For a couple weeks, I'm going to be posting interviews with members of the OSR community - first is Erika, of Ice Queen's Throne. This is my first time interviewing anyone, so it has some issues; the next ones should be better. If you want to get on the list, I have contact information on my blog's sidebar.
Archon: First, let's talk about something light - have you been able to play anything recently?
Erika: The last game I ran was the final session of my Old School Essentials game set in the Forgotten Realms; we kind of got collectively frustrated at the poor design of the module and cancelled it, so not the most fun session, but onwards and upwards!
A: Ah, I'm sorry about that. I haven't played OSE - what do you think of it?
E: I like it a lot, honestly - I'm about to back the kickstarter for new rules taken from AD&D. The toolbox purity of making sure it's compatible with original B/X stuff is really appealing, as I often want to revive some older module/setting/style of play that I'm curious about. The rules are well presented and easy to run, which is really nice.
A: So, do you think you'll keep running OSE in your next campaign, or is there another system you'd like to try?
E: Honestly, I have so many games I want to try it's hard to tell! I'm running Pathfinder 2e for my other group right now and that's a blast; I'm looking at setting up some one-shots to clean out stuff that's been on my shelf for years and never been played, and I kind of want to run a new World of Darkness/Chronicles of Darkness game next. For old-school stuff, if I want to do something strictly revivalist, OSE is a good bet; for something more revolutionary I should really try the GLOG and Esoteric Enterprises and Knave and [goes on forever here].
A: There's always a lot to try, isn't there. I'd recommend the GLOG (because of course I would).
E: Why would you recommend the GLOG? What does the GLOG do well for you?
A: I think it does a lot of things quite well - for one thing, it's incredibly simple - one of my unreleased hacks fits all its rules onto a single page. It's also very modular; I've seen lots of different combat systems, stat systems, and settings, because of how easy it is to change the few rules it has. Most importantly to me, it's excellent at containing setting - through your class choices, you can show almost any genre through the GLOG. For example, there's a couple cyberpunk versions, and I'm currently working on an EE-like urban fantasy hack.
And, I know this is a peripheral thing, but the culture around the game is excellent - they just keep making things, constantly, and its always something strange.
I know you have your blog, but is there anywhere else you release OSR content? A book or a zine you've written, anything like that.
E: Nothing yet really, most of what I do is specifically for the games I'm running, so I haven't had a lot to show otherwise. I was thinking about doing a hack of OSE and 2e AD&D, but put that aside with the game ending.
A: That's a shame. You were one of the originators of the PLOG movement - do you think that's had an effect on the OSR as a whole?
E: Not a lot? It was more of a personal calling card for myself and Zach
about how we wanted to approach our own way of interpreting the OSR, and if it didn't go a whole bunch of anywhere, that's okay.
Part of the idea of it being about loving your own trash was that it didn't have to be the same as everyone else's trash, and if other people didn't see the value in it, that's alright! Stuff like the GLOG is way beyond the realm of the PLOG, and if that's where people are having fun/being happy, that's what really matters. I appreciate having an idea and a mission statement for how to approach the revivalist stuff I like doing with OSE and other older D&D books.
A: It's a good guiding concept for OSR revivalists, in my opinion. The idea of tearing apart official products to scavenge good bits of them was what drew me to the community in the first place.
Speaking of that, how did you get into the OSR?
E: So for me, I straddle the line between old-school and modern D&D. I picked up D&D when I was like 9, at the very tail end of 2e, and didn't really get to play until I had the 3e starter box set a few years later. But my grandfather picked me up a used copy of the 1e DMG, and I was blown away by how incredibly lush and dense and inspiring it was. I could see that the rules were generally better in my 3.0 books, but the STORY and especially the world was so much better in that old DMG.
A: I've heard a lot of good things about the 1e DMG.
E: Right! there's tons of good stuff in it, so I'm always kind of balancing, the smoother rules and careful balancing and all the little content gimmicks of 3e/4e/Pathfinder with the sheer captivating power of the old-school stuff. and I want to find a way to kind of reconcile those, in my head?
Have good flexible rules that can do a lot for character creation but also have a lot of room for worldbuilding and sandbox play like the old-school games did. I can never quite settle on one or the other.
And I remember back in the 3.5 days the older stuff was kind of discarded, frequently given away for free by WotC; it wasn't until OSRIC came out that there was really something THERE to grab on to. The most influential OSR blog to me personally was likely Grognardia, because James Maliszewski's readings of older products really illustrated what they did well and what was worth celebrating about them that my newer stuff didn't have, and that was a convincing argument for trying old-school games off and on over the years. Haven't really quite had it stick yet, but I've learned a lot!
A: Grognardia recently returned to blogging - how do you feel about that?
E: I'm very excited by it! And he picked a hell of a product to come back with in Mork Borg, which is great. James admits he doesn't quite get "it" but he also doesn't have to, he can recognize that it's cool and good without being his cup of tea.
A: Have you taken a look at Mork Borg?
E: I haven't, but I'd really like to, it looks like a lot of fun, both stylistically and gameplay wise. As someone who GMs a lot by choice, Mork Borg is right up my alley, if I can pull myself away from big juggernaut projects to give it a go.
A: I hope you can find time to read it soon. Earlier, you also mentioned an interest in WoD/CoD - do you think there's anything the OSR can take from White Wolf's games?
E: I don't think there's a lot, because a lot of what those games do is very much what the OSR specifically doesn't do or does already do. CoD stories are often very tightly plotted, not a railroad but definitely involving quantum ogres and the like; at the most they're in sandboxes but they're very frustrating grindy ones for the players.
The OSR definitely doesn't want metaplot, and it has its own toolkits already, so they're not very much alike. Emmy Allen's Esoteric Enterprises
is a good example of putting the two together, but it does so by taking some of the narrative ideas in CoD stuff and putting it in the rules, style, and game framework of an OSR game, instead of mixing the two completely.
A: It's been about an hour: do you have any final statements before we finish up?
E: I don't blog a lot but when I do it's usually been about the Forgotten Realms not sucking pre-5e, so you should check out my blog for stuff on that.
A: Sounds great. Thanks for coming!