It’s been a strange year, but stuff gets done when you can’t leave the house.
The PDF of Palace will likely go out to backers on January 1st. I endeavor to impress, to delight and to astound. The POD versions will take considerably longer because of the delay in shipping. The proofs are underway.
Second, I was pleasantly surprised to have been selected for noisms Best Blog of 2020 Award. Noisims, of Yoon-Soon fame, is a long-time OSRite and thus his regard comes with a certain weight. I can recommend his blog as a place or game-related discussion and ideas.
2020 was yet another year when the Death of the OSR (gasp) was announced, typically by people that are not in it, and as usual this is mere wishful thinking. The death of G+ and the accompanying exodus surely left us smaller then we were before, but the survivors are enthusiastic, and new creators are gradually drifting over from 5e, looking to see what all the fuss is about.
If anything 2020 bore witness to the changing of the guard. King James, long a mighty power in OSR Land, and with many followers still, was reduced to the edge of bankruptcy which he managed, through practices derived from 80s winter sports movies, to avert as all the OSR rallied to his cause and dug in enthusiastically. Though he lives, I think it is safe to say that the touring days are over and the all star team has gone on to greener pastures. Stuart is doing his own thing. Rients is basically out. Zak has been unpersoned. And there are few to fill their shoes. Will Kowolski, the golden boy, rise to the occasion, and restore some dignity to the fading brand?
Who will be king? The battle is still ongoing. From out of nowhere, silently, came OSE and swept away all before it with 100k kickstarters. They seem numerous and powerful, and many are the products that bear their mark, these Necrotic Gnomes, but there is ground to be won by those who are merciless and mercantile.
My reviewing skills continue to deepen as my understanding of D&D and its rich catalogue of supplements grows. I feel an extended dive into particular material yields greater results then the somewhat haphazard discovery process of the earlier years. I will continue to tackle BECMI as its ample wellspring is nowhere near exhausted, but expect reviews looking into the works of the Great Old Ones like Gygax, Jaquays, Moldvay and maybe even Kuntz.
I will continue to take submissions as many of them have been very interesting, though I might consider putting up some sort of rule against homebrew core rules since they take up a lot of time and, unless already established, are unlikely to see much use.
I was able to get an almost weekly Basic D&D game going with some colleagues on a Sunday, which helped a lot during the lockdown. It is important that one’s standards are always connected to the physical act of play, lest we turn into navel-gazers, collectors, ivory-tower scholars. I continue to play ACKS as a player so my instincts on what makes a good adventure do not dull.
My favorite discovery this year was Role Aids’s Swordthrust; a mind-boggeling journey into a dungeon in the brain of an elder titan, where dreams and metaphysical concepts come to life. It manages to tackle almost Stuardian subject matter with the care and precision of older modules.
I took more submissions this year than any previous year, with many of them of superior quality. Modules like Black Blade of the Demon King, The High Moors, Cha’alt and the Obsidean Citadel show that there is long term potential in the OSR that will survive even the tumultuous year. My favorite entry, by a hairsbreadth, was The Lost Treasure of Atlantis by Chainsaw. Despite its flaws, it is a rare delight to receive a submission of such obvious passion and ambition and to have to take it behind the back of the barn and shoot it.
By far the most challenging submission was Mists of Akuma by Mike Tyler, an almost indigestible chunk of a campaign setting that damn near wrecked my kidneys. If someone could spare the processing power to untangle its chimerical strands one could conceivably run something on the far side of awesome but there is something about lore heavy kitchen-sink fantasy settings that give me heartburn. I will, however, be taking on his challenge for 2021 and tackle the Veranthea Codex to prove my manhood is as vibrant as it was this year.
For the coming year, I expect play reports to continue as my Basic D&D game continues unabated. Since I will soon be in need of Expert level modules for it, these will likely be tackled in the coming year also. OSR luminaries that are particularly noteworthy are almost too many to count, but the likes of Gabor Lux, Anthony Huso, Patrick Stuart and that Noisms fellow should provide sufficient fodder. Also I still have a Kowolsky omnibus I haven’t touched. Fuck. The topic of Megadungeons is of immense interest but I am unsure of an initial entrypoint to form a frame of reference.
Regardless, what a stunning, complex, surreal year it was. I wish all my readers a fortuitous 2021, good health, a fertile partner, the destruction of our enemies and a bountiful sorghum harvest.
Postscriptum; I’ve been accosted by one of Frank Mentzer’s many simulacrums with allegations that my blog is hard to read and I should up the contrast. What do you all think? Do we give the elderly a break, or is AoD 20/20 boys only?
Postpostscriptum: New contrast added. Let me know if it works out.