Thursday, February 7, 2013

Taking the Temperature of the OSR - or - It Ain't Quite Dead Yet!

There's been a lot of talk from some pretty big personas in the OSR about where the OSR is going (or even where it is now) especially considering the recent release of many of the early D&D / AD&D books via the DnDClassics site. You can catch some of the talk here, here, here and here.

The sky is falling. Or the ground is rising. Maybe the ground is falling and the sky is rising. Really, who the fuck knows.

Simple fact. The OSR isn't going anywhere. Putting the originals back into PDF format isn't going to gut the OSR of "old school players" anymore than DnD Next is. If anything, making the originals available in PDF format is likely to bring us the newly curious: "Wait, you mean there is a version of B/E that I can download for free and the rules are clearer than the originals? Score!"

This isn't us losing from a limited pool of  "old school gamers" but having the opportunity to expand that pool with the release of the classic PDFs. The question shouldn't be "how do we not lose players to the re-released classic rules?" but it should be "how do we embrace the players that are just now finding  Old School Gaming (or returning to Old School Gaming) thanks to the classic PDF reprints?"
It's the time to remind the gamers out there that Labyrinth Lord is a clearer rewrite of the BX/EX rules,  Swords & Wizardry is the OBS with some of the original supplements. OSRIC is AD&D 1e much like how it was played. Why stress these three? All are free and they cover much of the Old School Experience.

Then, once they are here, once the assimilation process starts, you hit them with LotFP Weird Fantasy, BFRPG, Microlite 74, ACKS, ASSH, C&T and all the rest.

I mean, folks do remember you can play more than one game, right? It isn't "one and done". You aren't stuck on the first game your find.

Will the OSR "change"? New blood always bring changes. Still, the OSR at it's very root is "Old School Gaming", and that will never change.


  1. It's funny how WOTC opened two Pandora's Boxes: one through action, and one through inaction (or retraction, I suppose).

    The OGL created the opportunity for the OSR to come to fruition... and pulling their content from pdf availability caused the OSR to thrive. I don't think that they could clamp down on the OSR now any more than they can stop retro-cloning or variations on games now that the OGL is out there.

  2. See also:

    As somebody who only came back to RPGs and found the OSR in 2010, I feel that it is certainly possible that the next phase may involve a lot more folks than the current one, and most of them won't even realize it.

    They will just be playing D&D, whatever version they like.

    (That said, I feel that perhaps the multiplicity of rules variants may lead to whole new games, much as happened in the 1970s. If the OSR is in some way "running the cycle anew" it is time for branching out from the D&D, Traveller, and Gamma World clones into other things like horror, supers, espionage, Western, etc.)

  3. People really should look at Horde and Hoard before deciding whether the OSR is dying or not.

  4. It's the time to remind the gamers out there that Labyrinth Lord is a clearer rewrite of the BX/EX rules, Swords & Wizardry is the OBS with some of the original supplements. OSRIC is AD&D 1e much like how it was played. Why stress these three? All are free and they cover much of the Old School Experience.

    Thank you very much, you're the voice of reason as usual! The PDFs that WotC is making available again are a big gift horse for old school roleplaying, and we need to stop looking in the mouth!

    Since when does was the OSR synonymous with the retroclones?? Come on folks, let's wake up!!! Many, many bloggers in the OSR firmament talk routinely about roleplaying THE ORIGINAL RULES! Either they've had them for decades, or they've picked them up again from eBay/conventions/game stores/Half Price Books/whatever! Therefore, even if the return of the D&D PDFs DOES kill the retroclones (which it won't), SO WHAT???!!! But the death of the 'clones is unlikely, as you said, because they are more often than not FREE and EASIER TO READ!

    I just don't get this urge to run around crying doomsday. We humans sure do love contemplating demise, don't we???