Wednesday, August 5, 2020

OSR Nostalgia & Candy Bars

R.I.P. Steve Z
This post is riffing on or continuing some thoughts I had here and here. It's a bit rambly. Skip if you like.

Way back in the ancient times of the 1990s I was deeply involved in the small press comics and zine scene. By the early 2000s the internet had came along and killed that scene almost utterly. Yes, I know people continued to publish and people continue to publish today. But the scene I knew in the 90s is long dead, killed by the internet, rising costs of mailing, and ready availability of cheap alternative publishing methods. Hell, we photocopied shit because it was cheap and we didn't have print-on-demand.

Anyhoo... this is analogous to the G+ gaming scene and the OSR. To me, anyway.

G+ was where it was at. Games, communities, conversations, news, everything. In the 2010s if you weren't on G+ you were not keeping up with the pulse of the OSR and indie games movement. It's a god damn fact. Everyone was there, even if they didn't want to be. And it was fantastic.

That time lasted about 8 years or so, then Google stuck a fork in it. Now it's dead and the OSR and indie scene splintered as a direct result. It's fucking true. Don't argue with me. Yeah, some of you might have been existing on the fringes, ignoring G+, and nothing much has changed for you. Goody gumdrops. You are very special.

So anyway, G+ died and took much of the OSR's mystique with it. Of course it wasn't just the death of
Blood in the Controversy
G+ that gutted the motherfucker. You spend enough time with a group of disparate people connected tenuously by a common interest in a hobby and you're going to develop rivalries, controversies, and enemies. Peoples' true colors come out over time and they are judged for it. Bad shit comes to light, battle lines are drawn, factions formed, actions taken, communities fractured.

It is inevitable. So I'm not really arguing that the death of G+ was what killed the mystique, it was just the final blow to an already bloodied combatant.

When I started messing around in the OSR sandbox around 2012 or so there were a few tentpole circles that I remember. Lamentations, Tenkar, DCC, Dragonsfoot, Story Games, Podcasters... I'm probably missing some. These are just the tentpoles I remember the most. There were smaller ones too, such as BFRPG's community.

Fast forward to 2020 and you still have remnants of these same groups plus new ones that have grown
This got me started, honestly.
in the interim. They are more rabid and polarized now. Some groups have drawn hard lines in the concrete and do not mix with other groups on any level. Lamentations is certainly in a hardcore stance at the moment in response to various controversies. Story Games has morphed a lot and is perhaps more diffused. I have no idea if Dragonsfoot is still breathing nor do I know if Tenkar's corner of the OSR world is still alive. DCC seems to be trucking along much the same, though I haven't heard of any big Kickstarters in a while so maybe it's losing steam? You also have some other smaller groups/circles, such as the Hydra Collective that have amassed some oeuvre since 2014 or so. You've got the Troika! community. There's a pretty robust collection of RPG circles on Twitter, though that's where you'll find the most intense battle lines. The OSR Anchor podcasting scene came on fast and hard and I think is still going. Of course there are the Outer Circles of the movement where we sometimes send the unwanted, and I generally ignore most of that shit because I've got enough on my plate, thank you very much.

A very tasty jam
It's a funny thing to realize that you feel nostalgia for a movement that was itself largely based on nostalgia. And the OSR was most definitely nostalgia-driven. At first I resisted saying that because I didn't want to say that a thing I loved was "just nostalgia". I've come to a different understanding of it now. Nostalgia is as legit and viable a reason for loving something as anything else. It's all about time and space, distance and personal connections. It's also a neutral term, isn't it? You can have nostalgia for Marathon candy bars (good) or for Confederate flags (bad). Nostalgia itself is neutral without context.

Nostalgia for D&D or Traveler or MERP is good, generally. It's fine. It's wonderful.

At this this point I have logged many more hours playing Labyrinth Lord than I ever did with all versions of D&D combined. Hell, I would say I've played more hours of DCC RPG than I ever played of D&D. For me, 2012-2018 was a golden age of gaming. So many wonderful games and books, so many good times, so many new friends.

That era is over. But as with most good things, something new emerges. We're in a new time. I'm still enjoying myself in gaming. I'm still publishing books, which is the great love affair of my life. I have positive vibes for the future, despite some of the negative energy that has pervaded the scenes in recent years.

Onward.

18 comments:

  1. Onward!I think the biggest thing for me is to keep creating,and keep playing games.

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  2. I have always thought of Dragonsfoot as the online center of the OSR. I've been a member there since before the board crash in 2002. I'm happy to say that Dragonsfoot is still going strong, debating and talking about and having fun with the 1st edition AD&D game. :)

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    1. Good deal. I might have posted there once or twice back between 2012-2014 or so. I can't remember.

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  3. Did you read Eightball comics back in the 90s? The cartoonist did a story about nostalgia, and he predicts that before long there would be nostalgia for previous waves of nostalgia. The panel shows a guy dressed like Donnie Most saying "I'm not into the Fifties per se...I'm into the Seventies revival of the Fifties." And a guy dressed like Brian Setzer replies "I'm into more of an Eighties Fifties myself...."

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    1. Oh yeah, I loved Clowes' work. I didn't own the comics but a friend of mine had a huge collection of oddball comics like Ed the Happy Clown and Peepshow, so I would borrow his stuff to read. I think Clowes is right. People probably have nostalgia for hacks of the Black Hack, which is nostalgic for classic D&D.

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  4. "Confederate flags (bad)"

    I don't want to give you a hard time about this.

    You're being judgy and frankly maybe racist. Consider:
    Old Glory (bad)
    Flag of Israel (bad)

    The south is a broken, defeated, conquered people. An easy target for random people to spit on.
    Their flag is NOT synonymous with slavery and it's not up to you to or anyone else to decide what it represents for them. Have a little empathy for your fellow man.

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  5. A good post to read on a fairly bleh morning.

    Quite unrelated, but your Ice Forest is on the map in my recently started OSE game.

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    1. Oh, cool! Let me know how it goes. One of my backburner projects is to do an expanded edition of that module. Since it is essentially a d20 random encounter table at heart I was considering making it a d100 and just add a bunch of new encounters.

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  6. Well-put. I do miss G+ way more than I would have ever expected.

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    1. Experiences varied. I have friends who hated it and had terrible experiences because of a few bad eggs. But for me it was the bee's knees. One stop shop for all my RPG related needs. I could post whatever the fuck I wanted and actually have people see it and respond. It was nice. I miss it.

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  7. Lol. I'm just now getting into the OSR after 25 years out of the loop. I basically missed 3.0 and 4.0, and come back and there's this thing called 5e, and it feels like WoW to me (world of warcraft). You are pressing the buttons you have on your character sheet, like in WoW. So I'm like, well, I'll just dig out my old Redbox and Palladium stuff then. I'll dink around with that. Then I see your stuff, and Questing Beast, and OSE (old school essentials) and I'm pulled back in completely.

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    1. I feel it. But to be totally precise and get all edition-y, it was 4e that REALLY slammed that WoW button. Fun game,though. I played it several times. Just not MY D&D, as a friend of mine put it. OSE is the bomb.

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  8. DCC is very active. The Dying Earth RPG Kickstarter is supposed to happen later this year, and they are still planning to release the Xcrawl RPG. And I think the latest Gongfarmer's Almanac was just released.

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    1. That's good to hear. The last DCC thing I got excited about was the 4th printing Kickstarter. I did go in on the Lankhmar Kickstarter too, but it's just sitting on my shelf. No shade on DCC, I love the game. I just don't feel like it fits every Appendix N book out there. I feel like DCC has its own vibe and trying to use it to fuel Lankhmar or Dying Earth is not a great fit.

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  9. Very new to the whole scene. In fact, only recently played my first ttrpg (Basic Fantasy) and teaching myself through solo play, blogs, and videos. It's an amazing environment, so creative. It's strange to learn about the negative stuff through learning about the games, unfortunately lots to navigate. Spent years focused on fine arts and literature; love how "OSR" combines the two! Decided to play to fill the D&D nostalgia (curiosity) that never happened for me long ago. Hope to be involved in the onward wave.

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    1. Welcome aboard! Here's a caution: don't limit yourself to just OSR. The label has its good and bad, and should never be taken as the gospel. There are games adjacent to it that don't bear the label that are wonderful to check out. DCC RPG is one, but also Best Left Buried and Into the Odd are exceptional (if you like rules light stuff) and worth your time!

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