Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Perfect OSR Product

As we enter a new year the thought of where the OSR might or even should go next is natural.  There seems to be a lot of dissatisfaction with "retreads" and the possibility of "too many retroclones."  Which is fine, I can understand the thinking there.  What is problematic for me is the assumption that the solution here is for people to find just the right kind of product to put out and everything will be swell; an innovative product, a artful but familiar product, a useful product.

This feels to me like I'm sitting here in my AC Cobra watching the buggy whip salesmen fighting tooth and nail over the last of the dwindling market of buggy owners.

That AC Cobra?  This here blog community.  I understand the sentiment that something doesn't exist in the gaming world if it doesn't exist on a shelf in a brick and mortar store.  But that is just not true any more.

I've learned more in the last year about playing rpgs than I had in my whole life prior.  Part of that was because I was reading all the awesome stuff you've posted, part of it was me working to come up with something equally cool to give back to you.  It wasn't because I bought all the key products put out by OSR designers.

I don't mean for this to be an anti-capitalist rant; if you want to package your cool blog stuff into something people can buy, fine.  In fact the weakness of a blog is that cool things can be spread all over it, difficult to find, and in draft form.  Editing and polishing can be essential for ideas. 

The problem is when people start thinking unless their ideas have been packaged into a product and unless they have sold well, they are not valid, or useful, or not somehow real.

I'm reading your blogs.  I'm using your ideas in my weekly game.  I'm even posting in praise of those things that seem really interesting or game-changing to me.  Your ideas are real for me without me having to pay for a pdf.

One bad aspect of focussing on products is people keeping things hush hush so that the product, when finally released, will make a bigger splash.  "I'm working on a cool thing but I can't tell you anything about it." Lame.  Why are you blogging about it if I can't know what it is until you finish it and sell it to me?

The worst case scenario for me is when someone has blogged about something, received the benefit of an attentive audience, received helpful comments (even if only in the sense that they are encouragement), and then after turning it into a product they yank it all off their blog so you have to buy it to read it. Man, that sucks.

I guess in a nutshell what I'm saying is when you put something on a blog you are in fact publishing.  You can have an audience without needing an sku or a distribution company.  And I think that's pretty damn cool.  That was supposed to be the point of the Internet, right?  So why then is everyone scrambling around trying to come up with the perfect OSR product when it's right under our noses?

Okay if you've made it this far (and in keeping with the spirit of this post I might add) here is my coin for the boatman:

Nested Golems
Being difficult and costly to create, a few savvy wizards have learned to make golems one inside another, the outer layers made of the cheapest materials.  Meant primarily as guardians, the idea was that least amount of resources would be spent in dealing with any individual threat.  Usually of humanoid shape, when one layer is destroyed the next slightly smaller golem will step free as from a shell and continue assaulting intruders.  The particular layers are varied, one know configuration follows:
  • 1st layer: 1hd, 8ft tall, clay- impervious to electrical attacks
  • 2nd: 2hd, 6ft, brass- impervious to fire, successful hits on it inflict 1d4 heat damage on attacker.
  • 3rd: 4hd, 4ft, silver- impervious to acid, ray or beam attacks reflect back on attacker.
  • 4th: 6hd, 2ft, lead- 1/2 damage from weapons. Successful hits on it must save of have the attacking weapon stuck in the soft lead.
  • 5th: 8 hd, 1ft, gold- impervious to electrical, acid.  1/2 damage from weapons.  Successful hit on it cause all creatures within 30ft to save versus charm or feel they should just leave the area.
All damage based on weapon type.


  1. Yes.

    We mustn't stifle people who want to do yet another retread of product X. The internet is very good at filtering, and the creme will rise to the top. And odds are that somebody (maybe you) will find interesting tidbits among the less popular stuff. It's not as if we're competing for one of our publisher's limited annual release slots.

  2. "Why are you blogging about it if I can't know what it is until you finish it and sell it to me?"

    On the off chance that this is inspired by me (I just made a "I can't tell you yet" post on by blog this morning) I can say it's not in relation to a product being sold, but instead a potentially cool thing (IMO) happening in the OSR community.

  3. Very nice. Reminds me of the Russian Doll Monster from White Dwarf's Fiend Factory but nothing like so silly.

  4. 'doesn't exist in the gaming world if it doesn't exist on a shelf in a brick and mortar store'-this is an important factor for non-gamers; you gotta find out about it somewhere. Barring friends introducing you to it, stumbling over it in Real Life is very effective. The Internet doesn't replace everything, ya know! :-) And, of course, there's the whole deal about supporting your local game store.

  5. This is a neat vibe. I remember the first time I unleased Horrors of Tzeentch on some Warhammer FRP players who didn't know that they spawn two weaker monsters when you kill them. It was pretty awesome.

  6. @Telecanter

    1. Totally agree with you

    2. Also: legal notice. There is a russian-doll monster in my Upcoming Product. It was there before I read this.

    3. Stop reading my mind. Seriously. Every day with this shit, TC.

  7. @J.G.:I wasn't thinking of you, hadn't read that post yet. I've seen it a lot though, it's just the nature of the beast when people start thinking in terms of products; they're excited but can't divulge anything that might dull the release surprise.

    @velaran:I want to make gaming available to newbs more than anyone. I could probably write a whole post on this but short version: newbies don't walk in to game stores.

    I'm glad y'all like the golem. And Zak, I'm scrying you, man.

  8. @Telecanter: I didn't think you were talking about me, but the timing was so apropos that I had to ask.

  9. @telecanter:
    'Newbs' and gamestores: they do sometimes. I see 'em at mine, from time to time. And I wasn't limiting 'brick and mortar' to dedicated game/hobby shops.(Games should be more widely distributed, like they were in the early 80's. Hopefully resources will become available; LL seems to be doing better on that score[being in game shops], and WOTC has their Starter Set at Target and Wal-mart as well as traditional outlets.))

    I did this one to my players exactly ONCE; they never forgave me.(They still talk about it; they secretly loved it, in other words! :-)) Moar lik thus! Love the vibe.

  10. I announced a secret project yesterday, but it has nothing to do with gaming. ;) I kid, like anyone reads the garbage I spew anyway.

    I did have an insightful comment for you, but I thought I'd instead spin it off as my own unique IP and will sell it you for, like $5.

    I, of course, kid. As a log time zine writer I am all for the free and open exchange of game ideas.

  11. It's a big secret usually means that the idea needs some more polish before it can be presented before people who will ruthlessly poke it with a pointy stick.

  12. New rule: No linking to Joesky's blog without a warning about the eye damage that can ensue.

    Verification word: Unconsis. Odd coincidence.