Gamehole 2021 Diary: Arrival

1. I arrive in Madison, Wisconsin, and check-in for Gamehole.
2. I ponder what I might buy in the Dealer Hall in the coming days.
3. I reflect on a growing dissatisfaction I am having with a segment of the OSR.

I enjoyed a most relaxing 5 hour drive to Madison, Wisconsin from Minnesota. The weather was cool with a brief encounter with rain, and the leaves were an array of yellows, oranges, and red. After checking in at my hotel I headed over to the Alliant Energy Center to check in. Checking in was quick and easy and I enjoyed a wee wander about to refamiliarize myself with where things will be over the next four days.

One thing that did catch my eye was the massive beholder in the Dealer Hall! Luckily, I survived the encounter and will be returning tomorrow to provided merchants with my hard earned coin in exchange for their finely crafted products!

What do I plan to buy at Gamehole this year? Well, Troll Lord Games (TLG), Frog God Games (FGG), Goodman Games, and Nord Games are companies where I previously purchased the most merchandise and I now, frankly, have most of what they offer. However, TLG, Goodman, and Nord are not here this year, so I couldn’t buy anything from them even if I wanted.

Since I will be unable to chat with most of the folks from these companies, I am going to take advantage of their absence to meet other vendors and perhaps forge new relationships that can take me in new directions. Along with the companies I mentioned above, I quite enjoy the creative output of Kobold Press. They, like Nord games, make 5E material, but I like the twist they give things.

I am also beginning to feel a distance growing between myself and the OSR.

Let me explain. There are at least two types of OSR folk I encounter:

i. Those gamers that never stopped playing their favorite old school game (e.g. AD&D 1E, B/X, OD&D, etc.).

ii. Those that continued gaming through most editions, then left the hobby for a while, and then returned later.

All the people I gamed with in the 80s, 90s, and early 00s are in category (ii). We played BECMI, AD&D 1E, 2E, and moved to D&D 3E. It was in 3E, however, where we grew disillusioned and all left RPG gaming at roughly the same time (c.2007). 4E held no interest for us when it appeared, and Pathfinder was just more 3E.

What brought us back to tabletop RPG gaming?

D&D 5E.

Compared to 3E/4E/Pathfinder, 5E was a throwback to old school (something that was talked about a lot in 2014-2015 but is now strangely forgotten by many). I ran and played 5E pretty heavily until 2018, when I then grew disillusioned with it and made the shift to the OSR. It should be noted, though, that all my 80s, 90s, and early 00s friends continue to play – and love – 5E and have no interest in going back to the games of their youth. When I made the shift to the OSR I had to find completely new players for my games. Funny enough, the most energetic players I have in my Castles & Crusades games are players in their teens and 20s! So on a weekly basis I am surrounded by the youthful excitement of the 5E/Pathfinder generation.

This obviously has effected my view of gaming. For example, I haven’t met a single 5E/Pathfinder player that has anything bad to say about old school gaming or gamers, I have, however, heard substantial amounts of moaning from some old school gamers about the 5E generation of players, WotC, etc. And since I do know 5E somewhat well from the half decade I ran and played it, those that complain the most about 5E are usually the most uninformed about what they talk about. These OSR folk may be a minority, but I think they are a growing voice in the OSR community. Some seem to get enjoyment out of denigrating the new RPG players out there and I am just getting weary of it all (and you don’t have to bring up the whole “cancel culture” response, I have heard all of that before).

I still love old school game play. I own enough material just from TLG and FGG to run weekly games for the next one to two decades! But I am now broadening my perspective on what gaming material I will be drawing upon.

WotC is, for the most part, not producing products that interest me, but third-party 5E publishers are coming up with some exciting material I can use. When I wandered past the Kobold Press booth this afternoon as they were setting up, I realized that I will be giving them several visits over the next few days and may be further building up my library of Kobold Press goodies.

Also, with a substantial academic background in various areas of philosophy and history, I am now mostly doing my own research and game creation, so that is making it easier for me to do my own thing and distance myself from the community with which I feel I am losing a connection.

I seem to find myself in a strange place. I don’t want to go back to 5E. I have no interest in Pathfinder. And the OSR is becoming alienating. Is there a mid-point between 5E and the OSR? I get the feeling that if there is I am now moving onto that path, I just don’t know where it will take me.

With that being said, I am playing a half-dozen old school Swords & Wizardry and Old School Essentials games this week, so maybe I will encounter good OSR folk that will rebuild my faith in the OSR community of GMs and players.

6 thoughts on “Gamehole 2021 Diary: Arrival

  1. Good points on the “grognard badge” some players feel proud to wear. I’m slowing down my OSR presence and games and moving towards Vampire 5th ed. due to these reasons. Also, the political bickering in the OSR is getting old

    Liked by 1 person

    • The “political bickering” did not start in the OSR. It is now reflcted by the OSR as the cancel culture in some(!) 5e Discord channels and online forums. And yeah – this whole canceling and getting angry about it sucks. But let’s be honest: the beginning of this mess does not lie in “the” OSR (which by the way is at least as diverse as the 5e community).


  2. Excuse the missing words and half sentences above. The correctd version:

    The “political bickering” did not start in the OSR. It is now reflected by the OSR as the cancel culture in some(!) 5e Discord channels and online forums is growing like cancer.
    And yeah – this whole canceling and getting angry about it sucks. But let’s be honest: the beginning of this mess does not have it’s roots in “the” OSR (which by the way is at least as diverse as the 5e community).


    • I have mixed thoughts regarding the origins of the “political bickering.” There seems to be a view with some old school folks that if a newer gamer brings up race or sexism, then it is them “playing politics” and that somehow the default and “a-political” position is what existed in the 70s or 80s. Yet, they are ignoring the simple fact that their position is also clearly political. Their position is simply a political and cultural viewpoint of that existed in that earlier era.

      There have been clear over reactions by those on the left in regards to things some OSR personalities have said and done, and yet in all the cases that I can recall, there were genuine reasons to be at least annoyed or even upset with them and to call them out on it. The problems with the statements and behavior of some OSR personalities that people object to is largely – But Not Entirely – self-inflicted.

      My grandfather was a WWII veteran. He did not consider himself racist and didn’t want to be a racist, but he used to refer to black people as “colored people.” Growing up in the 80s I had to tell him that we don’t live in the 1940s or 50s anymore and that this phrase was now considered inappropriate. He acknowledge that and changed. Society evolves (or at least it should evolve). Something that was considered by some as “okay” nearly 3-5 decades ago may not be appropriate now as we have learned more about society and different societal groups.


      • There is difference between not using the word race anymore (which can be discussed, as we are talking about acual non human beings and NOT human branches) and not using alignements for monster groups anymore because… sorry, I won’t repeat the nonsense written by WotC in this fine blog.

        Sure, the world spins on an on and time (and social contracts) change. And that’s good. But with change many stupid and even dangerous things come along, not just the good ones. Bolschewism, facism, socialism were change, too.

        I am part of the 5e community from day one. My group acutally tested the new rules for WotC, one of only a hand full in germany. And the first two years after publishing the people and the system were a blast.
        I am part of the OSR community from day one, too. Because C&C is my favorite system and I still have and read round about 2/3 of the books and boxes printed for AD&D 1st and 2nd edition.
        What I noticed (and sure, this is only an opinion, just like yours) that some of the OSR saw 5e as a lesser system. But much less than with 3e or 4e, btw. Instead many agreed that advantage/diadvantage was something to use in an OSR setting, too. So well done Wizards. But the mood changed when D&D went viral on youtube and different folks joined the hobby. And blue haired or pink clothed influencers started to dominate D&D channels. And told the OSR community and other older or longer running players that they were non inclusive, racist even and never understood what about. Some more clear than others, some with more sarcasm, some with actual hate.
        And yeah, when WotC decided to side with the influencers they put another (and a lage one indeed) nail into the coffin of the relationship of the 5e and the OSR community. But please do consider, that what Twitter and Facebook and Youtube tells us the D&D community is, is only a facette of it. 50% or more never even heard of OSR. And 95% or more had never any problem wirh orcs beeing evil.
        And as I posted before: the OSR community is very diverse, indeed. In my opinion much more than the 5e community ever was or will be.


  3. Pingback: Gamehole 2021 Diary, Day 1 | The World of PhilosopherZeus

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