Oldest of Schools

I almost feel like I should start this blog with: not to crap on the Old School Renaissance, but…

I honestly don’t really have strong feelings about the OSR, be it the Renaissance or Revival. Probably because, at 40, I’m still too young to have played the games that inspired the OSR. I got into role-playing games with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, which was a good decade and two revolutions of gameplay from the style of play emulated with OSR, which was based around the 1981 Red Box and the adventures released prior to the first Dragonlance module, Dragons of Despair in 1984.

Now, it’s absolutely fine for people to enjoy OSR games and I’m not going to tell anyone they’re playing the game wrong. If it works for you, the OSR is A-OK. But I’ve also seen a few OSR publishers and gamers lamenting the fact that D&D 5e is so popular and their own products aren’t selling or that they aren’t seeing increased success despite the popularity of D&D. And that bugs me.

It’s absolutely fine to sell niche products. It’s totally fine to sell artisanal salak and durian jams. But you can’t also complain when people opt to instead buy some Smucker’s raspberry.

OSR games are totally fine. But they are a niche game. Heck, they are sub-sub niche game. They’re not just competing with Dungeons & Dragons as an RPG or even as a fantasy RPG but competing with D&D as d20-based generic fantasy RPGs with classes, high magic, and the same basic gameplay. Many can’t even add a flavour rider to differentiate them, like “dark fantasy” or “faerie tale fantasy”. The stories one tells in an OSR game are largely identical to the stories you tell with D&D, it’s how they’re played that is different. And that alone makes it a hard sell.