Saturday, January 6, 2018

Growing the OSR if you want: part 2

So, based on the various realizations I talked about in the last post, what are the things I'm trying to do in 2018 that will boost the signal of the OSR and provide more material for us to use? As I mentioned in the last post, these two goals are highly linked, because a rising tide lifts all boats. More signal tends to create more material.

My plan basically has three parts to it, addressing a mix of the issues with each point. (Those points being a missing generation, different communication patterns in that missing generation, the community-building power of face-to-face contact whether by video, hangout, tabletops, or conventions, and then lastly that rising tide lifting all boats.)

Part 1 of the plan was to create a website that pulls together and links the various media sources of the OSR: blogs, youtube, facebook, G+, podcasts, and others. Those aren't currently shown in the same place anywhere as an OSR smorgasbord because social media doesn't link them in any useful way. That website is now up and running as Old School Gamer Radio ( As of today, we are still adding content and fine-tuning the functionality, but it's looking good for becoming the type of resource that will do what it's supposed to do.

Part 2 of the plan was to create an OSR youtube channel that does a few different things. First is simply to create that face-to-face feeling of community. I have been "interviewing" lots of people from the OSR, ranging from DIY stars like Matt Jackson up to publishers like Jim Raggi and bloggers like Tenkar. I'm including artists, cartographers, and a wide range of people. I have gotten LOTS of comments that these videos offer a much greater sense of connection to the community than a blog format (that's not a criticism of blogs, which are better at content, just the fact that video offers something more powerful at a different primary goal). The youtube channel is Uncle Matt's D&D Studio, and since it's been established longer than the actual Old School Gamer Radio site, it has pretty good depth of content already.

Part 3 of the plan was to get an actual example of old-school play into the mainstream of that "lost generation," since old school gaming tends to require "show," not "tell." So I am running an online Swords & Wizardry game called Swords of Jordoba, pointing out that it's the original version of D&D, and airing the episodes on the channel. The first episode is mission and marching order, so it might not be as engaging as the second episode, which is where the actual dungeoneering begins. Watching online games is a much more common pastime in the youtube generation than it is for us older farts. The game itself is still in an evolving technological phase, and I'm calling both of those episodes "pilots," but it should be up to full quality very shortly.

Funding is an issue for these projects, although this post is a summary, not a plea for cash. For those interested, the patreon for the website (still a very disorganized patreon presentation with no rewards or other whistles and bells) is at patreon/mattfinch, and the better-looking one for the Swords of Jordoba game is at patreon/Jordoba. Contributions are welcome, of course, but both these projects are still in formative stages.

Next post on this topic will be about what those who enjoy the project of growing the OSR can do to move that goal forward.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Growing OSR if you want

First off, the reason I say "If you want" in the title is because growing a hobby is a separate hobby, not a moral imperative for anyone in the hobby. Ultimately the whole point of the OSR is to improve the resources of a group playing at the table, not to grow for no reason.
So I'm talking here to the specific niche of the OSR that's got an independent goal and enjoyment in increasing the scope of the OSR as opposed to being an OSR player, which is the ultimate point of the whole thing.

As some people know and others don't, I have a set of resolutions to make 2018 the year of the OSR. Given the age of the OSR (ten years or more) it might seem like that's an odd objective. There's no particular reason to expect that there'd be any sort of development that's fundamental to the hobby in this year. We've had major watershed events like Gary's death and the release of 4e and 5e, but there's nothing like that, at least nothing visible right now, that's expected to happen this year from the outside. So why pick 2018?
Basically, it's an "out of nowhere" goal that I'm basing almost entirely on some of the observations I made in 2017 about ways the OSR can improve, rather than any sort of sense that we've got any critical problems. The OSR is chugging along nicely, although one of the themes of the last couple of years has been with it's interaction with the newly old-schoolish nature of the commercial edition of D&D.
The observations that I've made (and many of you will say "duh) are the following:
1) we are largely missing a middle generation, although the 30 year olds are extremely active. (see, e.g., Questing Beast).
2) That middle generation doesn't connect with the internet in the same way as our "older" generation. They follow twitter, they look things up on youtube, and in consequence our flagship communication vehicles of blogs and G+ tend to be areas they don't access due to spending time in other media.
3) Regardless of the above, we tend to have less face-to-face visual contact with each other. While for many people that's actually more comfortable than direct contact, I think the rising popularity of conventions indicates that we are all made happier by feeling more personally a part of a community.
4) In our hobby, based on looking at phases over the last ten or twelve years, I think it's clear that in all respects a rising tide lifts all boats. The more DIY content that's shared, the more people feel comfortable sharing their own. Similarly, the more that we have community events, the more that people feel a part of a community. Again, being part of a community is irrelevant to many, since they're focused only on game-benefits, the emails and comments I've gotten since starting the oldschool gamer radio website and my Uncle Matt's D&D Studio youtube channel have contained a huge number of comments that the contacts (especially the interviews) make people happier, and the reason for it is feeling more of a community spirit and/or a sense of less isolation in the hobby.

Next blog post I'm aiming at the idea of a general "what can we do, and what are the ways of springboarding off these observations. Those who have been following my videos already have a strong sense of what I'm trying to do, but I know from long experience that the assumption people hang on your every word is utterly incorrect. But it's the completely understandable viewpoint of a blogger from behind the blog-master screen.
So, more later.