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OSR A Historical Look at the OSR

Greggy C

Adventurer
Supporter
I'm not sure if it nostalgia but when I DMd 1e/2e the combat was naughty word exciting and a lot faster (and with more people).

Didn't need 300 hit points, 5 actions and 20 skills to get there. I decided that when my BECMI set arrives I'm going to implement it on the simulator and see if I can quantity this "feeling" exactly.
 

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Hussar

Legend
There is probably an overlap between people who take Viagra and play OSR too, not sure what your point is. People want to play OSR because of childhood nostalgia, simpler rules, not because they care about a few people on twitters pronouns.
if only that were true...
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Perhaps indirectly? But I think the article's author is correct that older games span a very wide range of play styles, and while I don't mind calling them all "old school" in that sense, I don't think they consistently share in, for example, the OSR principles of play as expressed by Finch. SOME may share in some of them, but I think he's completely right that "a so-called movement that can encompass D&D, Bunnies & Burrows, Traveller, and Teenagers From Outer Space [My insert: and Champions] is conceptually useless except in the broadest categorizational sense".

I was thinking Villains and Vigilantes just as I read your addition. :)
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Or, put it another way. Whenever some social issue in the game comes up - be it gender issues, race, whatever, there is a very large overlap in the venn diagram of people that oppose the idea and play OSR games.
Mod Note:

Perhaps you fumbled your persuasion skill challenge roll.

If you meant a large percentage of the people opposing social changes in rpgs are OSR gamers, that’s one thing. It seems quite possible to come to that conclusion based on various stories that pop up.

If, OTOH, you meant a large percentage of OSR gamers are against social changes in rpgs, that’s much more problematic.

You might want to clarify if you meant the former. You might refrain from similar posts if you meant the latter.
 

It's not a matter of owning the generic term "old school" (or having "old school" itself be any kind of value judgement); it's a matter of linguistic precision. The OSR was founded by old-school D&D players mostly interested in old-school D&D, with any interest in other old games being sporadic and largely incidental. Quite naturally, those original OSRites are not too terribly keen on the OSR "brand" being diluted.

Notice I did not say OSR; I said Old School.

(Though as I said, even the OSR begs the question of what's fundamentally different about what the D&D revivalists are doing and what people doing retroclones of other early out-of-print are doing, other than they did it first (and I'm not even sure that's true when talking about, say, FASERIP).)

I

Like the article said: barreling into an OSR discussion space and assuming everybody wants to talk about Champions is a bit like pestering a vintage Ford forum about vintage Chevys, because, hey, we're all fans of old cars here, right?

On the other hand, I've seen people who can't bother to look at the listed scope of a discussion space that uses "Old School" in its name (I'm particularly thinking of a specific FB group) and get soggy when Traveler and Gamma World are absolutely on topic (as is, in fact, a number of war games and the like from that period). Linguistic drift happens, and people who don't like that really need to get over it.
 

The premise that spawned the thread — that a particular style of play can be harmful — isn’t particularly great. That’s not justifying or pardoning crappy OSR proponents. Edition warring crap is toxic nonsense regardless of who does it. It does seem particularly crappy when it’s the dominant style punching down.

You're quite right, though at least some of those people were modern indy games proponents (one in particular caught my eye), and I'm not sure calling them "the dominant style" is on target (5e people doing it? Absolutely).

You want to have a conversation about a particular system, and people are quick to chime in how 5e does things right in this way or that, or that those systems are broken some way. It doesn’t even have to be an OSR game. That’s basically the PF2 forum here in a nutshell over so many ridiculous threads. 😒

Well, yeah. As I've noted, there's a certain majoritarian assumption that's very visible around here some times that is, frankly, incredibly tiresome.

I was disappointed that the fifth article seemed to gloss over that. I agree it’s not fair to paint the whole OSR that way, but I think it’s something one needs to acknowledge (even if obliquely).

Yeah. It tends to stand out to me, since even though I'm not a D&D OS type (I only stayed within the D&Dsphere a limited amount of time even back then, so a lot of what proponents of that style consider virtues are things I actively fled), I'm absolutely a creature of that time but some of the resistance to anything that smacks of modernity by some of them is pretty hard to take.

On the other hand, you and Sacrosanct (to pick a couple examples) shouldn't be expected to pay for their sins.
 

The premise that spawned the thread — that a particular style of play can be harmful — isn’t particularly great. That’s not justifying or pardoning crappy OSR proponents. Edition warring crap is toxic nonsense regardless of who does it. It does seem particularly crappy when it’s the dominant style punching down. You want to have a conversation about a particular system, and people are quick to chime in how 5e does things right in this way or that, or that those systems are broken some way. It doesn’t even have to be an OSR game. That’s basically the PF2 forum here in a nutshell over so many ridiculous threads. 😒


I was disappointed that the fifth article seemed to gloss over that. I agree it’s not fair to paint the whole OSR that way, but I think it’s something one needs to acknowledge (even if obliquely).

They do acknowledge it, but in a dismissive way:

Today, new OSR spaces are regularly filtered around political and social stances, through a combination of deliberate exclusion of elements perceived as bad and departures based on an inability to coexist with people of different ideologies. For example, the major Discord and Facebook OSR groups are run by what are often labelled "zoomers" and "pink-hairs" (and with a focus almost entirely on nu-OSR). The old-school forums in return are the domain of "boomers" and "fascists". Ideas are filtered based on the beliefs and practices of their creators.
 


Aldarc

Legend
Yeah... I appreciate that those posts have so many citations to things like blog and forum posts, but reading in between the lines the authors seems to want to constrain OSR to correspond to an evergreen AD&D 1e game (he indicates a split between the b/x/OSE rules lite segment of the OSR and the 1e players).
If there was a split between the "Evergreen AD&D 1e game" players and the "b/x/OSE rules light segment of the OSR" then I would say that the latter won considerably and has since become the default assumption. I'm not too familiar with that many 1e-based OSR games, but I could probably shoot out like a machine gun a list of all the B/X-based or influenced OSR games on the market. I suspect that the B/X Red Box was far more influential on the mass reach level than 1E D&D.
 
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Mezuka

Explorer
If there was a split between the "Evergreen AD&D 1e game" players and the "b/x/OSE rules light segment of the OSR" then I would say that the latter won considerably and has since become the default assumption. I'm not too familiar with that many 1e-based OSR games, but I could probably shoot out like a machine gun a list of all the B/X-based or influenced OSR games on the market. I suspect that the B/X Red Box was far more influential on the mass reach level than 1E D&D.

The split is in fact threefold. The forum ODD74 is for fans of the original game and possibly Holmes edition. The forum The Piazza is mostly for fans of BX / BECMI. Dragonsfoot is mostly for fans of AD&D 1e (and 2e).

I do agree that the vast majority of OSR retro-clones are B/X / BECMI based. AD&D does have OSRIC and Advanced Labyrinth Lord. But many OSR games are based on the three little white books of Original D&D that came in a small box.
 
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Aldarc

Legend
The split is in fact threefold. The forum ODD74 is for fans of the original game and possibly Holmes edition. The forum The Piazza is mostly for fans of BX / BECMI. Dragonsfoot is mostly for fans of AD&D 1e (and 2e).
There's also more to it than that, as there is also the wave of OSR creators who aren't publishing modified retroclones, but, rather, are designing original works in the spirit of OSR design principles.

I do agree that the vast majority of OSR retro-clones are B/X / BECMI based. AD&D does have OSRIC and Advanced Labyrinth Lord. But many OSR games are based on the three little white books of Original D&D that came in a small box.
I know there are OSR games based on more than B/X / BECMI, but the latter has drastically outpaced the former in the market. I barely hear a peep about OSRIC or Labyrinth Lord either here or in the wider community discourse.
 

Reynard

Legend
There's also more to it than that, as there is also the wave of OSR creators who aren't publishing modified retroclones, but, rather, are designing original works in the spirit of OSR design principles.
The thing about this is they aren't. They are designing original works around imagined OSR design principles.

EDIT: I need to stop doing this. I was introduced to DW as OSR and it rankled me. Leaving the statement for full disclosure but I retract it.
Dungeon World, for example, isn't built around how people played D&D back in the day, whatever the introduction says. It is built around how people imagine it was played as seen through a narrative, fiction first lens that has little to do with what happened at tables the 70s and early 80s.

Scrolling through the OSR list on DriveThru shows you a few prominent retroclones (reorganizations of original rules) and simulacra (retroclones with more heavily tweaked rules), and a host of games that use the OSR label to gain attention for their distinct visual design or one particular mechanical innovation. That isn't to say those games can't be interesting-- and I think a lot of neat game design can be found in the OSR community-- but I don't think it is fair to say that those games are "old school" in any meaningful way.
 
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Aldarc

Legend
The thing about this is they aren't. They are designing original works around imagined OSR design principles. Ddungeon World, for example, isn't built around how people played D&D back in the day, whatever the introduction says. It is built around how people imagine it was played as seen through a narrative, fiction first lens that has little to do with what happened at tables the 70s and early 80s.
Dungeon World, for example, is irrelevant here. I don't know why you bring Dungeon World up this way, and I find it something of an annoying nuissance. I don't think many people, if any, consider Dungeon World part of the OSR movement. It's undoubtedly inspired by the renewed interest in older editions of D&D (i.e., explicitly the D&D Moldvay Basic Set) and OSR - as the OSR movement was picking up greater community awareness at this point - but I don't think that Dungeon World's authors ever intended itself to be part of the OSR movement or based on its design principles. I don't think it ever claims to play like how people played D&D back in the day. To the best of my knowledge, you are the only person I see bringing it up as if it was.

Here is what the Dungeon World introduction says:
Dungeon World is a world of fantastic adventure. A world of magic, gods and demons, of good and evil, law and chaos. Brave heroes venture into the most dangerous corners of the land in search of gold and glory.

Adventurers take many shapes in Dungeon World. The races of elves, men, dwarves, and halflings all have their heroes. Some are near-invincible beasts of battle encased in iron armor. Others are more mysterious, conjuring up and wielding the mighty forces of magic. Treasure and glory are sought by a holy cleric, a tricky thief, a mighty paladin, and more.

It isn’t all easy heroics and noble bravery, though. Every time the ranger guides his friends through the ancient woods there are a hundred things waiting to bite his head off. Slavering hordes of goblin troops, maybe. Or is this the Cursed Wood, where dwells the Gray Witch? Or the throngs of hateful dead, looking to drag a meaty corpse back to their lair? Scary, sure, but there’s treasure, too. More gold and jewels and magic lost to man have fallen between the cracks in the world than you can imagine. Who better to retrieve it than a band of stalwart heroes?

You and your friends are those heroes. You go where others can’t or won’t. There are monstrous things lurking in the world. Are you ready to face them?
Am I missing something about Dungeon World describing itself as old school or its design principles? Because the design principles of Dungeon World are practically lifted directly from Apocalypse World, and the writers say as much too.

Scrolling through the OSR list on DriveThru shows you a few prominent retroclones (reorganizations of original rules) and simulacra (retroclones with more heavily tweaked rules), and a host of games that use the OSR label to gain attention for their distinct visual design or one particular mechanical innovation. That isn't to say those games can't be interesting-- and I think a lot of neat game design can be found in the OSR community-- but I don't think it is fair to say that those games are "old school" in any meaningful way.
Neither would I, because I see a difference between "old school gaming" and the "old school renaissance," which is a modern revisionist movement in gaming. This article that has been passed around a lot - The Six Cultures of Gaming - for example, distinguishes between "Classic" (Gygaxian old school), "Traditional" (exemplified in Tracy and Laura Hickman's D&D and Sandy Peterson's CoC) and "Old School Renaissance."
 
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Mezuka

Explorer
There's also more to it than that, as there is also the wave of OSR creators who aren't publishing modified retroclones, but, rather, are designing original works in the spirit of OSR design principles.


I know there are OSR games based on more than B/X / BECMI, but the latter has drastically outpaced the former in the market. I barely hear a peep about OSRIC or Labyrinth Lord either here or in the wider community discourse.
Correct. The Piazza is where you find those who create new content in the spirit of the BECMI rules and the Mystara setting. Their magazine is called Threshold. Dragonsfoot members create new content for AD&D1e. Mostly in the form of new adventures. Not sure if they do that on ODD74.
 

Mezuka

Explorer
I know there are OSR games based on more than B/X / BECMI, but the latter has drastically outpaced the former in the market. I barely hear a peep about OSRIC or Labyrinth Lord either here or in the wider community discourse.
OSRIC, AL&L and For Glory and Gold (2e) are pretty much dead in the water since WoTC opened up DMsGuild and allowed pdfs and POD of old books. Even Dark Dungeons, which was a retro-clone of the BECMI Rules Cyclopedia isn't getting any traction anymore.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
You're quite right, though at least some of those people were modern indy games proponents (one in particular caught my eye), and I'm not sure calling them "the dominant style" is on target (5e people doing it? Absolutely).
Just to clarify, by “dominant style”, I mean 5e or whatever is the latest thing WotC published; or, if not a system, then an assumption of trad or OC/neo-trad play. I otherwise agree with you on the rest.
 

Reynard

Legend
Dungeon World, for example, is irrelevant here. I don't know why you bring Dungeon World up this way, and I find it something of an annoying nuissance.
You are right. It's a personal bugbear of mine because I was introduced to DW as a prime example of the nuOSR by someone, and it rankled. I'll edit the comment to avoid pulling the discussion off track.
Neither would I, because I see a difference between "old school gaming" and the "old school renaissance," which is a modern revisionist movement in gaming. This article that has been passed around a lot - The Six Cultures of Gaming - for example, distinguishes between "Classic" (Gygaxian old school), "Traditional" (exemplified in Tracy and Laura Hickman's D&D and Sandy Peterson's CoC) and "Old School Renaissance."
That's an interesting distinction. I usually just refer to the mid 80s thru 90s as the "middle school" since a lot of the mechanical design remained focused on similar things while the "story" was shifting.
 


kenada

Legend
Supporter
You are right. It's a personal bugbear of mine because I was introduced to DW as a prime example of the nuOSR by someone, and it rankled. I'll edit the comment to avoid pulling the discussion off track.
The fifth article in the series linked in the OP lists Dungeon World as Nu-OSR. I can see how it could be mistaken as such (though I’d argue it’s not a particularly good emulation of the “D&D” experience).
 

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