This is Audio EXP for the 3rd of July 2021, and the title of this episode is “In defence of OSR”
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #103]
Geek Native’s come under attack before. Usually, these are technology assaults from Chinese or Russian IP addresses and held off by Cloudflare, and Pagely who host the site.
Once, though, I upset an OSR community, and the comments were personal. As mentioned on the podcast before, I’ve also had run-ins with people from the disabled community. Generally, that’s a misunderstanding until the penny drops that I’m speaking from within in, not about it.
But the OSR clash was different. I had real hate emails, comments and messages sent to me.
What did I do? Back when Dungeons & Dragons 5e was launched, I wrote a late review and speculated whether it showed OSR to be something of a scarecrow argument.
Okay, firstly, I shouldn’t have used the gender-neutral “scarecrow” instead of “strawman”. It’s a phrase that didn’t take off, and it confused people, but it was common in my online chats at the time.
Secondly, some people took the headline to mean I suggested that the OSR community was a strawman. I wasn’t. There’s absolutely a real community. There’s a large group of tabletop roleplayers who prefer RPGs that remind them of older games. It is a diverse group too, and people in it have different reasons for their personal game preferences.
Despite some of those nasty personal attacks, I learned from the experience. That’s when I discovered that some people perceive that the hobby they love is under attack by change and people who want change.
I disagree, of course. There’s room for everyone and many different styles of tabletop roleplayers. No one is coming to take your games away.
It’s also worth saying that the OSR community doesn’t need my defence; it’s not unique in dealing with toxic elements. We’ve all seen some awful behaviour from small numbers of Critical Role fans, computer game fans and sportsball fans.
I do want to loop back to the strawman point, though. It’s hard to find a group of OSR fans who agree on what Old School Renaissance is. Sometimes their personal definitions are contradictory. For example, is it rulings, not rules, or does it focus on simple rule mechanics with an almost adversarial relationship with the GM?
Strawman arguments tend to define a defendable point by forming and attacking a fallacy. The fallacy here is that new games are different from the way old games are. Not all new games are like that. We’ve just had a broadening. There’s no new school.
There is, however, modern sensibilities. Gamers of my age who played early versions of games aren’t all racist, anti-vaxxers, xenophobic conspiracy believers. No more than young people growing up during these early battles in the culture wars are.
We’re not xenophobic, but we did play games that used language, tropes – perhaps even established the trope – and made mistakes that would be super uncomfortable today. That’s why Wizards of the Coast have disclaimers on digital copies of old games still sold today.
I know some people see those disclaimers as an attack, others see it as a pitiful defence to a money-making machine wanting to make more money, but I see it as a sensible first step. You will see illustrations of women being carried away by brutish orcs and see that without warning otherwise. You are going to see worlds in which all things good are white and all things bad not white. It needs to be called out.
Crucially, the OSR community today isn’t churning out hate. For some examples, there are creators like Chuck Rice who did the OSR project City of Solstice, the Dungeon Bitches team and their forthcoming LGBT-centric OSR RPG and the Kickstarter for Chromatic Dungeons from Izegrim that launched this week.
Chromatic Dungeons is designed to be a retro-clone; you could pick up old TSR modules and use them to run those adventures with just a few tweaks. And yet, it’s explicitly about modern sensibilities. There are no default alignments for humanoids. The talent on the project is diverse and skilled.
I spoke to the game’s creator Rob Waibel earlier in the year and talked about some of the issues the OSR has, and even if we could define OSR. We couldn’t do that but agree that not everyone in the OSR community has been eager to embrace diversity.
But that’s not unique to the Old School Renaissance.
I’m not sure whether the timing has helped Rob or not. I’m sad to report that the drama around the new TSR Games, or TSR Games (3) as some call them, continues. TSR Games (3) has started to threaten OSR communities.
Where it stands now, TSR Games (3) is banned from some big conventions, as I suggested might happen last week and TSR Games (2) looks set to rebrand. The latest gambit from TSR Games (3), who have had their TSR Museum approved, which charges up to $1,000 per head for an encounter with a legendary DM, says they’ve got a new social media person. The implication being that they’ve fired the previous troublemaker.
We have, by the way, finally got to the heart of Audio EXP. Every week this podcast acts as a highlights show, looking back at the stories on the Geek Native blog, or close to it, that made big splashes. At least in my mind.
It’s also Superhero Week. That starts on July the 1st and runs for seven days. It doesn’t mean every post is superhero related, but many are. It also means they’re tagged with “superhero week” and a teleport link at the bottom of each one will randomly select another Superhero Week post for you to go to.
As it happens, this week, in a post tagged led Superhero Week, I to Eugene Marshall, he’s the creator behind the best selling Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e, which presented a viable way to keep D&D as D&D and yet do races better. That’s about avoiding biological essentialism. You know, this thing where all orcs are evil and all dwarves obsessed with stone, and like this no matter their upbringing.
I talked to Eugene about his role as lead writer on S5E. That’s a superhero and 5e-powered game also on Kickstarter.
I tried to ask some provocative, perhaps even leading questions, to dig into this. No doubt that’ll annoy some people, but the superhero genre is not without problems either. Often, for example, we see whole alien races treated as one behavioural mass. We see objectification but not always a due process. Not constantly, but these sometimes challenge the genre faces. I know Sigil, the company behind the project, Alan Bahr, and Eugene will do better.
Not that Wizards of the Coast have been keeping a low profile this week. They’ve really been pushing their Magic: The Gathering and Forgotten Realms crossover. There are even Magic cards that ask you to roll a d20. There’s also Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, a D&D adventure, that you can download for free.
Sticking with 5e for just a bit, since we’re in Kickstarter territory too, let’s mention Dungeons of Drakkenheim. I hope I’ve broken with a lifelong tradition and pronounced that correctly.
Drakkenheim is a setting used in an actual play live stream by The Dungeon Dudes. The dark fantasy city is now a Kickstarter campaign to make the 5e setting happen, and it is already well past the half-million mark.
Kicktraq has it heading to close at nearly $4m. If it does that, it’ll still be behind projects like The One Ring 2e and even Numenera, but it’ll beat Matt Colville’s Strongholds & Streaming and therefore become the biggest 5e Kickstarter project of all time.
Unless there’s mainstream media pick-up, though, the momentum is likely to start flagging. I imagine the appeal is also reduced for those not part of the Dungeon Dudes community, but absolutely one to watch.
A Kickstarter success that’s Pathfinder is the adventure Wrath of the Righteous. That’s already a computer game, and this week it was announced that Owlcat will expand it to consoles.
In fact, you can get it from Nvidia’s cloud gaming service in due course. No mention of Stadia. I’d moan about my Stadia investment, which I still pay for, but I’ve not found time to play any computer games. First world problems, huh?
I’m glad Owlcat and Paizo’s partnership is working out. A successful computer game tie-in is the bee’s knees.
So, with that in mind, let’s talk Cyberpunk RED. That’s the sequel to Cyberpunk 2020 and prequel to the computer game Cyberpunk 2077.
Loke Battle Mats have announced a partnership with RTG; in fact, we discovered that Mike Pondsmith used Loke’s cyberpunk battle maps while designing Cyberpunk RED. Now, on the horizon, are official Cyberpunk RED battle mats in the form of a Big Book and Giant Book from Loke.
RTG also gave us an update on the official Cyberpunk RED GM screen and announced plans to launch Interface RED. Interface was a magazine for Cyberpunk 2020. Interface RED takes a more cautious approach, mixing in previously free available bonus material with some exclusive stuff. If successful, then RTG will consider making it semi-regular.
And let’s go from one form of partnership to another. Asmodee and Amazon have teamed up. That could be a scary concept for the tabletop industry, certainly an interesting one. In this case, there’s a particular target. They’re going after rip-off merchants who were selling fake Asmodee board games on Amazon.
Good luck to the two companies. The rip-offs sound awful, but easy to buy mistake.
Sadly, not all partnerships work out, and just last night, we had the unexpected news that Cubicle 7 and Holmgard Press are breaking up. That means, mere months after committing to more Lone Wolf, Cubicle 7 won’t be publishing anything for the RPG at all.
In the meantime, there’s a chance to win a rare Rookhaven sourcebook and buy other Lone Wolf goodies in digital or physical form for half-price.
Cubicle 7 have now lost Lone Wolf and The Lord of the Rings franchise but are doing fantastic stuff with Warhammer, including the 40K stuff given to them and Soulbound. I’ve mentioned before how they must surely need some form of IP of their own as a safety net, but what do I know? Perhaps that’s a double or nothing bet with the odds in favour of rolling a zero?
I’ve got a new partnership. I finally gave in to the urge, dusted off some old affiliate codes and joined up with Iron Studios and Sideshow Collectibles. I like affiliate marketing because it seems like a discreet way to earn some pennies towards hosting costs and fighting off those technical attacks I talked about at the start. However, it is only pennies, and I must not allow it to bias the blog’s content. The disclaimers that I use affiliate marketing on Geek Native are everywhere.
Being signed up means I get news, so whereas I didn’t get the heads-up about the very impressive Tiamat versus D&D cartoon heroes diorama that Iron Studios is selling. I did get one to say that it was the model maker’s birthday and that the code BDAY10 could be used to get 10% off the site for the next few days.
I’ve put lots of pictures of Tiamat in her battle on the blog, though, so there’s no need to click on those affiliate links and visit Iron Studios just to check her out.
Some projects are worth writing about, even without an affiliate relationship. I happily covered Queerz from Son of Oak Game Studios without such a deal. In part, it’s a good tie-in with Superhero Week but also because I think this is the first time of the City of Mist system being used to power another game; albeit an adjacent concept. Queerz is a superhero tabletop RPG.
It’s not just Superhero Week; it’s also the start of the month so that means a new poll for Patrons – and I’ve 8 of your awesome people, a record high – to vote on.
Grognardia Games won for July, and I’ll try and get in touch with them this week. The candidates for August are;
Now, we’re nearly out of time, and although we’ve mentioned one computer game, I don’t want to be entirely tabletop focused each week. Geeky highlights are more varied than that.
The trailer for the shocking Chainsaw Man anime is out. I don’t read the manga but have had summaries of it and some plot twist hints, and it sounds incredible.
The Chainsaw Man trailer certainly looks impactful!
You’ll find links to it on the blog post, in the podcast transcript too, which you’ll find linked in the show notes.
Lastly, let’s do the usual thing of looking at some bundles and competitions. By the way, if you ever have a competition of your own to promote, there’s a channel for that on the Geek Native Discord server.
First up, Pelgrane Press has a good deal on their The Yellow King RPG on the Bundle of Holding.
The phrase “Netflix Comics” is used on Humble Bundle in their Millarworld deal. Humble is giving less to charity, or potentially less, after being bought by a big geeky blog network. More reason to read indie blogs, huh?
Anyway, there’s about £370 worth of digital content here for the usual cut price discounts that are hard to resist.
On Geek Native, there’s a chance to win the dark fairytale RPG that’s Good Strong Hands from NerdBurger. There’s a traditionally printed hardback up for grabs, shipping to many countries, and you have got a two per cent chance of winning just by signing up to it today.
On that note, let’s wrap there. Keep safe, don’t blame the intern, and we’ll see you next week.
Join in the discussion below, start us off or pop over to the chat portal.