OSR Is there room in modern gaming for the OSR to bring in new gamers?


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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
Only if you want to play 5e. It's not like playing 5e instead of Old School Essentials is going to make it easier to play Vampire or Apocalypse World.

That's not exactly what I mean. It's not about ease of learning new, additional, systems.

It's only about the idea that ... at this point in time, if they learn 5e, they have the absolute bare minimum to likely be able to play a game for the foreseeable future. Because there's so many other people that also play the game, and there's so much media they can consume about TTRPGs that is about 5e.

The omnipresence of 5e within TTRPGs means that in learning that particular game, they are already a leg up when/if they play on their own.

Hopefully, they will also branch out and try other things as well!
 

Mercurius

Legend
It's hard to conceive of a more semantically vacuous concept than "play agendas."



That strikes me as a very strange argument. It boils down to, "New players should learn on whatever is the most popular game at the time, regardless of that game's qualities."
I think you're making too much of it. Every person has their own trajectory into the hobby, and then their own experience of it in terms of how dedicated. It is not a judgement about the quality of any game, more a matter of practicality, and learning 5E is certainly practical.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
I gave my 5e books to my best friends son, 19, since him and some friends were wanting to play D&D. We were talking about it and he was going on about how he was going to be a level 50-something character, and all that. Well apparently they looked at those three books, and were just not sure where to begin. I will probably have to run a game for them. Would the single OSE rulebook or B/X which its based on have gone better? Not sure to be honest.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
So that's kind of the thing! I don't think we are arguing, so much as talking past each other. You are focused on the stuff today which isn't in the past game (which, I mean, of course ... unless there is some serious temporal paradoxes going on). On the other hand, you kind of sort of have to acknowledge, as you just did, that people today don't know what was going on back then (the past is an undiscovered country....).

All of which means that these things will be new and different to them. That there is value to be gained in the admixture of old and new. After all, we constantly are looking to renew culture, and I bet someone right now will be rediscovering Fritz Lieber and, most likely, remixing it into something I can't even imagine!
Which is why I keep saying "OSR has to be sold to new players".

Currently OSR is mostly displayed flatly and for people who already come from the same mindscape as the designers. Expansion is simply not assuming newcomers think the same.
 

Earlier there was a comment about “Everything grognards hate is good for new gamers.” Impudent comment aside, it got me thinking. Back in the early 80s, the game had a meteoric growth rate, so it seems that the old school style of play (being current at the time) did very well in bringing in new players. Now, 5e seems to also be doing a great job bringing in new players.

Has our community changed that much that not only is there no room in modern gaming for the OSR to bring in new gamers, but it’s actively harmful to bringing them in as that comment implies?

On one hand, I think there are elements of OSR games which might not have aged well as originally presented, but on the other, I still believe a game like B/X could be an excellent tool to being in new players. We seem to think that only the most recent edition should be used to bring in new gamers, and I don’t think I subscribe to that.

Thoughts?

I think OSR has plenty to offer new players. It’s at once reactionary to the perceived wisdoms du jour, performing an exegesis on classical era d&d (what elements worked well and why) as well as progressive in areas of design, mechanics and production. It returns back to a core base before exploring paths not taken. It can be staid, or vibrant and dynamic, it has a strong creative scene that push, explore and innovate (one page dungeons, developments on itch.io, aesthetic choices like mork Borg).

Ive seen more creativity, abundant adventure and a dare to be different in some 20 page single level modules than I’ve seen in entire 256 page levels 1-15 hardbacks from wotc, due to being unshackled from having to play it safe and be commercially viable.

I‘ve seen a few comments that suggest that elements of OSR gaming are unwelcoming to specific communities, or that it’s a desire to return to the “good old days” when such exclusion was fine. At best, I find these comments disingenuous.

Yes, there are some absolute clowns in the OSR community. But there are also absolute clowns in the 5e community, pathfinder community etc. I’d like to see some examples of products that are specifically unwelcoming (from the smaller companies, not just what a fringe nut job has made and self published).

I have seen representation brought up (or lack thereof). To contextualise this, I am a gay man. In society, representation matters. I went to school in the uk before section 28 was repealed (essentially it banned any information on homosexuality within schools). The silence was deafening. I had no information, idea reference point or anything to point towards to help me. Contrast that to now, where I am a teacher and there is fiction with gay characters in, something so that one kid might feel seen, is a positive change. I’ve also taught in a heavily mixed ethnicity inner city school and led as the school’s diversity champion. I get it.

If a setting in a ttrpg is attempting to evoke a specific milieu, I am not dissuaded from the game because I am not represented. I am not there to be represented, to force myself into this setting. I am there to roleplay. To play some one else. To be anyone else. In my opinion, I think OSR games are like that because power fantasy is not the focus. I am not there to play myself, but super buff and with a sword to solve my problems. I am there to play someone else, in this world, in this setting.

To say this is a return to the good old days of being racist and all white european settings is also uncharitable. There are many examples of classic TSR products that had non white locales and characters (I’m not going to pretend there was enough, there’s definitely room for improvement, just pointing out that they did exist). In fact, to briefly touch and pass on the hot potato of the original Oriental Adventures (for I’m not going to discuss my opinion on it, I totally respect that everyone has one on it and all feelings are valid), the recent conversations around it seem to miss that in the credits, it had Asian sensitivity readers (before sensitivity readers were a thing no less).

I have not once seen a rule set or a system turn anyone away, be unwelcoming*. I have seen groups of people do that. Whether the system is OSR or a system that professes to be super inclusive. It is the people.


*women I think do have a strong case, classic fantasy literature unfortunately did have a lot of scantily clad women in peril which then manifested in the art work. That should most definitely be avoided these days unless you are specifically evoking a cheese and beefcake pastiche (in which case everyone knows what they are signing up for). The counter point to this is that you had buff men in loin cloths too, my counter point to this is that still doesn’t work as equality. Men don’t really care. Chances are they will be happy to walk around with no pants on!


I think, in terms of attracting new players, the OSR‘ strength, its diversity of creative outlets, is also its weakness. There’s no clear single entry point. OSR itself defies an agreed upon definition.

Where it can definitely succeed is in picking up “newish” players. Those that come to ttrpgs through 5e and find it’s just not for them, or are keen to explore something new. The current edition of D&D is always the sieve. Other systems are the small bowls beneath, catching the granules that fall beneath. The biggest opportunities for tempting these players are usually during an edition change. There, the players face a choice: do we stay? Do we upgrade? Do we try something else seeing as we are looking into making a switch anyway?
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I‘ve seen a few comments that suggest that elements of OSR gaming are unwelcoming to specific communities, or that it’s a desire to return to the “good old days” when such exclusion was fine. At best, I find these comments disingenuous.

Yes, there are some absolute clowns in the OSR community. But there are also absolute clowns in the 5e community, pathfinder community etc.
I can't tell you how to feel, obviously, but I don't think it's disingenuous because 5e doesn't have publishers who say they speak for 5e while espousing some really toxic ideals. And there aren't any forums that cater to 5e that welcomes and embraces racism and misogyny with its user base. The OSR has those (no, I'm not going to name them or any individual and start cross-forum drama).

Anecdotally, OSR FB groups seems to have a lot more bigoted/sexist commentary than modern groups do. I know that's anecdotal, but it's also a complaint/observation I hear a lot from a lot of other people, not just me.

Look, I love the OSR. It's my favorite style of gaming. But I can't ignore what's been going on and what's out there. And as a fan of the OSR, myself and anyone who doesn't adhere to these toxic beliefs need to call it out and hold ourselves accountable. It's not about not being a bigot ourselves, but we need to be anti-bigots. Honestly, I'm a bit peeved that the OSR is increasingly getting a bad rep because of these people, and thus those of us who aren't bigots are getting guilt by association. It's happened to me more than once.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I have seen representation brought up (or lack thereof). To contextualise this, I am a gay man. In society, representation matters. I went to school in the uk before section 28 was repealed (essentially it banned any information on homosexuality within schools). The silence was deafening. I had no information, idea reference point or anything to point towards to help me. Contrast that to now, where I am a teacher and there is fiction with gay characters in, something so that one kid might feel seen, is a positive change. I’ve also taught in a heavily mixed ethnicity inner city school and led as the school’s diversity champion. I get it.

If a setting in a ttrpg is attempting to evoke a specific milieu, I am not dissuaded from the game because I am not represented. I am not there to be represented, to force myself into this setting. I am there to roleplay. To play some one else. To be anyone else. In my opinion, I think OSR games are like that because power fantasy is not the focus. I am not there to play myself, but super buff and with a sword to solve my problems. I am there to play someone else, in this world, in this setting.
Forgot to keep this part of the quote in my above reply. I get how you feel that way. You're not alone. But in general, within the greater population, there have been many studies where representation matters to an awful lot of people. So while you might not care all that much, it seems most people do, and is an important thing to do if you really do want to bring in new people.

Edit* But I do agree that the rule system isn't what's adding to the toxicity (unless the rules are something like strength caps for women), but instead how the game is presented. I absolutely believe you can take an OSR clone of TSR era D&D, apply only minor mechanical changes, and present it in a way that is incredibly diverse and representative of all gamers. If I didn't believe that I would be a giant hypocrite, because that's literally what I'm working on now lol.
 

I can't tell you how to feel, obviously, but I don't think it's disingenuous because 5e doesn't have publishers who say they speak for 5e while espousing some really toxic ideals. And there aren't any forums that cater to 5e that welcomes and embraces racism and misogyny with its user base. The OSR has those (no, I'm not going to name them or any individual and start cross-forum drama).

Anecdotally, OSR FB groups seems to have a lot more bigoted/sexist commentary than modern groups do. I know that's anecdotal, but it's also a complaint/observation I hear a lot from a lot of other people, not just me.

Look, I love the OSR. It's my favorite style of gaming. But I can't ignore what's been going on and what's out there. And as a fan of the OSR, myself and anyone who doesn't adhere to these toxic beliefs need to call it out and hold ourselves accountable. It's not about not being a bigot ourselves, but we need to be anti-bigots. Honestly, I'm a bit peeved that the OSR is increasingly getting a bad rep because of these people, and thus those of us who aren't bigots are getting guilt by association. It's happened to me more than once.
I absolutely understand and agree with a lot of what you’re saying here. I know exactly the clown and forum you are referring to. I think some 5e groups and fora have an equally high level of toxicity but it is expressed differently. In those ones, if you do not share in the same opinion on certain lines or issues, you are labelled as exactly on the same level as the clown who we shall not name. This in itself has led me to withdraw from a lot of the 5e online community and hastened my declining interest in it as a system.

The problem is, as the OSR community is a lot smaller, some loud shouting from a few yobs carries further. I do my best to self select what groups to be in (osr and 5e), and seem to have avoided some of the cess pits you’ve unfortunately visited. I will say, the OSE fb and discord group is fab and if you like osr, should definitely check it out. We’re super nice and have cookies (maybe).
 

racism and misogyny with its user base. The OSR has those (no, I'm not going to name them or any individual and start cross-forum drama).
Well. I sure would like to know what or where with this. I don't hang out on FB or at forums other than this one, at least since I closed my DF Q&A many years ago. I'm kinda regulated to creating things but would land a word or two with such people for what it's worth. Not trying to be cultural police officer but as Barney Fife said, "Nip it in the bud."
 

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