Tuesday, 28 March 2017

20,000 Nerds Under the G (Plus)

If you read this blog regularly the chances are you have already seen this post. It is an effort to "Map the OSR", as the title suggests.

A subsidiary question, and one which interests me, is the size of it. A figure of 10,000-20,000 is given as a guess, but there is of course no way of knowing if that is at all accurate or not. Apart from anything else it all depends on the definition you want to use; does being "into OSR stuff" mean you have bought a product? That you read 3+ blogs that are about "OSR stuff"? Impossible to say and depends on arbitrary decisions of the person making the calculation. So in a sense it is a pointless question to ask.

But late modernity is characterised by nothing more than misleading and foolish attempts at quantifying phenomena that can't really be quantified, so let's not let that stop us.

I am going to define "into OSR stuff" as "having played LotFP, DCC, Swords & Wizardry or LL more than three times, and/or having played a TSR D&D variant in the last year more than three times, having abandoned it for a period of more than 5 years".

How many people are actively "into OSR stuff" on the internet, first of all?

The big OSR luminaries (Zak S, James Raggi, Kevin Crawford, Patrick S, etc.) tend to have in the region of 1,000-4,000 followers on G+. The OSR community has 4,966 members at the most recent count. Swords & Wizardry 1,572. Labyrinth Lord 1,439. There is likely to be huge overlaps between these groups, (although of course not everybody is going to be in one) so I would put an upper limit of around 5-6,000 people active on G+ who are into OSR stuff.

G+ is not the be-all and end-all, of course. It is used disproportionately highly by gamers in comparison to other demographics (who barely ever even think of it at all), and it is hugely influential amongst OSR types because it seems to have a way of sucking them in like the proverbial flies to shit honey. But it is probably still only used by a large minority rather than a majority.

What about forums? Dragonsfoot, probably the biggest, has 10,372 members as of this date. There can be expected to be some overlap with G+, though my general sense is not a huge amount - they seem like pretty different crowds. And many of those people are not going to be active. Throw in a few more thousand potentials from odd74 and K&KA put together - again, some of whom will also use Dragonsfoot and/or G+ - and we can suck a finger and stick it in the air and say that this increases the scope to around 14,000 people on the internet who are into OSR stuff. That is, around 5-6,000 on G+, and around 8,000 more on grognardish forums once you take into account overlaps with G+ usage.

You can then throw in 1,127 members of the LotFP forum (again, big overlaps with G+, Dragonsfoot, etc.), and other dribs and drabs here and there (around 100-ish members on the S&W forum, for instance). Then it gets yet more nebulous when it comes to blog readership. It feels rather like pulling my pants down in the middle of the street to give you a glimpse behind the curtain in this way, but my readership generally plateaus at around 1,500-2,000 per post. I would never suggest that my blog is big - middling really when compared to some others - so I suspect there are some out there that get 5,000, 10,000 even. But again, there will be a lot of overlap with G+ and forum usage. Sucking a different finger and sticking it into the air, let's say the scope increases to something like 17,000 if you include people who exclusively read the blogs and don't go on G+ or forums.

You can then add in people who are into RPG stuff online exclusively through the use of reddit, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc., but I think this group must be tiny - most of people who actively use other social media to discuss OSR games will be included in the above groupings.

The number of people who are into OSR stuff on the internet is not going to reflect the true total, though, because as we all know it is usually only DMs who go online and discuss games, buy game products, and so on, and DMs are always going to be a minority of gamers. Maybe a ratio of 1 DM to 3 players? Making the scope of people who are "into OSR stuff" by my definition about 68,000?

Problems:

- It's all bollocks because it's based on semi-informed guesswork, but we know that anyway.
- It's English-language specific. There will be loads of other-language forums and blogs where people are into OSR stuff.
- The information is basically valueless, because it doesn't affect anything.
- You will have your own definition of "being into OSR stuff".

Still, 68,000 worldwide in the English language is my rough guess, so there.

23 comments:

  1. Limiting it to only people who have played an OSR game brings that down quite a bit, too. I would hazard a guess that I'm not the only person who has no history with OSR games, but uses OSR material at the table and reads the blogs associated with the scene.

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    1. I might include you as having played, then, since you use some material at the table, but this is why it's a bit of a fool's errand (though fun to think about).

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    2. It might be interesting to have an informal poll, because I wouldn't be surprised if a sizeable minority or even a majority of the OSR blog readership plays 5e. I'm like Anon in that I've never run LoTFP or 2e, but if I'm running a premade it's usually something from this constellation of blogs. (Running an ASE game right now) I agree that anyone using the material is probably close enough to call OSR, but it's interesting to think about the edition breakdowns within that label.

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    3. I think it would be best for somebody with a very big reach to do a poll, like Zak S for instance.

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    4. Yeah, I'm in the same boat. I bastardize heavily from OSR material but I use more modern editions of D&D to trick my players into thinking they are playing a normal game.

      Jokes on them though!

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    5. Then you have all of us who dream of having enough spare time to run an OSR game and must be content with just reading the books.

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    6. I too have no idea if I "count" or not. I purchased your Yoon-Suin book and I just ran with it, 10 sessions so far and planning on many more. I might also run a PbP game with it on EN world... but... I use 5e to do so. Does that count? I can't tell.

      Ancalagon

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  2. Hopefully this doesn't feel like someone pulling your underwear off while you stand in the streets pantsless. That's not the intent anyway.

    I don't know if I show up on your usage stats, but feedly, where I subscribe to your blog, shows that you have 889 folks following you on feedly alone.

    Most of the big blogs that I follow just show 1k readers... you might be closer than you think.

    The biggest one that I follow is Gnome Stew, at 3k.

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    1. Interesting. I go purely based on what blogger tells me but that might not include views on feedly.

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    2. I subscribe to your RSS feed via blogtrottr. RSS subscriptions are not necessarily going to be trackable at all, since a traditional RSS client just checks the feed periodically and pulls down new posts.

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  3. Hopefully this doesn't feel like someone pulling off your underwear while you stand in the street with no pants.

    According to Feedly, an RSS reader, the big blogs that you talk about have about 1k subscribers. You have 889, so you might be closer than you think. I don't know if we show up in your logs or not if we don't comment.

    The biggest one I follow is gnome stew at 3k.

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  4. I think the one in three number might be pretty low. I run two campaigns (one DCC and one OD&D) that total about a dozen players between them currently. I have about seven more from my DCC game that for various reasons can't meet anymore. None of my players are engaged online. I barely am myself. I know it is as speculatory as this blog post but I would be surprised if circumstances like my groups are so unusual that the number would be as low as one in three.

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    1. Maybe you're right. It is very hard to tell. Thinking back there was one game group I was involved with for a while of whom almost none were active online. But others where everybody is. There is such wide variation it's very hard to average out.

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  5. i do not play at all. have not done for 20 yrs or so, but read `and buy adventures to get ideas for fiction writing. am i into OSR?

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    1. You can be honorarily into OSR stuff.

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  6. I was surprised to find that the Autarch.co forums for Adventurer Conqueror King have ~5400 users; had expected them to be smaller than LotFP's, since it seems to get less buzz in the blogosphere.

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    1. Yeah, ACKS seems like its own thing, a bit like DCC. They seem to have their own fanbases and cultures, while there is some crossover into other areas.

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  7. What this and Patrick Stuart's post reveal is that there are two notions of the OSR, let's say the marketplace and the academy.

    The marketplace (you, Paddy, Zak, Raggi et al.) is not really old school, knows nothing about OD&D or AD&D and doesn't understand why Gygax is respected for his words and ideas, and thinks of rpg material as commodity. The marketplace is divorced from O/AD&D, and so is not Old School in any meaningful sense and the merchants don't engage in forums where opinions have to earn a living and they are more comfortable in a cult of celebrity environment like G+.

    The academy, before it exhausted itself, used to be those places on blogs and forums where the original O/AD&D ideas were discussed and argued about between people who actually understood and appreciated O/AD&D.

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    1. Gary Gygax never saw D&D as a commodity, did he? He distributed it for free. It was all about the marketplace of ideas for him.

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    2. Do you know anything about OD&D or AD&D ? (Gygax's AD&D not what came after)

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    3. Yeah - Gygax distributed OD&D and AD&D for free. It wasn't a commodity in those days. In fact D&D never had any relationship to the marketplace when Gygax was running the show. Stop me if I'm wrong about this - I'm clearly not on the same level as you in my understanding and appreciation of O/AD&D.

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    4. No, the question was do you know anything OD&D or AD&D as games. What percentage of your rpg gaming has involved those editions?

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    5. Approximately a billion percent.

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