All posts by Stargazer

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

The Fantasy Network

Recently I have been contacted by Ron Newcomb. He let me know about The Fantasy Network, a new SVOD (subscription-video-on-demand) service focusing on fantasy movies and series. It’s a joint venture of Arrowstorm Entertainment (The CW’s The Outpost), The Forge Studios (The Rangers), and Zombie Orpheus Entertainment (JourneyQuest). In a way it’s a kind of Netflix for independent fantasy film makers.

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The subscription costs $5.99 per month or $40 per year. With a subscription you get access to all the content, but there’s also free stuff on the site. I haven’t had time to give it a closer look, but since Zombie Orpheus Entertainment is on-board I am definitely excited.

For more information, check out the press release or visit The Fantasy Network here.

Blast from the Past: D&D Rules Cyclopedia from 1991

Over the past few years, when I was looking more closely into old-school D&D, the OSR, the various retro-clones etc. numerous people recommended the Rules Cyclopedia to me. It’s basically a compilation of all the rules presented in the edition of Basic D&D which started off with the famous Red Box written by Frank Mentzer. Aside from all the rules it also contains a complete bestiary, and even a description of the world of Mystara aka the Known World. To my knowledge it’s the only D&D game which can be played as is, without having to buy additional books. It’s of course long out of print, but thanks to Print-On-Demand you can now get a print copy from DriveThruRPG.

Personally I have never played a Basic D&D game before. As far as I can remember the first edition of D&D I ever played was AD&D 2nd Edition. I didn’t like it at all. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed playing with my friends, I just wasn’t too fond of the the mechanics. Often I had the feeling I had to fight against the rules to play the character I wanted. Certain concepts seemed impossible. With more experience as a player and GM under my belt, I recognize that a lot of the rules were optional and sometimes mere guidelines, but back in the day, we slavishly clinged to the rules-as-written. But enough about my history with D&D, and back to the topic at hand.

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After reading countless retro-clones on a search to find a perfect version of D&D (a search which is essentially futile), I decided to check out one of the actual old editions of D&D. The Rules Cyclopedia was an obvious choice because it included everything needed in a single book, and so many people had recommended it to me.

Continue reading Blast from the Past: D&D Rules Cyclopedia from 1991

Stargazer’s thoughts on the OSR

What is the OSR? If you ask several gamers you’ll likely get different answers. The acronym usually stands for old-school revolution or old-school renaissance. For some people the OSR is celebrating games and gaming styles from the “good old days”. For others the OSR stands for everything which is wrong in the RPG community. The truth is – as always – much more complex.

It’s also not sure if the OSR is just about Dungeons & Dragons and its retro-clones, or about all games from the 1970s and 1980s. Can a game from the 1990s still be considered old-school? TSR’s D&D Rules Cyclopedia is from 1991 and most people would consider it quite old-school. What about Vampire – The Masquerade which was released in the same year?

I have to admit I don’t know who actually coined the term OSR. If I am not mistaken the OSR was started or at least became more well-known in the RPG community around the same time the RPG Bloggers Network got born. This was in 2008. But the idea is of course much older. Since the beginning of the hobby, people stuck to the game they first played and preferred it over the new-fangled stuff being released. For others it’s all about discovering the hobby’s past or celebrating the DIY nature of the early years of the hobby.

Back in the day the DM was supposed to be not just the person running the game, but also a game designer in their own right. Most DMs ran games in their homebrew world using house rules. No two games of D&D were alike. Part of the OSR has always been the idea to create your own stuff and share it with others. Eventually people noticed that there was a market for old-school gaming and the rest is – as they say – history.

Ok, what is the OSR now? A community within the RPG community? A gaming style? A group of game designers and publishers releasing D&D retro-clones? A hive of scum and villainy? Again, it’s not easily answered. The way I see it, the OSR is an idea. The idea is to preserve beloved games from a bygone era and create new material for those games. It’s also a group of people who adopted that idea. But it’s not a group lead by someone. You can state that you’re part of the OSR and then you are. No one can throw you out. There’s no secret handshake.

So why am I talking about all this? The OSR attracts many people and some of them are just not the nicest human beings to put it mildly. People associated with the OSR have been bullies, misogynists, transphobes, gatekeepers, and generally assholes. Some of them even go out of their way to offend people. As a reaction on a case of severe asshattery Stuart Robertson, who created a very popular logo for the OSR (see above), stated that you are not allowed to use that logo if it’s used to promote hate speech.

I applaud his decision. But of course not everyone was happy about that and accused Stuart of gatekeeping the community. This is of course bullshit. He’s merely using his rights to restrict the usage of something he created. But can he throw someone out of the OSR? Of course not. As I said before, there’s no membership card, no application form. If you state you’re OSR, you are OSR.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t stand up against  some vicious hacks who try to take over the OSR. If we want it or not, the OSR is a community of people. Its members may not share much aside from their love of old-school gaming, but that doesn’t mean the OSR is defenseless against bullies. Since the OSR has no leaders and is no formal organization, everyone who feels part of the OSR should speak out against people trying to use the OSR for their nefarious means! The OSR can be welcoming to everyone, an idea fueled by nostalgia and love for gaming, or it can be a much darker place where everyone who is not a cis-gendered white man is not welcome. The latter is not a community I want to be part of.