Wednesday 3 March 2010

We could do that...

I saw this poster a while back, and thought "It'd be great if the OSR could do one just like it" (of course without the logo that might upset m'learned friends). The problem is of course that the OSR currently has what might be termed brand multiplicity. We're all annoyed (well, I am) that WotC is stopping us calling a spade a spade and now we have to proceed by allusion rather than directness.

The poster is WotC's attempt to woo the MMORPG constituency and very effective it is too. What can we do that is as direct and effective at getting more newcomers to the Old School side of the hobby?


  1. Focus on the pros of OSR: less time rolling more time playing, easy chargen, limited only by you imagination. If brand is an issue, what about grating OSR games as a family of games to choose from, pick your favorite flavor. And best of all, most have a free version.

  2. Those sound like great suggestions, CM. I know that WotC have colossal leverage when it comes to getting their brand into games stores, and we don't even have access to the one name that most people think of when you mention RPGs. If somehow, the publishers of the various retro-clones could get together and get something going that reaches out to those not currently involved in gaming...

  3. Yeah, that is a pretty effective ad. Whatever route the OSR takes with advertising, I think it's important to debunk the idea that the game has improved from edition to edition. That little idea is quite troublesome.

  4. We're all annoyed (well, I am) that WotC is stopping us calling a spade a spade and now we have to proceed by allusion rather than directness.

    I'm afraid you lost me completely here. What is WotC stopping us from doing, exactly?

  5. @Joseph - what I'm referring to is the OSR's inability, due to legal issues, with using the words Dungeons and Dragons in any attempt to market itself. As I mentioned in my reply to Cinderella Man, the game that most (non-gamer) people still think of when you mention Fantasy Role Playing is D&D and if we can't use that to our advantage, we're left with the retro-clones which, despite the mountains of good work that has gone into their creation (and which I totally acknowledge and salute) just haven't got public recognition in the same way as D&D has.

  6. Actually, I think that if you said "Fantasy Role Playing" to most non-gamer people, they'd look at you like you were speaking nonsense. Then you'd say "like Dungeons and Dragons", and they'd say "Oooh." :)

    You're right, though, that having that phrase locked in gives WotC a massive advantage. "Normal" people don't associate as much of a stigma with D&D - and only D&D specifically - as the whole hobby once did. Probably because of famous people who now admit to having played it in their youth. Unfortunately, pretty much any other RPG is going to carry most of the stigma it always has, socially.

    For example: My upcoming groups consists of two veteran gamers - both male, and three total novices - all female. If I had invited those girls to play GURPS, or Deadlands, or Call of Chthulhu, they probably wouldn't have. But I invited them to play D&D and they all got very excited, like they'd been invited to a club they never thought they'd get into.

    The name is very powerful.

  7. Actually, if you don't use the OGL, you're free to use the term "Dungeons and Dragons", as long as you're within the scope of Fair Use. That includes both compatibility and comparison. So, OSRIC (which doesn't use the OGL) could certainly do so, as could TARGA (which doesn't actually publish any products on its own).

    So, while the publishers of, say, LL or S&W couldn't say "Our game is better than 4E D&D and here's why...", TARGA certainly could on their behalf, perhaps as part of some broader OSR visibility campaign.

  8. I wouldn't want anyone to start bandying round phrases like "better than 4e"; that starts us on a road that I don't particularly want to take, and I don't think that anyone else does. Look at the length of the threads on Grognardia whenever Jamie Mal speaks his mind on editions and their relative merits. Most of it is "you're worse" "No, you are" "No, you are" and that gets us nowhere.

    I'll admit that I was unaware of the OGL status of OSRIC, but TARGA, perhaps in collaboration with the publishers of the various retroclones could certainly get something together that broadens OSR visibility in the same way that WotC has done for their iteration of the brand.

    I think that whilst the legal technicalities of what Joseph says are true, many people might think that they cannot use the term D&D in any shape or form.

    eabod talks a lot of sense about the power of D&D as a brand, and as a shorthand to 'getting' the whole idea of FRPG in general, and his use of personal experience is telling. If we can use D&D to get across to non-gamers what we are about, without crossing any legal line, then we should go for it.