Friday, May 10, 2024

When did the OSR begin? 2008.

I was looking through a box of some of my old gaming stuff, and I ran across a bunch of old OSR zines and DIY supplements from 15+ years ago. I thought, wow, this stuff is pretty old now. And some of it's probably pretty rare too. I wonder if there's any collector interest in early OSR material?
Then I started to wonder... when did the OSR actually began? As a popular renaissance?

I'm honestly surprised the term "OSR" continues to resonate with so many people. The OSR has become synonymous with a major, thriving niche of the roleplaying ecosystem. Kickstarters for clearly OSR-inspired games like Shadowdark bring in over a million bucks. Many creators of new OSR material look pretty young to me - they were probably kids back when all this began. Amazing. Back in the early days I thought the OSR would never be more than be a fun discussion topic that would fade out after a while. I never predicted it would evolve into a long-lived, influential subculture of tabletop gaming.

Like a lot of people, I first became exposed to OSR concepts from reading James Maliszewski's Grognardia blog. The year for me was 2008 - the year Grognardia first appeared. I would argue that one of Grognardia's opening posts, "What's a Grognard", was one of the key events in the history of the OSR. Why? Because it provided a label for old school gamers to self-identify.

Of course, before Grognardia there had always been a community of gamers that refused to accept new editions of D&D. Especially 3rd and 4th edition D&D. This community was centered around online forums like the Knights and Knaves Alehouse and Dragonsfoot. So while the seeds of the OSR existed in venues like this, I don't think they really marked the beginning of an actual popular renaissance - they were fairly insular communities of true old timers. Not new recruits. Grognardia and similar blogging outlets like Jeff's Gameblog and ChicagoWiz's RPG Blog reached a far wider audience, I think. An audience that included lapsed gamers like myself. I stopped playing D&D when 2nd edition was released and Magic: The Gathering shook up the scene. I then got back into RPGs with the OSR. I saw in the OSR blogosphere others like me that missed playing the original TSR flavors of D&D, and related games. I did not find this community by stumbling on Knights and Knaves Alehouse - I found it by browsing blog lists. And the blog explosion started in 2008. The year I started this blog too, haha.

Another important thing that happened in 2008 was that Matt Finch released a document: "Quick Primer for Old School Gaming", which I feel was an important manifesto that concisely described the appeal of the OSR flavor of gaming. I'm not sure how widely read this document is now, because the concepts are taken for granted (which is good), but at the time it was widely shared and discussed. This document coincided with Finch's 2008 release of his excellent OD&D retro-clone Swords & Wizardry. Dan Proctor's B/X retro-clone Labyrinth Lord was also released around 2007 or 2008. I scooped up both these games and played the heck out of them, especially Labyrinth Lord. The first OSR zine Fight On! was published in 2008 as well. Looking back, it's amazing to think how much important stuff happened in that one single year 2008. I didn't really realize the creative density of that year until writing this post.

So, yeah... 2008. 

The OSR began in 2008.

By the way, I'm starting a new Cyclopeatron Instagram feed. Check it out here:

Witchlight Snail Race with Custom Miniatures

I'm running Wild Beyond the Witchlight for the neighborhood kids. If you're not familiar with the campaign, it opens with the PCs visiting the Witchlight Carnival, where they stumble through a funhouse mirror and end up in a region of the Feywild controlled by three sister hags. The typical narrative is that they then defeat the hags, free the original ruler of the land, and find a way home.

The carnival episode itself is fun, and consists of the PCs visiting booths and playing carnival games. One of the games is a snail race. For this session I sculpted a bunch of snail miniatures beforehand, and when the kids came over we had a painting session so each kid could paint racing colors on their snails. I modified the racing rules slightly to to play out the game along an oval using measuring tape. It was a big success, especially with various cheating and surprises happening (random table in book). The kids got to keep their snails after the game, of course.

On your marks! Get set!


Pre-race snail painting

The campaign is going well. We're about halfway through it at this point. I've needed to make it a little more gritty and fighting-oriented for this bunch, though. Tone down the whimsy a bit. But not too much.

Now... I gotta get my Gen Con schedule worked out before the May 19 event deadline... Any tips on good sessions to sign up for?

Monday, September 18, 2023

My Weekly Game

My weekly game with the neighborhood kids. They just completed the good old Sunless Citadel. They limped out into the sunlight with their pockets full of rare fungi and the ultimate prize - the cyst-like "apple" of the Gulthias Tree. One of the little dudes jumped up on the table on started dancing! Super solid group, here!

This old blog keeps getting lots of traffic. Over a million views now. Maybe I'll try to post some more. And/or do something gaming related over on Instagram.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Gen Con 2019 - Pictures and Brief Recap

Last August me and my local gaming pals, Steve Ellis and Matt Ryan, made a road trip to Gen Con. Steve is an artist who does the excellent Only Living Boy comic, and also illustrates for many of the major gaming companies like Fantasy Flight, Wizards, etc. If you've ever played any of the Fantasy Flight Cthulhu games, you've almost certainly seen some of Steve's art. Matt does maps for Chaosium, among other things, and was a writer for Ars Magica (5th ed). So yeah, nerd party!

I used to go to a fair number of gaming cons, but that was my first Gen Con experience. Steve goes every year for professional reasons - he almost always has a booth on artists alley. I'd always wanted to go since seeing the ads in the back of my Dragon mags back in the 80s, so going with Steve, who has the connects to get a hotel room nearby, was a no brainer. Obviously Gen Con is a totally different thing now than it was then. Well, maybe not totally different...

Here's me and Lou Zocchi, the original master of randomization. His booth is probably the single best direct link to the classic spirit of Gen Con. If you go to Gen Con you MUST stop by to see him and buy some dice. Check this insane original Range 1 digital randomizer he had:

Gen Con was especially sweet for me this year because I got to meet up with my niece, Celeste Conowitch, who was there DMing a live Twitch feed for Wizards. Long time readers might remember this old post, from when Celeste was 16 and running an all-girls D&D game. Now she hosts a popular D&D actual play podcast called Venture Maidens, is a frequent guest on many other podcasts, and is publishing 5e material with Onyx Path and Kobold Press. Here's Steve, Celeste, and myself hanging out Steve's booth (Steve did the cover for Celeste's Blood Sea book from Onyx Path):

By the way, I ran into GWAR in the hallway near the Chaosium rooms:

Paizo is a huge thang at Gen Con. I was curious to try out Starfinder, so I played in one of their "adventure path" games, which was ridiculous and pretty much sucked. Not because the system was bad, necessarily, but the tired, unengaged gamemaster was basically reading each step of the adventure off of a laminated card and we just did a scripted series of easy combats and guided dice roll games. Lame. I think a lot of people spend most of their Gen Con time grinding through these "path" games to build up their characters. The size of the Paizo gaming hall is difficult to imagine unless you've been there. It was pretty impressive:

I did play a lot of excellent games, especially hanging around the Chaosium rooms with Matt, including Call of Cthulhu, Runequest, and Pendragon. So maybe I'll talk more about those games later. But probably the best surprise of Gen Con for me was all the artists showing off their work. I spent a long time checking out the work and chstting with artists. I ended up buying a piece from Jon Sideriadis, who ended up winning the Jury Prize for Best Artist. I will definitely write more about Jon's art in a future post.

There ya go... some good memories. I'll be going back in 2020, so we can talk more about that too.

Monday, January 20, 2020

12 Years of Cyclopeatron

I started this blog in 2008. That’s a long time ago. The blog peaked in 2010/2011. Then I had kids, two boys, and had to keep focus on my day job (professor) to get tenure. I ended up getting tenure, and even better, I was recruited to join the faculty at Cornell University. The move to NY shook up my gaming life, and most other aspects of my life, and I had to find a new gaming crew. I also had to raise little kids and run a growing genetics lab. So, yeah, the blog slipped away. That’s why I haven’t posted for 6 years.

I have been gaming though. I gamed with several of local groups. Dungeon World, Castles & Crusades, D&D, Call of Cthulhu, board games, miniature games. There are a ton of cool gamers, artists, and developers around Ithaca, and there's no shortage of opportunities to play. Around 2013 I ran a ~10 session white box campaign in the cloud mines of Catheign which was awesome, but I couldn’t keep it going with adult schedules and family pressures. Some of the players traveled in from pretty far.

Things are very different for me now, though. I have an amazing group of local RPG friends, both my kids are D&D players, I run a weekly D&D game for kids that I have a lot to say about, and I was promoted to Full Professor, so I have a bit less pressure than before. And, importantly, the new edition of D&D arrived over the period of blog dormancy. This new edition is really good, in my opinion. And, more generally, over the last few years it seems like the entire cultural institution of fantasy role playing has changed in North America–not only because of the new D&D, but because of various cultural, technological, and generational forces as well. Twitch, Instagram, Stranger Things, DM's Guild, more and bigger conventions, actual play shows like Critical Role, generational transmission of the game, entertainment industry movers and shakers talking up D&D, etc. It's been fun for me in this world. Gaming, creating, and navigating the expanding landscape. I predict, or at least hope, that we will see interesting things happening within the next few years when this newer generation of players (including returning adult players) burns out on the Forgotten Realms and Ravnica pastiches served up by Wizards, and starts branching out to find their own voices.

And there is amazing new art to look at too.

So maybe we can talk about all this a little bit...

Friday, January 17, 2020

Should I revive this blog?

So, I'm thinking about signing up to run a game at GenCon this year (2020). Probably a 5e overhaul of the CACODAEMON TRANSLUCENT PLANETOID scenario I ran at SoCal Minicon in 2011 (see review of session by Telecanter here). Cosmic horror Spelljammer essentially.

I'd love to talk about this, and other material, some more. Share art. etc.

Also, I'm thinking about starting this blog again after... um... 6 years...?

Is anyone still out there?

Are blogs still even a thing anymore?


Monday, August 11, 2014

Menoth Avatar Conversion with Scourge of Heresy Sword

I've been working on improving the Avatar of Menoth to make it look a little more threatening, as it should. I want to get this thing on the table, though, so I'm trying not to get too bogged down in a major conversion project. Here are my selected efforts:

1. To get the old boy out of squatty potty stance, I sawed off the legs just below the knees, and lengthened and repositioned them with thick pins. After this I sculpted new calves with green stuff and gave everything a good sanding to blend it all together.

2. To give the Avatar a scarier looking sword that's more suggestive of his Reach ability I bought a Scourge of Heresy sword from the PP web site. I snipped the old sword off the hand and replaced it with the new weapon using some green stuff for touch up. Looks good, I think!

Original "butter knife" sword (LEFT) compared to Scourge of Heresy sword (RIGHT)

3. To make the model a bit more animated I clipped the sword arm above the elbow and re-pinned it at a slightly rotated angle. I also angled the sword hand forward a bit.

4. I assembled the model in a running position, with sword held high, and right foot held behind. The whole model is attached to the base by a large pin in the left foot. I hope that's good enough! It seems pretty solid...