Friday, December 31, 2010

Open Friday: New Year's Predictions

Once again, unless one is being charitable, I was off the mark on about half the predictions I made this time last year. I was at least correct in saying that the OSR would continue apace and that "old school" -- or at least memories of it -- would become a marketing gimmick used by companies whose products are decidedly not old school. We didn't see as much (or any) science fantasy or otherworldly type products as I'd expected we might, partially due to the fact that every one of those slated for release in 2009 didn't appear, but a false prediction is still a false prediction. I hereby turn in my prophet's hat.

So, rather than embarrass myself with further guesses that don't come to pass, I'm going to open up the floor to everyone else. What do you think is likely to happen in the old school world in 2011?

Oh, and Happy New Year!


  1. Does Chaosium's "Chronicles of Future Earth" qualify as Science Fantasy? It just came out within the last week or so. I don't know if it's even hit store shelves yet, but I've a copy, and it's pretty neat looking.

  2. Not that it will be something that I will personally enjoy one iota, but I predict that WotC will crack down on OSR publishers, particularly those who use the OGL to publish simulacra. This will be done in an attempt to "protect their IP" and will significantly harm their image amongst people who don't really buy their products anyway.

  3. Personally, I'd like to see a distinct and decisive backlash against all the retro RPG emulators that seem to be nothing more than someone's house-ruled vanity project.

    More generally, I'd like:

    An emergence of a much needed OSR 'humanism', rejecting the abject worship of Gygax and Arneson in favour of more modern and socially relevant innovators...

    The embracing a variety of artists and styles of artwork, rather than hold to the puerile waxing on and on about the greatness of the limited talents and illustrations in the gamebooks of yore...

    Adapting with the modern technology that surrounds them (such as Skype or Virtual Tabletops...), regarding ways to participate in the games they profess to love, but haven't played, for a lack of local players...

    A self-awareness that the games they loved to play in the past had failings, as do any they may chose to play...

    Basically, that those in the OSR develop the emotional maturity needed for a paradigm shift to occur, before it completely withers on the vine.

  4. You hang out in The Forge, don't you, biopunk? ;-)

  5. Is Paradigm Shift a feat or an at-will power?

  6. I think your are going to see more user-friendly aps that you can load on your tablet or smartphone--no matter what version of D&D or any other RPG you like to use. Check out the "DM's Toolkit" and "Cartographer RPG" from Level99 Games. You can tell these guys are big OSR fans.

  7. @Joeseph: I actually had to google 'The Forge'. The amount and concentration of the Kool-Aid™ consumed in gaming forums generally frightens me away from participating in them. :(

    @Matt: I think 'Paradigm Shift' is a Feat that comes in at 99,000xp, but only if you have succeeded in increasing all your Ability Scores by 1 (or perhaps 2, with regards to Constitution...).

    But that is using the 4E rules! :)

  8. @biopunk:
    ALL RPGs are D&D with the serial numbers filed off, to greater or lesser degrees, or at least utilize the concepts developed therein. They wouldn't even exist without it. Many of them, especially the newer ones, in my opinion, shouldn't. But they do, and all the better for it.

    Socially relevant innovators? Like who?
    Gygax, Arneson, Greg Costikyan, Jeff Grubb, Steve Jackson, etc... down to even latecomers like Monte Cook are more relevant than anyone else in RPGs today, due to their ideas still in common currency, and refinements of same.

    Who is professing to love, but not play?
    You can get local players by simply sharing your interest, and not hiding it!
    Skype/Virtual Table, suchlike not needed, unless you really want to, that is. You don't have to reconnect with a gaming group flung all over the country, start new ones. More players, ya know...

    Recognizing flaws in our favorite games? I think no-one can agree what they are, and if so, how to 'correct' them. To some people, they're features. I guess newer games don't have 'em right?

    Telling somebody to develop 'emotional maturity' sounds highly insulting, to my mind; especially in reference to a game. Sorta along with saying this: 'puerile waxing on and on about the greatness of the limited talents and illustrations in the gamebooks of yore...': thanx for your highly subjective critique. Who's better, like Wayne Reynolds or something, seriously?

    Paradigm Shift: Code for Newer=Better.(I work in IT and this term is really overused, people.)

    Fan of the Blog, James!

  9. @velaran

    Not too sure about your first statement. It highly depends on what you would consider "D&D with the serial numbers filed off".

    I think the only thing that Wushu really has in common with DnD is the fact that your roll dice. Even the roleplaying itself takes another form in that game.

    I'm also not sure that roleplaying wouldn't exist without dnd. I played a musketeer game a while back, that I seem to remember was created before dnd, but in the same approximate. While it wasn't really a roleplaying game, but more a game that just begged to be roleplayed, the very early dnd was much the same way. I tend to think that the nerdish world of wargaming and board gaming metamorphed over to the new genre of roleplaying games at several different points, and not just at the point that is dnd.

    Some of the virtual table tops are getting really cool, to the point where I would use them if I had a proper screen at my local gaming spot. Maptool has this really nice feature where you can set it so the players can only see what is inside the range of their torchlight.

  10. One prediction, three hopes, all OSR product-related:

    Jim Raggi's Grindhouse Edition of LotFPWFRPG will RAWK!

    1. Frog God Games will release more hardback copies of S&W Complete.
    2. Goblinoid Games will release the updated, LL-compatible version of Starships and Spacemen.
    3. Micheal Curtis will release Stonehell Dungeon Vol. 2.

    Happy New Year!

  11. @Biopunk - Careful with the terms innovation, socially relevant and variety. As I've learned the hard way recently some OSR fans can develop allergic reactions. They break out in silly responses. Treat them gingerly and consult your local grognard. ;P

    My predicitions aren't all that wild but they are likely...

    We will see more OSR retroclones of games other than D&D. Either through similar OGL type situations or just designer reading an out-of-print game and revising it for a modern era. The excellent indie game InSpectres so highly resembles West End Games' original Ghostbusters RPG under the hood that I found using the two together to be a snap.

    The quality of the indie game, thanks to Lulu and similar self-publishing avenues, will increase, giving the OSR a run for its money in the internet storefront and FLGS shelves. What I'd like to see, though cynical me realizes I myself am an oddity, would be a single individual looking at both shelves and having a hard time deciding where to spend his or her money. A fellow can dream.

    I think that WotC may crack down on OSR as well but I also think it may be so they can come out with a 'Classics' line of reprinted old school stuff. If not, I can also see the first signed of 4.5 or a 5th Edition by year's end. They need to drum up some enthusiam and wow the fanbase again soon.

    Just my two coppers.

    Happy Holidays and a Prosperous New Year to all!

  12. I predict James Raggi/LotFP will become a much larger publisher, publishing products by many bloggers in addition to Zak and Geoff, and will re-brand his company (deliberately or not) as a "transgressive" RPG publisher rather than OSR. I also predict that he'll be plagued by cash flow issues as he goes through the small publishing learning curve.

    I predict a ridiculous glut of megadungeon product - Dwimmermount, Lake Geneva Castle Campaign, Stonehell 2, my own humble megadungeon, and others.

    I predict that WotC/Hasbro continue to not care about the OSR at all, because we're old, cheap bastards.

    And I have no idea what a "humanist" approach to the OSR would be - probably something that isn't the OSR at all. I recommend whoever doesn't like the direction of anything in the OSR, go publish whatever your idea is instead of complaining that some other guy isn't doing it.

  13. I can see this "Old School" thing rising up and strangling the hell out of the long as you people stop publishing games with "skill systems!" What is that all about anyway?!

  14. Innovation, socially relevant and variety? (achoo! itch-itchi-tch...) :)

    No game is perfect, never will be, old or new. That doesn't mean not to play them though. It's half the fun!

    Putting on my swamy turbin, I predict...

    1. Gygax Games will release Gary's infamous Greyhawk Castle in its entirety through WotC. This will be the kickoff to D&D's 5th Edition.

    2. New internet regulations will allow Hasbro/WotC greater power to have all non-current edition D&D and indie-game blogs to be shut down as they are all based on thier intellectual property. Doesn't everyone realize that the blogverse is simply the Plane of Concordant Opposition (tm)?

    3. The OSR will become another propaganda arm affiliated with Julian Assange. We shall help influence the minds of the world's youth against established authorities everywhere for the greater good (whose good? does it really matter?). Welcome to the Fool World Order!


  15. Do the new Gamma World or Sorcery and Super Science count as science fantasy games?

  16. No, but they are fantasy science games... hence they are also subject to WotC's scrutiny. Wait, Gamma World IS WotC! So that one is okay...

  17. Wild, crazy, off-the-wall prediction: An OSR module, a super-dungeon if you will, that doesn't take place in a 'dungeon.' Hasn't anyone heard of the great outdoors? A city? The next day, the OSR implodes.

    And my own Simulacra (isn't that the name of a city in the old Expert rules?) of Stratego called Capture the Flag.

  18. I'm expecting 2011 to be a year more about big campaigns than big products. I'm also hoping to meet a bunch more Toronto area gamers.

  19. 1) I also think that James Raggi will continue to gain traction, partly due to a big brouhaha about the art and content of his material. I don't think he will have cash flow problems. I do think that he will have more copies of his game than he can sell during the year, and that he will respond to this with discounts or packaged bundles of game + modules.

    2) Frog God Games will continue to publish a steady stream of materials for Swords & Wizardry / AD&D / OD&D. Some people will hate this, some people will be happy about it.

    3) Old school gaming will gain traction in the mainstream community via the larger clones gaining more name recognition. This will lead to a gateway effect that brings younger gamers in, and return gamers in. This will result in message boards becoming more elitist about their new and old members. A new message board might even spring up as a result, but I doubt this.

    4) OSRIC will get more aggressively published, which will lead to more edition-warring among the clones. Publishers will try to stop that trend, and will succeed to a large degree, but it will remain a low-level feature of the landscape from then onward. AD&D will get new players through OSRIC in the same way that other clones have a "gateway" effect.

    5) There will be a lot of controversy about Joe Goodman's "old school" game as publication approaches. It will be generally hated in the old school message boards, but will get some traction in the mainstream. It might or might not succeed - that will depend on its quality and whether Goodman supports it in 2012.

    6) WotC will not bother with the clones; their problem is Paizo and Pathfinder, and the clones are minuscule compared to the threat of Pathfinder. Last year, WotC could have used the clones to explain their weakness to HASBRO (incorrectly, but still a good straw-grasp). Now, with Paizo building so fast, it's simply too clear that WotC's weakness lies elsewhere than the clones.

    7) The value of the D&D trademark falls, as Pathfinder rises. WotC will seek to use it for collateral purposes - movies, novels, card games, whatever they can do to change it into a generic franchise rather than a purely gaming franchise.

    8) 4e recovers a bit of ground after the disastrous launch, but continues to lose ground to Pathfinder - more slowly, but still a frightening trend for WotC brand management.

  20. At what level do I get Paradigm Shift?

  21. RPGNow Print on Demand will become an important part of the small press publishing landscape.

    In addition RPGNow Print on Demand will start to make "Out of print" obselete as witnessed by many of Chaosium's current offers (like the Great Pendragon Campaign).

    Finally See more full color OSR supplements as RPGNow's PoD Color price is very competitive. Although it will take a few months for everybody to catch on.

  22. "At what level do I get Paradigm Shift?"

    I think it's a mutation that comes up during character creation.

  23. People will continue to bitch and carp at each other on forums and blogs.

  24. @veralan:
    "ALL RPGs are D&D with the serial numbers filed off..."

    - Maybe to you, but reinventing the wheel every month isn't exactly bringing anything innovative to the table.

    As to "the who"?

    -Micheal Curtis, for sure, for his 'The Dungeon Alphabet' alone.
    A few months earlier, I would have said Raggi, McKinney or Sabbath; now that they have put all their eggs in one basket, I'm not so sure.

    As to the "who is professing to love, but not play"?

    -Read more blogs. It is not an uncommon complaint. And as you do, remember that not everyone has the same opportunities you do to get together a group to game with.

    I said nothing about 'correcting' anything, but that is effectively what home-brew and house rules do. I said admitting there are "failings".

    "Telling somebody to develop 'emotional maturity' sounds highly insulting..."

    -That was the point of my statement.

    That is part of a paradigm shift.

    Paradigm Shift isn't "code" for anything. It is is a way of describing a fundamental change. It has nothing to do with "better". It has everything to do with 'different'.

    Remember the 'R' in OSR is supposed to be for 'renaissance', not 'reactionary'.

    There is far too much of the latter in this 'movement'.

  25. I don't keep close enough tabs on the OSR publishing world to be able to predict what changes or innovations might be around the corner. I HOPE that in 2011 that there will be more OSR products that provide DIY creation toolkits/guides for the aspiring OSR DM, than what I consider 'vanity projects'.

  26. @Biopunk: Your views, and hopes for the OSR seem in stark contrast to what the OSR holds dear. Looking back at the founders of early roleplaying with fresh eyes, and examining their design choices; embracing more straightforward art than 'dungeonpunk' and flash; as well as showing new-school gamers what value old school gaming has to offer.

  27. I predict tin foil hat sales will skyrocket in 2011.


  28. I thought the AD&D hardbacks will be republished in their original form by WoTC... For fun and profit... Or it will be in 2012 only? Why should they wait for another year? :)

  29. One of two things will happen:

    1. Hasbro will give up on WotC's brand management of D&D and will take over the brand name entirely. We can then look forward to either the D&D board game with collectable expansion packs and D&D Trivial Pursuit, or D&D branded Nerf, Transformer, and G.I. Joe products.

    2. Hasbro will give up on WotC's brand management of D&D and will sell the IP to the highest bidder. Some rich grognard will buy it up and keep it locked away. Tunnels & Trolls will reign supreme.


  30. Oh, and Paradigm Shift is what happens to your character after Epic levels. It's in the new 4ed Immortals set. Trust me.

  31. I am curious as to how the 4E vs Pathfinder battle will play out over the year. Both companies put out state-of-the-art products; and my bookshelves are filling up with both. The problem - other than my increasing debt-load - is that I definitely don't have time to play both; so who to support.
    When 4E came out with it's tougher GSL (and doesn't that look like a tactical error now)many of the independents launched their own 3.5 variants; at the time PF looked like one of the herd, and a little slow to launch to boot. Now, as PF continues to move from success to success I'd imagine they'll benefit from many of the other alternate 3.5 systems being quietly abandoned in there favour. Look at the way Monte Cook's Dungeon-a-Day went from being generic 3.5 to pretty much an official PF product.
    PF also has an advantage in that all those myriad 3E/3.5E products will work with it with the odd adjustment; and I imagine it'd be easier and quicker to adapt AD&D and OSR products to PF than to 4E.
    OTOH 4E looks so different and "next-gen"; and it seems like it'd be fun and balanced to play (at least as far as combat and dungeon-crawling go; it seems to be a little prescriptive and deficient on the role-playing side of things).
    For a veteran of many campaigns PF (or OSR even) seems the more logical choice. For a brand-new, teen player? I don't know. I think 4E might be a more attractive product for players new to the hobby. In my experience (as a gamer and junior high teacher) most teens who've heard of tabletop RPGs only know 4E - to them that's D&D. The odd exception being the kid who's dad played D&D, and shows up at Games Club clutching a set of worn 1E rulebooks, .
    Alcibiades of Willowdale

  32. @KP: Thanks.

    We are also a terribly nostalgic bunch that views a certain part of our youth through rose-coloured glasses. I really don’t begrudge those in the OSR for reminiscing over illustrations in the Monster Manual or whatever image it was that first inspired them.

    We were all inspired by all those illustrations because, at the time, the game was completely ‘new’ to us. We were inspired because the artwork was relatively simple and that our imaginings of the creatures in our fantasy worlds could easily grow from it.

    Very few of us have any remaining physical representations of game play from that time.

    Playing a game that is mostly in your head tends to do that.

    The art didn’t make the game intrinsically any better; it just gave us a common point of reference when discussing our part in playing it.

    It is also one of the few things that we can now agree on as a ‘shared’ experience.

    When most of us fought our first hobgoblin, it probably looked like the hobgoblins on p.52 of the Monster Manual or on the cover of Keep on the Borderlands. That is pretty cool.

    I just don't believe in saying that because that happens, it makes one artist's representation superior to another's.

  33. Thanks to Tenkar's ( excellent blog I've become aware of many of the other great RPG blogs that exist, challenge, and inspire me throughout the year.

    It is my hope that the articles at White Haired Man's ( blog will do the same for many of you. Happy New Year and many happy returns.

  34. First off:

    My Predictions:(Forgot last time)
    1)4th Edition continues to crumble.(No Suprise there.)
    2)Pathfinder market share up.
    3)WW's WOD attempts comeback.
    4)More professional new Old-School stuff.
    5)James Maliszewski will become the Anti-Pope of Old School when he embraces Dogs In The Vineyard, and attempts to spread his influence over a Forge-less world.(Ok, maybe not that one.)

    @Barking Alien:
    "@Biopunk - Careful with the terms innovation, socially relevant and variety. As I've learned the hard way recently some OSR fans can develop allergic reactions. They break out in silly responses. Treat them gingerly and consult your local grognard. ;P" Only when they're insulting about it, and I would dare say most people aren't posting 'silly' responses to what is after all subjective positions on a game. It's their opinion on RPGs, it's kinda not earth-shatteringly important. Just fun. Not a grognard, by the way! ;-)

    Choice of words:
    Purposefully insulting, great tactic. Never saw that on the Net before...

    Reinventing the Wheel:
    Happens every day, people love to tinker, but incrementally, this field reflects that strongly.

    Socially relevant innovators:
    Those dudes? Oh, I mean they're known to a select group of people, but their efforts aren't as well known amongst even the Fan Community as even say Bill Slavisek, Johnathon Tweet, Sandy Peterson, or the like. I agree they have interesting product. Zak Sabbath in particular.

    On Flaws: All games have them, old or not. Though some seem to think otherwise, especially if the devs supposedly thought long and hard about 'fundamental changes'.(Slaughtering 'Sacred Cows' and the like.)

    On players: I've read the blogs, and almost all of them do play, but many would like to play more, but with the same line-up, and they never seem to seek out anyone else that could be potentially interested in playing. More people would be good, all I'm saying...

    On Art: It was good back then, still good today, imo. There are artists around now I'd like to see do some illos, of course.
    As for the hobgoblin: not partial to it. Mine looked different :-)

    Paradigm Shift: In IT industry, it's definitely code, dude.

    On reactionary: overused term, caution is good sometimes. Why isn't Alignment gone yet? Hit Points, still? 'vancian magic[nonesuch]'s still here. were just some of my reactions to Third Edition! But everybody's reactionary sometimes!

  35. -Hasbro sells off all rights to D&D.

    -OSR continues to grow and more innovative products continue to be produced by the fans.

    -more local hobby game stores close

    -Obama's college transcripts are opened and it's revealed he was president of the D&D club. (meanwhile birthers claim this proves he was really born in Blackmoor)

  36. Someone will fix D&D by inventing RuneQuest (as has happened every year).

    Someone will talk about what they think is an idea for a role-playing game, but is really an idea for a dice mechanic (as happens more or less constantly on

  37. I predict that I will be trying out 4e in this year. I am currently playing in 3.5 ToEE campaign and can say that 4e positively looks like 1e compared to the rules glut that I have to wade through in this one while playing.

    I mean in 4e vs PF fight, ruleswise and even setting-wise (PoL vs Golarion), PF is for me the worst offender. On the other hand I love planet stories and all that.

  38. I rather hope OSRIC will enter distribution in 2011.

  39. 1. Paizo and Hasbro will come to real blows. There will be key employee defections from one side to the other. There will be legal battling between the two game publishers that will not amount to much aside from some public squabbling.

    2. Hasbro will (finally) release a digital D&D based and branded "virtual game table" type of product that will generate much positive press and will cause other RPG houses to announce or seriously consider similar initiatives.

    3. Hasbro will announce ongoing development of a D&D based TV show or animated feature at GenCon, release date TDB.

  40. I predict that neither Barking Alien nor Biopunk will tell me who these "more socially relevant innovators" in RPGs are, considering that RPGs have only become less and less popular since the Gygax days.

    I also predict that anyone who cares about what's "socially relevant" when they sit down and play a game in the privacy of their own home with their friends will eventually ask themselves why they care.

    I also predict that if he does tell me who these socially relevant innovators are and we try out these socially relevant games, nobody in my ethnically diverse, pansexual, mixed-gender gaming group will think it's all that special.

    I also predict that biopunk will continue to refrain from using blanket statements and talk like a Master Baiter when he comes around to -my- blog yet still do so elsewhere, for reasons obscure to me.

  41. My predictions:

    Stronger ties between Paizo and WotC. Hasbro continues not to care, because they can't think of a way to really capitalize on the D&D brand, but continue to assume there's gold in them thar hills.

    Stronger push for DDI. Those who count beans in WotC will continue to see that as a stronger way to bring in revenue as the sales of books continue to sink. The virtual table will be the new tentpole attraction.

    Continued experimentation with "niche" settings in the OSR. Lot's more "weird fantasy," "weird sci-fi," and mixes of the two. A steampunk OSR setting or game will suddenly make a play for center-stage.

    New experimentation with alternate forms of revenue streams in OSR products. And by this I mean, selling something other than books and PDFs.

    Raggi's continued success (and openness about his business practices) inspires others to try to follow in his footsteps. Most will fall flat on their faces because they won't really have anything new or needed to offer. One (possibly two) will become big new names in the OSR.

    Folks mostly known as OSR types will start to branch out into other RPG genres, other sorts of games, other media (novels, low-budget animation, online comics). A tiny handful of these will experience unexpected success.

  42. Kudos to Matt Finch for listing eight interesting, specific, testable prophecies.