Monday, April 1, 2024

Whither Grognardia?

Over the past holiday weekend, Grognardia celebrated its sixteenth anniversary – or, rather, the sixteenth anniversary of the first post to appear here. Now, in truth, I've only posted at this blog for about half that time, owing to my hiatus between December 2012 and August 2020. On the other hand, I never took the blog down and it continued to have a fairly steady, if significantly decreased, readership even during those nearly eight years when I wasn't posting. Take a look at what I mean:

That's a screenshot of Blogger's own Stats page, illustrating Grognardia's pageviews over time, during the period between June 2011 and July 2020. I don't know why the stats only go back to 2011 rather than earlier, but that's all I've got to work with. As you can see, during the 2011 to 2012 period, the two-year period I was posting regularly before my long break, the blog was averaging about 160,000 pageviews per month, with a high of 186,933 for February 2012. After the break, that dropped to about 45,000 per month, with a high of 65,409 in November 2016.

Here's what's happened since I returned to the blog in August 2020:

During that first month back, the blog received 120,063 pageviews, which is about triple what it'd been receiving during my absence, though still quite a bit below what it'd been getting at its height eight years prior. Since then, as you can see, pageviews have fluctuated from month to month, but generally stayed around the 130,000 range. Then, in May 2023, views inexplicably spiked to 221,901 before dropping down to 144,281 the next month and then spiking upward again, eventually reaching an all-time high of 286,230 in August of that year. While I've never again seen anything close to that number of pageviews, the overall number seems to be slowly on the rise, averaging around 140,000 for most months (though March 2024 was just shy of 200,000).

I bring all this up not merely to boast, but as background to the real point of this post, namely, what to do with this blog. When I began it in March 2008, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or where it'd go. Owing as much to fortunate happenstance as to any skill on my part, Grognardia took off, becoming one of the major blogs of the burgeoning Old School Renaissance. Indeed, the blog received so much attention that I often felt as if I'd lost control of it, which, like a runaway freight train, was soon careening wildly under its own momentum. 

I often joke – not without some degree of truth – that the fist iteration of Grognardia was my mid-life crisis. The blog sprang from an unthinking impulse on my part, one born of my increasing dissatisfaction with the direction of Dungeons & Dragons in the dying days of the 3e era. Giving in to that impulse yielded great joy but also great disappointment, failure, and embarrassment. The present iteration of Grognardia came about when, in the depths of the pandemic lockdowns, I felt I needed a public outlet for expressing myself again. After considering all manner of other alternatives, I finally settled on posting here again, though not without some trepidation.

Though born of different motive, this second version of Grognardia is every bit as directionless as the first. Most days, I write about whatever happens to come to mind rather than proceeding according to some definite plan. The downside of this is that "whatever happens to come to mind" is often a topic I've already covered before. After about 4200 posts and more than 70,000 comments, what haven't I already written about? Indeed, what more do I have to say about anything? I sometimes feel as if I'm competing against an earlier version of myself, a younger more energetic version whose combination of enthusiasm and naivete provides him with more interesting fodder for thoughtful posts.

And yet, for all my frustrations, people keep reading, as the stats above demonstrate. They don't comment as much as they used to, nor do my posts seem to generate nearly as much discussion elsewhere (or as much controversy, thank goodness), but they do nevertheless read, for which I am grateful. Still, I sometimes can't help but wish that I got a better sense of engagement with my posts from my readers. This lack, in turn, feeds my feeling that I don't really have anything interesting to say anymore, so why even try? 

Some of that perception may be the result of the larger hobby's (not merely its old school sub-grouping) having changed a great deal between 2012 and 2020. When I started Grognardia sixteen years ago, blogs were very important parts of the online ecosystem of discussion. That's not true anymore, or at least it's less true than it once was. Social media and video seem much more significant, neither of which I really use. If so, is there still a place for Grognardia? Or is it, like old school RPGs themselves, a relic of the past? 

[ADDENDUM: To be clear: I have no intention of shutting down the blog again, at least not anytime soon. I simply find writing engaging posts a lot harder now than I did years ago and I wonder if the problem lies with me or with changes in the wider world of online RPG discussion.]


  1. "And yet, for all my frustrations, people keep reading, as the stats above demonstrate."

    I was one of those reading by the end of 2008. Despite (more or less) ending my gaming career by that point, your focus on the pulps and Appendix N (especially Merritt) really dragged me in.

    Both of us took a break for a few years. Your break was just a little longer than mine.

    When you suddenly reappeared, Dave and myself at the DMR Books blog were right on top of it. Keep doing what you do. You do it well.

  2. I hope there's still a place for blogs like this! Social media platforms feel like endless candy shops of likes and hates, with little room for meat-on-bone content like your blog. I do tend to be more reactive on social media than on blogs, but mostly because me no good at write stuff. You don’t have to worry about retreading paths - there’s always a secret door you’ve overlooked. I missed out on "Olde Grognardia" when it was live and didn't know there were any controversial wildfires. If you want to experiment with increasing engagement, I will forgive you if you use flamebait titles like "SHOCKING! What Gary Gygax didn't know about Dungeons & Dragons!"

  3. The dissatisfaction with social media's abuse of personal information seems to be driving a return to blogs, or at least keeping them relevant. Perhaps it's time to wade through all your past posts and create an index/summary for those who haven't been with you since the beginning (or who haven't read the whole collection :) ). Perhaps that helps you identify areas you've not covered but want to? :)

  4. For what it's worth, I'm still reading and enjoying Grognardia. And I still prefer blog posts to YouTube videos or Discord channels which seem to have become the dominant mediums.

    On the other hand, I totally get any form of regular posting can become a bit of an albatross around the neck. I had a fairly successful blog from 2014 to 2017 in which I detailed my adventures in wargaming with my son, getting to the point where I was regularly getting several hundred views a day and lots of comments (via Google+ before things changed).

    In the end, though, I found I was enjoying it less and less as I desperately scrabbled around trying to find things to post to keep up the had become more a thing of keeping up the numbers rather than writing about what I was interested in, not really what I'd started it for. As I was no longer really enjoying it I stopped in 2017 and it was a huge relief.

    So if I had any advice it would be to not worry about the numbers or the frequency of posts but to just post when you feel you have something to say. I, for one, shall keep on reading.

  5. I don't know, man. Looking at my own blog stats, they seem to be steady...even higher (possibly) then they were in the pre-G+ heyday of game blogging.

    As a whole, blogging seems less relevant (well, less interesting to people) least, that's what folks have told me. But...well...from my perspective as a READER, I'm just seeing less and less interesting content on blogs, these days. The energy from BLOGGERS (which used to be enormous) has waned...which has led to less reader enthusiasm.

    Is there still a place for Grognardia? Sure. thing about the "old school movement" these days is that it's NOT so much a "relic of the past." You can purchase PDFs of B/X now (even if you don't play OSE or Labyrinth Lord). You can get print-on-demand copies of AD&D now (and PDFs, too). OD&D, too. And people are PLAYING these's not just about nostalgia and reminiscing and naval gazing.

    And that is, in part, thanks to blogs like Grognardia that kindled interest in this "old stuff." But now that the hobby is more ACTIVE, folks are looking for more than reminiscing?

    I don't know, man. I just blog because I like blogging. And I haven't run out of things to blog about. I'm not terribly worried about my relevance; I do it for my own enjoyment as much as anything else. For what it's worth, that satisfied my (similar) questions on the matter.

  6. While I certainly can't speak for anyone else, I read because your posts are well-written and are a fascinating look into how D&D and other games were perceived and played in the past.

    Not to date myself too much but 16 years ago I was 10! The world of 1974 and its Dungeons and Dragons, as well the OSR just a few years ago, is inaccessible to me in many ways, which sometimes makes the OSR feel archeological. Your magazine reviews are like portals to whole fascinating world, that doesn't exist for me. Frankly I'm not sure where else I would get them or how I would even begin to parse them without the context you bring them.

    I only started blogging a month ago and thank the heavens I have 0 views on my odd few posts! I started because I saw everyone else could do it and I could only annoy my friends so much at game night and I have things to say damn it!

    If there's a place for Grognardia it means there's a place for anyone who likes this game and its kith and kin enough to talk about it. If anything, write for people like me who haven't been here, hadn't lived then and want to know the joys of it now. If nothing else, write for you because by golly you have stuff to say and somebody ought to hear about it!

    A relic maybe, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?

  7. I love your blog! I think I found it around 2021? It is now on my. Blogtrottr, so whenever you feel like posting I'll be taking a gander at it! I like the old format of blogs that are long enough to be informative and with Blogtrottr, I can follow my list when they pop up and not have to worry about running through a long list of Blogs without finding and then missing new posts.

    I don't care for social media myself. I am down to checking Facebook once weekly because I have a number of friends who are only available that way. But that is it. I also follow a small number of smaller Discords on a few esoteric topics. Beyond that I have about 20 blogs that I track. I've looked over Substack and Medium, but they are also rabbit holes of content and misinformation and I just don't have the time to deal with them and the way they work.

    Agree with the guys above - blog when and as you won't and don't get burned out. I appreciate your thoughts whenever they pop up!

  8. I understand how you feel, having experienced something similar with my own blog (though nothing approaching the magnitude of your posts/views): feeling I have nothing new/relevant to say, worrying I’ve already covered a topic, feeling obliged to keep posting. I’ve come to enjoy the freedom to write about various topics that engage me, to have a regular project to keep my writing skills fresh, and to have a personal forum to remain minimally visible in the hobby community. As a reader I like knowing I’ll find something relevant to my varied gaming interests at Grognardia, much like a classic print gaming magazine that covers a general field with specific articles on various related subjects. I’ve enjoyed your musings on Grognardia from before your hiatus and still find your posts a welcome perspective, especially as video and social media increasingly dominate the hobby community.

    I also understand you must remain true to yourself and your goals. Perhaps take another hiatus to work on Secrets of sha-Arthan or other projects (or just to take a break). Maybe reduce the number of posts, focusing on topics that matter most to you. You and Grognardia have staying power as a voice in the adventure gaming hobby community. Do what you feel is right for you confident that this is more a boon than a bane.

  9. Hardly use social media, but I consume blogs - more considered.

  10. I'm not a massive social media user but I do prefer blogs much much more. They're easier to search through for a start.

    I only found your blog in early 2018 and have read through all of your posts since then, most of the older ones a couple of times. I've directed my 5e playing nephew (15) in this blog's direction to learn more about the history and background of the game from a player who has been involved for many more years than me.

    Like JB, whose blog I also read religiously, I do detect that blogs generally are starting to have less to say. A few that I have enjoyed since 2018 have stopped in the last few years and there haven't been any that have replaced them with the same level of interest. I'm not sure why that's the case.

    You could take a reader's poll on what they'd like to read and how often?

    For me, one post per week about any of your history in gaming, appendix N, traveller, and OD&D posts is fine. I'll be up front and say that EPT isn't of interest but I do like the posts on how you are developing monsters and other features for Ar-shan.

    It is of course your blog and you decide to do with it what you wish, but given that there are other interesting blogs that have disappeared I wonder whether you should maybe preserve or publish as a PDF those posts amongst the 4200 thatare the most read or the ones that you think are the most important historically.

    That might sound very pretentious of me, but I worry that in the computer age that we will leave very little archaeology behind us, and that obsolescence means that recovery of data and documents more than a decade old becomes difficult outside of the professionally trained.

  11. Sequels are always hard, being in the shadow. Time for the Grognardia Discord me thinks.

  12. Imposter Syndrome is a killer. Don't let it get to you. You're doing good work here.

  13. I have been following your blog, and sporadically commenting, since before the hiatus. Grognardia was an is an oasis of thoughtfulness and calmness in the sometimes turbulent blogosphere.

  14. it may just be hard to have something new to say. You only have so many anecdotes, etc, and there is a lot of RPG discussion, filling in holes you might have lingered in.

  15. 1) I frequently have trouble with authentication for comments. I am not sure what causes it.

    2) A lot of the topics in the OSR have been well tread upon. I have settled into a fairly comfortable spot in my gaming (1e AD&D) and feel neither the need to sell or defend it. I know it's the best for me, and that's all that matters.

    3) Modern (5e) D&D is so alien, I have no interest in what WotC does next with it. I'm not buying anymore, I'm just creating what I need when I need it.

    1. squeen, are you using Firefox? If so...

      Click on the little shield icon in the url bar. You should see an option for "Enhanced Tracking Protection". Turn this off.

      (Or, if it's off already, turn it on.)

      This should fix the issue. If you're not using Firefox, it may be a similar issue in your browser of choice.

  16. Like many other commenters, I also much prefer reading blogs to any other form of social media. Videos and podcasts really don't do it for me, and I'm likely to skip those, but there are a handful of blogs that I read every post - including yours. I very much enjoy your magazine and module reviews, and since I missed the first half of this blog's existence I don't care if you post about the same topics again - I will read them and enjoy hearing about your "current" take on the topic. Know that your posts are very much appreciated and valued, especially in this video-obsessed world.

  17. I have been reading your blog for years and it is very enjoyable. Calm and considered and informative. I hope it continues for a long time.

  18. I prefer reading blogs vs. videos. And this blog in particular I stumbled upon years ago and I stayed for the nostalgia rather than any particular game or rule set. I think our tastes are similar enough that where they differ, I appreciate the reasoned explanation. I missed this blog while it was gone any always drifted back every few months to see if it had returned. I was very happy when it did.

  19. I have been reading your blog since near the beginning, and I really enjoy your voice and content. I was very happy to find you returning to blogging after the long absence. I agree with much of the sentiment in the comments here. I don't know of an alternate to what you have been providing to the community.

  20. To the addendum: I think it is the internet. Not like, even just "vague culture" stuff, but the actually depreciation of RSS, the end of moderation (not at your scale, but) & just generally the push of users into closed gardens. (& I am a casual end user, not a a purity nerd...I just miss the old blog days, & I think those days were cut short the same way as city trams were...)

  21. I think I discovered your blog when looking for some guidance on which classic modules to get hold of, but I've stayed because it's so interesting to read about the history of the hobby and the context the games existed within during their formative years, which I don't think I fully understood at the time. Add to that the intelligence, erudition and civility of both your writing and your community, and it's a welcome oasis in the desert of the internet.

  22. Love blogs. Love THIS blog! Hate videos and social media shit. Pure text! Fun ideas! A comment section!