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

Fanaelialae

Legend
I would argue that implicitly, core 5e assumes that combats are an entertaining romp for your players, where they can feel like they're challenged (without actually being challenged) while they show off their cool abilities. You absolutely can change that assumption, but it takes work and it doesn't make it not the assumption.
Death can certainly happen in 5e, completely out of the blue and without mercy. Happened recently to a roughly 5th level cleric of mine when he was crit by a flail snail and taken to his negative max HP. That doesn't fit with CaP.

I hold that 5e, by default, is on the easy end of CaS. Just because a game isn't ultra-lethal doesn't make it CaP. Bad tactics or even just bad luck can (and have) resulted in character deaths and TPKs.
 

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kenada

Legend
Supporter
None of what you said helped me understand further. Either you lose me with jargon, or you are just further describing games I have ran or played in. Combat as war is not IMO unique to OSR. And the only times I may have fudged rolls as DM is if I realized I made a mistake on my end. Either mathematically or just misinterpreted how a monster/NPC ability actually works.
The trad/neo-trad stuff comes from this article, but the jargon’s not particularly important. Think Dragonlance. There’s a story to be told and experienced, and that’s the point. OSR-style play tends to be more about stories that emerge from play. You can do an adventure module, but the ones that work best with OSR play are ones that provide a situation or a location rather than try to tell a story.

I have never had a problem promoting a cool and fun story, while also offing player characters. People die in fiction all the time.
Characters die in fiction because the author wrote it that way. In the “modern” style, characters aren’t expected to die randomly. You’ll see this framed in discussions like how characters should only die if they make mistakes, or how it’s bad GMing not to fudge to prevent an ignoble death.

As a practical example, consider the session summary from a few pages ago. In essence, some choices were made, a character got into trouble, and that character died. From an OSR perspective, that character made choices, opted not to retreat, and died. Actions had consequences. From a “modern” one, that character was being punished for exploring.

I’ve had this happen at my table. I was running Kingmaker, and one of the PCs died during the fight with the Stag Lord at the end of the first module (“Stolen Lands”). The player insisted on being allowed to bring back a similar PC because paying for a raise dead was punishing the party. From his perspective, he didn’t make any mistakes. He was just doing what his character does, so his character’s death was undeserved.

I guess then, part of the confusion, is this forced dichotomy I see presented. That Modern must be this, while OSR must be that. Perhaps these things are as cut and dry as we like to think?
It’s possible or even probable that you’re doing something that is pretty similar to OSR. The value of recognizing a style is not in forcing people into little buckets but in understanding what we find valuable when we play and how the style can inform that and show us other games we might enjoy.

For me, I was quite please to find names for “trad” and “OC/neo-trad” because it gave a name to styles that either clash with how I tend to play or that I wouldn’t enjoy. I’d describe what I do as OSR-adjacent because I’m won’t restrict myself to just TSR-era games (I was running a sandbox in PF2 up until recently), but stuff like the Principia Apocrypha resonates with me.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Death can certainly happen in 5e, completely out of the blue and without mercy. Happened recently to a roughly 5th level cleric of mine when he was crit by a flail snail and taken to his negative max HP. That doesn't fit with CaP.

I hold that 5e, by default, is on the easy end of CaS. Just because a game isn't ultra-lethal doesn't make it CaP. Bad tactics or even just bad luck can (and have) resulted in character deaths and TPKs.
And just because the rules allow for character death doesn't make it CaS (let alone CaW). The chances of what happened to the cleric in your story are exceedingly small. In the vast, vast majority of cases, characters that drop to 0 come back up very quickly, or are at least stabilized, by the many ways in the rules for help to be rendered, and the amount of time required to actually die. The party is most often set up to win (and handily by the rules in most cases) and if they're not, there almost always a narrative reason. That's not inherently a bad thing if that's the game you're going for, but it is how the big dog of RPGs plays, and other ways are fun too.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
And just because the rules allow for character death doesn't make it CaS (let alone CaW). The chances of what happened to the cleric in your story are exceedingly small. In the vast, vast majority of cases, characters that drop to 0 come back up very quickly, or are at least stabilized, by the many ways in the rules for help to be rendered, and the amount of time required to actually die. The party is most often set up to win (and handily by the rules in most cases) and if they're not, there almost always a narrative reason. That's not inherently a bad thing if that's the game you're going for, but it is how the big dog of RPGs plays, and other ways are fun too.
By that logic Stars Without Number is a CaP game provided you have a bio psychic in the party (which isn't any different from having a cleric). That doesn't pass the smell test for me.

You're right that a game allowing for death doesn't make it CaS. However, I think that a game that allows pointless, random death isn't CaP. 5e totally allows for pointless, random death (speaking from personal experience here).
 

Perhaps the more central issue is whether the scenario is linear or not. In a linear scenario, especially a pre-written adventure path, the gm might not know what to do when the players 'fail' - either a single important skill roll or an entire combat. Moreover, death during a random encounter in such a scenario just feels truly random, rather than as evidence of a living, breathing world.

In a sandbox scenario, the obverse is true. A 'failed' encounter (combat or otherwise) has knock-on effects that change the world (e.g., the dungeon patrol is now on high alert); same with success. Unbalanced random encounters (' a dragon files overhead') do make the world feel more alive, whereas if every combat just-so-happens to be perfectly balanced to your level and abilities, it feels gamey and boring.

Justin Alexander made this point recently on twitter in a response to a Matt Colville video.

I'm not sure to what degree particular rule sets favor a particular play culture.
 

ShinHakkaider

Adventurer
But there's room for both styles of RPG, right? You can have games where the diversity is built into the world, and anybody can be anything. And you can also have focused games, like Pendragon, where the story you're telling is specific to a region or a time period. You don't have to like both kinds of games, you don't have to financially support both kinds of games, but you should respect that there are people who do enjoy one or the other (or both) and allow them to do so.
I'm trying to see in where I wrote that I was stating otherwise.

I specifically stated that "I" avoided those games. Not once did I state that they were invalid play styles or that they shouldn't exist.

If I did? please point to it? Thanks. Or at least read the post that I was responding to get some context before you bring the strawman attack? Thanks.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I would ask: why wouldn’t there be?

Are new players really a monolithic group?

boardgames are popular now and it seems rather than crowding older games out, newer games create more options.

I find that Half of OSR thinks all new players are the same and doesn't sell to them nor cater to them.

And the other half sees that new players can come from various angles and attempts to slice them off a piece.
 


Vaalingrade

Legend
It's really weird to watch Combat as Performance spring into being as a back-handed insult to people who don't like high lethality and then come into serious analytical usage over the course of like three pages.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
It's really weird to watch Combat as Performance spring into being as a back-handed insult to people who don't like high lethality and then come into serious analytical usage over the course of like three pages.
🤨

As I tried to explain the difference between “OSR” and “modern”, it struck me that there was an approach to combat other than the usual ones (combat as war, combat as sport). I did some searching, found nothing, and picked a name that seemed fitting. What would you propose? I don’t think pretending that it’s not its own thing does it any service. If it’s something distinct, it deserves to be recognized as such and discussed accordingly.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
🤨

As I tried to explain the difference between “OSR” and “modern”, it struck me that there was an approach to combat other than the usual ones (combat as war, combat as sport). I did some searching, found nothing, and picked a name that seemed fitting. What would you propose? I don’t think pretending that it’s not its own thing does it any service. If it’s something distinct, it deserves to be recognized as such and discussed accordingly.
I've been giving it some thought the past few hours, and the more I think about it, the more I think "combat as performance" is conceptually limited. It does occupy the right space - that being that it distinguishes concepts that are often lumped in with CaS that don't really belong. However, I don't think that space is limited to performance.

I think it's actually "combat as narrative".

Sometimes it might be a performance, such as in a superhero game where you show off how awesome the heroes are against a group of lowly mooks.

Other times it might be an alternate objective. Sure, we know the heroes won't die, but can they stop the evil Dr Rick from turning the people of the world into Cronenburgs?

Combat in this is likely never random, always serving some purpose toward building a shared narrative. The consequences typically won't be life or death, but there's still a purpose. It could be to make the heroes look awesome. It might be to find out whether Superman can save Jimmy (and what happens as a consequence if he does/doesn't succeed).

A game I think falls in this category is Tenra Bansho Zero. A player can lose their character in two ways. By checking off their mortally wounded health box (in which case you die at the end of the encounter, unless healed), or by accruing too much karma (in which case you become an "evil" NPC). However, both of these are player facing options, meaning the player makes a choice to engage with them, giving them significantly more control of their character's narrative than they would have in many other other RPGs, including D&D.
 


Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I was going to suggest Combat as Drama, but that seems good too.

Was it the comparison to professional wrestling? I thought that was cool now. /me remembers being laughed at for wearing a Hulk Hogan t-shirt in 6th grade in the early ’90s. 😢

I personally think it's important to distinguish between combat as vehicle for storytelling (as in something prepared or that we're specifically driving towards) and combat done primarily as vehicle for narrative or emotional stakes. Both are pretty distinct from the sort of challenge oriented combat as sport seen in more gamist takes on modern D&D, but are fairly different from each other in execution and feel.

This might be a good topic for it's own thread.
 

The-Magic-Sword

Small Ball Archmage
I think its also important to make a distinction between Playstyle and System, Systems do lean toward certain playstyles of course ('System Matters!') but that doesn't, contrary to the hidden connotation of that phrase, imply they always do so inflexibly.

So a 5e game can be run with a CaW style where the GM constructs challenges to be overcome via 'shenanigans and deck stacking' by making them overwhelming, a CaS style where the risk of failure is very real but depends on the party's in moment-to-moment kit and tactical choices (did we pick the right spell? did we smite at the right time? did we get advantage wherever we can? are we sufficiently optimized?), or a CaP where the built in failure states guarded against by the GM and combat rules exist to immerse the player in the 'feel and texture' of a fight scene.

Another system may do one, some or all of these better than 5e (like, in my eyes, Pathfinder 2e does CaW and CaS better, but the GM needs to walk on eggshells to let it do CaP, and really, why even go through all the effort of these complex and intricate combat mechanics? its just in the way and 5e would do it better) but that doesn't suggest that it isn't happening in 5e, or even that systems that do them individually worse, can't be perfect for a group's preferred blend.

Combat in an RPG is like beer, the menu description could easily read like "A full bodied CaS base from our diligent combat rules, with permeating undertones of CaW conveyed by our difficulty and exploration mechanics, and the gentlest notes of CaP in the protections against full character death" (that turned into a description of PF2e real quick) with another system also having all three of those things, but conveyed completely differently, which could very well be another group's ideal.
 

haakon1

Adventurer
Responding to the OP question. I don't see a reason new players can't come in with OSR rules -- if you mean stuff like AD&D 1e and 2e rules. I last ran AD&D 1e in 1996-2002 (yes, when 2e and 3e were the in-print editions).

I ran it with simple rules: just PHB, DMG, Monster Manuals/Fiend Folio, Legends & Lore, and Greyhawk setting.

The starting player options were all contained in the PHB, and with other players and the DM helping the new player create a character live, and teaching through playing, it worked fine. All of my players were either completely new to RPG's or people who knew AD&D but hadn't played in years, about 50/50 on that. It was great fun, given the longevity of play, and "converted" 3 of the players into DM's of their own, spawning new campaigns in 3 states -- I think everyone now runs 3.5e (I converted both my active campaigns in 2002 to 3e and 2003 to 3.5e), PF1, or 5e.

I do think 2e is a little more complicated than 1e, especially if you bring in all the splatbooks. And based on the up-and-down popularity and cultural umph of D&D in different eras, it seems 1e, 3/3.5/PF1, and 5e were the easy/attractive ones to learn.
 

I do think 2e is a little more complicated than 1e, especially if you bring in all the splatbooks. And based on the up-and-down popularity and cultural umph of D&D in different eras, it seems 1e, 3/3.5/PF1, and 5e were the easy/attractive ones to learn.
Oo, I’d be really interested in your POV as to why you think that.

I came to the OSR from later editions and found 2e easier to grock than 1e personally. For me, it was the clearer layout and organisation of core plus an initiative system I could understand. Of course, it does start bogging down the more you pile on that core.
 

I do think 2e is a little more complicated than 1e, especially if you bring in all the splatbooks. And based on the up-and-down popularity and cultural umph of D&D in different eras, it seems 1e, 3/3.5/PF1, and 5e were the easy/attractive ones to learn.

I'd also be curious about your POV.

My experience was that 1e was really simple in actual play, but that's because everyone played it like how B/X did it (side initiative with missile/magic/melee phases) or the gold box games (individual initiative), and with none of the additional, expanded rules listed in the 1e DMG used at all. When 2e came out, the only difference I remember is everyone moving to individual initiative, but I'm sure we did that before we got 2e. It's hard for me to remember now, though. I was mostly B/X with a bit of 1e, then 2e, then more 1e in my play history.

My experience was that virtually everyone actually played using only the B/X rules (~5 pages of very straightforward rules) with individual initiative that they learned from the computer games (Pool of Radiance or Hillsfar, or the Dark Sun games, or with Baldur's Gate/Icewind Dale). Or you learned from people who learned that way, or you switched to those video game rules because they made combat run better. Less like a simulation and more like a game. It was the "actual play live stream" of the late 80s. I, for one, distinctly remember the gold box games teaching me about the fighter "sweep" rule that's buried below the "attacks per melee round" table in the 1e PHB. I don't know how many tables I had to teach about that, but I think it was at least three!

I'd say that 2e only becomes more complicated when you add on 2e setting-specific rules or, as you say, all the kit books. 1e only appears simple when you drop all the extra rules or you already have the rules from other editions memorized so you aren't forced to read the actual book to learn the game. 1e is the only edition that feels like it gets more complicated when you open the DMG. I don't think 1e or 2e were particularly easy to learn without a lot of help, but I do think 2e is a much, much better presentation. 2e at least makes optional rules clearly optional, and the sections don't overlap or run together like 1e does.
 

haakon1

Adventurer
Background: I learned to play AD&D 1e, and learned to DM AD&D 1e Oriental Adventures. In all, I played or DM’d 1e for about 13 years, but I only was a player in 2e, and only for a year or so. I never played Basic, though I DM’d many modules and materials in B/X rules. I never played computer D&D prior to Temple of Elemental Evil (2003, 3e).

In recent years, my exposure to 2e has been reading Dungeon Magazine - I’m trying to read the whole thing. My impression of 2e issues is the rules can be overly complex compared to 1e. E.g., non-weapon proficiency, specialist MU’s, specialty clerics, spells not appearing in the other editions, references to books for underwater combat and ship-to-ship rules.

But the main reasons I didn’t get into 2e:
(1) I happened to be playing a half orc assassin in 1e, in 1988, when 2e came out. I was so excited to see the new rule book, until I realized my character was written out of the rules. That soured me on all the “Moms against D&D” inspired changes like Tanarii and all that.
(2) I’m a huge fan of Gary Gygax and Greyhawk, and the roots of the game. 2e is the era when TSR ran off Gary, made Forgotten Realms the default setting, published the joke version of Castle Greyhawk, published a revision of the setting I didn’t like (From the Ashes) that destroyed my favorite country (Bissel) and contradicted what had happened in “actual play” in my campaigns/what happened if the PC’s won in the biggest adventure path of AD&D 1e (G123/D123/Q1), and finally cancelled Greyhawk.

So, I stopped playing at all for a while, disillusioned by 2e, until I decided to start a 1e homebrew campaign … got on the Greyhawk home version kick … 3e … 3.5e … and even went to the 4e launch event in Seattle and got a signed book.

Before getting that feeling of 2e launch (where’s my half orc assassin?) again with 4e (played for a few years, but never converted what I DM’d), and deciding to stick with 3.5e and home brewed Greyhawk thereafter. Nothing against 5e, but I just haven’t invested the time to learn it.

So, assuming you folks do OSR AD&D, why? What’s your path and POV?

As you can imagine, “revision churn” and ”rules bloat” annoy me. Part of the reason is perhaps that I’m more into Fluff (story) than Crunch (rules, CharOp), and part is I think the publishers audience is people playing 50 times a year. Whereas the game I DM’d today had its 21 session, and 3rd anniversary this weekend. That rate of play and attitude just doesn’t need or want “the game physics“ to keep changing with more rules, or changed rules.
 
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imagineGod

Legend
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?
Some people use "grognards" always with negative connotations as a sort of out-cast from the modern Zeitgeist. . Historically,from French legions, it meant veterans who grumble, so was not positive even then.

The use of the term has not improved with time and still bring used to stereotype people negatively who understand historic games legacy.
 

Background: I learned to play AD&D 1e, and learned to DM AD&D 1e Oriental Adventures. In all, I played or DM’d 1e for about 13 years, but I only was a player in 2e, and only for a year or so. I never played Basic, though I DM’d many modules and materials in B/X rules. I never played computer D&D prior to Temple of Elemental Evil (2003, 3e).

In recent years, my exposure to 2e has been reading Dungeon Magazine - I’m trying to read the whole thing. My impression of 2e issues is the rules can be overly complex compared to 1e. E.g., non-weapon proficiency, specialist MU’s, specialty clerics, spells not appearing in the other editions, references to books for underwater combat and ship-to-ship rules.

But the main reasons I didn’t get into 2e:
(1) I happened to be playing a half orc assassin in 1e, in 1988, when 2e came out. I was so excited to see the new rule book, until I realized my character was written out of the rules. That soured me on all the “Moms against D&D” inspired changes like Tanarii and all that.
(2) I’m a huge fan of Gary Gygax and Greyhawk, and the roots of the game. 2e is the era when TSR ran off Gary, made Forgotten Realms the default setting, published the joke version of Castle Greyhawk, published a revision of the setting I didn’t like (From the Ashes) that destroyed my favorite country (Bissel) and contradicted what had happened in “actual play” in my campaigns/what happened if the PC’s won in the biggest adventure path of AD&D 1e (G123/D123/Q1), and finally cancelled Greyhawk.

So, I stopped playing at all for a while, disillusioned by 2e, until I decided to start a 1e homebrew campaign … got on the Greyhawk home version kick … 3e … 3.5e … and even went to the 4e launch event in Seattle and got a signed book.

Before getting that feeling of 2e launch (where’s my half orc assassin?) again with 4e (played for a few years, but never converted what I DM’d), and deciding to stick with 3.5e and home brewed Greyhawk thereafter. Nothing against 5e, but I just haven’t invested the time to learn it.

So, assuming you folks do OSR AD&D, why? What’s your path and POV?

As you can imagine, “revision churn” and ”rules bloat” annoy me. Part of the reason is perhaps that I’m more into Fluff (story) than Crunch (rules, CharOp), and part is I think the publishers audience is people playing 50 times a year. Whereas the game I DM’d today had its 21 session, and 3rd anniversary this weekend. That rate of play and attitude just doesn’t need or want “the game physics“ to keep changing with more rules, or changed rules.

That’s cool. Totally understandable. I’ve found though if you cut all the optional rules from the 2e phb, it pretty much runs like a souped up B/X.

I started getting into the OSR scene when wotc did the premium reprints (pathfinder 1e was my introduction to the hobby). I got the 1e prints which were certainly a good read, but was left confused about how to even play. The 2e reprints then made more sense, but because I was coming from a modern mindset, I didn’t understand some concepts ( what do you mean 3-40 creatures in an encounter? How do you balance these? How do you know how much treasure to place for each level? Etc). When they released the Mentzer basic PDF, it began to click. So 2e is my primary ruleset, but I play it more in the resource, dungeon crawl format of classic and 1e.

For me, I love the optional content. It clicked for me that I don’t have to use books x,y and z, I can just use certain elements from them. They aren’t to be eaten whole, they are a buffet of ideas you pick and choose from. I’ll grab the half orc from complete book of humanoids, the assassin from the scarlet brotherhood, the revised spells from spells and magic, the expanded equipment from combat and tactics etc.

I also use OSE heavily (for my after school club) and would’ve probably only used that had it been available when I first started on the OSR path. But to be fair, it took me a while to appreciate the benefits of race as class, at first, I thought the concept too limiting, but now actually prefer it.
 

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