There's been some talk on the OSR blogosphere lately about the question of just what is really valuable in the OSR, setting or rules, and about what the OSR is producing or may produce (or should be producing) in the future. That is to say, where shall the innovation be?
Tenkar (of Tenkar's Tavern) came out saying that he thinks the future of the game should be more products like Spears of the Dawn or Arrows of Indra, complete games where the innovation is the setting and "less reworks of greyhawk or the forgotten realms". While Rob Conley (who I'll note provided the excellent maps for Arrows of Indra) admitted that these are not really his cup of tea, and that his " preference is for bog standard fantasy world but with depth" (giving Harnworld or Ars Magica as examples).
The Greyhawk Grognard has pointed out that he thinks there were two phases in the OSR, the first being retro-clones and the second going off in "new directions".
All of them made mention of this question of "where is the OSR's Tekumel?", and the impetus for this seems to have been the new White Star game.
I'd argue that in fact there are now three phases in the OSR.
The first was the retro-clones. This was to me by far the least interesting part of the OSR, though some argued a necessary part, and they are pretty much finished now (since we've cloned just about everything that could be cloned and a few things that maybe shouldn't have been, to the point that we're left picking through Dave Arneson's discarded grocery bills in search of mythical clues to some kind of lost UR-D&D).
The second phase is still going on, which is the largely rules-fronted OSR games: those games that are not retroclones but whose innovation and creativity is largely focused on rule-modifications of the standard D&D concept. These are games like ACKS, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, or Fantastic Heroes & Witchery.
These could still go strong for a good long while, because there's way more room for creative maneuvering than with the retro-clones or even the almost-clones like Adventures Dark and Deep, as good as that is.
But now what we're just starting to see is Phase III: which is the products that are all about focusing on an old-school setting that obliges a new way of playing D&D; these will have rules that are different from the standard but what makes them shine is not the rules-difference but the setting-difference. I'm proud to say that Arrows of Indra is one of them (as is the aforementioned Spears of the Dawn), but I also think these are in some ways just the baby-steps (or easy pickings) of what will eventually become a huge new source of creative wealth for the OSR.
These types of OSR-games are exactly the kind I'm interested in making. Aside from AoI, within a month or two we'll see the release of Dark Albion: The Rose war. What will make it interesting and different from the two examples above is that AoI and Spears both got their inspiration from looking at D&D from the point of view of a cultural difference in setting; whereas Dark Albion is going to be, to slightly alter Conley's demands, "European Fantasy with depth". It will be D&D done for deep-historical gritty European fantasy, which will be closer in some ways to stuff like Ars Magica, Harn, or Pendragon than anything we've seen for the OSR thus far. Indeed, while it will be instantly familiar (and particularly appealing, I think, to any Game of Thrones fan) its 280-or-so pages of historical-fantasy detail will unlike any D&D setting I've ever seen.
The days where people could get away with the "10' x 10' room with 2 giant rats and exactly 2000cp" rut that the JMal-branch of the OSR nearly got stuck in is over. What's coming up now will defy anyone to think that there's a lack of creativity in the OSR, as if the second-phase products hadn't made that claim provably absurd already.
Currently Smoking: Ashton Old Church Rhodesian + C&D's Crowley's Best