Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Why OSR At All?

Someone asked the above question at theRPGSite.

I don't usually visit the the various gaming forums (as examples, the above, along with the Knights & Knaves Alehouse and Dragonsfoot) as i'm not really looking to debate the merits of various game systems: I started my blog to write about what interests me, and i'm thrilled (and consider it a bonus) when visitors share their comments. My visit to theRPGSite was prompted by a post on RPG Blog II, responding to criticisms of old-school gaming, old-school bloggers, and the explosion of old-school blog-sites in general. I have certain theories about the real motivation behind those criticisms, which I may end up sharing if it seems worthwhile.

In answering the above question, one of the commenters, Kyle Aaron, provided the following response, which I thought sufficiently succinct to warrant repeating here.

I dunno about being a member of any [Old School] movement, that's a bit pretentious.

All I know is, what I like and dislike. I like simple systems, short cheap books with black and white art, rules and setting descriptions, and useful example characters. And charts.

I like simple systems because most players are too lazy to learn complex systems, and it gets tedious when I as GM have to explain it to them during a game session. I like simple systems because when there aren't rules for everything you get to use your imagination, I hate it when you're in a game session and you say, "I do X," and the GM says, "ah, there's a rule for that... your skill... that's -3, and..." and half an hour later you roll and fail.

I like short cheap books with black and white art, I don't like big expensive chunky glossy magazine-style books.

I like rules and setting descriptions, I don't like flavour fic.

I like example characters the players could have in their first session, not example characters that can't be built within the rules and are just Mary Sues for one of the game writers.

I like charts which give us things to inspire character creation or setting events, so the dice can help our creativity.

And I like snacks. Snacks are important. Some call this Old School. I call it "what I like."


Zachary The First said...

That’s a good quote by Kyle.

That whole line of conversation over there has sort of perplexed me. My response will be to keep making stuff.

rainswept said...

Hear, hear!

Thanks for bringing this over. I don't follow any forums and appreciate it when "worth-readings" are imported into the blogosphere :)

Christian said...

I've been saying for a while that marketing "retro clones" and the "OSR" created an unnecessary division. People should simply say, "I play Swords and Wizardry. It's a rule-light fantasy game that easy to learn, fun to play and strikes a chord will people who are turned off by the rules-bloat of D&D 4e."

Anonymous said...

One thing I learned in the last OSR "situation" is that there are a lot of hateful people out there just waiting to get a few kicks in. Most against the OSR, some deeply entrenched within. The most deplorable post as "Anonymous".

As for gaming, I like what works for us at the time, sometimes it is Labyrinth Lord, sometimes Barbarians of Lemuria, and even Pathfinder.

Padre said...

Thanks for the post, I like "lean" and "fat" games for a variety of reasons. I certainly have enjoyed reading and learning about the OSR, but don't see that as something I place in the better or worse than category with currently marketed games. I like it, I play it, I don't I quit. A general rule for any gaming I do.

Cameron said...

Simplicity is one reason. Cheapness is the other.

And I'm totally down with the snacks thing.

Christopher B said...

"Why OSR At All?"

Because it's an easy way to classify things. The same way I know to look for "gothic horror" or "space opera" games/books/blogs/whatever when I'm interested in finding such things.

As far as I'm concerned, it's just a quick label that has no ultimate meaning - and attempting to define/divine such a meaning is an intellectual pursuit that will likely waste much time, cause much debate, and yield little result.

"OSR" isn't a dogma - it's just a quick way to find things in a semi-defined area of interest. (IMHO, YMMV)

Anonymous said...

There doesn't really have to be a "why", "Old School Renaissance" is just an apt term for a trend occuring within the role-playing game community.

The Lord of Excess said...

I think whatever anyone wants to play/patronize is great. But I don't like people who have a holier than though attitude about games. I love OSR games, I've played them since Red Box D&D when I was a 10 year old child. But I play 4E D&D, I play Fate system games, I play Savage Worlds, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (2nd and 3rd edition) and Saga Edition Star Wars. I also love board games, miniature games and video games. Does that make me the Antichrist by puritanical, OSR sectarian/denominational standards? I think most of the OSR bloggers would say of course not ... but it seems there are those out there who would say anyone who plays any non OSR RPG is the enemy. At least I get that impression. I dearly love OSR games and even if I can't always play them I like reading about them and what people are doing with them, I just get frustrated when I hit all this OSR vs. Non-OSR stuff. Anyway you have a damn fine blog sir and this post is a good one ... thanks and keep it up :)

Timeshadows said...

I still don't get it:


A Paladin In Citadel said...

That's because the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

People should play whatever floats their boat. That includes old-school games, and modern RPGs.

I'll admit i've had my moments of insanity, but it's one thing to be critical of a game system, quite another to engage in personal attacks, like those appearing in some of those forums. One of the reasons I tend to avoid them.

Anonymous said...

I think some people are getting confused between folks who are an active part of the OSR and those who play old school games but are fundamentalist about it. The latter often despise the former for not being pure enough, while to the former it's all simply about having fun.

NetherWerks said...

The use of 'Old School' is not limited to the so-called OSR. I use it as meaning 'doing things the old fashioned way,' as opposed to belonging to some non-group or non-movement, but then I've always been heretical in my approach to such things.

Jim said...

I really like that summary. Thanks for sharing.