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OSRIC (nostalgia) and D&D Next

Posted by Djaii Pepper-Martens On 2013-06-01 0 comments

An interesting problem has emerged for me recently with the ongoing nerd-raging controversy over D&D Next. Last year I made a commitment to myself to finish writing some formal gaming materials and look to getting them published (or at least made electronically available through DriveThru). Over the winter I tried to keep up with the D&D Next playtest packs, running a few sessions, thinking that the obvious choice would be to write my game materials for the upcoming release of WotC's new version, but feedback from several players and commentary across the Internet makes me feel like that isn't as automatic a choice as it first seemed.

To throw fuel on the flame of my confusion, I started running a 1st edition AD&D game this April (mostly due to the immense sense of nostalgia the arrival of my reprints from Amazon evoked from me), and I was shocked to discover the large community of support that still exists around the original juggernaut. OSRIC, Lamentations of the Flame Princess (which loftily claims old-school games are: "vibrant and alive and continue to provide true gaming excitement") and many others that reach even further back to "basic" D&D such as Basic Fantasy Roleplaying, etc... are still widely played with supplements and settings still seeing release and moderate success in the market.

So, while preparing to draft a manuscript with an eye for release, a terrible question about what version would provide the most traction crept into my mind, took hold and would not let go. In today's market and diverse gaming landscape, I see two factors which must be carefully weighed to determine the correct system to draft a manuscript against:
1) Which game system best captures the specific flavour that I'm after?
2) Which community would be most receptive to the world/concept to ensure it's success?

Focusing too much on system/version will yield a well written properly impedance matched game + world that no community is interested in. By placing too much concern on the search for the right community to release for, I will certainly face mechanical headaches and low acceptance of new rules/design during writing and increased work to make the concept match the system.

I believe these are the options, with their respective strengths and weaknesses:

D&D Next (5.0)
Stick with designing for D&D Next. This means that I'll have the easiest mechanical implementation using a new, slick, version of D&D that advertises that it will be modular enough to accommodate a number of different campaign styles. There is also something very attractive about being on the leading edge of THE premier gaming system. The problem, is that the initial community response is pretty mixed which might mean that my milieu will not reach the right target audience. I'm also not certain that the current generation of gamers who are going to be buying all of the 'next stuff are going to be looking for the slightly more serious, horror inspired elements of my world concept. Also, since I'm not running anymore playtests for this edition (mainly because my players didn't really dig it, also a bad sign) I'm not super confident in creating something with this set of rules as its foundation.

SRD (3.915)
Using the OGL v 1.0a, draft the entire game as a standalone gaming product, much like Iron Heroes (which formed a large part of the basis for the setting, which would make re-writing easier). For better or worse 3rd edition games are still the most prolific out there, mainly because of Paizo's Pathfinder, but also because many smaller (or entirely independent) shops continue to use the system to create great games. From a mechanical standpoint I think this would be a good option but the OGL has created a very crowded market and getting my game seen and/or heard in this space may be next to impossible even though there are probably many players and DMs who know the general mechanics and would enjoy it.

AD&D / OSRIC (1.5)
The last good option is to go back to AD&D as Gary wrote it, take the best parts of it and move it forward using my world-concept and release it as an adaptation for AD&D 1st edition (which would also make it compatible with all OSRIC materials). The community of players still using this game system are typically the mature type who I think would find my horror-fantasy world most enjoyable. The problems here would be purely mechanical, as so much would have to be tweaked to get the gritty emerging magic flavour correct. This presents another potential problem: many (some?) OSRIC gamers do NOT like the appearance of more modern game concepts in a tweaked version of their sacred cow. I witnessed this first hand with my Revised 1st Edition Fighter write up (and the only response I received).

I haven't quite come to a conclusion yet about system support but it may not be a pressing concern since there is so much other material to assemble when writing a game-world. I'm currently just putting finishing touches on maps and major (human) societies of the world and adding the rich details to the world's backstory for why things are so horrific. That will keep me busy for a while yet while I continue to weigh the options here. I would happily receive any input or thoughts you might have about this predicament or how you have approached this in your own designs.

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