... now with 35% more arrogance!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

RPG Developments

As the saying goes: opinions are like assholes. I have several, and I'm about to show them to you.

I don't generally follow the press releases and publication schedules of the larger RPG companies. I especially tend to avoid political discussions that arise around such announcements. But everyone's talking about a couple big things, and I thought I'd say a couple small things about those big things.

First big thing is the WotC Fortune Cards. I pay loose attention to changes in WotC products, but not much. They just don't make anything that matters to me anymore.; barely did even at the start. I only pay attention to them because they own the D&D name and if they ever *do* something with D&D that interests me, I want to know about it. Fortune Cards don't matter to me, and I can't think of much else to say about that. I'm not going to buy them, but I'm not going to wear sackcloth and cover myself with ash, either.

The second big thing is the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG from Goodman Games. It doesn't quite look like what I'm interested in, but it's a lot closer than the WotC Fortune Cards. What it looks like, to me, is "Macrolite 20". In other words, they've stripped down d20, but left a little bit more than Microlite 20, then added extras; from what I can gather, it's like M20 + Charisma, Constitution, and Luck + critical hit tables and random spell result tables, and a few other tweaks, of course. That's somewhat interesting and I might find that worth playing, but I have my reservations.

The central idea for DCC RPG seems to be the random tables. A different crit table for each class, a different spell results table for each spell. That could be interesting, but it also strikes me as hard to use in play; you *have* to have the book handy during play, and *must* look up the table. I've played around with my own random tables, but I've leaned towards improvising off a couple general tables instead of a proliferation of specialized tables.

The situation with spells seems the clunkiest, if I understand the description properly. Each individual spell has its own, unique spell results table. That's a lot of tables. If I were going to go that way at all, I'd have one table for each combo of spell form + spell type (like "ranged attack" or "area defense",) and each individual spell would indicate word substitutions on the more generic table. That would still be bulky, but not quite as bad, and possibly doable.

The third big thing in the blogosphere is a side argument that started because of the Goodman announcement. People started arguing about whether the OSR should move more towards original stuff that builds on old school ideas (with the DCC RPG held up as an example,) or whether it's just fine "rehashing" the old material. The fundamental problem with this argument is an assumption that anybody can dictate what an informal community can do, or that anybody gives a crap. Aside from a few small commercial ventures, most of the OSR material is free, and a lot of it is hobbyist in nature. What the OSR hobbyists should do is whatever interests them; changes in interest will change what is produced. If someone feels the need to "rehash", they'll do so, and if people feel the need to download that rehash, they will. If someone decides to go cutting edge instead, they can do that, too; whatever the current tastes are will determine how popular that project becomes.

There's no other regulation of the OSR needed, for the hobbyists. Individual commercial publishers might have to make other decisions, based on what they think will sell, and how well it will do so; but that's their business, not that of "the OSR".

One final bit is the first line in the DCC RPG's designer notes: "What if Gygax and Arneson had access to the Open Game License when they created D&D?" This sentence makes no sense. I suppose Joseph Goodman meant "Open Game Content" or the SRD instead of "Open Game License". If Gygax and Arneson had had access to the SRD, and presumably felt like using it... they would have produced a considerably less popular game, for the simple reason that it would be the derivative of some more popular game, instead of something completely new that excited large numbers of people.


  1. Very well said! I agree that since most of us are just hobbyists, we should mainly focus on what we are putting out there and not worry so much about "the OSR" as an entity.

  2. Pretty much my stance on things. I'm not getting too worked up what WotC does. I will probably buy a deck or two just to check them out, but I won't be hording them.

    As far as Goodman Games DDC, I had the chance to playtest it over the holidays and yes it has an old school feel, but I already get that from numerous systems. And your right about the random tables, that seems to be the shiny thing they are hoping to attract gamers. I thought it slowed the game down and didn't add much. I would rather have the GM just come up with stuff instead of looking for page 32 for the right table. Still, like the cards, I will probably get it check it out. And that tag line is yeah, kinda dumb. Gygax and Anderson did wanted they wanted to do without the boundaries set up. Sorta like saying this is the fame that Elvis would have had if he had been on American Idol. Horrible comparison, but that's all I had.

    Time to go sort out some gaming stuff.

  3. There's no other regulation of the OSR needed, for the hobbyists. Individual commercial publishers might have to make other decisions, based on what they think will sell, and how well it will do so; but that's their business, not that of "the OSR".

    Here! Here! Well said. The OSR hobby publishers aren't competing for market share, so they can and will publish whatever interests them. And this is how it should be - we've taken our hobby back from the industry giants and are churning out a chaotic mess of glorious diversity. One may not be interested in everything the OSR publishes, but with this much diverse stuff coming out there's sure to be something for everyone!