Wednesday, April 17, 2013
S&W Appreciation Day: At the Confluence of the New and the Old
I’m not an old school gamer by any means, despite starting at the end of AD&D 2nd Edition (and there are many who argue 2E was not nearly old school enough). I spent most of my gaming years in the d20/3E/3.5E trenches and more recently started digging around its offshoot, the Pathfinder system. It was through Pathfinder that I inadvertently found myself backing Frog God Game’s Kickstarter for Swords & Wizardry Complete, by way of their previous Kickstarter for Rappan Athuk.
Before this time I had been tangentially aware of the OSR movement as some nebulous thing on the fringes of my gaming sphere. I downloaded the free PDFs of the various system for potential future reference and had trouble differentiating them. They were all just an alphabet soup, OSRIC, S&W, LL, BFRPG, etc.
At around the same time, I started noticing the d20SWSRD link on the sidebar navigation of the d20PFSRD. Hmm, I thought to myself, this one OSR system is effectively marketing itself to my new school senses. By joining forces with some of the most prominent third party companies, sites, and organizations of the Pathfinder system, S&W is making headway into a significant population of gamers, PFRPG is giving WotC’s D&D behemoth a run for its pedigree after all.
If this were some type of OSR contest, I would say S&W took steps towards "winning" by dramatically increasing its profile and adoption by the limited number of gamers. Except this isn’t a race. Reading the many blog posts and comments for Sword & Wizardry Appreciation Day, it is evident there is much overlap in the various OSR systems. Being based on the d20 OGL, the OSR games also invariably take some influence from the mainline d20 games. It is all one grand continuum.
From my exposure to the energetic discussions, I’m starting to gain a better grasp of the different OSR games, their differences, and ways in which they may be remixed. One informs the other and vice versa, and there is room for a multi-channel infusion between other d20 games, and even across genres (sci-fi applications of S&W in particular have caught my interest).
The cross-pollination coupled with the ease of sharing and dialogue through web-based medium is the great strength of these games and the communities formed around them. Today may be Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day, but it is in actuality a day of appreciation for gaming in general. I think this is a good day, not for one system or for the old school, but for all system and all schools. As the old saying goes, the rising tide lifts all ships. We’ve a lot of ships on the water and it’s wonderful seeing people signal each other across the waves to share cool stuff.