ because the strife he caused that brought so many people to see the need for Buddhism was far more beneficial in the grand scheme of things than the destruction of temples and persecution of monks were detrimental. It’s similar to the school of thought that contemplates the possibly saintly and divinely necessary roles of Pilate and Judas who, while castigated as villains, are absolutely essential to the fulfillment of the Prophecies.

Which brings me to the edition wars. For all of the hatred and backlash against 3rd and 4th edition, their existence may well be absolutely necessary for the OSR. If there were nothing to rail against and say “This is how you do it wrong!” there would not be the strength of momentum behind a return to some sort of Orthodoxy. Therefore, perhaps 4th ed deserves a sainted position as one of the most if not THE most important game of OSR. And contrary to those who claimed that 5th ed might just be what sweeps away the OSR forever, it will only serve to remind those in the OSR community what they love about it and why got into it in the first place.

Hopefully next week, Bull Run Pt. 1 (and maybe 2!) will be up (somewhere).

A Post about the Future

Every so often one still comes across some post bemoaning the death of the OSR. They’ve slowed to a trickle by the end of this year, but every once in awhile some guy gets all weepy about the Grognardia archives or something. ┬áConsider┬áthe Dyvers list, which shows that there are still hundreds of blogs out there. Sure, several of them may be “going dark”, but for every gaming blog that has died, there are dozens of others still going strong.

I think that people confusingly correlated the publication of clones to the community as a whole when they proclaimed the OSR is dead.

There IS a decline in the publication of new clones & “OSR Heartbreakers”. A big part of this is that there are already LOTS of good OSR Clones and OSR Retro systems out there already to choose from. I would not go so far as to say that the market is saturated, but between Basic Fantasy RPG, Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, Swords & Wizardry, Lamentations of the Flame Princes, Blueholme, ACKS, BBRPG, DCC and several other acronyms I’m forgetting, chances are most gamers are going to find what they like without having to go out of their way to write a new system. Add to that that Wizards finally reprinted darn near every edition that the OSR draws from, and you’ve got choices gallore! And I’m pretty sure that Pathfinder and the plethora of d20 stuff has the 3e crowd sufficiently covered until the end of days.

There has been some backlash caused by a number of kickstarter debacles, including games that funded but were never delivered and established gaming companies using it essentially as a pre-order system (which was NOT its original intent), but that doesn’t mean that there are suddenly less people out there gaming. Just less people taking a chance on developing new systems for which there is shrinking demand, simply because people don’t have time to run all the games they have, much less try out new ones.

So, where does the community go from here? Obviously, modules for existing systems will be where the bulk of creative energy will be directed. Most of these will not be so ambitious as to need kickstarter, but you’ll find some good ones out there hosted on blogs or at DriveThruRPG. Interestingly enough, 4e will be the final frontier for the OSR, as long as we’re talking about retro-clones. As Wizards drops support for the red-headed step-child of D&D, I predict that in 2014 we’re likely going to see some reimaginings of the 4e system.

Plus, all of the above assumes that gaming is limited to the D&D sphere, which it most certainly is not.