Monday, 21 March 2011

The future of OSR blogging...

This is a very unusual post from me. I am a content blogger not a concept blogger and certainly not a navel gazing blogger, until this post that is.

Additionally as a disclaimer, I am hardly qualified to say anything about this topic. I am an OSR minnow. Blogging since October 2010 and 28 followers only (thank you each and everyone of you). 

But I want to share two frustrations I have as a blogging follower or reader, not as a writer.  I think it has implications for the OSR blogging momentum. Indeed my frustrations could equally apply to the whole blogging movement, not just OSR blogs.

Don't expect answers, I have none. Don't expect anything original either, others have muttered the same I am sure. In fact I know they have, I just can't find their posts (see Frustration 2). And oh, I am of the opinion that life is good for the OSR at the moment. What is the OSR? OSR for me is old TSR and its clones. I also like blogs. I remain attracted to the quality of the writing (this post excepted) and the positive atmosphere which, by and large, lives within the OSR blogging community 

Frustration 1: No Following
Sure you can sign up as a follower but when I make a comment in someone's blog I want an easy way of following the other comments if I wish, or not as the case may be. I don't want to have to remember where I made the comment and most importantly, when. Ideally I want a single click in my dashboard or since I have a blog, as a feed into my blog, where I can follow comments to a blog posting that I have commented on. It's to give us blog followers some of the advantages of forum, without the atmosphere of forum. Is there a cookie or RSS feed that could be linked into your blog or dahboard? Come on Google, you are needed here.

Frustration 2: No memory
Everything feels so instantaneous but so transient. Blogs exist for the moment. This has three implications. Firstly when a blog dies, everything can be lost. The good and the bad. Secondly, there is gold buried in each and every blog: thoughts, inspirations, pictures, house rules - but it is nearly impossible to access them. Often I don't even know what I have written a few months back, what house rule I ruled. Have you read back into Grogardia - there is a wealth of amazing posts. Have you delved back into B/X Blackrazor, A Paladin in Citadel, Gothridge Manor, Lands of Ara, to name just a few others I follow. Tags and search terms barely suffice even for me to access my own blog. Thirdly, with blogging so transient, old ideas are rehashed as if they are new, and no one can tell. The implication being, that we can't build on what has been created before, instead we merely recreate the same wheel. I admire what Alexis is doing with his Wiki The Same Universe. A shared wiki may answer this frustration but the devil is in the details: who runs it, who organises it, who decides what is allowed in. But I love content and house rules - think for a moment - a house rule wiki that follows the contents of Holmes or Moldvay. Sections entitled Player Character Information; Spells; The Adventure; The Encounter; Monsters; Treasure; Dungeon Master Information and Inspirational Source Material. Filled with twenty versions and more of dual weapon fighting and monster articles like that from Daddy Grognards An Adventure for Every Monster. A place where memory lives.

Do you have similar frustrations? Do you have answers? Do you have the leadership to do something about it? 
Son , I am the Jovial Priest my role is to show you the errors of your way and direct you on, your role is to walk it.  

Image purchased from istockphoto. No right to reproduce the image is given. See Image Licence.


  1. An aggregation site to house easily navigable links would be bomb. Even a simple site where bloggers could submit links would be a great resource. Deciding on the categories and finding moderators to post up the links would be the biggest hurdles I think.

  2. Hm… I don't share your frustration #1 because I comment using my Google account, and that allows me to subscribe via email. I'm assuming you're not doing that? The drawback for me is that I cannot (easily) link back to my blog. My name gets linked to the blogger profile and I'm sure it's quite tricky to find and follow the link to my real blog from there. Oh well, that's the trade-off I'm making. There's always the option to link to my blog from the comments, though. ;)

    As for frustration #2, I see what you mean. I have two solutions to this: If you use a Mac, you can print pages to PDF. If you are on a different computer, get a "PDF printer" and install it. Anything you print to that printer gets saved in a PDF file. Then keep those in your folder. If you're desperate and you want to have an archive of an entire blog, you can scripting to download all the pages. At one point I wrote scripts to download Blogger and Wordpress blogs (HTML files only). I wanted to keep local copies of A Hamsterish Hoard of Dungeons and Dragons and Ancient Vaults & Eldritch Secrets. But I haven't updated those archives, and the two just keep on posting more material. This is why, by now, I'm learning to let go. We're living in a world of Old School Plenty! :)

  3. I agree on both counts and probably guilty of one or both. In the morning before work I randomly scroll through my Google Reader and comment on a few that spark my interest, but when I come home later in the day I can't remember who I commented on. Never could. Some have the subscribe to comments on this post which is helpful. I don't even know if my blog is. Whisk usually handles the technical part.

  4. I agree completely. A persistent house-rule/variant aggregator would be so great. The closest thing we have is The Underdark Gazette's weekly roundups, but those don't quite answer either. Also, the number of blogs seems to be expanding at a steady clip, so the task of maintining the aggregator would grow ever more enormous.

  5. These issues aren't just true of blogs, but of forums too. Have you ever tried and failed to find an old thread on a forum? How many times do you see someone excitedly start up a thread only to have the old hands say the subject has been done to death before? But of course blogs are much more in the now than forums are.

    There are a couple of things that can be done to preserve information and keep the conversation going. Make a comment and subscribe by email. You'll get an email for each new comment. Save at least one those emails in a folder to keep the blog link.

    I have folders full of interesting blog posts and people's creations. I copy them into Word and make sure to include the link to the original post, that way I can find it again if I need to.

    And bloggers themselves can of course turn their blogging creations into pdfs for others to download, which some bloggers kindly do already.

    Personally I think blogging keeps community conversation fresh and current. I've certainly been inspired more by blogs than I ever did on forums. I don't envisage any loss of momentum.

  6. Hi Guys: I wish I had something to add to this conversation but I don't have these frustrations.

    I just blog for fun and really that's it. Like now, this is the last blog I'll read for the morning, then I'm shutting down the computer to get my cooking and chores done before I hit the shop tonight.

    If I've left a comment somewhere, I'll find my way back to it tomorrow or later. No biggie.

    But mostly, I usually remember who I'm talking to. Partly because I keep my subscription base small. I don't want to join a thousand blogs. I'd rather join a few really good ones and build relationships with those bloggers.

    I like to keep it light and fun. Otherwise, it's just another freaking chores and who wants that? Not me.

    Oh look. I did have something to say after all. And with that, I'm headed offline to tend to chores. Have a fun and yummy day.

  7. Is there some sort of blog-to-wiki doodad out there? The trick to making this fabulous wiki idea work is to make it as brain-dead easy as possible. If I type up a blog post with actual gaming content, I want to be able to click "send to wiki". No copy, no pasty, no loggy into the other service.

  8. Thanks for the rapid response to my post everyone.
    I must say the concept of an aggregation site to house easily navigable links is appealing. Less work then a wiki, with responsibility more on the bloggers than the moderators.
    OSR Links to Wisdom - as a title?
    @ austrodavicus: Don't mistake my tone I am very positive toward blog writing and reading, especially the energy in everyone's posts. I am just sharing two frustrations and mulling how it could be better. Yes subscribing by email can work, to follow a comments trail, but it isn't as seamless an interface as I would love to see.
    @ Happy Whisk: Light and fun blogging - you have that right.

  9. @ Jeff Rients: I totally agree. I also want to be able to click "send to wiki".

  10. I could help with the wiki part – already hosts the One Page Dungeon Contest 2011 and the Old School RPG Planet. The trickier part would be integrating this into Blogger, Blogspot, or Wordpress themes… Maybe using Pings or something like it…

  11. "I have folders full of interesting blog posts and people's creations. I copy them into Word and make sure to include the link to the original post, that way I can find it again if I need to."

    That's what I do too -- not always the most efficient method, but maybe the only way to keep track of older good stuff.

    And allow me to add my support to the Rients idea for a "send to wiki" button!

  12. A simple prototype is available. Note the bookmarklet thing­­… At the moment it just extracts the raw text of the blog post and saves that to the wiki. If people like it, I can start working on parsing the HTML?

  13. Alex, that's great! But I'm not sure the non-applet version is working for me. I tried submitting this post:

    And I got:

    Looking at


    The submission failed!


    Invalid Page

  14. I suspect that's because the default page name is an invalid wiki page name or something like that. Send me an email if you want to help me work on it by reporting bugs and testing it: -- I think that's better than using the comment section of Jovial Priest's blog post... :)

  15. Oh, but I'm having such a good time here!

  16. Don't worry about leaving comments in my blog - that is why I posed the question.
    Alex your Old School RPG planet is very impressive. I have added it to my Blog List.
    Your knowledge of the workings of blogs and wikis far exceeds my own.
    One of the powers of blog lists is the automatic update: it creates an endless "I'm new, click me"
    A static wiki doesn't do that. You have to go there with a purpose. Or that is my thinking and my use of such things. You seem Alex to have created a wiki/blog that updates!
    What if this wiki/blog could house all the House Rules we care to find, all indexed and within a contents that follows Moldvay's headings. If we made a change, example added a new barbarian class that someone had posted, would that update in everyone's blog list if they were following us.
    That would be very attractive - a regular reminder of new stuff. For the first months all that would be added is the best of the old stuff, but rescuing that from oblivion is one of the main reasons to consider doing it.
    A Name?

  17. Excellent, we'll stay! :)

    I used the name (OSR) Links To Wisdom you suggested for a start. It seemed appropriate...

    I'll spend some time in the coming days preserving the original blog article formatting and getting rid of headers and footers. Another thing I'll have to consider is archiving images, eventually.

  18. The philosophy of blog, I love it...

    I am def gonna keep following!

    Follow me!

  19. I wonder whether Jeff's "send to wiki" ought to involve the copying of the blog entry itself. The Jovial Priest's next article argues that a simple link is enough. The added value is then the human organization that goes on: To which section do we add the link? Does it need some context, a summary?

    The proof-of-concept code I linked to above assumes that people will use the site as a kind of manual archiving tool, posting a copy of their article to this site for others to categorize and build upon.

    I wonder whether I should try and pursue this any further.

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