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

Mannahnin

Adventurer
That's not a modern mindset. It is the logical consequence of the values advocated by the Old School Primer when the DM isn't good. And part of the point of most of the various more modern mindsets is to get away from this sort of nonsense.
  • Rulings not Rules was followed to the letter with the DM making rulings in place of reactions and morale rules.
  • Player Skill not Character Abilities - IMO the only arguable point on this list. He didn't seem to have much time for character abilities...
  • Heroic not Superhero - he was killed by a Random Act of Bear. A superhero would have coped.
  • Forget game balance - part of the point of game balance is so Random Act of Bear doesn't kill people out of nowhere. And another part is that RPGs aren't balanced to a 50% win rate - they are balanced to where the designer thinks they are most fun. "Forget what the designer considers fun" is not good advice
I think you've got some legit criticism of weaknesses with the OS approach when the DM isn't good, but the section above seems really off-base. Is it a logical consequence of following a document which advises that "PCs should seek treasure and avoid unnecessary fights" to only award xp for combat?

Rulings Not Rules was not being followed to the letter. Ignoring rules which serve a purpose is not something Finch advocated. A DM following Rulings Not Rules as Finch lays it out would rule that monsters do sometimes run away; certainly intelligent or animalistic ones.

Player Skill Not Character Abilities was being specifically contradicted, most obviously by disallowing any engagement with traps outside Thieves' percentile skills.

Heroic Not Superhero certainly doesn't imply "randomly killed by a bear with no choices involved". Come on, man. A hero would at least have a chance to see it coming and mitigate the danger, even if he was wounded and unable to knock it out with a swift punch to the jaw like a superhero.

Forget Game Balance doesn't say or imply anything about ignoring what the designer considers fun, either. :/

I think you're absolutely correct that OSR play relies on a GM who can make organic rulings which feel both fair and fun to the players. And that the greater degree of reliance on GM judgement in pre-WotC editions does make them more vulnerable to a bad GM creating a bad play experience. The Old School Primer is a bit dated and I can see flaws in it, but it really doesn't say what you wrote above.

 
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Rulings Not Rules was not being followed to the letter. Ignoring rules which serve a purpose is not something Finch advocated. A DM following Rulings Not Rules as Finch lays it out would rule that monsters do sometimes run away; certainly intelligent or animalistic ones.
A DM following rules not rulings has full control of the rules and the rules serve him. If he doesn't like a rule the Primer gives him full license to ignore it. And every single one of the rules Finch uses in his illustrations of playstyles he doesn't like serves a purpose - or it wouldn't be there. Finch therefore absolutely and completely does suggest that rules that serve a purpose should not be used.

Remember we're talking failure state not ideal mode here. No one is suggesting that the DM in question was a good one. Merely that they were an old school one resistant to feedback who did things badly.
Player Skill Not Character Abilities was being specifically contradicted, most obviously by disallowing any engagement with traps outside Thieves' percentile skills.
This I'll grant
Heroic Not Superhero certainly doesn't imply "randomly killed by a bear with no choices involved". Come on, man. A hero would at least have a chance to see it coming and mitigate the danger, even if he was wounded and unable to knock it out with a swift punch to the jaw like a superhero.
A hero who didn't see it coming. Preternatural awareness rather than a significant chance of failing to see a stealthy predator coming would make for a superhero. A hero who couldn't be one shotted by an apex predator far larger and stronger than they are would be at the very least covered in plot armour and probably a superhero (like most D&D PCs, but I digress). Combine the two and it's down to the dice and killed by a bear ambush is a direct consequence.

According to Finch "The party has no “right” only to encounter monsters they can defeat,... and no “right” to a die roll in every particular circumstance. This sort of situation isn’t a mistake in the rules." Even with that caveat the bear attack I think at least gave some sort of check to either see the bear or win initiative - and the bear could have been beaten.

Now it's bad DMing - but it's also the failure state of following the advice in the Old School Primer that the Primer does absolutely nothing to mitigate.
Forget Game Balance doesn't say or imply anything about ignoring what the designer considers fun, either. :/
So why does the designer consider things to be balanced given that balance being 50:50 odds belongs to a wargame and there is no RPG I am aware of that has a TPK in half the fights? Finch entirely discards the notion that game balance and the designers indicating expected threat levels (which is what game balance actually means) is a good thing. Which, yes, is ignoring what the designer is suggesting is the most fun way of playing and telling you to discard it.
I think you're absolutely correct that OSR play relies on a GM who can make organic rulings which feel both fair and fun to the players. And that the greater degree of reliance on GM judgement in pre-WotC editions does make them more vulnerable to a bad GM creating a bad play experience. The Old School Primer is a bit dated and I can see flaws in it, but it really doesn't say what you wrote above.

Except that it doesn't say much to contradict it - and when you have a DM that won't listen to player feedback the Short Primer is only going to encourage them. Yes it's an uncharitable reading of the Old School Primer - but we're dealing with a bad DM here.

There's a reason that Storygames come with things like the X card and lines and veils. Their failure states tend to be unholy emotional nightmares and the designers recognise this and both guide you into good practice and put things in to mitigate the failure states that can arise. And good DMs don't spring fully formed - but few people want to do a bad job. And in addition to modelling good practice the way Crawford is another thing the OSR can and should do if it wants to bring in new gamers is mitigate the problems with the style.
 

transmission89

Adventurer
A DM following rules not rulings has full control of the rules and the rules serve him. If he doesn't like a rule the Primer gives him full license to ignore it. And every single one of the rules Finch uses in his illustrations of playstyles he doesn't like serves a purpose - or it wouldn't be there. Finch therefore absolutely and completely does suggest that rules that serve a purpose should not be used.

Remember we're talking failure state not ideal mode here. No one is suggesting that the DM in question was a good one. Merely that they were an old school one resistant to feedback who did things badly.

This I'll grant

A hero who didn't see it coming. Preternatural awareness rather than a significant chance of failing to see a stealthy predator coming would make for a superhero. A hero who couldn't be one shotted by an apex predator far larger and stronger than they are would be at the very least covered in plot armour and probably a superhero (like most D&D PCs, but I digress). Combine the two and it's down to the dice and killed by a bear ambush is a direct consequence.

According to Finch "The party has no “right” only to encounter monsters they can defeat,... and no “right” to a die roll in every particular circumstance. This sort of situation isn’t a mistake in the rules." Even with that caveat the bear attack I think at least gave some sort of check to either see the bear or win initiative - and the bear could have been beaten.

Now it's bad DMing - but it's also the failure state of following the advice in the Old School Primer that the Primer does absolutely nothing to mitigate.

So why does the designer consider things to be balanced given that balance being 50:50 odds belongs to a wargame and there is no RPG I am aware of that has a TPK in half the fights? Finch entirely discards the notion that game balance and the designers indicating expected threat levels (which is what game balance actually means) is a good thing. Which, yes, is ignoring what the designer is suggesting is the most fun way of playing and telling you to discard it.

Except that it doesn't say much to contradict it - and when you have a DM that won't listen to player feedback the Short Primer is only going to encourage them. Yes it's an uncharitable reading of the Old School Primer - but we're dealing with a bad DM here.

There's a reason that Storygames come with things like the X card and lines and veils. Their failure states tend to be unholy emotional nightmares and the designers recognise this and both guide you into good practice and put things in to mitigate the failure states that can arise. And good DMs don't spring fully formed - but few people want to do a bad job. And in addition to modelling good practice the way Crawford is another thing the OSR can and should do if it wants to bring in new gamers is mitigate the problems with the style.
Meh, I’ve said before in another thread that I think x cards don’t actually serve their intended purpose, creating a failure state of a story game (as you put it) rather than mitigating it.

I think the very nature of the OSR brand style of play is antithetical to the idea of your suggestions to mitigating the “problems with the style”. It’s raison d’être is that Wild West of open spaces between the rules in which a game can fly or die. To try to mitigate those problems, well, you end up with 3e with explicit rules for everything.

I think the best that can be done to support a referee and keep that intended spirit are things that are already being done. like designer commentary in some rulesets, demonstrating best practice in published adventures, articles and discussions in the wider community that help a fledging judge.

The validity of statements in the OSR primer by finch is oft discussed and debated in the OSR community. I think it’s generally not viewed as a definitive statement on “true OSR play” (specifically a particular style that serves the branding) , more a brief declaration of intent that provides a quick, birds eye view. It served as a rallying cry against the established mainstream games at the time of its publication. It’s job now is a spring into further reading such as principa apocrypha and Philotomy’s musings.
 

iltharanos

Explorer
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?
This doesn’t help OSR.
 

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reelo

Adventurer
Gavin Norman is working on a Dolmenwood hex crawl. I won’t ever run it, but I’m going to buy it to see if he has any interesting new ideas for writing up hex keys. Depending on your exploration procedure, there’s varying amounts of contextual information you need beyond just the hex contents (like wandering monsters tables, travel speeds, etc).
I’d expect each hex to have something keyed in it beyond just the terrain type and wandering monsters tables. An empty expanse of wilderness is pretty boring.

As a Patreon subscriber privy to upcoming Dolmenwood content, I can show you what a typical Dolmenwood hex writeup lools like. (I hope I'm not getting in trouble for posting this.)
The "Tangled Forest" part below the title refers to one of several encounter tables for different forest environments.
Each hex gets a single page in the upcoming book, except, possibly, really important ones, I don't know.
6353203cf17bca4ccd48226a9346e343.jpg
 


Imaro

Hero
This doesn’t help OSR.

Yep this is exactly the type of thing that sours many on the OSR in general.
I don’t follow your reasoning. If a sushi restaurant owner was revealed to be a sexual predator, would it make you reluctant to eat sushi anymore?
If I notice a trend where sushi restaurant owners seem to have a higher proportion of sexual predators to other restaurants (whether it's factually accurate or not) then yeah I'm going to eat elsewhere...It's funny how it keeps being portrayed as isolated incidents and yet I'm not seeing the same problem to the same degree with other segments of the hobby.

This right here just made it so that I would never purchase any Tunnels and Trolls stuff and I wouldn't play in a T&T game offered by someone else.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
As a Patreon subscriber privy to upcoming Dolmenwood content, I can show you what a typical Dolmenwood hex writeup lools like. (I hope I'm not getting in trouble for posting this.)
The "Tangled Forest" part below the title refers to one of several encounter tables for different forest environments.
Each hex gets a single page in the upcoming book, except, possibly, really important ones, I don't know.
6353203cf17bca4ccd48226a9346e343.jpg
Thanks for sharing that. Some of the stuff isn’t too surprising (like including the chance for getting lost and encounters right there in the key), but I was a initially surprised by the verbosity. I was expecting him to make more use of descriptive blocks like his dungeon adventures, but I guess that’s being reserved for the evocative text at the top.

I’m curious. Is there also a summary page that has all the evocative text together, so you don’t have to page around while you narrate the PCs’ journey through several hexes? I’ve tried a few different ways of laying out my hex key, but I haven’t included a summary page yet. The problem I’ve had is having to flip around too as the PCs travel, which causes me to ignore my key and wing it, defeating the point of having the prep.
 



Politics of people aside (and off-topic and against the rules for this forum), I don't think that's the main issue. It's not like the 8,000 gorilla of the industry doesn't have it's own issues there.

Even ignoring such things, there's a general grognardism to the way OSR is presented - it reads as a reaction to modern gaming as if the modern style is bad, because it's a reaction to modern gaming by people who want a different kind of fun. Many new gamers kinda enjoy modern games, though, so an anti-modern pitch is going to fail. One fundamental rule of sales is never tell a potential customer they made a bad buying decision, (or even imply it) it just makes them defensive. Just tell them why your product is good, let them realize it's better on their own.

If you're trying to sell OSR books, you need to focus on what your game does that DnD doesn't do.
 

Imaro

Hero
Politics of people aside (and off-topic and against the rules for this forum), I don't think that's the main issue. It's not like the 8,000 gorilla of the industry doesn't have it's own issues there.
See and this right here is one of the issues... Those being called out in the OSR aren't apologetic or trying to be better and the fans of the OSR give the impression that they just want minorities to ignore it and act like it's not there... sorry but that mentality is not going to fly with many in this day and age...

As for the 8,000 lb gorilla, WotC at least is giving the appearance that it is concerned about and trying to get better at problematic politics and representation in its game.
 

Even ignoring such things, there's a general grognardism to the way OSR is presented - it reads as a reaction to modern gaming as if the modern style is bad, because it's a reaction to modern gaming by people who want a different kind of fun. Many new gamers kinda enjoy modern games, though, so an anti-modern pitch is going to fail. One fundamental rule of sales is never tell a potential customer they made a bad buying decision, (or even imply it) it just makes them defensive. Just tell them why your product is good, let them realize it's better on their own.
I disagree that reacting against modern gaming sensibilities will turn all newer gamers away. It might not appeal to most new gamers, but like all retro cultural movements, it will appeal to some.

The whole hipster ethos is a rejection of what’s regarded as superficial or debased modern culture in favour of the more authentic sensibilities of an earlier era. You’ll find lots of young enthusiasts today who worship Kubrick, listen to Fleetwood Mac on vinyl, and collect reprints of golden age comics.

In recent years the OSR is leaning into avant-garde and gonzo aesthetics, which has enhanced its appeal beyond long-time grognards. Hold up Mork Borg and Ultraviolet Grasslands one one hand, and Volo’s Guide to Monsters and the Pathfinder Lost Omens Guide on the other, and tell me which books a cultural maven will say seem more cutting edge and creative.

Simple, retro mechanics presented with modern graphic design sensibilities is a potent combination. Old School Essentials has revitalized the old B/X system and sparked a host of compatible material, just by modernizing the look and usability of the rules. The OSR will always be niche, but that niche appeals to more than just grognards.
 
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Fanaelialae

Legend
I backed the Mork Borg KS, and I really wanted to back the UVG KS (but finances were a little tight at the time, so I couldn't justify it).

However, if you look at either of those KS, they don't define themselves by contrasting with modern games. They just tell folks what's awesome about their game (MB does briefly contrast itself with the OSR, but that's more about managing expectations).

These are two OSR games that are doing things the right way. They don't care about what anyone else is doing; they just care about producing an awesome game and it shows that they believe that their games stand on their own merits. WWN is a third OSR game that I think belongs in this category.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I disagree that reacting against modern gaming sensibilities will turn all newer gamers away. It might not appeal to most new gamers, but like all retro cultural movements, it will appeal to some.
I wonder to what extent it might appeal to new players who, after some time, cease to be all that new and begin looking for a change.
 


Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Politics of people aside (and off-topic and against the rules for this forum), I don't think that's the main issue. It's not like the 8,000 gorilla of the industry doesn't have it's own issues there.

Even ignoring such things, there's a general grognardism to the way OSR is presented - it reads as a reaction to modern gaming as if the modern style is bad, because it's a reaction to modern gaming by people who want a different kind of fun. Many new gamers kinda enjoy modern games, though, so an anti-modern pitch is going to fail. One fundamental rule of sales is never tell a potential customer they made a bad buying decision, (or even imply it) it just makes them defensive. Just tell them why your product is good, let them realize it's better on their own.

If you're trying to sell OSR books, you need to focus on what your game does that DnD doesn't do.
I don’t think many of the OSR games reject modern game design as much as it seems like you’re making it to be. For example, many of the big OSR games have things like ascending AC and other more modern sensibilities.

In my own OSR game that’s launching soon, even ignoring aesthetic and presentation, mechanically it includes modern sensibilities such as:

ascending ac
Ancestries instead of race
No dead levels
Intelligent humanoids do not have default alignments.

So OSR doesn’t necessarily mean a reaction to portray modern gaming as bad, but as an alternative to modern gaming in SOME ways, marrying old school feel of play with modern lessons learned.
 


I wonder to what extent it might appeal to new players who, after some time, cease to be all that new and begin looking for a change.
To quite a large extent. We see this happen with a great many cultural scenes. People are new to a music genre or school of fiction. They love it. But eventually they exhaust or get bored of the popular mainstream stuff. This inspires them to delve deeper into alternative and less-known sub-genres. One of those alternatives is always the roots of the genre.
 

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