Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Rising Tide

Over the course of the nearly-ten months I've been writing this blog, its readership has been steadily increasing. By the Fall of 2008, though, it had stabilized to about 700-ish daily readers, if my web stats are to be believed. That seemed about right to me, given my estimation of the number of old schoolers active on the Internet nowadays.

Over the last three months, though, my readership has been steadily climbing and I typically get over 1000 daily readers. I've also noticed a big jump in the number of referrals to the blog from other gaming sites not associated with the old school revival. That's not completely beyond the pale, since it would happen from time to time in the past, but the frequency has been increasing.

I have heard from a couple of others that what I'm experiencing isn't unique to me. That leads me to believe that there's, if nothing else, a lot more curiosity about the old school community than there was in December 2007, when I first joined Original D&D Discussion and started down this crazy path I walk today. I have some theories as to why this might be the case, but they're only theories; I have no evidence to support them beyond anecdotes and gut impressions. Still, it is interesting and I can't help but think this is only the tip of the iceberg.

28 comments:

  1. I have some theories as to why this might be the case, but they're only theories; I have no evidence to support them beyond anecdotes and gut impressions.

    I tend to think it was the double whammy of Gary Gygax's death and the advent of 4e. The first made a lot of people dig out their old rules as a tribute, only to suddenly discover that they really enjoyed using them. The second made a lot of people recoil from this Weird Complicated Alien Thing and go looking back at the versions they remembered. Put together, that's pretty solid motivation.

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  2. I've noticed a marked increase in my traffic since the holidays ended... although a lot of mine are from "direct hits" so I can't tell what's causing it.

    A ton do come directly from Grognardia though. :)

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  3. As someone that links to you from a blog not related to "old school" gaming I should chip in my thoughts.

    I don't hold any allegience to old school, indie games or whatever anything else falls into, as categories. I think good design is good design and there are games all across the spectrum that I enjoy. What brings me to Grognardia, and keeps it in my blogroll, is great writing, interesting content and regular updates.

    But who knows! Maybe as a side affect I am becoming more interested in the games you're talking about.

    Good to hear you're getting the readers in, keep it up!

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  4. Jim, we all know the real reason people are flocking to your blog - it's the nudity!

    Seriously though, I think as more and more people start reading blogs and starting their own, things are coming full circle - people are posting about topics that they are reading in other people's blogs, and those people inspire other people, and so on and so forth.

    Nothing wrong with this at all - it's the nature of social networking as it pertains to the Internet especially. The more content you read, the more you produce...circle of life...

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  5. You're a great writer and you make me see things in a different light (as far as old school vs. new school).

    When 4e was announced, I was so disgusted with WoC that I sold off all of my 3.5 stuff and vowed to get back to AD&D or Mentzer D&D. Since then I discovered S&W and your blog, and it's brought new things to light regarding OD&D (which I had never played).

    Thanks for the great writing, and keep it up!

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  6. I'm seeing a rise in traffic to my electronic fish-wrapper as well. Like James Raggi, a heck of a lot of it comes from round these parts, but I'm also seeing links back to me from blogs that are just getting up and running.

    It seems like there is most definately a rise in interest in the classic-style of gaming, but whether it's from people interested in the game's origins, getting back to the roots of D&D, or merely interet in the old-school movement as a social experiment I really couldn't say.

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  7. I hope your readership continues going up in 2009. I found this blog from Jeff's Gameblog about a 2 months ago and really enjoy it. I like the fact that there are still people playing older versions of D&D and talking about it. I haven't played a version of the game since AD&D 1st edition so I find it hard to relate to everybody writing about 3e and 4e. I enjoy a lot of game blogs old school and new school, but I find myself coming back more and more to the old school sites for my daily dose of RPG reading these days.

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  8. >>Like James Raggi, a heck of a lot of it comes from round these parts, but I'm also seeing links back to me from blogs that are just getting up and running.

    Doesn't Google's rankings depend on how many other pages link to a particular page?

    And each blog post generates its own page, duplicating all of the blog's links.

    So if I have it right, the interconnectedness of the gaming blogs and everyone having blog rolls on their own blogs instantly racks up "Google Points" for the linked blogs every time a post is made.

    Is this right or am I off in my usual la-la land?

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  9. Well, you for sure inspired me to want to read and write about my old school impressions and feelings, James.

    I don't think my somewhat dumbass posts will ever get anywhere near your traffic, or that of others, but I am really enjoying all this old school talk. I could always get a nice long campaign going down through the decades, but I didn't hang out at conventions or stores as an adult, and my players never seemed to want to philosophize much. I'm making up for a lot of years of just having all this stuff in my head, waiting for guys like you to straighten it out.

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  10. I think that the OSR is just one part of a larger trend I've seen more and more of lately, and that trend is a open minded and thoughtful approach to the hobby of roleplaying. Instead of chasing the flavor of the moment, I see more and more people talking and thinking about what they want from the hobby, and then seeking out games, settings, approaches, and companions that have similar desires. Whether that be 1974 rules D&D, or the latest freaky Forge-inspired joint.

    James, you've been an exponent of that thoughtful approach, and your excellent analysis and clear writing has allowed us to accompany you on your own personal journey of RPG self-discovery, and that's very inspiring. Thanks!

    For my own part, it's ironic that 4th edition D&D has me playing and loving something with D&D on the cover for the first time since 1st edition AD&D. But at the same time I can also get a thrill out of things like Fight On!, which take me back to the glorious days when Dragon #52 landed in my mailbox for the very first time. It's a great time to be gaming!

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  11. I don't remember when I first started reading, but Grognardia is the first blog I visit and I do use the blog list as my portal for most of the rest of them.

    Why?

    This place has done the best job of articulating what features I like about old-school play. I like the house rules discussions when they come up. I really like how you delve into the cultural markers of early play, and why they're important. All of these things have jumped started my own creative energies, and though I feel reluctant to share them as many others have been inspired to do, it's been a great help.

    This place has a very specific POV. I don't always agree with it, but I always appreciate it.

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  12. For me, someone who's not as rooted in the history game as some of the other readers, Grognardia is an immense learning experience.

    Since I've begun reading the blog (last fall-Octoberish?) I've continued learning on my own about several of the books/authors you've blogged about--Dying Earth and Conan tales, Classic Monsters Revisited book by Paizo and several old-school 1E manuals. Not to mention the Swords and Wizardry rules and a other free resources out there.

    For me, this is much more than just 'gaming'. It's really about ideas--where they came/can come from, how to use them, and what new directions they could take. That's what I love about it!

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  13. @JimLotFP: I'm not sure how exactly Google measures such things. My observations aren't based on what Goggle's doing, but what I've encountered while looking around the game sites and the fact that I always see very sharp and noticeable increase in traffic anytime James links to something on Pole and Rope around here. A fact that I'm very grateful for.

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  14. I totally dig the numerous old school blogs, and yours is right up in the top group that I hit first when I browse my blogroll.

    I'm a (Moldvay/Cook/Marsh)-bred gamer, but I love them all...well *most* of them all. Heck, I'm even getting my feet wet in 4e...I actually like it too! B/E D&D will always be my fave though.
    Gratz on the numbers!

    Oh, BTW, my WORD VERIFICATION word for this comment:

    "unded"

    Nice!

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  15. are you fishing for compliments?

    Good writing is always enjoyable to read. In your posts, you seem to give a lot of thought in both sharing your personal experiences and impressions and in analyzing them in a way that makes it all accessible and interesting to others.

    On the web, growing readership encourages growing readership. I'm not part of any gaming community and don't know that I've bought any gaming products for a decade. But to explain how I found your site-- I miss playing D&D, I googled "vault of the drow" and your site was on the first page. Because I've joined your regular readership (along with many others), those who miss "Dragons of Despair" might also find your site on the first page of google results.

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  16. are you fishing for compliments?

    No. I realize that the blog is fairly popular with a specific minority of gamers; that's been apparent for some months now. I'm much more interested figuring out why, after so many months of having a stable readership, it's suddenly spiked by a significant amount.

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  17. I think the debut of 4e must have had an effect, but I think the biggest thing for me was Goblinoid Games - Mutant Future and Labyrinth Lord. I had previously GM'd C&C but gone off it somewhat early this year. I'm now though running a weekly chatroom C&C game using 'Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh', which seems to be going very well.

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  18. I found this blog as follows:

    1. Someone mentioned Dan Proctor had a blog. I read it, it was good. It had links to other sites.

    2. One of those links was this blog.

    I check here every day because of the tons of excellent posts!

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  19. Fred Herman:I tend to think it was the double whammy of Gary Gygax's death and the advent of 4e. The first made a lot of people dig out their old rules as a tribute, only to suddenly discover that they really enjoyed using them. The second made a lot of people recoil from this Weird Complicated Alien Thing and go looking back at the versions they remembered. Put together, that's pretty solid motivation.

    I agree. However, I think James' writing is a major component of the tide rising at this particular shore.

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  20. my own experience in web consulting (mainly technical, but some "marketing") suggests that it's a matter of having consistently good new content. the way search engines work, popular sites get more exposure and thus more popularity. this is easiest to see with one-off phenomenon like the video of the dalmation playing "Ode to Joy" on a hammer dulcimer (sorry, I just made that up, but I bet it would get a lot of hits and I would like to see it myself). But it's also true for sites with on-going interest. And the difference is that the dalmation (unless he learns "The Star Spangled Banner" or "Thriller") will be a flash-in-the-pan while a site that consistently adds new good content, will continue to grow. so again, I think the writing here is good and maybe even getting better in terms of, for instance, variety (e.g. dispatches from the Dwimmermount campaign plus reviews of lesser-known writers).
    and actually, I didn't really think you were fishing for compliments, James, because although your site is obviously good, I do believe that you might not realize it.
    I'm not saying you are responsible for the revival in interest in old D&D-- I'll agree that death of Gygax & 4e were ingredients there-- but only that as long as you write consistently good posts, this site will be a "tent pole" for that revival, and that spikes in interest here at grognardia might be a matter more of big trends and web dynamics then some other more immediate cause.

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  21. Feh. Next to nobody reads my blog and I like it that way. We didn't have blogs back in 1977, damnit!

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  22. I found your blog because of a link over at The Cimmerian. I stayed because you write a damned interesting blog.

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  23. I came to this blog because someone recommended it... and the day I came to visit, James just happened to be writing about *my* blog! That was like a quadruple take for me before I confirmed what I was looking at.

    Anyway... I'm sold, the guy's obviously got excellent taste. :)

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  24. I've noticed more new members at Knights & Knaves and Original D&D Discussion -- not a lot in raw numbers, but seemingly a lot in proportion. The retro-clones and the legal OD&D PDFs seem to have attracted a growing amount of attention at Dragonsfoot, and even at EnWorld. Something's in the air!

    Plus, you've had a very strong run of thoughtful and well-written columns on interesting subjects.

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  25. I for one originally started reading your blog because I'm interested in game design. Mostly computer games, but at a certain level, it all becomes the same.

    Since I started compiling a Call of Cthulhu campaign (set in 1817 Switzerland), I've been reading your blog avidly. You've convinced me to abandon the notion of there being a "plot" the players must follow. Instead, I'm now aiming to create an environment to drop the players into, to interact with as they see fit. Which is harder, admittedly, but hopefully better.

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  26. I'm much more interested figuring out why, after so many months of having a stable readership, it's suddenly spiked by a significant amount.

    My best guess is that with the onset of autumn and colder weather, people begin spending more time inside, and thus more time browsing the Internet. It's only recently gotten bitterly cold in much of the central-southern US. I know I haven't played with the kids outside in about a month... Probably your hits will drop off slightly in March/April.

    As for myself, started reading in March a day or two after EGG's passing. What keeps me coming back is your level-headed, articulate explication of "philosophical" points that have been swimming around in my head for a decade with no outlet (I'm an AD&Der playing in a group that believes D&D 3.0 is the ultimate RPG design...sigh).

    I zero urge to go as far back as OD&D (never played, and it would get expensive) but much of your coverage of it also applies to the appeal of AD&D, and it's always nice to learn a tidbit or two about why what I love in AD&D is the way it is, and how it came about.

    Secondly, I consider myself something of a connoisseur of fantasy and SF, but also am extremely resistant to trying books I'm not sure I'd like. Since your tastes in fantasy are much broader than mine (I'm not a huge pulp fantasy fan, though I love HPL & CAS), so I find it useful in finding new reading material to check out your discussions of various pulp authors and books. Most don't grab me, but I've found a few gems I wouldn't otherwise have tried. Thanks.

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  27. I don't remember how I found you. As soon as I did I read through all the archives, so I couldn't even poin t at the first post I read. But I keep coming back to read good writing, even if I disagree with James at times, he always makes me think.

    So keep it up!

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  28. Proud to say I've been here from the start. I followed you from your original blog when you announced your "pulp fantasy D&D" project.

    I learned much about the history of the game by reading Grognardia, and it has shaped much of my current perception of D&D (and contribued to my ability to derive enjoyment from the game).

    It is also Grognardia who introduced me (a "punk" who was inintiated into RPGs in 1992, at the height of AD&D 2e) to the likes of Jack Vance and Clark Ashton Smith, to which I'm also incredibly grateful.

    So, James... keep up the good work. Here's hoping that many more people can derive enjoy your blog, as you guide us through the twin worlds of pulp fantasy and old school gaming.

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