Saturday, 8 December 2012

Dunroamins & Decline - GW, the OGL and its OSR

First, Itras By has finally been published in English. There's a fine review of the original at Harald's and the sample pdf is here. Thanks to Nørwegian Style for posting the news.

Second, in a discussion at BoLS on GW licensing its IP Vossl claimed "the OGL died a horrible fiery death 4 years ago". The OGL is the Open Game License. Part of my reply:

The OGL is alive and kicking. Pathfinder, which was built through the OGL, has at least for some time outperformed the official fourth edition and an Old School Renaissance is thriving because of it too, via what may well be hundreds of smaller publishers. The fact we know about fifth so early, not to mention the general direction it's headed in, may be in part down to the power the OGL has given the player base.

Vossl is clued up and a crisp thinker, so how many other people have never heard of the OGL, a licence that lets gamers create materials compatible with a much-loved system or IP and sell them. It's essentially D&D, but other companies, like GW, might catch on.

One of the beneficiaries and drivers of the development is this Old School Renaissance, or whatever we choose to call it, specifically the D&D OSR. But where are the pioneers vanishing to? How will we stumble across their worlds, or talk to and learn from them?

James at Grognardia has turned off commenting at the blog and now directs would-be commenters deeper into Gspace, into a realm that almost seems designed to form an echo chamber, to find us our own yes men and limit contact with the surprising or new.

Those disappearing into this space are some of the people best equipped to present the thing they love to the wider world, in a more in-depth and fully public format with some of the interaction on show, through a blog for example. So not only are many bloggers less active, some are now giving the impression of dead space, walls with only secret doors.

Since the new communities appeared we've had one, two, three spring up, and counting.

Where do outsiders come to be insiders, grow the hobby and pass it on? Does this all amount to conceding the field? Taking it easy, or curling up to die in a comfort blanket?

Maybe that's the point of certain consumer technologies, having us herd ourselves away.

Having the OSR slip away after the first act of such a dazzling performance is a little like leaving games as good as Itras By in a few tongues. No, some things can't be translated and a group may have the right to define its own boundaries, or try to at least. But then, of course, the world goes on and the thing the group loves - the game - fades with them.

So what happens next? Here's a clip from Baraka, a possible take on Itra's City and our world as it was, is, and could be. I recommend watching it right through, the full film too.

Update: Tim at The Other Side has put together a list of those multiplying communities.


Anonymous said...

When blogging became popular some people predicted the end of the forums. The forums didn't die, although some are certainly less active these days.

The same pattern and predictions occurred when G+ apparently replaced blogs, yet as far as I can see there has been no let up in the growing number of blogs (I certainly can't keep up with all the ones I'd like to read, let alone the new ones that keep popping up).

The various platforms for communication have their differing strengths (and weaknesses) and as such are never totally replaced by the new.

Theodric the Obscure said...

Bully for you. I find the claim that the OGL "died a fiery death four years ago" to be 4ecentric statement that is blind to the OSR, Pathfinder, and the market realities that are being reported by various kinds of retailers.

garrisonjames said...

RE: Non-D&D/Pathfinder versions of the OGL:
Atlas Games has made the WaRP RPG available in a handy OGL format. Goodman Games has the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG which is another version of the OGL. Diaspora is another non-D&D game that uses a version of the OGL, as is FATE, and a number of spin-off RPGs based upon FATE. There is (or was?) an OGL-fied version of Traveller, the so-called Mongoose Traveller, but the SRD seems to have been maybe someone is trying to put the cat back into bag in that respect. These is an OGL version of Runequest, and the Runequest II RPG was redone as Legend and made OGL.

There are others, but this gives you a few things to look over.

garrisonjames said...

The OGL is far from dead. There is an intense love/hate relationship with the OGL for many gamers on both sides of the publisher/player divide.

An alternative to the OGL is to use the Creative Commons License like Bare Bones RPG or Eclipse Phase, among others.

As to the 'decline of the OSR' it probably won't fizzle-out directly because of yet one more way to silo away and withdraw into ever smaller sub-communities or to make it even harder for newcomers to get involved or up to speed. If anything the ever-growing arsenal of tools for communicating, exchanging ideas and even playing games with one another is a challenge to see what we can make of it, and what we can get it to do for us...and it's another opportunity for people to build communities and not just echo chambers.

A lot of blogs went quiet or bled off into G+, and now Communities could have an impact on G+ and blogs. People are always going to run after the shiny new stuff. But look at the blogs that have endured. There are some good ones still going, like Telecanter, From the Sorcerer's Skull, and Needles is still going strong. Traffic is down, G+ has had a huge impact on blogging. Undeniably. But there are new blogs coming out all the time, like The Everwayan which focuses on something other than yet another retro-clone of that one game with the big lizards and people mugging strangers for gold down in holes in the ground.

The OSR, whatever that really means and whomever is or is not actually involved in it, has never ever really calcified into any one solid faction or movement. It is a feral, eclectic melange or patchwork of contentious, bickering, squabbling creative-types and others all coming together, flying apart and reforming again and again much like some turn-of-the-century art movement. There is every kind of gamer-nerd involved, invested or interested in the OSR and every one of them can freely redefine it to suit themselves, reinvent it to serve their own ends, and be part of it or Not A Part Of It as they damn well please. It's a glorious hot mess of anarchic DIY rampant nerdistry cranked up to eleven and it doesn't have to be confined to just D&D, if anything it is spreading outwards. Onward.

Instead of seeing a decline, I think that we're about to see a massive fragmentation and reorganization as a lot of the 'If Onlies' like WoTC ever reprinting the old books have in fact turned out to be the case. Hell froze over. Now what?

Roll for initiative, I guess...

John Till said...

I was wondering what had happened to the comments at Grognardia. It's hard to see moving comments to an entirely different platform as a good strategy for building an open community. It is a great strategy to further homogenize and silo opinion however.

John Till said...

That being said, maybe garrisonjames is correct and some positive transformations will come out of this reorganization. I am going to keep an eye on the communities, but for the near future, I will be continuing to use my blogs as my primary creative-communicative outlet. I feel a greater sense of permanence with these durable ephemera.

Porky said...

I don't think I can add much to that, except to clarify it's less a complaint about change itself, than where a change may lead us, and a concern that the development in this case could represent short-term or lazy thinking and undermine a wider potential.

I do agree re the hot mess, fragmentation and reorganisation, and this post and the response, and all the others we see and will see, are an element in that web of processes. The barycentre that an OSR represents certainly doesn't have to be confined to D&D, and I'd say it's good news even for D&D players - maybe especially for them - that it's not. What we call tabletop gaming is changing fast.

Thanks especially for posting all the links. Anyone arriving here with little knowledge of this area of the landscape will hopefully be going away with a fair bit more to think about.