D&D General Why is "OSR style" D&D Fun For You?

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I was watching Mike Shea's video on Shadowdark, and it got me wondering why people seem to like "OSR style" play, whether it uses old rules like OSE or new rules like Shadowdark.

So, if you like that sort of old school sensibility in play, whether with the old rules or new rules, articulate what about it is fun for you.

Note: It would be great if we could avoid any edition warring or badwrongfunning in this thread. I am honestly curious what folks find fun about OSR style -- and even how they define it.

Details that might also be interesting to know is your history with D&D and whether you played Old School when they were new, as well as what games you started with at whatever age in whatever era. I know we skew a little older here (I am a GenX Metzner Boxed said kid myself) but it isn't universally true with forum users I don't think.

Thanks.
 

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JAMUMU

actually dracula
We don't bother much with resource management, and I can't be bothered getting into the "but what even is an OSR?" debate, but a few of the reasons we run AD&D instead of 1D&D5e are:
  • Reaction rolls mean not every encounter is a fight and any encounter can snowball into spontaneous RP
  • No cantrips mean magic users don't go pew-pew-pew all the time
  • Lower hp totals make combat shorter and seem more impactful
  • Things that could logically kill you can actually kill you
  • The assassination table
  • Alignment languages
  • No skill system to worry about
 

DaedalusX51

Explorer
For me I enjoy the rules light nature of games like the Black Hack and the general compatibility between most OSR products. I'm a Chaotic Good DM so I find it meshes well with my DM style (zero to 15 minutes of prep, rule of cool, and random generation) There isn't much crunch and it leans into the rulings not rules style that I enjoy. I like 5e too cause it tries to thread the needle between old and new playstyles even though it doesn't do either perfectly.
 

For me (AD&D):
  • I like discovering most of my character's backstory through play. (Levels 1-3)
  • Knowing that not every conflict must be a fight. Many are, but some are beyond us and some situations can be talked through. (Reaction table)
  • Some resource management. The more gear you take in the less treasure you take out. This also means the less gear you take in the more you rely on your spellcasters to solve some issues. I don't need to count every arrow unless it becomes germane to the situation.
  • Different stages of adventuring. The domain game is an interesting break from standard adventuring.
  • I appreciate limitations and believe that breeds creativity. There is no guarantees that I will have a certain spell or magic item. However, even then, there are ways around that through magic research, commissioning items, or finding rumors of where to find things.
  • There are fewer hit points / damage done. Combats seem to last the same amount of time on average regardless (2-5 rounds). That's pretty much purely aesthetic, I suppose.
 

jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
The three big reasons that I like OSR-style play:

1. I can create a character in less than ten minutes (and sometimes less than five).
2. I like the focus on exploration that many OSR games have. That's fun for me.
3. This one is specific to OD&D (1974) - I like alignments as literal allegiances rather than behavioral profiles.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I think a lot of OSR fans would take issue with me saying this, but I find OSR-style play to be some of the most unapologetically “gamist” design out there. Especially with light systems like OSE, every piece of the design serves a specific gameplay function. I don’t necessarily have any particular love of resource management gameplay specifically, but I do appreciate the resource management aspect because it makes the act of exploring a dungeon into an actual game, what with a goal and restrictions and challenge and all that.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
So, if you like that sort of old school sensibility in play, whether with the old rules or new rules, articulate what about it is fun for you.
As a player, at it's core, it's more challenging and it's more reliant on me as a player. The mechanics are harsher with death far more frequent than modern expectations, so that forces me as the player to think more. I as a player have to think and work out puzzles; I have to think of tactics and strategies, ways around combat, or how to defeat an enemy before rolling the dice; I have to describe things well or I might miss something; I have to think and ask questions or I might miss something; I have to investigate scenes and look for clues; I have to piece together any clues that I find. So most things that my character overcomes in the game is something that I've overcome as the player. Character resources are scarce so I have to manage those resources well or my character dies. That's fun. That's tension and drama. Things like light and darkness actually matter, so we have to manage those resources well or bad things happen to the characters.

To jump to other games for a moment. It's like the difference between Diplomacy and Risk. Both are great games but they have fundamentally different styles of play despite roughly similar goals. Conquer the world. In Risk you move pieces, roll dice, and take over lands. In Diplomacy you move pieces, personally negotiate with the other players, and take over lands.

Like with OSR play, that personal touch of me as the player doing things is far more engaging and rewarding than throwing dice.

As a referee, they're mostly all rules light and the play culture and expectations are more in line with how I run games. I'm not interested in thumping rule books and stopping play to look things up. Rulings, not rules. I am more interested in verisimilitude and things being (mostly) more logical, like just characters straight up dying from certain things rather than taking a few hit points damage. Play worlds, not rules. The players expect house rules and accept most without batting an eye. Home brewing, the DIY aesthetic, and getting weird with settings, monsters, characters, magic items is absolutely my jam. While those things do, sort of, exist outside the OSR, they're the beating heart of the OSR.
Details that might also be interesting to know is your history with D&D and whether you played Old School when they were new, as well as what games you started with at whatever age in whatever era. I know we skew a little older here (I am a GenX Metzner Boxed said kid myself) but it isn't universally true with forum users I don't think.
I started in 1984 with B/X. My oldest brother had a group playing AD&D. He is a collector so already had whatever BECMI boxes were out. But Basic D&D was seen as the kid's table game and B/X was the older and therefore "worse" version, so I was allowed to read that. Needless to say I was and still am absolutely hooked.

My current favorite OSR or adjacent games & books are: Acid Death Fantasy, Black Sword Hack, Cairn, DCC RPG, Five Torches Deep, Monster Overhaul, Old-School Essentials, Pirate Borg, Troika, and Ultraviolet Grasslands.
 
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