I’ve always felt that the boom days of small personal RPG sites like this was already over when I started 10 years ago. Back in those early OSR days, dozens of people were discussing all kinds of questions and subjects about how to run adventures and campaigns, understanding the underlying design assumptions of early D&D, and how to tweak and modify rules to better suit different specific goals and purposes. Things were very busy back then, even though when you look back at older posts, there was a lot of very short and thoughts blurted out that we would now put on Mastodon or something like that. But still, there was a lot of discussion and response both in the comment sections of posts, and in the form of people writing long form response posts on their own sites. (I said before that comment discussions might be seriously hampered by blogspot now requiring a google account to reply by default until the owner changes the setting, which many people don’t seem to notice because they are always logged in.)
I don’t really see that happen much anymore. I recently made a list of all the sites I remembered from 10 years ago and looked them all up to see who’s left. As it turns out, I think some 90% still had posted something in the last six month and most of them never really had big breaks at any point. I just never saw anything new they posted because nobody was talking about it and sharing cool posts with interesting new ideas. Remember Calibrating your Expectations or the West Marches? Those were significant events that people kept talking about for months and linked to in discussions years later. We don’t really see that anymore. The Classic Dungeon Crawl was an outlier in regards to something in a way of a new “RPG paper” coming out, and that was already three years ago. I also discovered it only years later because nobody is really sharing cool interesting things they found and spreading the word to others.
It would be easy to say that sites like these are just dead and simply an outdated medium that has long become obsolete. But in my personal experience, this really isn’t the case. Even with me not posting much in the way of big thoughts these days and having spend more time on my other Iridium Moons site, I’m currently seeing more comments on my posts than I ever did before. There certainly is still interest and the number of readers apparently even seems to be increasing. It’s certainly not an obsolete medium. I did start a Mastodon account early last winter and put up notifications any time I’ve got a new post on here, so that might be part of more people ending up here. But if I can do that, then everyone can. But so far, I’ve seen very few other people doing that over there.
I think another important factor in this whole situation is that all the easy questions have been sufficiently discussed years ago. Answers have been found and people have largely worked out how they want to modify B/X and AD&D to best suit the needs of the campaign styles they run. There isn’t that much more to say on those topics. But as I said, people are still reading these sites and commenting on the posts. It’s not like we’re just mumbling quietly into the void. Audiences are there and they are interested.
Which leads me to my actual point: Perhaps it could be worthwhile to reconsider why we run sites of this type and what they are for. As a spread out forum for regular discussions, they don’t seem to be in much demand anymore. There are plenty of Discord servers where you’ll get more people sharing their thoughts on your question or idea in an hour than you’ll be getting replies on your site within a day or a week. And for quick thoughts or announcements, there’s Mastodon and others. Where I think WordPress and blogspot sites still have a very strong advantage is in longer-form articles where you can take yourself several hours over multiple days to write out a more complex topic and give it several passes of editing for better comprehension. I set up Iridium Moons as a separate site specifically to use it for posting content about my new Space Opera setting. And I think Spriggan’s Den might probably become even more focused on content about Kaendor and reports on my next campaign that now hopefully finally can get started at some time in August. (I now started a new job that I’ll probably keep for a very long and looking for a new place for my very last scheduled move.) Worldbuilding is my thing, and of course it’s not something that everyone puts that much work into or has as much interest in sharing. But I think that perhaps it could be a useful thing for other people with their own personal RPG sites and who don’t really know where they are going with this to reconsider what these sites are for and if perhaps longer-form articles that go really deep into a subject might be something to give them a new purpose.
7 thoughts on “Why are we still doing this?”
I think you are right in that a lot of the big questions around the ‘standard’ types of games that people run have been well chewed over – and while there have been some interesting thoughts on delivery of information, etc. the really great things on blogs of late seem to be people going deep and talking through the suite of changes they make to pull a certain game style together. Sometimes this is as short as a couple of house rules, other times we get settings, spells, classes, the works.
I see my place as ‘tools to better execute your game’ – I figure the big picture discussions of what game you want to host have been better done elsewhere.
I just need to have the blog. I write it 80% for myself, to have a stable diary of my own thoughts, projects and houserules. I dont have them written anywhere else. Laptops burn, papers get lost. Blogs are so arcaic that last forever. But the other 20% is because I am not in need to have a lot of followers or feedback, I would use twitter if that was the case. But that would make me write short blurbs to generate polemic with no gaming interest at all. If I write something in my blog is because, even if for a moment, has interest to me and I think it can be of interest to others in my same (gaming/designing) madness, and I can focus on writing what i have in my head, be it good or bad, but with total independence of the impact (and also external censorship). I love blogging, reminds me of the old, authentic part of the internet.
And pointing to your text, it falls under our responsability to share and discuss the shiny articles we find now. The g+ was like a golden era for the hobby and I have always said that there is no reason we cannot do the same using blogs: Let the articles be the threads, and the replies be the replies. Following somebody is not as easy as clicking a link, but thats why the blogrolls on the side of the blogs are for: You can make yourself an empty blog and just make a blog list that sorts itself by actualization date, while also giving yourself an active account to reply wherever you want.
As Pete Doherty said “It chars my hear to always hear you calling, calling for the good old days, cause these are the good old days”
Exactly! We still have all the means to fan discussions by sharing links to things we find interesting with others. And the more people are aware of someone’s thoughts on a subject, the higher the chance that someone has something interesting to add.
We just have to go back to doing it more.
Discord servers are great, but the conversations are fast-moving. Which is a perk if you need some answers quick, but a disadvantage for in-depth, long-term stuff or archiving. Blog posts are still the best for that. Blogs don’t get the instant feedback (or the instant gratification…), but, who knows, maybe a year or more down the line somebody finds your post useful.
I’ve seen Discord users write up a post just because the topic comes up often on their servers, so instead of retreading the issue, they can just post a link to their blog :D
As for recent-ish oft-referenced fundamental/theoretical posts: I think “Six Cultures of Play” from 2021 is one of them: https://retiredadventurer.blogspot.com/2021/04/six-cultures-of-play.html
Depends… am I still canceled by the woke SJWs?
It would be best if folks consolidated into group blogs: More content so less pressure to post constantly. More readers so as revenue would be higher even if it had to be divided . Hopefully each author would step up their game to not look like the sloppy one. Everyone wins.