What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Castles & Crusades Players Handbook - 7th Print Edition

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Swords & Wizardry and the OSR

The question being: Where does it all stand?

Just over a week ago, the Swords & Wizardry Kickstarter came to a successful but quiet end.  Back at the beginning of August, I wrote about some of my thoughts on this particular KS and a bit on the importance of the game (you can read that particular post HERE).  During the progression of this KS, bonus goals were established and subsequently met, though very slowly at first.  Some people may believe this to be a result of the Reaper Bones KS drawing a lot of attention and pledge dollars, but I think the draw might have been less enthusiastic due to the lukewarm interest in some of the bonus goals.  To be clear, bonus 'swag' shouldn't be a major factor in these various kickstarters but it has come to be expected with some of the successful ones.  Frog God Games also set a level of expectation with their last one too.  In the end, they established a final goal of $75,000 with the proclamation that surpassing this goal would truly establish the game as a contender in the mainstream RPG world.

However, having actually surpassed that final goal, I have to disagree what these dollar amounts actually mean.  Here are some numbers tied to that KS:
  • Backers total: 532
  • Backers getting a copy of the Complete Rulebook: 497
  • Total Raised: $78,189
  • Premium Pledges: $27,500 (16% of backers funded 35% of the total raised)
Now, by premium pledges, I'm talking about the Black and Red Dragon levels (which were $250 and $500 tiers respectively).  You got the Complete Rulebook, the Monster Book, the Tome of Monsters Complete,  the Black Monastary, dice and some other odds and ends.  Oh, and signed canvas print of the cover art by Erol Otus.  Pretty awesome actually but it also means that a third of the money raised came from a mere 85 backers.

All these numbers are nothing to sneer at of course but I am a bit saddened to see that only about 500 people opted for a book and, the majority of these gamers, probably already have the game in one form or another or something comparable.  Castles & Crusades is now up to their 5th printing (for the PHB) and sales for the game has done well and likely this partially due to availability and visibility.  I believe that getting Swords & Wizardry into regular retail distribution will also do wonders for increasing the game's profile.  I believe this is a necessary step if this game is to significantly grow.

For comparison's sake, Troll Lord Games also had a KS a few months back for the 5th printing of the PHB for C&C.  It garnered a little less than half the backers of what S&W managed to pull in.  TLG raised $16,106 for their KS (goal was only $6,000) but their highest tier was a retailer level tier where, for $200 you got 10 copies of the PHB as well as an assortment of other products -- totaling a value of $463.30 (MSRP).

As far as the OSR is concerned, I think Sword & Wizardry's growth as well as the continued success of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess line and Labyrinth Lord are all good indicators of the community support and love for what these games have brought to our respective gaming tables.  Larger publishers have taken notice and, the online connectivity that we have now ensure that some of these products get more exposure than they ever could before.

Now, there has been some talk dating back to GenCon on the 'state of the OSR' with some proclaiming the end with a desire to hang up a huge 'Mission Accomplished' banner.  People have taken notice of the OSR and everything they have been trying to showcase.  Others disagree with take or just spin it to illustrate something else.  Was it a type 'renaissance' and is the OSR more about a philosophy that made of these 'Old School' games?  Or is it just a rebellion against newer models and systems of gaming?  Does any of this even matter?

Here's my take: The OSR as a movement is a romanticized notion and ideal.  Nothing more and nothing less.  Well before the OSR was a 'thing' you had three companies that embraced the style and substance of what people in the OSR cling to.  These were Goodman Games, Necromancer Games, and Troll Lord Games.  Goodman Games is best known for their Dungeon Crawl Classics line of adventure modules -- a concept which was initially met with skepticism.  Of course, Necromancer Games with their whole 'Third Edition Rules, First Edition Feel' is basically the predecessor of Frog God Games.  Finally Troll Lord Games developed the Castles & Crusades game which preceded the movement to create the various retro-clones and other simulacrum games we have today.  These companies were all doing their thing before an OSR though, to be fair, TLG took the first step to make a simpler game which harkened back to classic D&D and AD&D using the d20 SRD and OGL as a means to do so.  At the very least, the material put out by these companies was another necessary step for the games we now have available.

The point is that people have continued to play in the 'Old School way' even with 3rd Edition out and in full force.  Some chose to stick with their older and familiar rule sets of choice, and others tied to keep to the style they were already familiar with and adopt a more modern system of rules (but not let themselves be tied down by them).  Of course, aside from the D&D pedigree, there were always other games available beyond them -- some of which haven't really changed in the past couple of decades.

In the end, the OSR shouldn't matter to any one individual -- just the enjoyment of a game... any game... with some friends.

M