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Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Frank Mentzer Was Hanging Around With the Wrong OSR

So, famous old-school D&D creator Frank Mentzer has apparently been banned from the Dragonfoot forums.  I don't bother hanging around there, so I can't speak to the particulars of what happened.  How did a situation get so fucked up that one of the remaining living legends of D&D ended up being thrown out of a forum exclusively dedicated to old-school D&D play?  I could take a few guesses, but that's not what this short blog entry is about.

If you want more information about what happened, you can check out Tenkar's Tavern where he's been writing about this.

What I want to talk about is a quote from Mentzer, originally on the Tavern, that I was initially surprised and later less-surprised to read.

How could we get to a situation where Frank Mentzer believes that the OSR is "irrelevant to the current market" because they buy "the fewest new products"?!

The OSR is a huge section of the modern RPG hobby. Obviously not the biggest part, that would be D&D 5e, but the OSR has formed so much of a vanguard in the hobby and is so utterly relevant to the current market that more than one OSR personality (myself being one of them) was paid stupid amounts of money by Wizards of the Coast to make their latest edition of D&D successful by making it more like the OSR.

And the old-school crowd on theRPGsite, which is one of the biggest membership-groups in the forum, are big-time purchasers of RPG products (and not just OSR stuff, for that matter).

But the reality of what might have caused Mr. Mentzer to think this way is pretty basic, really: he's been hanging around with the Wrong OSR.  While not the worst of the worst, the df forums are still one of the areas where the old "OSR Taliban" had serious prevalence. I'm sure even there, a lot of the members purchase RPG books, and not just old ones. But the overall attitude of those forums is still one of "newer stuff is crap compared to the older stuff".

That's very, very different from the attitude of the OSR at theRPGsite (and other places, like the G+ OSR communities).  Of course they love old-school material, but they don't obsess over old-school purity at all. They recognize that the time we live in today is the best of times: all the old-stuff has become accessible again thanks to the wonders of the interwebs, and at the same time there's AMAZING new material being created for old-school gaming through the OSR.  There's more genius and more creativity in old-school gaming today than there ever was before.

These are the Big Picture OSR people. They want to see what the limits are of what you can create within the landmarks of the Old-School rules, and those limits are constantly being pushed in fascinating and weird and marvelous directions.
And when great new material for old-school rules, settings, supplements and adventures come up, they buy them. They buy them in droves. As one RPG-designer to another, Mr.Mentzer, I can assure you of this, and the huge success I've had with Dark Albion is my proof.

So, Mr.Mentzer, I'm sorry for whatever has brought about this perspective for you. My advice to you is this: come check out theRPGsite! Besides our main forum, we have news & advertising forums where you can promote your stuff, and we even have a design and development forum where if you like you can go into detail about what you're working on and get advice or playtesting from fans and future customers.

Don't count the OSR out because you've had bad experiences with the Old-School Absolutists out there.


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Canadian + Image Latakia


  1. This fits my view.
    Re Dragonsfoot, I run a 5e D&D online campaign there with the explicit permission of the site owner - but he did warn me a few of those Taleban might object. I think the problem is with a minority of aggressive posters there. As you say, these are not people with any interest in innovation, and they are not part of what I would call the OSR, indeed they frequently denigrate the OSR.

  2. Man, the identity politics is _thick_ in here.

  3. I've dabbled in the OSR freebies, and there is a lot of extremely creative material and excellent writing. I can't think which book, but when I read it, I found descriptions of creatures and magic items to be short, yet instantly evocative off the many many fantasy novels and comics I've read over the years. Not sure how they pulled that off, but OSR is worth looking at for the brains it attracts.

  4. the OSR is mostly diy, hackable, short and encourages people to finish some parts themselves. As awesome as it is, its true that those are not very fitting things in a commercial publisher's view; who needs to be the one and only who is entitled to give you gameparts; usually adding 90% of useless text in order to make books look worthwile, etc. Capitalism shows its shape in everything that is made to be sold or bought

  5. Many old school absolutists despise the OSR because innovation goes against their gaming values. I, too, encourage Frank Mentzer to seek out the many varieties of OSR awesomeness!

  6. I've got a different perspective on the issue: What if Frank raised this whole drama to gain spotlight on his Kickstarter? Dragonsfoot is an easy target.

    1. Why are they an easy target?

    2. From my experience they will bite on the Frank's remarks and drama ensues. Purely my opinion.

  7. Agreed. There are two different communities that get lumped together.

    Some people are only interested in TSR stuff and playing the same game they've played for years. They may be open to new adventures that are OD&D, B/X, or AD&D compatible, but those often should also conform in style to TSR-published material.

    Then there's the DIY community, who are often interested in weird fantasy, horror, and swords & sorcery. They're open to new rules systems that support a play-style somewhat compatible or similar in spirit to OD&D, B/X, or AD&D. But they're also happy to throw in completely new rules, different genres, unique bestiaries, etc.

    The confusion comes from all the stuff that overlaps. Some OSR stuff is palatable to both groups, but some definitely isn't. From the outside, they all look like the same religion, but some are willing to crusade over minor disagreements in dogma (does the spirit of the OSR come from the Father and the Sun, or from the Father through the Sun—let's go to war to decide).

    1. The Father is Gary Gygax I suppose. But what's the Sun? Do you mean the Unconquered Sun from Dark Albion?

    2. Father & Son I'm guessing - Jesus & Jehovah.