I'm done teasing; time to reveal all.
One of the constant themes of this blog is the curse of "brandification," the eventual reduction of any and every creative endeavor to a mere commodity that can be marketed and sold, typically without much regard for either the origins or purpose of the endeavor in the first place. I've railed about this in several contexts -- Lovecraft, Barsoom, Flash Gordon -- but it's with regards to Dungeons & Dragons that I've focused most of my ire.
The Gygax quotes I posted, the first from February 1979 and the second from November 1985, pretty clearly illustrate a shift in the thinking of one of the game's creators over the course of nearly seven years. The first quote is from the Golden Age of TSR, when "the hobby" had still not fully given way to "the industry." That's not say or to imply that TSR wasn't trying to maximize its profits in every way it could do so; the publication of the Moldvay Basic Rules less than a year after the first quote is evidence that that's clearly not the case. Neither am I suggesting that, at some point, the real, kindly Gary Gygax was replaced by a corporate mandroid who wanted nothing less than total domination of the hobby games market.
The past can't be changed and neither can the present direction of the game the current rights holders have somewhat implausibly dubbed Dungeons & Dragons. I can whine and moan about these things all I want, but what's done is done, regardless of my feelings about it. Consequently, I think those of us involved in the old school renaissance have an opportunity here not so much to rewrite history as to provide an "alternate history," one in which the hobby never gave way to the industry.
We're fortunate in many ways that we're a small, niche-y community; there's simply not a lot of money to be made through the creation of new old school products and there never will be. Barring some utterly unpredictable turn of events, the old school renaissance simply won't have much impact beyond those of us who are already involved in it. History has spoken and the Old Ways lost; there is no going back. I say this is fortunate, because it means that we're highly unlikely ever to be offered the same temptations as was TSR toward the end of the Golden Age. The Cursed Chateau is never going to sell millions of copies, for example, and, chances are, no other new old school product will either. Indeed, we'll be lucky to sell hundreds of copies in most cases.
But that's OK. I wasn't drawn back to the old school by promises of wealth and fame. What drew me here was the core philosophy behind it, what Matt Finch wonderfully sums up in the phrase "imagine the hell out of it." That's what it's all about for me and I'm pretty certain that's what it's all about for most of us who play Swords & Wizardry, write for Fight On!, or construct our own little brown books. This isn't "nostalgia," unless by "nostalgia" one means a preference for the way things were done in the past. I think most of us are keenly aware that even the Golden Age wasn't perfect or that not everything that's come out since 1983 has been utterly worthless (speaking as someone who made a living writing for a large number of games published post-1983).
It's a mistake, though, to simply discount the old school renaissance as just a bunch of grumpy middle-aged guys complaining about "kids today." There's some of that -- heck, sometimes a lot of that -- but it's not grumpiness for its own sake; it's an emotional reaction to the knowledge that this small community is it. We are the keepers of the flame, because we have to be. No one else is going to do it. There is simply no "market" for most of these products and no companies really interested in the Old Ways except those we've founded ourselves. If we want to keep the fire burning, we have to stoke it and understand -- really understand -- that, to most gamers, we're at best quaint curiosities and at worst cantankerous evolutionary foot-draggers.
I say none of this to be depressing. Truth be told, I find the embrace of the cold, hard facts of the matter to be liberating. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being hobbyists who produce niche products that appeal only to other hobbyists, if doing so satisfies your desire to create and share what you create. That's what roleplaying was in the beginning; that's what it was for a goodly number of years after its invention. Just because it changed in various ways since doesn't mean we should acquiesce to those changes or, worse yet, despair about them.
"Imagine the hell out of it" just isn't a catchphrase; it's why the old school community can survive and prosper despite being beneath the notice of the industry. To that I say, "Good!" Play. Imagine. Create. Share. That's what this is all about. Never forget that. Never lose sight of that. The rest simply doesn't matter.