There was a comment made in The Tavern's Facebook Community yesterday that got me thinking about gatekeeping in the OSR. It essentially called the OSR clones "PDF edits of the originals with minor house rules thrown in" and proceeded to talk about the virtue of learning the original D&D White Box in middle school. Essentially, the clones have no value.
edit - For clarity, the original quotes:
"we might actually have had to play with our original D&D books instead of derivative pdf files of minor edits to the original game. The horror!"
"hard for new players? Most of us learned to play it in middle school!Further edit: those that don't have access to the original books at an affordable price or would prefer to read a more modern presentation - in print or PDF - are effectively dismissed. That is my interpretation. YMMV,
A month or so ago, in another Facebook Gaming Community, a different poster went on a rant about Swords & Wizardry Light, where he wrote (not quoting exactly) he didn't understand why Frog God Games was putting so much time, money and effort into SWL, "the dumbing down of an already dumbed down game."
Gatekeeping is alive and well in the OSR, or at least the mindset is.
If it isn't the original rules, it has no value.
If it's easy to learn its been dumbed down.
Which are fine attitudes to have at your own table but not the ones needed to grow the Old School Gaming Community or even keep it viable, Those of us that started with "the originals", be it OD&D, BX, BECMI, 1e, 2e and the like - we are getting older. If we want to bring others into our love of Old School Gaming, we need to be welcoming, not excluding.
When my niece, who was 5 years old at the time, saw that I had written a 4-page Swords & Wizardry Light ruleset she exclaimed: "Uncle, you wrote a 4-page Dungeons & Dragons? You can teach me to read 4-pages. You wrote this for me!" I guess I did.
When +Bill Webb decided to publish Swords & Wizardry Light (and +Matt Finch gave me his blessings), when Frog God Games decided to print thousands of copies to give away for free at conventions and via mail, its because they understood the value of making the entry bar to the OSR and gaming in general easier for potential players to cross, not harder.
The clones don't have the same nostalgia value for me that my original 1e books have - my entry to the hobby, but when I ran a 1e game a few years back I ran it using OSRIC - the organization was better, the writing was clearer and it was all in one book. Old school gaming meets modern day presentation.
I want the OSR to not just survive, I want it to thrive. I think many 5e players will find Old School Gaming an alternative (not a substitute) for the latest release of the D&D rules for the times they want a looser playing ruleset, but that's only going to happen if we welcome them, not exclude them.