This is the first recorded instance I can find for the term in reference to retro-games,specifically Castles & Crusades
Link to Forum Post
This is by a guest so the author is unknown. Which is kinda of ironic in a way.
From reading the posts on the various rpg boards over the last couple of years it does seem there is a shift in thinking amongst the gaming community concerning what they want from future rpgs. The illusion has been dispelled that the d20 ultra detailed number crunching method would lead to a better gaming experience. A pining for more narrative simpler play and a looking back to the old days seems to be the new way forward.Between 2005 and 2008 there was more than a few post and blogs that talked about a renaissance in Old School games. Then in 2008 the term Old School Renaissance really took off started becoming a short hand for what the various Old School Publishers doing.
The populatity of none d20 systems is again growing with WFRP selling second only to WoTs D&D. CoC and GURPS have also seen a slight revival in their market share. Compare this to the decrease in sales of d20 material over the last year (although still high). Over production and over stock is leading many online stores to slash prices. An old school renaissance could be on the horizon. C&C is ahead of the game for the moment but this won't remain the case for long. Already Green Ronin are toying with the idea of going rules lite and have put True20 out to RPG publishers for settings an ideas.
The delay in release of M&T (and CZ) and the poor layout issues of C&Cs first print run have certainly not helped in stamping C&C firmly at the vanguard of this new wave in gaming. However as C&C is the only runner (albeit a slow runner) they can afford to make one or two mistakes. They also have a hard core fanbase that has done loads of free promotion on the various boards.
Hopefully C&C will do well in the future dispite increased competition. I certainly was taken by their ideas and purchased C&C and Assault on blacktooth. However, due to the ongoing delays I have now gone over to WFRP due to more reliable publishing dates. (I also have the TRUE20 - C&C has better ideas with their SEIGE mechanic which are better in my opinion).
It appears it use grew by osmosis rather than being promoted by a trend setter or a group. Definitely not everybody is happy with the term. It was rather pleasing to be looking through the search logs on how it use grew.
Looking through the logs shows how the Old School Renaissance grew out of the uncoordinated efforts of a diverse crowd of gamers. Sometimes working at cross-purposes but for the most expanding the depth and range of material for the older editions of D&D. The logs show how no one group or entity dominates the OSR. Indeed short of Wizards re-releasing a ruleset and putting it support behind it, I don't see how anybody can at this point.
And that how exactly it should be.
To all those considering publishing, whether it is on a grand scale or small, come on board and get your stuff out. To all those who have stuff published I salute you and hope to see more.