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

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Yup, that’s what I was suggesting before. It’s a space with two parts, a more staid, traditional back to basics view and then this really out there creative side that adds pushing all kinds of crazy elements.

I mean, perhaps that could be the pitch to newer players? “Products to take your imagination to the next level”?

Speaking generally I don't really think there is a need for individual gamers to buy into creative movements. They just have to buy into whatever game they are playing. Like I did not brief the players in my Apocalypse Key games on indie RPGs or even Powered By The Apocalypse. I just pitched them on what I loved about Apocalypse Keys, let them choose playbooks, walked through character creation and just started playing. That other stuff is just art history level stuff to most players.

Same goes for something like Worlds Without Number. The movement stuff does not really matter if I just want to play this game over here.
 

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Speaking generally I don't really think there is a need for individual gamers to buy into creative movements. They just have to buy into whatever game they are playing. Like I did not brief the players in my Apocalypse Key games on indie RPGs or even Powered By The Apocalypse. I just pitched them on what I loved about Apocalypse Keys, let them choose playbooks, walked through character creation and just started playing. That other stuff is just art history level stuff to most players.

Same goes for something like Worlds Without Number. The movement stuff does not really matter if I just want to play this game over here.
Of course. I’m in agreement. I’m just trying to link the concept back to the original premise of the thread, ie, can we create space for OSR games to appeal to new players :)
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Of course. I’m in agreement. I’m just trying to link the concept back to the original premise of the thread, ie, can we create space for OSR games to appeal to new players :)

I think we totally can. I think Kevin Crawford is already kind of doing it by making sandbox play much more accessible and easier to learn. There's a reason he has 2 games in the top 5 at drivethrurpg. I think Electric Bationland is also already sort of doing it in its slick layout and less baroque rules that still enable skilled play while rewarding taking risks.

I don't think it will ever rival D&D proper, but I think something like Worlds Without Number has the capability of being a solid B Tier game (and might even be there right now).
 


Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I think one key is demystifying the process of play. One thing that Kevin Crawford is really good at is talking about GMing like something doable, providing concrete steps and tools, and being realistic about the process with new GMs. I have seen so many people who had been previously intimidated by running games or especially sandbox games dive in head first and become capable GMs following Crawford's advice. Teaching people how to run games is such a underdeveloped area in most game designs.

I think that was also instrumental in the success of both Apocalypse World and Blades in the Dark. They vastly exceeded the typical reach of the indie space because they taught you how to play and run them without having to read essays.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
Coincidentally enough, when I was asked this question in the interview, this is how I answered:

Q) I don't think there's a right answer to this... but you've mentioned rulings over rules, danger and zero to hero. Is that how you define OSR? Is there an accepted definition?

I don't think there is any "one true way" to define the OSR, because the OSR above all else is meant to emulate the feel and/or mechanics of many games from the 70s/80s. Since there were so many games even then, there is no real way one could define the OSR objectively. That said, I think most fans of the OSR would agree on common themes. Those being rulings over rules, zero to hero, mechanically more lethal of a system, sandbox play, etc. Because gaming was still new back then, and we didn't have the internet where you get an instant answer to a question by the design team, most tables were coming up with stuff on the fly. That fostered a lot of creativity and homebrew. Players were encouraged to come up with their own stuff. I know this is anecdotal, but it seems that there are fewer GMs today who are creating their own game worlds and adventures than in the 80s, where nearly everyone I met was doing that.

So not the best answer, but at least I mentioned how there isn't any one true way of defining it, which I think is the important part.
This is actually a pretty good answer though I'd add "skilled play" as it's known in most OSR games to that mix. Otherwise I think you hit the broad categories.
 

Blue Orange

Gone to Texas
So I think I'm the author of the original post the OP is referring to, and I'd like to apologize.

I'm an almost-grognard (played in the late 80s...you have to have played in the 70s from what I understand), started playing 5e after a long hiatus and my prior experience was with 1e video games (THE MONSTERS REJOICE, FOR THE PARTY HAS BEEN DESTROYED!) and OD&D. I was rather amused that I could get back all my hitpoints after less than a full day's rest and that spectres drained my maximum hitpoints temporarily instead of permanently draining two levels. But, on reflection, a lot of these things make the hobby more easy to enter. You can always play Dungeon Crawl Classics. ;)

As for the candy-colored tieflings...hey, my favorite 1e mod was Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. I'm not a genre purist. ;)

I wasn't trying to pick on grognards. I'm actually pretty conservative in the nonpolitical sense...I usually respect the progenitors of the field, enjoy tracing developments over time, and like reading old editions of Dragon and tracing back the oddities of the game to its wargaming roots. Without Gygax, no Zeb Cook. Without Zeb Cook, no Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, or Skip Williams. Without those guys, no 4e, and without 4e, no 5e. We are, all of us, nothing more than links in a long chain.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
I think roleplaying games are so wide open in ways they could be played that it's impossible for one game to suit all styles. WotC wants to maximize profit so they will do what they can to leverage their name and provide something they believe is in the sweet spot of gaming. Sometimes they fail (4e) and sometimes they succeed (5e).

I'm at the place though where I really don't care to sit in the sweet spot anymore. I know what I like and I don't care a lot whether others like it or not except for my groups of course. So I've left D&D proper behind but now I have tons of OSR products out there so no harm no foul. When 3e made the OGL, they saved the hobby for me.

So here are my "grognard" things that I think are very good for games that some modern designers may not agree are good.
1. Skilled play that includes preparation, caution, and planning.
2. Things like level drain, rusting of items, losing constitution from death/raising happening to PCs on occasion.
3. Failure. Meaning you try some ability or skill and it fails. It doesn't always have to lead to some other consequence. Sometimes you just try to climb a slick wall and can't.
4. Letting the dice fall. That means not fudging things as GM to make the game "better".
 

Imaro

Legend
I'm curious are there any streams of OSR games that feature women or PoC as players or DM... also are there any Youtube/Twitch shows about OSR games (rules, reviews, advice, etc.) that are run by PoC oe women. I'll be honest I see way more PoC and women involved in modern D&D than in OSR games across social media, which probably colors perception and/or leads to lack of awareness in those groups.
 


Imaro

Legend
I have seen a lot of streams featuring OSR games that feature women and POC, but most of them are indie adjacent streams. That's probably just the space I tend to live in though.
Yep I've seen indie streams as well... but nearly none for OSR. Going to try and find some though.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
It might just be that I tend to engage with more out there OSR stuff, but I think some of the most interesting new stuff is coming from the OSR space. Games like Worlds Without Number, Beyond The Wall, Electric Bastionland, Ultraviolet Grasslands, Necrolautinus, Mothership and the Nightmares Underneath are exploring some pretty compelling new ground. I think it's actually less ossified than the traditional space.

Exalted Funeral and Tuesday Knight Games are also really leading the way on representation. Dissident Whispers was timely, well designed, had important stuff to say, and like still a quality gaming product first.
Very much this.

There are a bunch of more mechanically innovative variations on the core theme. Leaving aside for the moment the publisher's various controversies and tendency to edgelordism in some of the modules (both of which I think are detrimental to growth in the space) the elements which made Lamentations of the Flame Princess very popular for several years were a combination of a) great physical presentation and b) excellent innovative house rules, like the encumbrance system, the skill system based on OD&D concepts, and the class and magic revisions.

Nowadays we have games like WWN, Mothership, The Nightmares Underneath, Ultraviolet Grasslands' SEACAT, Beyond the Wall, Neoclassical Geek Revival, and the GLOG which do exactly what Rob missed from the reactionary old school crowd. These all build onto the old paradigm and creatively innovate! And at least those first five do that while also being beautifully presented in form.

While OSE is very popular in the old school scene, as a cleaned up and beautifully laid-out version of B/X with new and lovely art (and a couple of optional mechanical tweaks for accessibility, like ascending AC, and re-rolling low HP), it, too, has been tweaked for greater accessibility, ease of use, and "curb appeal". Folks like Democratus are successfully introducing many new players to older rules using this set. I've seen the same phenomenon for the past year in an OSR discord server I'm on, though most of those folks have at least some prior D&D experience. Necrotic Gnome has also been doing a fantastic job supporting this with their online SRD, and series of gorgeous modules with excellent layout and information design to make DMing easier, like Winter's Daughter, and The Hole in the Oak.
 


Vaalingrade

Legend
So here are my "grognard" things that I think are very good for games that some modern designers may not agree are good.
3. Failure. Meaning you try some ability or skill and it fails. It doesn't always have to lead to some other consequence. Sometimes you just try to climb a slick wall and can't.
Is this really a thing you think isn't part of modern game design?
4. Letting the dice fall. That means not fudging things as GM to make the game "better".
Has fudging ever actually been part of the rules?
 

Istbor

Dances with Gnolls
Coincidentally enough, when I was asked this question in the interview, this is how I answered:

Q) I don't think there's a right answer to this... but you've mentioned rulings over rules, danger and zero to hero. Is that how you define OSR? Is there an accepted definition?

I don't think there is any "one true way" to define the OSR, because the OSR above all else is meant to emulate the feel and/or mechanics of many games from the 70s/80s. Since there were so many games even then, there is no real way one could define the OSR objectively. That said, I think most fans of the OSR would agree on common themes. Those being rulings over rules, zero to hero, mechanically more lethal of a system, sandbox play, etc. Because gaming was still new back then, and we didn't have the internet where you get an instant answer to a question by the design team, most tables were coming up with stuff on the fly. That fostered a lot of creativity and homebrew. Players were encouraged to come up with their own stuff. I know this is anecdotal, but it seems that there are fewer GMs today who are creating their own game worlds and adventures than in the 80s, where nearly everyone I met was doing that.

So not the best answer, but at least I mentioned how there isn't any one true way of defining it, which I think is the important part.
I think my whole confusion about OSR boils down to this.

I have always played with Rulings over rules, both as player and DM. Danger has always been a part of the game. -RIP My very first Ranger.- And outside of a couple of particular people who made books as backgrounds, we were zero to hero, or at least zero to recognized person. I have played like... once with 2e and 1e?

So, I fail to see a difference fundamentally, from games I have run or play in, to these. What is the distinction, for someone like me to draw on? As, right now, what people have been describing, is just D&D. That is the game I have been playing for a quarter of a century.
 

Retreater

Legend
Is this really a thing you think isn't part of modern game design?
I think that's what we call "fail forward." There are numerous success states in modern game design. Like the FFG Star Wars dice can succeed a check while failing in other ways. It's really up to the GM's narrative control - and the dice don't actually matter.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Has fudging ever actually been part of the rules?
This just came up in the Skilled Play topic discussion. Fudging the dice is specifically brought up and sanctioned (under limited circumstances, to enhance fun and never to the detriment of the PCs) by Gygax in the 1E DMG. It's also mentioned and offered as an option in the DMGs of later editions.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
I think my whole confusion about OSR boils down to this.

I have always played with Rulings over rules, both as player and DM. Danger has always been a part of the game. -RIP My very first Ranger.- And outside of a couple of particular people who made books as backgrounds, we were zero to hero, or at least zero to recognized person. I have played like... once with 2e and 1e?

So, I fail to see a difference fundamentally, from games I have run or play in, to these. What is the distinction, for someone like me to draw on? As, right now, what people have been describing, is just D&D. That is the game I have been playing for a quarter of a century.
I think the distinction is with “modern” D&D (i.e., trad and OC/neo-trad play) where there is a very large focus on playing through and experiencing a story, especially the realization of character arcs that were seeded during character creation in the case of OC/neo-trad.

It’s a style of play where killing characters is bad because it ruins the (or their) story. The GM may fudge rolls to make sure that narratively important fights carry suitable weight (killing the evil high priest in one round is “boring”). Collaboratively telling a story is more important than OSR-style “skilled play”. In fact, “skilled play” can be disruptive (which I say from experience). While OSR favors “combat as war”, this style is more “combat as sport”.

However, I haven’t seen the term used before, but I was thinking this afternoon. It seems like “combat as performance” may be more accurate. While fights may be meant to be challenging, I don’t think that’s the point. The characters are expected to win (unless the story needs otherwise), so the the challenge is artificial (or performative). The important thing is that fights respect their role in the story, which is why the GM needs to fudge to make sure a climatic encounter is suitably epic. I want to call it “combat as performance” because it brings to mind sports entertainment like professional wrestling.
 

I think my whole confusion about OSR boils down to this.

I have always played with Rulings over rules, both as player and DM. Danger has always been a part of the game. -RIP My very first Ranger.- And outside of a couple of particular people who made books as backgrounds, we were zero to hero, or at least zero to recognized person. I have played like... once with 2e and 1e?

So, I fail to see a difference fundamentally, from games I have run or play in, to these. What is the distinction, for someone like me to draw on? As, right now, what people have been describing, is just D&D. That is the game I have been playing for a quarter of a century.
If you’ve played 3-5e, your character has not been on a zero to hero arc (at least in the way a more old school game frames it). You have a lot more going for the “power level” of a character compared to the older games. It’s more akin to hero to super hero from an osr perspective. This isn’t to edition bash, or attack a game, just pointing out a difference. it is one youd definitely notice if you played an osr game for a sustained amount of time.

The OSR rulings over rules is emphasised to some extent because, yes, you do that in later editions, but to a great extent, the older games require it to function. And this leads to a beautiful experience. You’re not playing “d&d”. You’re playing my game, or Kenada’s game or Jack Daniel’s game. Yes they will have the same base, but it presents a lighter framework to kit bash, customise and tweak.

This doesn’t mean the referee rules with an iron fist. Because there is a lot of space between the rules, player negotiation with the referee is expected. “I want to do this”, “ you can try, but because of x, it’s difficult”, “well, I think I’d know how to do this because of x and I’m also going to use y”, “sure, that’ll improve your odds”.
If you maintain a group, it becomes your group’s game, your group creates not just the adventure, but contributes to the system as well.
 

I think the distinction is with “modern” D&D (i.e., trad and OC/neo-trad play) where there is a very large focus on playing through and experiencing a story, especially the realization of character arcs that were seeded during character creation in the case of OC/neo-trad.

It’s a style of play where killing characters is bad because it ruins the (or their) story. The GM may fudge rolls to make sure that narratively important fights carry suitable weight (killing the evil high priest in one round is “boring”). Collaboratively telling a story is more important than OSR-style “skilled play”. In fact, “skilled play” can be disruptive (which I say from experience). While OSR favors “combat as war”, this style is more “combat as sport”.

However, I haven’t seen the term used before, but I was thinking this afternoon. It seems like “combat as performance” may be more accurate. While fights may be meant to be challenging, I don’t think that’s the point. The characters are expected to win (unless the story needs otherwise), so the the challenge is artificial (or performative). The important thing is that fights respect their role in the story, which is why the GM needs to fudge to make sure a climatic encounter is suitably epic. I want to call it “combat as performance” because it brings to mind sports entertainment like professional wrestling.
Omg thank you!! Bang on what I was saying in the other thread!
 

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