HIGH/LOW: The Year of the OSR Saturation Point?
I think 2015 is a turning point for OSR fans. We now have a lot of OSR options to choose from....so many, in fact, that the only saving grace of the retroclone medium is that they are all mostly compatible with one another. You can pick your preferred flavor--or lack of such--as you see fit. Want generic and flexy in a modern way? Basic Fantasy. Want classic OD&D but with some fixes? Swords & Wizardry Complete. Want something that marginalizes the influence of most of fantasy gaming and fictions' contributions prior to 1974? S&W Whitebox is your best bet. Want Conan? Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers. Want Conan on LSD? Dungeon Crawl Classics. Want ridiculously easy to pick up and play? Beyond the Wall and Other Tales. Want AD&D 1.5 in all but name? Adventures Dark and Deep. Want B/X D&D but with loads of body horror? Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Want some sci fi action in an OD&D environment? Try Stars Without Number or White Star. Want a version that emphasizes the kingdom-building endgame? ACKS. Or just go for an efficient replica toolkit and grab Labyrinth Lord or OSRIC. I'm not even touching on dozens of others that are all equally interesting and worthy of consideration.
With so many OSR titles to choose from, it's hard to imagine that we need more rules. What we need more of, now, are interesting adventures and expansions....and we're getting that. From Red and Pleasant Land to Beyond the Wall and Other Tales we're starting to see good adventures and concepts that can cross-pollinate with your preferred flavor of OSR ice cream.
Ultimately I label this a High and a Low because we have so much good stuff now....but I hope we, as a community, don't keep churning out too many more dedicated retroclones, homages to the Keep on the Borderlands and the Caves of Chaos, and other creative low points. We need more of A Red and Pleasant Land, Beyond the Wall, Yoon-Suin, D30 Toolkits, Teratic Tome and other amazing works, stuff which is bar none some of the best gaming content on the market....and all from the OSR corner of the universe.
...So what will 2016 bring to the table? Good question....
PREDICTIONS: We'll see at least one or two really impressive, exotic sourcebooks for OSR gaming that feature strange and interesting worlds, all delectable treats for aging fandom but something I won't be able to let my kid look at until he's 18. I think we won't see any more retroclones anytime soon, but the top dogs will continue to prosper. I bet at least one or two authors take aim at some non sword & sorcery genres for adaptation to OD&D, and maybe we'll see something modeling farcial fantasy (Piers Anthony, Robert Asprin) soon, or efforts at modeling more epic operatic fantasy (Brian Sanderson/Terry Brooks type stuff). Whatever comes next I expect it will introduce more innovation, not less.