Back in May, Rod Waibel got in touch with Geek Native with a heads up that Izegrim Creations’ Chromatic Dungeons Kickstarter was in the works.
It’s always wise to let blogs know before your launch. I asked Rod what the angle for Chromatic Dungeons was. Why would readers care?
Well! Rod must have a crystal ball as he seems to have predicted this week’s drama. He told me;
Chromatic Dungeons TTRPG. Bringing the old school feel of TSR era gaming into the modern community. That is, an OSR clone, with the feel of old school gaming, but with modern sensibilities of game design applied, and to be presented to be welcoming and representative of just how diverse our gaming community has become since the 80s.
You can see that on the Chromatic Dungeons launch alert page. I thought it important to stress, though, that this angle isn’t a knee jerk to the latest TSR Games (3) tensions. The “OSR done without hate” had been Chromatic Dungeons’ goal all along.
All those weeks ago, that was the issue I talked to Rod about while scooping up some art previews from Chromatic Dungeons. The Kickstarter is about to launch, and the timing feels spot on.
Why did you feel the need to create this OSR clone and re-image the classic game?
This is two-part answer.
1. As we have grown in the gaming community, with lessons learned, becoming more aware of issues, and growing more diverse as a community, there is an opportunity to take a great game that launched an epic hobby and apply modern sensibilities of game design and to have it be representative of all gamers in our hobby.
2. While modern editions do a lot of great things, I believe there is plenty of room for the old school style of play: rulings over rules, higher lethality mechanically, and a zero-to-hero model to name a few.
I don’t think there’s a right answer to this… but you’ve mentioned rulings over rules, danger and zero to hero. Is that how you define OSR? Is there an accepted definition?
I don’t think there is any “one true way” to define the OSR, because the OSR above all else is meant to emulate the feel and/or mechanics of many games from the 70s/80s.
Since there were so many games even then, there is no real way one could define the OSR objectively.
That said, I think most fans of the OSR would agree on common themes. Those being rulings over rules, zero to hero, mechanically more lethal of a system, etc. Because gaming was still new back then, and we didn’t have the internet where you get an instant answer to a question by the design team, most tables were coming up with stuff on the fly. That fostered a lot of creativity and homebrew.
Players were encouraged to come up with their own stuff. I know this is anecdotal, but it seems that there are fewer GMs today who are creating their own game worlds and adventures than in the 80s, where nearly everyone I met was doing that.
Is it fair to say not everyone in the OSR community has been eager to embrace diversity?
This is a tricky question and a very sensitive one, so I want to ensure I take the time to answer carefully.
I do not believe the OSR as a community is bigoted, sexist, or against diversity or inclusivity. I frequently chat with many “grognards” who were there at TSR in the beginning, and they all are great people who embrace being more inclusive and diverse. However, there is also a growing number (or perhaps they are just being more vocal) of people in the OSR community who have espoused anti-inclusive and outright bigoted ideals and beliefs. I believe that there are two reasons for this.
1. Our society as a whole has become more polarized and divisive, with extremists being louder and louder. If you were to tell me 15 years ago that blatant white nationalism would be embraced by members of Congress and their respective party would not hold those Congresspeople espousing those beliefs accountable, I’d have a hard time believing you. Yet here we are…
2. WotC has made a big push in the past few years to be more inclusive and diverse.
This has manifested in actual rule changes and lore in the official D&D game world. Removing alignments from monstrous humanoids, and changing how racial traits are applied, for example.
I suspect many D&D fans who do not appreciate these changes have moved into the OSR, where they’ve found support for their playstyle–a game that admittedly catered pretty much to one demographic and included things we would find problematic by today’s standards (like nipples poking out of chainmail bikinis). I am not disparaging the creators back then, as it was a product of its time, and we know better now.
How are you ensuring that Chromatic Dungeons is meeting its goal of being welcoming and representative of the diversity in our hobby?
I have made it a point that whenever possible, if a piece of art depicts a person of color or other traditionally marinalized group, then a freelancer of that same group was hired to complete the request. This is for several reasons: it helps ensure the art is done respectively and avoids cultural appropriation, it supports the diverse freelancers in our hobby, and the more eyes I have on the project, the greater number of ideas and opportunity to recognize and identify problematic areas there are.
Additionally, I have hired several consultants and sensitivity readers to ensure I am meeting that important mission goal.
Geek Native readers can see some of the art in question in this piece and more in the free download. How much do you think art matters when making people feel satisfied that a game is for them?
There are two main goals of Chromatic Dungeons to help answer that question. The first is mechanical. There have been over 40 years of gaming experience where some rule changes have been made to support a more intuitive set of game mechanics, and to feel more inclusive.
An example would be how “races” are now called “ancestries”, and rather than give a flat trait-based if you choose dwarf or elf, you can customize your heritage. So maybe you choose an elf who grew up in a coastal area, so the traits you get are based more off of that coastal background rather than the elf.
The second is the art itself. When someone picks up this book, do they see a picture of a hero that represents them? When they look at the freelancers, do they see a list of people who are diverse and representative of them?
How important that is from person to person is up to them; I can’t speak for anyone else. But I do know that for many, feeling like they are representative in the game itself is important.
Of course, the most important thing is to present a game that is fun to play regardless of anything else. It’s a game, and we should be enjoying our games. Because I believe we all have different preferences, there is room in our modern gaming community to enjoy both current editions, and older editions.
What’s the biggest and baddest monster in Chromatic Dungeons?
The Game Master! In all seriousness, that’s a hard question. Perhaps an ancient red dragon? A lich? A balor? Or if I am being literal, the brachiosaurus lol. I suppose a lot depends on how the GM utilizes them. There are plenty of monsters, so no worries there.
Where does the name Chromatic Dungeons come from?
Funny enough, when I mentioned this project on an OSR Facebook page looking for suggestions, someone mentioned this and it just clicked right away. I cannot take credit for it. That would go to Alan Stewart and David Kzoo.
How can people find out more about the Kickstarter?
- Chromatic Dungeons Kickstarter.
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