OSR publishers converting their own content

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Would it make economic sense for publishers of OSR games to convert their content (adventures, settings) to other OSR systems? A lot of them already do this to support 5e, but I'm specifically thinking about supporting other...yes, competing...OSR games for three reasons:
  1. The conversion is probably/usually quicker and simpler, both mechanically and conceptually
  2. The "flavor" of the adventures might appeal more to OSR fans
  3. Players of other OSR games might both be more aware of the offerings
I assume one of the reasons this doesn't happen very often is that the publishers, understandably, want to make their own core product more desirable, not enable their competitors. But I wonder to what extent this actually achieves that. I, for one, am not going to switch from my preferred system (Shadowdark) to another OSR system just because I want to run their adventures. I might buy their product and convert it myself, but I would much more likely to buy it if it were already converted. Not just to save me the work, but to save me the trouble of cross-referencing two sources. (Dolmenwood is the specific example I'm thinking of here. I'm very interested in it, but am still sitting on the fence. But I would pounce on a Shadowdark port in a heartbeat.)

So not porting the content isn't going to get me to buy the core system, but porting it would increase the likelihood of me at least buying their supplements.

Thoughts?
 

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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I assume one of the reasons this doesn't happen very often is that the publishers, understandably, want to make their own core product more desirable, not enable their competitors. But I wonder to what extent this actually achieves that. I, for one, am not going to switch from my preferred system (Shadowdark) to another OSR system just because I want to run their adventures. I might buy their product and convert it myself, but I would much more likely to buy it if it were already converted. Not just to save me the work, but to save me the trouble of cross-referencing two sources. (Dolmenwood is the specific example I'm thinking of here. I'm very interested in it, but am still sitting on the fence. But I would pounce on a Shadowdark port in a heartbeat.)

So not porting the content isn't going to get me to buy the core system, but porting it would increase the likelihood of me at least buying their supplements.
I think that the OSR community in general is one in which DMs are comfortable converting themselves, especially amongst TSR clones or near-clones, for which conversion is often so simple that it can be done on the fly. I would guess that the thinking is that this leaves a fraction of an already-small market as potential customers.
 

I tend to agree with the other comments that conversions will probably not generate enough new purchases to justify the effort. So if a publisher is not doing it for other reasons (art updates are planned anyway, their own preferred system changed, etc.), I think they are better off working on something new.
The one thing that might make sense is to choose a popular system (e.g. Old-School Essentials for classical fantasy stuff) when designing new adventures to benefit a bit from the marketing pull. But even there I wouldn't expect a massive impact.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I tend to agree with the other comments that conversions will probably not generate enough new purchases to justify the effort. So if a publisher is not doing it for other reasons (art updates are planned anyway, their own preferred system changed, etc.), I think they are better off working on something new.
The one thing that might make sense is to choose a popular system (e.g. Old-School Essentials for classical fantasy stuff) when designing new adventures to benefit a bit from the marketing pull. But even there I wouldn't expect a massive impact.
Indeed. I could totally see, if I was reworking an old adventure, updating it to the current most-popular system if there is one clear market leader. If I had published, say, something for Labyrinth Lord in 2010, updating it to OSE today (if I wanted to update it for some other reason) could make sense.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
To go into a bit more detail about my answer, here's a comparison:

My own Chromatic Dungeons retroclone:
1699992077520.png


1e AD&D
1699992056938.png


B/X:
1699992175591.png


And the most popular OSR clone, OSE:
1699992120549.png


There's really no need IMO why I would convert everything from Chromatic Dungeons to OSE. All four of these are pretty much compatible with each other with little or no effort. As someone mentioned, Shadowdark is really a 5e clone with OSR aesthetic, so you might do that conversion, but I wouldn't convert from one OSR to another.

That said I have done different versions, but OSR and 5e only (like what I did for Twilight Fables). While there was interests in an OSR version of that book, and Tim Kask praised it on his channel, sales of it still to this date haven't justified the time and effort I did in making that conversion. Same with my Mirrored Mountain adventures. If I did it for money, I wouldn't do it.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Indeed. I could totally see, if I was reworking an old adventure, updating it to the current most-popular system if there is one clear market leader. If I had published, say, something for Labyrinth Lord in 2010, updating it to OSE today (if I wanted to update it for some other reason) could make sense.
Yep. Even though Chromatic Dungeons is my own retroclone (I did it for inclusivity reasons, not mechanical heartbreaker ones), it's clear OSE is the leader. And as a publisher, when I make products going forward (like Twilight Fables and Mirrored Mountain), those use OSE rules.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
To go into a bit more detail about my answer, here's a comparison:

My own Chromatic Dungeons retroclone:
View attachment 327979

1e AD&D
View attachment 327976

B/X:
View attachment 327983

And the most popular OSR clone, OSE:
View attachment 327982

There's really no need IMO why I would convert everything from Chromatic Dungeons to OSE. All four of these are pretty much compatible with each other with little or no effort. As someone mentioned, Shadowdark is really a 5e clone with OSR aesthetic, so you might do that conversion, but I wouldn't convert from one OSR to another.

That said I have done different versions, but OSR and 5e only (like what I did for Twilight Fables). While there was interests in an OSR version of that book, and Tim Kask praised it on his channel, sales of it still to this date haven't justified the time and effort I did in making that conversion. Same with my Mirrored Mountain adventures. If I did it for money, I wouldn't do it.

I will agree that when the only conversion needed is HP/AC/Attacks is trivial to do so. (Although I do see a sort of contradiction between simultaneous claims that "it's ridiculously trivial to convert" and "it's not worth the effort to do so".)

It's when we start getting into spells, special abilities, and magic items that the conversion can be trickier. (And also just the feel of a particular system.). And, sure, I can and do improvise in those cases if I haven't prepared beforehand. But it does take some thought, and an understanding of a system.

As a simple example: a dripping wet tunnel in Shadowdark might include a note about a 1/6 chance of putting a torch out. I'd love to see that sort of system-specific flavor included.

TL;DR: Please, take my money!
 

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