Sunday, May 18, 2008

An OSGA?

There is a lot of talk in several quarters (here and here) about the possibility of some sort of "Old School Gaming Association" that would help support a revival of "old school" gaming, specifically geared to AD&D and 0E D&D, and all of the various clone-games such as OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord.

Personally, I think this is an outstanding idea, and could really help to provide a common ground for all of us who prefer an older, more Gygaxian style of play, and want to help others at least have a choice between what WotC feels is the "best way to play" and what has gone before.

Such an organization could be set up as a 401(c)3 organization, a non-profit corporation with a stated goal of popularizing and promoting old-school role-playing gaming and games as a literary form (literary societies are explicitly allowed as non-profits under IRS regulations). Ideally, I would like to see such an organization approach WotC to obtain a license to republish the original AD&D rules, to help generate interest in the older form. Since the license would be going to a non-profit, I'm certain the financial folks over at Hasbro would be able to turn that to their advantage.

There would be a number of advantages to such an organization. I would think of it as a combined industry association and player community. It would serve to promote gaming using the 0E/1E rules. That includes the clones as well. The very small and not-so-small companies producing products for that market would benefit by having a place where they could pool their marketing and market research dollars. The OSGA would conduct such research collectively, and turn around and produce targeted marketing campaigns aimed at three audiences:
  1. New-style gamers who might be interested in playing using the old-school approach
  2. Current gamers already playing 0/1E games who might not know there are others doing the same and companies selling product
  3. Former gamers who might be persuaded to return to the hobby given a proper marketing approach
(Bear in mind this is just off the top of my head and certainly not set in stone.)

I've got a background both in non-profit orgs and market research. If there was some support for the idea, I'd be willing to step up and start some wheels moving. The question is... do folks support it?

14 comments:

trollsmyth said...

This is a very intriguing idea. I may be putting the cart before the horse, but what sort of activities do you see the group promoting? Obviously, as you say, market research, advertising, and certainly running games at conventions and the like. What else?

- Brian

noisms said...

I'm certainly supportive/intrigued. The crux of the matter for me is persuading Hasbro to license republishing the rules of older versions of the game, which doesn't strike me as any easy thing to do (because in their mind, such a product would be in direct competition with D&D 4e).

Greyhawk Grognard said...

They might not be so receptive to a licensing offer right now, with 4E just launching. But once the dust settles, they might be more inclined to do so. Remember, they did license out the AD&D rules to Kenzer, so it's not without precident.

Robert Fisher said...

I like the idea, but—like trollsmyth—I’d like a better idea of what actual activity—besides attempting to obtain a license for reprints—we’d like to see the OSGA undertake.

Brainstorming...

Arrange for “old school” events at conventions. There’s already a number of people who run OS games at conventions, but the OSGA could bring more attention to them and try to get more people doing it. The OSGA should promote the games individuals are running as much as any that are a direct result of the OSGA itself.

IMHO, no tournaments. It’s just about playing the games.

Beyond games, the OSGA should try to get speakers and panels on OS on convention schedules.

Also, organizing an effort to get more people running/demo’ng OS games in game stores.

A campaign to print “quick start” pamphlets and leave them places.

And an important question to ask is, would any of these things we consider OSGA doing be better done through existing entities?

The OSGA should not create another message board. It should point people to the many fine boards that already exist. At most, an OSGA board should limit itself to OSGA business.

Likewise, OSGA should support Fight On! and similar efforts instead of competing. It should be about supporting and enhancing what already exists. It should not be about further...oh, jeeze, I hate this word & I’m about to use it...fragmentation.

Is the OSGA only about OS D&D? D&D and it’s closest kin? All RPGs earlier than a certain date? All RPGs that fit some definition of “old school”?

Matthew James Stanham said...

Fully agree with Robert as to the need to support existing structures, rather than seek to establish new ones. Quick Start pamphlets are also an interesting idea.

Jeff Rients said...

Yeah, I think Robert is making sense.

I, for one, will support an OSGA as long as it acknowledges that Old School gaming can happen with both old and new games. C&C and Encounter Critical and Mazes & Minotaurs need to be invited to the party just as mush as OD&D and T&T, in my opinion.

Stonegiant said...

I think this a great idea! I would definitely suggest that it be set up as a non-profit group to add legitimacy and make people more open to donate to it. It could use collected monies to then buy advertisements in any of the old school rags out there and to also sponsor events at some of the cons (especially Gen Con) and then maybe regional cons where at least people could volunteer to give out flyer's, etc.

Sham aka Dave said...

I find myself in agreement with some of the above comments. To play Devils' advocate, though, my biggest concern is that such a group, while focusing on some perceived 'old school genre' would itself be subject to edition/game disputes. Removing modern D&D from the equation still leaves us with an astounding number of games and versions to address. How is the 'old school genre' defined? If someone says D&D 2nd edition is not old school, what are the ramifications? I suppose the first step is agreeing upon a definition of old school.

~Dave

Robert Fisher said...

I dunno. I’ve got such mixed feelings on the “what is ‘old school’” issue for a possible OSGA.

It sure seems like you’d need to draw a line somewhere in order to really stand for anything, but...

There’s already so much divisiveness. It sure would be refreshing to have a more casual, open attitude.

Let the people doing the work decide. If you’re volunteering to run a game under the auspices of the “Old School Game Association”, then the game you’re running is one you consider “old school”, so go ahead. If someone’s kibitzing from the side-lines, ignore them.

(Not that I don’t recognize the value of kibitzing from the side-lines, mind you.)

If you don’t think things are “old school” enough, do more work to change that.

I dunno. Just thinking out loud.

Can we work together to help each other—concentrate more on similarities than differences—actually celebrate differences? Or is that too counter with the “setting apart” that the OSGA name itself implies?

Busman (Chris) said...

I agree with a lot of what Robert is saying. I'm not so sure discouraging tournaments is a good idea, they are the sort of thing that brings up visibility. A regular OSGA tournament at Gen Con and/or Origins that happens each year is the sort of thing that builds momentum over time.

Having OSGA official newsletters or the like also seem reasonable to me. Supporting the existing fanzines is great, but it doesn't mean there isn't room for more periodicals. The RPGA 'zines never detracted from anything, I'd argue.

To summarize, don't let the OSGA interfere or detract from existing efforts, and do it's best to promote them; but don't hamstring it from concurrent efforts which may further promote the gathering of people to the flag of OSG (without detracting from the existing efforts).

The reality might be that Hasbro/WotC may be OK with only one publication being "officially licensed" in which case having an OSGA zine which is official would probably quickly become the go to source.

I suspect that WotC isn't going to be keen to license out AD&D again anytime soon, the Kenzer license was a settlement from the Dragon reprints, and was recently pulled. OD&D *may* be a possibility, they may think that it far enough removed from current D&D to allow a license.

Robert Fisher said...

My words against tournaments are based on the fact that I think tournaments did a lot to damage the image of OS gaming. Too many people couldn’t understand that the tournament game was never meant to be typical of home play.

Even as I wrote it, I was thinking that a tournament—done carefully—could be a great thing.

But, yeah, let’s put everything on the table before we start taking things off.

trollsmyth said...

I agree with what I think Jeff and Robert are saying. Old School is a way of playing more than it's any particular set of rules. You can play in an Old School way with D&D 3.x and Burning Wheel and GURPS. It might be easier to play in the Old School style with the actual games that got things started, but I don't think it's a requirement.

Or I could be completely off my rocker, too, so...

Remember, they did license out the AD&D rules to Kenzer, so it's not without precident.

Yeah, but also remember that Kenzer had to sue WotC before they did. So I wouldn't hold my breath on this ever happening. I'm not saying it shouldn't be tried, only that you shouldn't count on success.

- Brian

Sham aka Dave said...

If you take the OS part out of it, then you don't need to define Old School. Perhaps the OS part denotes some level of 'crude' or 'old fashioned' and would end up hurting the project more than helping it.

I agree that new old school games should fall under the (OS)GA umbrella, so maybe a different name and acronym is in line. One that defines the spirit of the association without alienating potential members, and embodies the old school philosophy.

Greyhawk Grognard said...

Robert wrote:

The OSGA should not create another message board. It should point people to the many fine boards that already exist. At most, an OSGA board should limit itself to OSGA business.

Likewise, OSGA should support Fight On! and similar efforts instead of competing. It should be about supporting and enhancing what already exists. It should not be about further...oh, jeeze, I hate this word & I’m about to use it...fragmentation.


I couldn't agree more. I would much prefer to see partnerships with existing publishers and resources. There's too much duplication of effort out there as it is.

Is the OSGA only about OS D&D? D&D and it’s closest kin? All RPGs earlier than a certain date? All RPGs that fit some definition of “old school”?

Well that's an excellent question, and I've seen excellent arguments over the last couple of days in favor of making it focused on a particular system (I, for example, might favor AD&D), a medium-tent approach (AD&D and BD&D), or even a conceptual approach (playing 4E in an old-school style, etc.).

Personally, I think one of the goals should be a revival of at least one out-of-print system. Anything else doesn't need an organization, just advocates.