Monday, December 4, 2017

To Grow the OSR the Youth are the Key

Just a quick observation.

ENWorld has about 32% of its readership in the 16 to 24 age group.

RPGNet has about 37% of its readership in the 16 to 24 age group.

The Tavern's Facebook Community comes in at 2.4% of its membership in the 16 to 24 age group.

The Swords & Wizardry Facebook Community comes in at 4.9% of its membership in the 16 to 24 age group.

Those younger gamers will be older gamers at some point. Current older gamers will age out and pass on at some point.

Maybe the OSR needs to find a way to tap into the younger player demographic.

(original demographics post with charts is here)


  1. I’ve taught both my daughter (11 and 13) to play DCC. They enjoy it. D11 is going to start running it for her school mates soon. Her school friends originally teased her a bit saying things like “oh that’s a nerd game” but apparently they have all seen Stranger Things and now they’d want to play.

    My bottom line: I learned to play because a friend taught me. Wherever I can I introduce the game to younger players (usually nieces, nephews, and my hockey friend’s kids). It’s not the most scalable model but it’s what I do.

  2. Why would any kids want to play with curmudgeonly old relics? I'm all for introducing youth to the OSR, but quite frankly it's mostly people who despise having children around in the first place. Not exactly a welcoming environment.

    1. Some groups of historical wargamers have this exact problem.

      As a teenager, I'd have hated to join a group that spent half the game complaining about how kids are idiots who are ruining the world.

  3. "...Current older gamers will age out and pass on at some point."

    Thank you very much indeed, Constable, for reminding me of my own mortality on this cold and dreary Monday morning.

    The OSR (as if it is a coherent thing) needs to compete with the enduring popularity of the 5E D&D. Years after its release, and look at the Amazon numbers for the 3 LCBs (Large Core Books). Still enjoying vigorous sales. It, the OSR, cannot compete with this. At best, the OSR can subvert and infiltrate 5E by making all manner of house rules tucked into various adventures and settings that tug the 5E ruleset towards a more OSR-esque mindset. The lack of quality adventures/settings, now therein lies 5E's weakness.

    However, I suspect that the OSR will end up just like model railroading. To everything there is a time for every purpose. The OSR's has almost passed. Or has already done so.

    1. Thing is, model railroading hasn't passed. If the OSR ends up just like model railroading, it'll still be around in 50-100 years. Maybe I'm taking your example too far, but just coming to terms with the fact that we're a smaller market and acting accordingly (giving anyone who expresses and interest the opportunity to play) seems more realistic than trying to take 5e down from the inside.

      Then again, I pledged on the Dungeonesque Indiegogo, and I'm keeping an eye out for Into the Unknown, so . . .

    2. One of the old hands at Rolemaster back in the 80's said "we're not competing against D&D, we're working with them because the people who check out D&D might end up checking out Rolemaster".

      The OSR is the same way.

    3. I remember when I could buy model train stuff in many, many places. Now, good luck. It is such a tiny hobby these days. Niche of a niche. It will fade away almost completely too. There comes a point where a community/population is too small to sustain itself, or increase. Extinction follows.

      The Constable's point -- a rather sharp one too, at least from the perspective of someone past the half-century mark -- about the ever-thinning ranks (but apparently expanding waist-lines: Why are so many Grogs so very fat?) is well aimed. The principles of OSR will not survive if they are not disseminated. They will not be disseminated through all of these retro-clones either. RPGers have demonstrated, with their wallets, that they want D&D 5E. So, that is how to reach them. Show them through well-written adventures and settings, how OSR D&D can be.

      They certainly won't learn from the 'curmudgeonly old relics'. I've seen that scene played out on several occasions. In addition to being fat, and smelly, (In odd ways. Old cheese and cat urine. WTF? I mention this because having physically off-putting members does the OSR no favors.) Grogs are openly hostile to newcomers. (I realize the plural of anedote is not data. But this is what I've seen where RPGs are played publicly. Maybe Grogs elsewhere are more amicable.)

      I started in '78 with Holmes, but I play 5E these days. It works well with OSR ideals. It is through 5E that the OSR ideals will survive. This is how to tap into the younger demographic. The analogy here would be the survival of Neanderthal genes, not through Neanderthals per se, but through Homo Sapiens.

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    5. I use almost exclusively OSR material for my 5e Wilderlands campaign. So newbie players arrive with their 5e PHB and sit down to play Old School, pretty much (ok they do die slightly less often).

  4. We shouldn't be raising kids to be "OSR gamers", we should just raise them to be gamers.

    The ones who are interested will seek out alternatives (and be open to being shown).
    Some will just want to play the game they can actually get books for at Borders.
    Many will just want to play whatever game their friends play or their uncle runs.
    Some will drift off to Warhammer or X-Wing.
    Some will come back and become lifelong die-hards.

    As a teenager, if I felt I was being "recruited" into something, I'd have stomped my feet and done something else on purpose :-)

  5. To put it a different way, what would these younger gamers be surprised to learn about OSR games?

    1. OSR games are simple. You can create a character in 5 minutes.
    2. Since OSR games have so few rules, there are less restrictions on what you can do.
    3. There is tons of OSR material to use, much of it free.

    What else?

    1. OSR games are superior because of their underlying philosophy. Old School!!!

  6. If playing OSR with kids is fun, do it. If not, don't. It's not a religion... I plan to play with my daughter, when she's older, but we'll play story games too.

  7. I think getting a solid yearly adventure path in some OSR format, similar to what WOTC has achieved in the D&D Adventurer's League would be a terrific start.

    It's a sustainable business model (something with which RPGs need vitally and always struggle) that builds upon its success each year and creates a community around the year's story and excitement for the next one to come.

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  9. If we want to capture youth interest, we need to use youth-based tools. Internet? Check. PDFs? Check. Showing games "televised" (video demonstrations and ongoing campaigns)? We desperately need that. Podcasts might be in the same realm, but just aren't enough.

    I'm not that tech savvy, but will look into it. If anyone wants to join me, send an email or something!

  10. It almost seems like reverse marketing could work - introduce younger gamers to one of the recent 'rule for everything' systems. Wait. Watch as they tire of minutiae and proceed to beat down your door for a refreshing dose of OSR!

  11. Now is the right cultural moment. Target just started selling ringer tees in the Junior womens' department emblazoned with the classic D&D logo from the mid-80s.

  12. I can see the concern for the future of the OSR community in terms of an ageing demographic. Similar realities are facing many communities outside of our hobby. I have harped/preached about one of then great hurdles of our age being too many options and too poor of discernment. There is so much competition out there for our time and such little will to pursue things that are sustained and demanding.
    I have found the best way to "evangelize" about games is get the young people and their friends playing and make it as much fun as possible so that there is a desire to play again soon. I know that is obvious. I have had about 5 or 6 different student groups over the years. Only one person in all those groups ever had a desire to run a game. I have tried to encourage many even to the point of purchasing materials and supplies. While I have a fondness for the OSR community, I think the bigger issue is RPGs and table top gaming as a whole. There are a good batch of players to be had, but not as many "sustainers" out there to run the games.
    The highest percentage up there is 37% of the under 25 crowd. I suspect after 25 life has other task that often shelf gaming for even the most interested of players. It certainly happened in my life. My hope is to awaken in younger players a sense of joy and fellowship at the gaming table that they will seek the hobby out later in life when other life issues become more stable. My fondness memories are with my friends gaming all through high school and into my college and graduate years. And I am thankful for the new players I have met along the way. I can only hope that some of that appreciation and gratitude for a hobby that so enriched my life might do the same for them if they give it their time and imagination. Enough preach'n. Thanks for priming the pump.

  13. A couple of months ago, eight kids from a St. Louis area home-schooling cooperative signed up for an "Introduction to Role-Playing" class that I offered for ages 10-16. Few had any experience with tabletop RPGs before. We played Metamorphosis Alpha (1e). Not *exactly* OSR D&D, but darn close.

    The response was overwhelmingly positive, garnering glowing reviews from the kids, who've demanded for another such "class" ASAP and spread the word among their peers. There's now a wait list for the next class, and several of those that attended are now meeting at a local gaming store to play a game of their own.

    My take on things is this: tabletop RPGs offer an experience you can't find anywhere else, and if sufficient numbers of kids continue to be introduced to them, this hobby will thrive. Of those that become gamers, as long as some are exposed to OSR/DIY D&D, this scene isn't going anywhere either.

    OSR/DIY D&D not only offers a play experience that has strong appeal, but it serves as a particularly fertile ground for creativity (which explains why the OSR punches above its weight in award-winning content).

    While my weekly gaming group hasn't had someone in it who couldn't legally drink in a *long* time, I found playing with adolescents to be great fun and hugely rewarding. I was a bit nervous about offering the class beforehand, but now I couldn't recommend such a venture enough.

    1. Show them and they will play! They also like the fact that you gave a crap about them. Well done sir!

  14. I will die, and with me shall go my legacy.
    I have brought the many treasures of the OSR to my players and yet they too will pass.
    While I live my support will be greater than an army of children.
    When the worms inevitably consume me what will I care?

  15. No doubt DCC's success with a potentially wider crowd is the amazing app and website by Purple Sorcerer Games; this is one way into that age range.

    I think the other route is to actually update layout and how information in OSR games -- and especially adventures -- are presented. In 30 years of RPGs, it's a rare beast that actually tries to innovate on that side. (I think Stonehell was one, and the work of Sigil Stone Publishing provides a useful way to handle chapter summaries.)

  16. IME younger players are very happy to play OSR. My son (10) loves Mentzer Classic D&D more than 5e or 4e. It's only people who've been playing 3e/PF for years who aren't into it. BUT they don't go on fora.

  17. For many in the OSR, 5E seems to be the compromise for younger/more players and playing the old and familiar.

    But whether we like it or not, in a generation, "old school" games will have totally faded into history.

    1. Like Monopoly and Checkers?

      (I know, I'm being snarky! Meant in good humor!)


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