There's been lots of doom and gloom in my gaming circles lately, so I'm writing about why I love the OSR to cheer myself up.
My gaming has really four distinct areas I'm interested in. Namely larping, Warhammer, World of Darkness and the OSR. I only really publish stuff for one of those, though.
In the case of larping it's because a successful larp is an event. You need a good venue, a team working with you, supplies for your effects and sets and stuff. You need a budget and a supply of people willing to follow your instructions. I don't have those. So, as a larper I mostly just play and have fun, or occasionally I follow instructions and make special effects.
For Warhammer and WoD, the issue is a little different. I have, in the past, produced a whole load of content for Warhammer. Alternate army lists, campaigns, rules hacks, and so on. Even entire variants on the game. I've produced homebrew for WoD as well. None of it got published. None of it is really publishable because it's so tied to somebody else's IP.
This is what bothers me. People over at The Gardens of Hecate or Iron Sleet is producing work as skillful, as beautiful, as creative as anything in the OSR. But because the IP they're working with is so tightly tied to the company that makes Warhammer, they'll never be able to really capitalise on on that, promote themselves and carve out their own niche like you might in the OSR.
Likewise in the World of Darkness communities I see STs putting huge amounts of work and creativity and funds into their projects. (One recent larp I was at booked out an entire hotel for their post-event crew party. The larp itself was at a different venue, this was just so the crew could unwind and get sozzled somewhere nice afterwards). Again, they don't get the recognition the deserve, while people pick apart what White Wolf are doing with a fine toothed comb.
This is a problem. These projects are, ultimately, fan works. They're a rank below the stuff officially published. It restricts creativity, but more than that it restricts your ability to publish. You can't buy anybody's homebrewed hacked together Vampire the Masquerade project on DTRPG.
This, then, is what I love about the whole OSR movement. Nobody owns it. Nobody has authority over it. It's a shared communal space that exists either through a weird quirk of a licensing agreement around D&D or else in a sort of rejection of the big company's claim that they get to decide what D&D is.
Rather the OSR is made up of fans, creators, the small press, the indie outfits, and the homebrewers. The lines between all of those are vague and blurry. Anybody can make something good, and publish it, and get recognition, without needing to give too much of a shit about the rigors of intillectual property. This is, really, wonderful and rather unique if you compare it to any other tabletop gaming community.*
The OSR has fuck all barriers to entry. Most gamers are familiar with the basics of six stats, hit-dice, levels, armour class. It's a lingua franca of sorts. You can get yourself some cheap-ass layout software (I use MS Office), some public domain art, and just make whatever you think is cool. Self-publishing is super easy and if you have a blog or any sort of social-media presence, you'll find an audience who are keen to see new, weird content from new, weird creators.
Nine months ago I released a daft project about using random tables to make a fairy garden, basically out of nowhere and with no industry credentials, and it went great. I'm not special in this regard: loads of people are dropping cool stuff (so many that I'm not gonna try linking, as this post will be entirely made of links) these days. It's a great time to be into D&D.
These days, if you want to make stuff for the OSR, the single biggest obstacle is sitting down and writing it. Everything else is great.
So, yeah. Not to downplay various real issues, but I felt it worth writing out why I wanted to be part of this creative community in the first place, at least in part for my own sake.
*the only exception I can think of is the historical wargamers, who again aren't really limited to specific franchises.