I just wrote a review of Monsters & Magic that’s been published over at UK Roleplayers. See it here.
Most of the other reviews I’ve read are more positive than I was, and actually, I’m struggling to find many negative reviews of ANY of the OSR stuff that’s getting released. Fandom is great, but why not more critical analysis, or just a good old stock taking position?
The OSR market is now incredibly diverse, or, if you prefer, fractured. It seems all you need is a couple of house rules and a word processor and you can call yourself a designer and publish your game. Ironically, back in the actual old school days, people just used to write out notes and fling them in a binder, and call it their ‘campaign’. Wonder if those guys (and I was one of them) would have had the balls to call themselves games designers? It would have been a nice accolade, but no, I don’t think we saw ourselves that way at all. It was just the way we organised our campaigns.
I come back to that word again, campaigns. It seems to have been usurped by the phrase Adventure Path in recent years, but I never saw a campaign as just a string of scenarios, it had to include setting stuff and some house rules too (to be fair to Paizo, that’s exactly what their APs do). I also never had much time for those who would only do rules, but never actually play the game, or run it. Armchair DMs. Boo.
So I’m slightly confused and head scratchy about the proliferation of OS games currently available. I’m not the only one, you only have to check a forum of your choice to see regular requests for which is best, or which is most popular, or which is most like A, B or X. The choice can be overwhelming. I keep coming back to the same solution though: just pick one at random and play. There’s so much common language between them that you could always drop in stuff from elsewhere, or even excise whole portions of what you don’t like. Just play a few sessions first, and then muck about with it.
In order to play, you need an adventure, and I think this is where new (to OS games) DMs get troubled. Some OS games have no specific adventures available for them. I think that’s criminal frankly. Lets face it, we’re talking about TSR type gaming here and the one thing they did was get scads of modules into the hands of groups. If you have an OS game, and it’s got a twist on the classic format, you have to put adventures out there for folk to see what it is you’re getting at. Huge props here have to go to Goodman Games for regularly publishing great quality modules for their DCC line.
Here’s a music analogy. If you want to be involved in music, at more than just a hobby level, would you A) learn to play an instrument and join a band or B) learn how to make an instrument
Why aren’t the OS publishers getting some good tunes out there instead of concentrating on yet another slight iteration on B/X? We could argue about styles all day long, and have a happy debate, but really, should we be so focused on the systems after all this time?
They already built a great guitar, don’t make another, just write a different song.