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Thursday, August 18, 2016

is it Live, or is it Memorex?

Our games might be OSR, but our content is often not, nor is the method of its delivery or the way in which we digest or utilize it.  I hear the argument frequently, the die hard lovers of actual paper declaring one media to rule them all, and the opposing view of the .PDFers who prefer to carry it all on their tablet or laptop or even their phone.

Our community isn't the only one raging about the way in which a product is released.  Many movie aficionados swear by celluloid.  Plenty of photographers prefer film.  Music lovers have created a niche market for fresh pressed vinyl.  We cling to our ancient and revered media with a death grip, and I don't think it's a bad thing...not at all.

I find myself firmly rooted in the center of this debate, interested in both arguments but living in a world where I have access to both the past & present and often choosing one over the other, sometimes for no tangible reason other than whim.  There have been times when I'm at the bookstore, I find a book I think I will enjoy and I buy it.  On other trips I may simply take a picture of it with my phone, and then acquire a digital copy at some point soon thereafter.

With music I've simply shifted to digital.  I'd have to go out of my way to spin vinyl, and CD players are just as tough to find nowadays.  I know all about loss and lossless sound, but as an attendee of many a loud concert in my youth, I doubt I could distinguish such a difference now.   Hearing vinyl spin on a Technics table through a nice Marantz amp has a certain quality of sound I certainly appreciate, but at home or in the car .mp3 is just easier to manage from my phone, iPod, or music server and a bunch of Chromecast Audio's (the poor mans Sonos).

With games I am on the fence.  I miss my game books and certainly lament that day when 24 year-old me was getting ready to leave home to live in another state and start my life with a woman I loved, and I foolishly sold off my entire collection of RPG materials.  Off went my first edition AD&D hardbacks (including the Deities & Demigods with the Cthulhu and Melnibonean mythos), my Holmes Basic, My WFRP 1st ed hardbound, my complete Palladium Fantasy set, my Runequest Boxed Set...

[pausing here to weep] get the idea.  I divested myself of those things, fit only the necessities into my car, and headed north towards the unknown.

It was quite a few years later (2008) when Fantasy Grounds appeared on the scene, and with FG and Skype the gaming started again.  This time 100% digital.  Yeah, I missed my books, but the convenience of playing at the PC over the net was efficient on so many levels that I didn't question my loss too greatly.  I was again enjoying the company of friends (albeit over a distance) and playing the games I loved.

Now, eight years later, I find myself pining a bit for books.  I have an IRL gaming group, and having books at the table is something I miss.  It's exacerbated by all of the great content that is published almost daily these days, and is available in .PDF or print format via online stores like OBS.  I've invested again in some table basics...Dice, a bag or two, a customizable GM screen.  I also will often print out modules as I find having details in print at the table means I can hang on to the paper as I'm running things, make notes of changes or additions I've thrown in, that sort of thing.  I have all of my Labyrinth Lord tables printed and slotted in my GM screen, which makes combat run a bit smoother.  Paper definitely has a place at my gaming table.

In comparison, the Labyrinth Lord Rule-books are on my iPad, and with the help of the Goodreader app I've built in all of the most frequent bookmarks I need to jump to any section with relative ease.  Do I miss thumbing through a thick tome of something like the DMG?  Yeah..I do.  The convenience of not having heavy books to lug or pages to flip through pretty much cancels out my nostalgia.  I miss it, but not enough to go back to it.

Again I find myself standing on the fence.

Many old grogs are also collectors, folks who have a shelf (or shelves) full of rule-books, source-books, modules, entire systems, loose-leaf folders and other sundry texts.  I stopped collecting things long ago, as my transient nature made dragging large collections around a difficult proposition.  I think the same goes for collectors of anything really, from vinyl to paperbacks to just about anything, many people are born to collect.  With them, the nostalgia factor seems heightened.  Collectors appear far more likely to keep on collecting, so a reader of paper books who also collects seems likelier to eschew an e-reader or tablet to instead read their trusty paper books.

As a player, and as a GM, I'm happy to live in a world where I have options.  I think that's the takeaway here.  When I was a kid in the early 80's, there were only books to use at the table or read on the couch..  We listened to cassette tapes in the car and vinyl at home.  Someday (perhaps soon) paper books may cease to be.  In the future, vinyl may no longer be pressed.  Right now we have options, and I think that folks on one side of the fence or the other should hop over to the other side and grab some old media, or delve into the digital.  Enjoy it while you can, even if you don't adopt it entirely.

 We seem to be heading down an ever-more-digital landscape and I think as we move in that direction and we lose the tangible connections to our past that old media provide, we will lose something.

My son, who is 11 now, probably won't feel the same.

1 comment:

  1. I don't idetify as an OSR gamer, but I did play AD&D 1 and I did come up in the old school era. As my vision gets worse as I age, I find myself preferring print for ease of access, but when I run, I use a my laptop and d2opfsrd for access to monster stat blocks and PDFs. I use virtual tabletops (Roll20) as well for minis. But I do love having books - for when I play and run Fantasy Flight Star Wars, I find it easier to use a core rulesbook and the books themselves are gorgeous art books.

    Individual gamers have individual needs. Books take up room and are heavy, and many of us simply can't maintain huge gaming libraries in print, especially for game systems and products that we aren't immediately using. On the other hand, collecting is a distinct hobby which brings it's own joy and must be respected, both for the history of the RPG hobby and it's own sake.

    Simply having AD&D 1 and B/X material available in PDF form at is a huge boon for old school gaming. I'm not sure if print on demand is available, but the more that is available, I'm sure that the wider range of optons can serve all gamers.

    The point is that is the systems that are in place should serve the widest range of gamers possible - old guys, like us, and new kids, like you're son. From where I stand, I say it looks great.