While it’s true that Pathfinder’s massive Core Rulebook (or rather, my wife’s reaction to it) is the reason I came into the OSR, I have to say I still appreciate the materials Paizo produces for Pathfinder. Also, I happen to believe that Paizo’s success is promising for the OSR.
What success, you ask? Well, according to ICv2’s findings, Pathfinder is now tied with D&D 4E in sales. That’s pretty impressive given that WotC puts out roughly 4-5 books for every 1 book that Paizo publishes. A game only 2 years old competing neck & neck with D&D? That would have been unthinkable before Paizo! While many folks have challenged ICv2’s data as anecdotal, Lisa Stevens, CEO of Paizo Publishing, has confirmed ICv2’s findings with Paizo’s own figures.
I, for one, think this bodes well for the OSR. Why? Because it demonstrates several things key to our success…
(1) People aren’t just going along with edition changes as was largely the case in the past. Pathfinder’s success demonstrates that people are willing to play “older” versions of D&D unsupported by the current license holder.
(2) No more widespread brand loyalty. People aren’t just buying whatever WotC happens to put out. They are being more discerning in spending their gaming dollars. The fact that an ever increasing number of people are willing to spend their hard earned money on fantasy roleplaying game products not published by WotC is promising for Mythmere, Goblinoid, et al.
(3) WotC finally has some real competition. Rivalry is great for the industry, it drives the frontrunners to produce higher quality materials. In my opinion, it may also cut down on the “let them eat cake” attitude displayed by WotC in the past. Maybe, just maybe, this means that WotC may reprint some of the older things which appeal to us, or at least offer PDFs for sale.
(4) Viable competition also causes industry leaders to ponder what they can do to gain the edge, perhaps including marketing to our niche OSR market. WotC has seen this as is evident with the release of their D&D essentials starter set. Sadly, their idea of marketing to us is limited to pretty boxes. Paizo has picked up on the fact that more and more players are taking an interest in old school style (not just old school trappings), as is evident with products such as their sandbox style adventure path, Kingmaker, as well as their recent announcement that they will be producing an introductory/basic version of Pathfinder.
(5) Paizo already supports the OSR to a degree. Erik Mona is the driving force behind their publication of the pulp fantasy publication, Planet Stories. He has mentioned, time and time again, his love for and desire to serve old school gamers with future Paizo publications.
If nothing else, this news demonstrates that mainstream players now have viable options. If someone gets tired of the D&D 4E system, perhaps they’ll take a look at Pathfinder or some of the older editions of D&D before abandoning the hobby. Even if those of us in the OSR don’t see any gains, it’s good for the overall industry at the very least.