Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Classic Reprints and Modern Sensibilities


Gary Con is an Old School Renaissance (OSR) convention.

It's not my thing but I've never been much of a convention goer anyway. I mainly hit the convention scene to either run games or to find out the latest news and of course, buy the latest and sometimes exclusive products.

At this Gary Con, Goodman Games made a few announcements.

One of them was Kickstarter for DCC Lankhmar. This news didn't strike me as particularly impressive because it's the worst kept secret ever. Goodman Games already has a few adventurers out for it and it's a known factor that it was going to be coming out anyway.

On the other hand, the announcement of Classic D&D Modules being reprinted and having original stats and 5th edition stats? That was interesting.

And for most, it was met with a cheer.

Some insisted it was needless and a cash grab.

Cash grab? The old joke that applies to so many hobbies also applies here. "How do you get a small fortune in role-playing games?"

"Start with a large fortune."

But are all of the complaints about the nature of reprinting the classics invalid?

1. It's a cash grab: Well, it's true that Goodman Games may find it more profitable than Wizards of the Coast to publish a book. Looking at Wizards of the Coast, they've only done the work on a handful of the 5th edition books. A small handful in a small handful of products. If it's a cash grab, it's a weirdly designed one.

2. Goodman Games boasted that 4th edition was the game that Gary would have developed! As a gamer, that sounds like nonsense. As a person who knows what marketing is? Why wouldn't he say it? And in actual Dungeon Crawl Classics? Here's where I challenge you. If you never played Sellswords of Punjar, you missed out on a great heavily Appendix N influenced adventure. Slums, beggar kings, hidden dangers, hidden treasures and more! Hell, I wish that we were getting a Kickstarter of Punjar as opposed to Lankhmar.

It's not that I don't love Lankhmar, but man, I'm a mature gamer. That means I've seen TSR's version, I've seen Mongoose Games version. I've read the books the material is based on a few times. I'm not sure how much "new" material that Goodman will be able to bring to the table.

3. How can they afford to do it? They can't do anything without a Kickstarter. Again, as a gamer and regular dude, I can see the 'questioning' here. But let's come to reality. Many companies aren't using Kickstarter JUST for the funding, they're using it as a marketing tool. As the fees and issues of Kickstarter rise and ebb, the utility of the device may change. But for now? It's 'hip, Kickstarter' and it's 'cool' and it acts, regardless of what Kickstarter or any publisher tells you, as a great preorder system so publishers can figure out how much to print and make. Does every game publisher NEED to acKickstarter? Probably not. Is using it right now still a good deal and a great way of advertising and building a community? Apparently so.

Now feeling that the whole system of Kickstarter is being abused as only a preorder system? Again, I can see where that line of thinking is coming from. But hey, actually DOING things is hard. You know, like coming out with a rival system to Kickstarter? Like putting your own skin in the game? Like having some system where you can't be an established player? And who's going to vet all that? Counter culture is weird to me sometimes. "OMG! I can't like the thing anymore! But I used to love the thing!"

4. These adventures don't need any conversion! What next? Conversion for the old coloring books and the hex maps? Some of these points were pretty funny when posted with the covers. There seems to be this weird bit where the fact that the product is covering multiple functions, a reprint with more than just a single thing in it, is getting mixed up with the 'need' for there to be any conversion. It's a matter of convenience and WoTC would be foolish not to take advantage of print medium having conversions for the game that's actually on the shelves right now.

5. Gary Con was ruined by these announcements! It stole all the air out of the room! Blinks. Man, I didn't go to the convention but if a product announcement messed up your convention you got problems. Having said that, several other people whose opinions I put pretty good stock on and would give them high ranks in terms of 'honesty' in keeping the spirit of OSR alive, had great times. Maybe it's a problem where commercial issues start meeting reality but man, that complaint is highly personal so more power to someone who earnestly believes it.

6. Goodman Games blah blah blah: Sometimes I see some complaints about character or validity or 'old school creed' and all I can think is shut up. It's not that you shouldn't have an opinion of what is old school and what isn't, but damn, role playing games are going to be split so fine down these self-made definitions that it's going to look like a record store right before they went out of business with ten thousand different music sections that just made things harder to find.

For me, Goodman Games has 'earned' it's old school creed not necessarily in game mechanics but in the spirit.

I've played numerous adventurers in the line. Some are old school death traps. Some are exploration. Some have a mix of both.

The design and art and other bits are often, I don't want to say slavish imitations of the older games, but pay a lot of homage to them.

Their own game, if you feel does not draw heavily on Appendix N, or worse, you feel that Appendix N in its original guide, isn't what the game should be based on, you are not playing with the same reference as every other player who is playing with that reference, which, may not even be old-school in its mechanics but is certainly old school in its feel and origins.

Good for Goodman Games and hopefully it brings MORE of the older stuff back.