Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Some LL Revised Comments

Lest I am accused of simply being a PR machine for old school publishers, I wanted to say a couple of things about the announcement of a revised edition of Labyrinth Lord. Firstly, and most importantly, I think it's terrific that a retro-clone will be available in distribution again. LL had been available in stores in the past, but fell victim to the financial collapse of its distributor. A revised edition is a good time to jump back into the fray, I think, and I'm very happy to see that Dan Proctor has done just that.

I'm also happy that it'll be the inexpensive paperback version that'll make its way to store shelves rather than the hardback version. I say that because, much as I love hardcover books -- I'll almost certainly be snagging a hardcover version of the revised edition when it's convenient -- I think the old school renaissance best shows off its virtues in the form of inexpensive paperbacks. The hobby is already filled with enough expensive hardcovers as it is. More to the point, the types of old school games that are currently the focus of the revival don't need hardcovers, given their length and scope. To me, softcovers telegraph the idea of books that are meant to be used in play and play is another important focus of the revival. These games aren't reference works or art objects; they're rules for play.

Now, allow me to be gloomy and say that I do not believe that having Labyrinth Lord (or any other retro-clone) in distribution is going to set the world on fire and give birth to a new Golden Age. As Jeff Rients powerfully pointed out years ago, that ship left the port long ago. Old school gaming will, at best, enjoy another (much smaller) faddishness for a time and then most everyone will go back to doing what they were doing before. I happen to think that's OK, actually, because I'm not here for the money and fame (as if there were any). All this said, I think there are enough gamers out there who'd be interested in retro-clones like Labyrinth Lord that their being able to pick up a copy in the local game store is a boon for all concerned. Remember, too, that Lulu's shipping costs are prohibitive for people in many parts of the world, so a distribution deal will help some of them.

Second, LL Revised will be perhaps the first "professional" retro-clone released to date. Not only will it be available through "regular" channels, but all its art was contracted and paid for by Goblinoid Games. For some, that's probably not a big deal and, for some others, it may have even be a negative, given the emphasis the old school renaissance has placed on community sharing and collaboration. For me, I think, once a product starts making money, it's important that all involved are fairly compensated for their contributions. Most old school products these days don't make enough money for that to be an issue, I suspect, so I take this as a sign that Labyrinth Lord is entering "the big leagues," said big leagues being entirely relative and probably a figment of my over-active imagination.

All in all, I see this latest news to be a huge positive for the old school renaissance and I hope that other retro-clones will follow in its footsteps.

9 comments:

  1. I remember the happy surprise of finding Labyrinth Lord on amazon.de and being able to order it with zero shipping costs. And so I did.

    ReplyDelete
  2. James, I agree with your points and actually could elaborate on them but most readers probably wouldn't be interested ;)

    About the pay issue, I strongly agree. Labyrinth Lord will probably never make more money than what it takes to pay freelancers and order print runs. So the main person doing all this for free is me! But, that's my decision to make. I'd much rather that be the case than take a bunch of free work and pocket the money, even if it is only a few hundred bucks here or there. I know for many people, just seeing their writing or art in print is a thrill and they aren't worried about being paid. It just doesn't sit well with me though.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Now, allow me to be gloomy and say that I do not believe that having Labyrinth Lord (or any other retro-clone) in distribution is going to set the world on fire and give birth to a new Golden Age."

    I don't imagine many gamers, new or old-school, think that any kind of PnP RPG can re-ignite the level of gaming activity that existed in the early 80's.

    Many of the casual fantasy gamers that may have otherwise played D&D are now playing MMORPGs, and are quite happy doing so.

    The recent interest in PnP old-school gaming may be ephemeral. But the proliferation of D&D blogs, and the number of old-school games reportedly being played, is quite remarkable. Could this be more than a fad?

    ReplyDelete
  4. So, are you saying that there ISN'T going to be a Swords & Wizardry cartoon on Saturday mornings?

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't think that the OSR will be a "fad" because I think that the people who are into it are not prone to fads. Faddishness seems to be a certain mentality, and I don't think Old Schoolers are fad people. If they were, they would almost by definition be after the latest-and-greatest.

    I think the OSR will be a niche. I think it will have a consistent presence, and it might actually grow to sizeable proportions if we, the Old Schoolers, are vigorous.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Before we get too gloomy, take a look at Marvel, whose stock was around a dollar in 2000 and on the verge of bankruptcy and now just got bought by Disney for $50 a share or something. Obviously a very different situation, but just an example of how things can really turn around in this crazy culture/economy.

    ReplyDelete
  7. So, are you saying that there ISN'T going to be a Swords & Wizardry cartoon on Saturday mornings?

    Matt Finch is capable of many things, so who knows?

    ReplyDelete
  8. I think the OSR will be a niche. I think it will have a consistent presence, and it might actually grow to sizeable proportions if we, the Old Schoolers, are vigorous.

    I think you're probably right, actually. I should have been clearer in what I said. What I meant was that old school gaming will never make "the big time" ever again. Our day is over. What is possible, though, is stability, the assurance that this particular style of game and gaming won't die with those of us who grew up with it. Whether that's what does happen depends a lot on how well the OSR promotes itself and its games.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Obviously a very different situation, but just an example of how things can really turn around in this crazy culture/economy.

    Weird things could happen certainly, but they're impossible to predict, so I avoid making such prophecies. If by some stretch S&W or LL or whatever becomes The Next Big Thing, I'll be happy to eat my hat publicly and admit to being wrong, but there's no shame in being unable to anticipate fads.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.