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OSR A Historical Look at the OSR

kenada

Legend
Supporter
I'm a member of several OSR groups, some of them pretty large, that are very progressive. Most of the original creators from the TSR days are pretty progressive.

Please don't use broad brushes because Pundit and LaNasa are loud.
My apologies if it seemed like I was doing that. I was calling it out because the series linked in the OP struck me dismissive towards the problematic people.
 

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Mezuka

Explorer
My apologies if it seemed like I was doing that. I was calling it out because the series linked in the OP struck me dismissive towards the problematic people.
I would also add that The Piazza forums (BECMI) and Dragonsfoot (AD&D1) don't allow any political discussions (from both sides). Threads are locked immediately. Members are only allowed to talk about playing the game.
 
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Aldarc

Legend
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.
Dungeon World is divisive, even within PbtA circles, but I find that it's better to let go of notions of playing DW like D&D, but, instead, it's easier to lean into the design philosophy of Dungeon World (and PbtA) when playing it. I have no pretentions about it being for everyone. It's not. Playing in accordance with its design priniciples is not a guarantee for enjoyment, but it helps. But nowadays, I wouldn't point people to Dungeon World for PbtA dungeon delving. There are better alternatives, including those that are more Dungeon World adjacent (e.g., Homebrew World, Stonetop, Freebooters on the Frontier) and those that strike out in new directions (e.g., Ironsworn, Fantasy World, etc.).

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.
"Middle School" works pretty well as a descriptor too. It's more consistent with old and new school monikers.

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 “classic” experience).
I suspect that the article's author mistakes categorizing Dungeon World as Nu-OSR as a result of conflating its old school D&D aesthetic with its Apocalypse World design philosophy.
 

Mezuka

Explorer
One thing is that old school players are not and were not a homogenous group. I recall very vividly discussions we had about dungeon crawling+sandboxing VS a more narrative arc story approach. That was in 1982 before Dragon Lance. We were playing AD&D 1e, not 2e.

As a group, we opted for a middle ground. We had two campaigns with lots of crawling and sandboxing but it was agreed that there was also a larger 'big' story happening for the players to thwart or to f@ck Up badly. We had read LOTR after all.
 

Reynard

Legend
One thing is that old school players are not and were not a homogenous group. I recall very vividly discussions we had about dungeon crawling+sandboxing VS a more narrative arc story approach. That was in 1982 before Dragon Lance. We were playing AD&D 1e, not 2e.

As a group, we opted for a middle ground. We had two campaigns with lots of crawling and sandboxing but it was agreed that there was also a larger 'big' story happening for the players to thwart or to f@ck Up badly. We had read LOTR after all.
I think that dichotomy is evident even in the earliest version of the game. There is "story" hinted at in the way the game is set up, and of course the presence of Tolkien elements exists because many of the fantasy fans at the time were at least as interested in epic tales as they were episodic heroic fantasy. D&D has had two faces from the very beginning and for my money it is at is best when the game embraces both in a single campaign.
 

Mezuka

Explorer
I think that dichotomy is evident even in the earliest version of the game. There is "story" hinted at in the way the game is set up, and of course the presence of Tolkien elements exists because many of the fantasy fans at the time were at least as interested in epic tales as they were episodic heroic fantasy. D&D has had two faces from the very beginning and for my money it is at is best when the game embraces both in a single campaign.
Agreed. I've never changed my campaign style since then, regardless of edition. I've GMed for many different groups. All the players are happy regardless of what aspect of the game they prefer. No one feels neglected.
 


Jack Daniel

OD&D Referee
The usual OSR response to the very, very, very tired criticism that old-school play was never a monolith and has always encompassed a diversity of play styles — best articulated by a widely-shared 2009 K&K Alehouse post by T. Foster that the author of the article in the OP also links to in Part V of the essay — basically boils down to, "Yes, we know. We already know that. We don't care; it's beside the point."

Defining a specific 'old-school' play style, even if it's pure revisionism, all but necessitates drawing hard distinctions between the way, as best as we can reconstruct, that D&D's creators originally intended the game to be played (even if that changed almost immediately once the game was in the hands of the public; even if those selfsame creators changed their own minds a few years down the road) and the way the game actually evolved during the real course of the hobby's history. The revision is the point. The alternate-history, possible-path what-if-ery is the point. The only way to get that is to close off the avenues that the history of the game has already treaded (because they are what led D&D from old-school to traditional to modern gameplay).

That, even at the risk of being a bunch of un-inclusive meanie-pantses who dare to imagine that a very specific play-style might have an actual definition to it.
 
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That, even at the risk of being a bunch of un-inclusive meanie-pantses who dare to imagine that a very specific play-style might have an actual definition to it.

I don't have a bit of a problem that they want to have a definition for a particular play style; I care quite a bit that a lot of them either by implication or outright saying so suggest it was The Way Things Were When The Game Was Played Right, both in privileging the style over others present at the same time (and thus just as right to call "old school") and over generalizing how common it was. And that's over and above the baggage they sometimes bring in with it.
 

bennet

Explorer
I don't have a bit of a problem that they want to have a definition for a particular play style; I care quite a bit that a lot of them either by implication or outright saying so suggest it was The Way Things Were When The Game Was Played Right, both in privileging the style over others present at the same time (and thus just as right to call "old school") and over generalizing how common it was. And that's over and above the baggage they sometimes bring in with it.
Why would you care? I understand a lot of stuff, I understand why there are pronouns, why black lives matter, why a vaccinne is a good idea. But I don't understand how people can go into someones private forum and say "hey these guys are gate keeping ! this is terrible, stop them ! ".
Who cares what 10 people are doing with D&D or 100 or 10,000. It doesn't stop you from playing the game in absolutely any way you like. If they want to define OSRMYWAYDnD as the only way to "properly play D&D cause thats what Gary Gygax wanted" then let them, it doesn't encroach on YOUR freedom. Their narrower definition sounds cooler and probably more like how we played as kids, but even if they don't invite me, Im ok with it. When I played D&D 30 years ago I didn't go looking for approval on how I played, I just decided and thats what we did. So bizarre all the "gatekeeping" hysteria.
 

Hussar

Legend
Why would you care? I understand a lot of stuff, I understand why there are pronouns, why black lives matter, why a vaccinne is a good idea. But I don't understand how people can go into someones private forum and say "hey these guys are gate keeping ! this is terrible, stop them ! ".
Who cares what 10 people are doing with D&D or 100 or 10,000. It doesn't stop you from playing the game in absolutely any way you like. If they want to define OSRMYWAYDnD as the only way to "properly play D&D cause thats what Gary Gygax wanted" then let them, it doesn't encroach on YOUR freedom. Their narrower definition sounds cooler and probably more like how we played as kids, but even if they don't invite me, Im ok with it. When I played D&D 30 years ago I didn't go looking for approval on how I played, I just decided and thats what we did. So bizarre all the "gatekeeping" hysteria.
Because, for the past twenty years or so, EVERY SINGLE TIME we talk about anything that relates to D&D, you see the same refrain repeated over and over and over - this is the way the game was. Anyone who didn't play that way either is remembering it wrong, or should be ignored because THIS is the way the game was played. And you must accept that THIS is the way the game was meant to be played, because I'm part of the OSR and no matter what, you must accept the word from the mount about the way the game was intended to be played.

Over and over and over again.

For twenty freaking years.

It's poisoning the well and piddling on every conversation. It's telling people that they just don't really understand how the game was meant to be played, so, any of these new changes are bad. You just don't understand why they're bad because you just don't understand how the game evolved back in the day.

If it was something that popped up once in a while, that would be fine, but, it's ... every... freaking .... time.

Heck, read through some of the drive by shots in the thread about D&D 5E - A Compilation of all the Race Changes in Monsters of the Multiverse Monsters of the Multiverse and you see it. Change for changes sake. Ok they are ruining the game. Oh, WotC is completely ignorant of what "real"gamers want. So on and so forth.

You're right, it doesn't encroach on my freedom, but, it's a serious pain in the petoot to have to wade through that crap every freaking time.
 

Reynard

Legend
I think it's a difference of scale,not kind. Everyone has a point where they'll say, "Naw, that's not good D&D." Some people have a narrow band and some people are loud and crass about it, and some people combine those things in a way that makes you reach for the ignore button. So just hit the ignore button.
 

bennet

Explorer
Insulting other members
Over and over and over again.

For twenty freaking years.
The image of a bunch of old angry white men sitting around a board arguing about whether armor class should go up or down is hilarious.
Most of them are a few years away from a heart attack, use a phpBB message board from the 90s that hurts the eyes and represent 0.0001% of the D&D community. Its ok, trust me nobody under 40 even knows they exist because they only use reddit and youtube.
 

Jack Daniel

OD&D Referee
Over and over and over again.

For twenty freaking years.

"It's time you moved on from that clunky old outdated inferior game-design" is also tiresome.
"You only like those old rules because of blind nostalgia and/or a political agenda" is also tiresome.
"You liking and promoting this one narrow play-style isn't valid, because not everybody played that way in '75" is really, really tiresome.

If there are some vocal grogs out there, I'm fine with it. They've had to put up with their fair share of crap.
 

Reynard

Legend
The image of a bunch of old angry white men sitting around a board arguing about whether armor class should go up or down is hilarious.
Most of them are a few years away from a heart attack, use a phpBB message board from the 90s that hurts the eyes and represent 0.0001% of the D&D community. Its ok, trust me nobody under 40 even knows they exist because they only use reddit and youtube.

I feel like this kind of post is just here to increase the heat in this thread and that is the last thing it needs.
 


Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
I wish we wouldn’t start going down the “Your side does this, that’s why!” Path. There are unreasonable people who rely on vitriol and insults on both sides of this argument. The thread cited above by @kenada that I created was created in response to a poster saying, “Anything grogs hate is good for the game.”

So let’s keep it real. Angry irrational people aren’t relegated to one edition or the other. That’s just who they are as people. And none of it should be acceptable. It’s all just gatekeeping bull.

Saying the game is ruined because WoTC made changes is a ridiculous position. Implying someone is a bad person/-ist because they like ADnD is also a ridiculous position. Saying the “woke mob is ruining the game” is just as bad as saying “ADnD was a murder simulation against black people.”

Can we all just knock it off, and stop using someone’s bad behavior as an excuse for our own pot shots?
 

Aldarc

Legend
IMHO, the more fascinating segment of the OSR movement wasn't the segment that just wanted to turn back the clock or keeping playing the game they always had before WotC D&D, but, rather, the segment of OSR that had clearly been shaped by what was coming out of the Forge, though not necessarily adopting its terminology, framework, and such. It was the segment that asked "If we treat B/X or 1e D&D as 'intentional game design,' what is the experience that this intentional game design cultivates?" So it was the segment that actually analyzed the philosophic framework of B/X (et al). There undoubtedly was some confirmation bias in the analysis that likely contributed to the whole "this is how the game was always played" spiel, but I nevertheless think that this was the segment that really helped push OSR into a unique design space in its own distinct right.
 
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I think it's clear at this point that just saying something is "old school" doesn't say much. That is, if you want to advocate for a specific mechanic, or subsystem, or playstyle, it's not very effective to do so simply by saying that it is old school or making the claim that that's how Gygax et al played. You have to actually make the argument for why it works and what kind of game those mechanics produce. Xp-for-gold is a good example of the osr going back and understanding how a mechanic was related to playstyle.

In the more charged discussions, references to this or that being old school are even more displaced. For example, I've argued in other threads that when people talk about racial ASI "meaning something" and lament the move to floating asi, they are probably mostly remembering 3e. In 1e racial ASI was limited to a +1 and a -1, but more importantly ability score bonuses were calculated on a bell curve and ability scores were less important overall. The claim of having "old school" preferences was almost entirely divorced from the actual context of the game.
 

The usual OSR response to the very, very, very tired criticism that old-school play was never a monolith and has always encompassed a diversity of play styles — best articulated by a widely-shared 2009 K&K Alehouse post by T. Foster that the author of the article in the OP also links to in Part V of the essay — basically boils down to, "Yes, we know. We already know that. We don't care; it's beside the point."

Defining a specific 'old-school' play style, even if it's pure revisionism, all but necessitates drawing hard distinctions between the way, as best as we can reconstruct, that D&D's creators originally intended the game to be played (even if that changed almost immediately once the game was in the hands of the public; even if those selfsame creators changed their own minds a few years down the road) and the way the game actually evolved during the real course of the hobby's history. The revision is the point. The alternate-history, possible-path what-if-ery is the point. The only way to get that is to close off the avenues that the history of the game has already treaded (because they are what led D&D from old-school to traditional to modern gameplay).

That, even at the risk of being a bunch of un-inclusive meanie-pantses who dare to imagine that a very specific play-style might have an actual definition to it.
Taken a step further: the point could be said to look at the same questions and problems the original experiences did, and solving them in different ways, with the understanding that the solutions in the game's historical path opened some doors, but firmly closed others, and wanting to explore those doors that the course it took closed. This is also why you see a lot of interest in OSR elements through the lens of modern games... I'm interested in open world, sandboxy, open table, dungeon exploring content, treasure hunting centric stuff, but I also like the player empowered options material that came into its own in trad games, but I dislike the Adventure Path set story structure of trad games.
 

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