- This is one of those times where it's difficult to take sides, because, truthfully, I really can see the merits of each position. I know that sounds like a cop-out (and I'm frequently accused of being too pacific -- except by those who think I'm an intemperate Puritan, but that's a topic for another day), but I really mean that.
- I don't believe for a second that the now-removed section of Frog God's "About Us" was intended as a slam against anyone in the OSR, let alone the entire hobbyist movement. That said, I do think it was a foolish thing to include on a game company's website, both because of the possibility of its causing inadvertent offense (which it did) and because it comes across as petty and, frankly, unprofessional, the latter quality being ironically the very thing Frog God was claiming to possess in distinction to their competition.
- I also perfectly understand why the move caused some anxiety in various quarters. The way it was rolled out, right down to the talk of a "merger," made it seem as if Frog God was coming in and "poaching" Swords & Wizardry after lots of amateurs poured their hearts and souls into supporting and promoting it, all the while getting the cold shoulder from larger companies, including Frog God's predecessor, Necromancer Games. Again, I don't think Frog God meant to give this impression, but the fact is they did and it could've been avoided if the roll-out of this announcement had been better handled all around.
- One of the things people often overlook is that, for many old schoolers, not being noticed by larger companies is a feature not a bug of the OSR. They prefer to exist on the margins, outside the notice of the Big Boys (not that Frog God can reasonably be called a "Big Boy," but that's not the point). They've seen how "old school" is slowly morphing into a nebulous bit of marketing speak designed to feed consumerism amongst nostalgia-besotted gamers (witness WotC's upcoming "Red Box" release of D&D IV) and they rightly, I think, worry that this move is another manifestation of that. And given that Frog God is not only changing S&W in terms of content -- the "Complete Rules" vs. the "Core Rules" -- but esthetics, I can't say I blame them.
- Equally overlooked is the fact that there are other old schoolers who've never really gotten over the fall of tabletop RPGs out of the mainstream. They're as committed to the Old Ways as any of us, but they also long for the days when you could go into Toys 'R Us or a major department store and see a boxed version of D&D on the shelves. For these old schoolers, attracting the notice of a better funded, connected, and "professional" company is an unequivocally good thing, because if it leads to even a fraction of an increase in the popularity of the hobby in the world beyond our little echo chamber, there's hope for the future.
- Also overlooked is the reality of what Frog God is doing. According to this page, the initial printing of S&W will consist of only 300 copies -- 100 limited edition hardcovers and 200 softcover ones. That's less than half the number of products that Jim Raggi published in the first print run of his Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Role-Playing boxed set and about the same for most "small press" companies, probably even less. So, while S&W has a new publisher, it's not as if the game is suddenly going to be much more available than it was before or than other retro-clones are, such as Labyrinth Lord. This shift seems to me to be more about workloads for those involved and not so much about S&W "going mainstream."
- That said, I don't like or approve of the change in the look of the game. The new cover, posted above, while technically very proficient, lacks the quirky brilliance of Peter Mullen's original. It's just another run-of-the-mill D20 era cover slapped on to a game that really deserves its own unique graphical look. I can understand why, for "branding" purposes, Frog God wanted a new cover, but why something so indistinguishable from hundreds of other early 2000s D20 products? Brave Halfling altered the look of White Box for their version and did a good job of it, I think. I am, as I say again and again, not a fan of aping the graphic design of TSR circa 1978 and I've taken a lot of flak for that position. By the same token, why should Swords & Wizardry's "Complete Rules" look like a generic high-end D20 product from 2005?
[A Potentially More Controversial Postscript: I will never cease to be amazed by others' amazement that someone should become emotional and even irrational about news like this. We're dealing with fandom, after all, and all of us are, to varying degrees, strongly emotionally invested in this hobby. If we weren't, we wouldn't spend so much of our free time discussing it with one another. I'm not a very emotional person myself, but I have my moments of enthusiasm, even mania, and they occasionally lead me astray, but so what? I'd frankly be more concerned by a lack of such a response, because it's then that I'll know the flame has finally gone out of this hobby.]