Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Wonderful & Terrible Things That Effervesced in the OSR Scene, Part 3

The good and the bad. And the ugly. Oh, the ugly. The OSR scene has had its fair share of all three, hasn't it?

DIY publishing is an open playing field. I got my start in it in 1988 when I was in high school. Myself and some friends slapped together a zine we called Fast Lane, which was mostly comics. Don't bother Googling it, you won't find anything. I might have some copies stashed in my storage building. If I ever get around to digging that shit out I'll post up some pics. And cringe.

F5... every zine under the sun.
Anyway, we published 3 issues and then graduated and went on our ways. I then started publishing on my own around 1994. I published a lot of small press comics and zines between 1994 and 2004. I was really into that whole scene, hitting the S.P.A.C.E. (Small Press and Comics Expo) con in Columbus Ohio and joining the Small Press Syndicate and the United Fanzine Organization. I had a fucking subscription to Factsheet Five.

The coming of the internet broke all of that. But that's a tale for another time. Right now I just wanted to lay some basics for a rant about quality in publishing within small niche markets. Traditionally it hasn't been very good. Most small press comics and zines were photocopied affairs that were cheap, fast, and dumb. And it was fucking awesome while being terrible.

The OSR and DIY RPG scene has been similar, with tons of slapdash dungeons cranked out to scratch that old itch so many of us have - to make something D&D, dammit! And lots of these slapdash dungeons are free or pay-what-you-want. That's totally in the spirit of the small press scene. Others charge a pittance at a dollar or two. Totally fine. Others want you to pay more for what I'd consider to be rather humdrum content. I'm not paying you $10 for an uninspired 5 room dungeon with some goblins and a mad wizard, so please don't ask.

I mean sheesh. Put some killer art in it and maybe I'll concede my hard-earned cash.

Room 3: Empty.
Room 4: Goblins (2) AC 6, HD oh my god kill me now

But I digress and perhaps I sound a bit harsh. I dunno. Back on target...

A collection of my comics!
The scene has produced a shit ton of fucking excellent books as well as a metric ton of forgettable books. I mean geez louise... TSR made some cool stuff back in the day but did they really ever make anything as badass as Barrowmaze*, The Chained Coffin, or Old School Essentials? Not really. And there are plenty of other great books to call out as well, though a few of them were created by complete shitheads and I'm loathe to bring them up. You know what I mean. This is perhaps the ugly part of the scene, and I'll probably get around to saying my mind about that as well in a future post within this meandering series of screedish rants and nerdy gibberishings.

(*Yes, I'm aware that Barrowmaze contains some relatively bland entries and empty rooms and repetitive shit. But if you have actually perused that book and, even better, used it at the table and you don't agree that it's a masterpiece of resource-grinding dungeon-crawling design then you can just go fuck yourself, buddy. I kid, of course. But it's true.)

ASIDE: I straight up Googled myself with the phrase "small press comics" included in an image search and got bupkis. My decade of self-publishing comics left a long, deep shadow indeed! Hah. But if you take out the "small press" bit you'll get at least one result plus a bunch of Black Pudding stuff. Whew!

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