With the reprinting of AD&D, coupled with the impending release of 5e, mixed in with a healthy promise from Wizards of the Coast that 5e will be awesome for old school gamers ... we're at an interesting crossroads for the community of pre-3e gamers.
I call that the "OSR," since it's a blanket term for something with several -- often mutually exclusive -- moving parts. Interestingly, we may be moving as a result of the WotC release strategy toward a splintering of the relatively big-tent OSR that we've had so far.
The reprint of AD&D, done for whatever reason, may have had some intention of arresting the progress of OSRIC as a 1e resource. I imagine that once the reprints hit the street there will indeed be a decline in the number of downloads of the OSRIC rulebook. On the other hand, it might significantly increase the number of people who get interested in looking at OSRIC modules/resources. If part of the objective of the reprint was to slow down OSRIC, I think it's going to backfire on that particular point unless 5e happens to be so usable for 1e that a 5e module can actually, really be used for a 1e game.
In reality, I think WotC is doing the reprint because it's something they can sell in between 4e and 5e. In between editions they aren't going to sell much 4e material, after all. They have to look for their alternative sources of material, and a collector version of AD&D fits the bill quite nicely.
The potential compatibility of 1e and 5e isn't going to be known until the secret public playtesting session at this D&DXP convention leaks like a sieve and there are copies of the playtest document all over the internet. If WotC doesn't think that D&D players are beyond bringing in James Bond scanners and engaging in techno-stuff that would boggle the CIA in order to get copies of that document into circulation, they don't know the dynamics of the internet or the capabilities/determination of the fan base. I've already started seeing on ENWorld (yes, I went to ENWorld) the beginnings of grumbling about all the secrecy.
If 5e is somewhat compatible with 1e, whether that's forward compatibility or backward compatibility, there's going to be a neold-school group that fuses the two. Another edition war in the old school, how beautiful. Because this edition might very well be more old school than 3e ... it's almost certain to be closer to 1e than 4e was. (For those who didn't try 4e, it's very different from 1e, like that's going to shock anyone).
I can see a circumstance in which the compatibility with 1e is close enough to allow an agile person to write for 1e using either 5e or some kind of "AD&D Compatible" trademark license. That would be an extremely positive outcome for us, because it would mean (a) nice reprints on FLGS shelves, at least for a while, to attract new players and pull in our off-internet brethren who still play AD&D (b) ability to publish for the system without using the code-names made necessary by the terms of the Open Game License, and (c) OSRIC is still there, but goes into a Cthulhu-nap until the next WotC generation of managers removes the ability to legally speak the words "Ia, Ia, AD&D Ry'Leh." At which point, substitute "OSRIC" for "AD&D" and keep right on truckin'.
However, I've got a feeling that the attempt to make 5e compatible with 1e is going to disrupt our sense of identity a bit. Depending on the nature of the beast (unless it's utterly obvious that they aren't compatible -- a possibility) this is going to create some bitterness between those who think it's compatible enough and those who aren't influenced by "close enough," or by the idea of an expanded community, or by the idea of picking up mostly-usable game materials at Barnes & Noble.
No matter what, the core of our community isn't likely to change much, but the shape of the activity just might get rattled around a bit as some gamers switch to 5e, as they get edition-warred, as third-party publishers (including free resources) try to figure out the trademark/license landscape for the words "AD&D," as new people discover the OSR because of the reprints at the same time many leave for the "almost-compatible" 5e.
I don't think it's going to be seismic, but I betcha we have a great big edition war now that there's an edition coming out that -- we're told -- is actually aimed at bringing us back into the official fold. 4e made no ripple in our community because far from trying to attract us ... it brought new 1e players in droves. This time around, it's going to have some sort of effect in our part of the world.
We'll have to see.
PS, I don't think WotC is deliberately targeting the OSR other than probably wanting to reduce the number of OSRIC rulebooks that people are buying/downloading. They want us on the WotC website, buying WotC products, and I think they're legitimately making their best attempt to make that happen. I'm just a bit concerned about the collateral damage we're going to inflict on ourselves when the attempt is unveiled.
Although we're pretty safe, because all grognards are level-headed and slow to anger, fair in our judgements and accepting of ... um ... okay, yeah, there's going to be an edition war.
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