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Sunday, September 28, 2014

It's Not Your Dad's OSR... or Maybe it Is

There have been some truly stupid discussions / disagreements in the OSR over this weekend, with much of it having to do with what constitutes the OSR, when the OSR began, when did the OSR self identify as well as a request to dig up gaming dirt on James Mal because the person in question is too lazy to do so for himself.

Drama. Lot's of it.

It did get me thinking about the definition of the OSR. Well, not the actual definition, as it's a nebulous and personal thing formed by one's own gaming experiences. I'm referring to how I define the OSR, based on my experiences, and I find myself with a ying / yang situation, as it has two faces to me. Two definitions that overlap. Or, more precisely, one definition encompasses the other.

The first definition sees the OSR in terms of older editions of D&D and it's clones and derivatives. If the rules can be traced back to AD&D 2e or an earlier definition, it's OSR.

The second definition sees the OSR as encapsulating all old school gaming and it's clones. There is no defined cut off date for this, but I'd probably use 1997 as my personal marker (unless one finds a better one) as this is the year I stepped away from gaming for 10 years or so. It's an easy mark for me to remember. This definition includes examples like Traveller, Gamma World, Star Frontiers, Tunnels & Trolls, Rolemaster, RuneQuest, Bushido, The Fantasy Trip, WFRP and dozens if not hundreds of others. The games of my youth and early adult hood. The golden and silver years of my gaming.

So, for ease of reference not just for myself, but my readers, I am going to be using the following definitions here at The Tavern.

OSR - D&D and it's clones and derivatives. If the rules can be traced back to AD&D 2e or an earlier definition, it's OSR.

OSR-E (OSR-Expanded) - an RPG released in 1997 or earlier or one of it's clones. Short and simple.

Again, these are my definitions for use here at The Tavern. Just trying to keep things organized both on the blog and in my head ;)

26 comments:

  1. For me, Vampire would be the OSR cutoff?

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  2. well, the date is kinda funky in it's setting - i personally wouldnt include vampire, but man, i really wanted to play mage

    then again, we have the GURPS adaptations...

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    1. Mage came out in 1993 so under your rules it's OSR-E, right?

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  3. OSR-E works for me. I should note there was a similar trend in miniatures wargaming over about the same period (especially historicals). However, there is considerably less acrimony in that community I believe primarily the real investment is in the lead on the table. Rules come and go but an 1812 rifleman remains an 1812 rifleman,

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  4. What of Shadowrun? Would the OSR cutoff be first or second edition? I think we can all agree that third would not be OSR.... or can we....

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    1. i only had 1e of SR - which is definitely OSR-E as well as Earthdawn

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    2. Did somebody say Earthdawn? :-D

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    3. yep - a game i never played but always wanted to

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    4. I see SR 2E in much the same vein as AD&D 2E. A clean-up and rewriting of the 1E ruleset. To me, 2E of either game still falls under the OSR(-E).
      But, you know, YMMV.

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  5. This whole definition and history of the OSR thing needs to be the subject of Jon Peterson's next book

    "If the rules can be traced back to AD&D 2e or an earlier definition, it's OSR."

    Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but that kinda sounds like core 3.0 (but not 3.5) would fall under your definition. I wouldn't have much of a problem with this, since 3.0's much closer to, and more compatible with, previous editions than the rest of the new school editions. I've always thought of, and played, it as a cleaned up version of late 2e. Gotta love the stronger connection to TSR as well. Underneath all the crud, there's a pretty good underlying system, too. Most of the problem at that stage was the fanbase

    Sorry for the big 3e tangent. Just thought that was interesting

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    1. I think by 'derived', he means 'a clone or close simulacrum', which 3E is not.

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  6. I'll propose this: OSR is the old school revolution appreciating classic era gaming. OSR-D is the old school appreciation for D&D as a very specific subset of that classic era gaming. I suggest this because it seems easier to recognize that OSR really does encompass the whole hobby, not just D&D, and the conflicts/confusion as always boil down to those who like to think of the movement as being about their specific D&D, and downplaying everything else. Which is ironic, given that over the decades most other RPGs have fared better with the long-term appreciation for their respective systems, while D&D of course has struggled between the contemporary iterations of the game and current fans vs. the old school versions and their fans.

    But I guess a case could be made that "OSR" is really defined by numbers, and if 1,000 guys think of it as OD&D/AD&D and only 500 fans think of it as every other game (Traveller, RQ, T&T, EPT, etc.) then majority rules.

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  7. maybe OSR for the whole and OSR-D and OSR-E for it's two subdivisions...

    damn it

    I'm thinking

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  8. So help me out here, I still have all my old books and boxed sets, is there a benefit to getting an OSR rules set when it's emulating the game I already have?

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  9. Arguments over demarcations and definitions are inherently petty things. They're almost always proposed from a motivation of exclusion rather than inclusion, declaring that your preference for item X is inherently more legitimate than someone else's misguided fondness for item Y. And given that the OSR has always been a nebulous thing open to wide personal self-definition, its inevitable that disparate views of the history of that movement will be fought over.

    My approach is very simple, and surely infuriatiing to many: If a person creates something that they feel is part of the OSR, and at least one reader agrees, then its part of the OSR. Admittedly, there I certain are things I prefer to be part ogf the OSR over others, but I don't get to be a gatekeeper. And I don't think anyone else does either.

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    1. At least one reader agrees with you, and that reader is me.

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  10. This is all starting to sound like Star Fleet! NCC 1711 OSR-D and all that. :)

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  11. "So help me out here, I still have all my old books and boxed sets, is there a benefit to getting an OSR rules set when it's emulating the game I already have?"

    From personal experience I have two. The first is that many OSR clones are more readily available for your players to get hold of. The advent of DNDClassics and the official .PDFs of the old books has reduced the impact of this point, but not removed it.

    Because while it is fantastic that you can now buy a .PDF of the classic D&D edition of your choice, there is still a definite appeal for your players to download free copies of a clone. Also, if you want more physical books at the table you still have trouble doing that with the classic editions, while it is easy to obtain print copies of many clones.

    The second is that several clones have cleaned up and tweaked the rules, and/or presented the classic game through a different lens. For example, I love the weird horror vibe you get from reading Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I also love what it does with thief skills and encumbrance rules. Combine those things with my players being able to get a free PDF of the game, or an easy option to get a print copy, and it became my clone-of-choice.

    You certainly don't NEED to get a new version of the same game you already have. Decide based on your group and the kind of game you want to run. It worked well for me and my group.

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  12. Thanks fractal, I am going to keep an open mind on this and check out some of these. Thanks for a solid recommendation.

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  13. How much wasted time & effort can go into a "movement" with people aimlessly bickering about what the labels mean without actually doing anything interesting or productive with it?

    Rather than accepting that 90% of the world has taken the label to mean a particular thing (D&D with the serial numbers filed off) and just coming up with a new label, they're going to flail around for years fighting to get people to accept their definition of things.

    From a marketing perspective, the battle's lost. A fresh name would probably draw more energy, attention and excitement to whatever it is they're doing. Calling it OSR-with-a-footnote just makes things harder to find for people on both sides.

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  14. I think the OSR is playing older and producing new content for out of print RPGs or derivative versions thereof.

    Some in the OSR were always doing this even pre OGL. Others have hopped on recently.

    Vampire is the cutoff for old school games for sure, it is what caused many of us to look back on old systems sitting dusty on our shelves and start playing them again.

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  15. In my opinion, the core of the Old School is all about GM Fiat. If the game takes that away, no matter how new or old it is, it's just not Old School to me.

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  16. I'll just leave this right here.... ;)

    http://youtu.be/gb_qHP7VaZE

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  17. I would love to see some "OSR" stuff dedicated to more than just another knockoff of D&D. Bushido, Traveller, Boot Hill, etc. deserve some attention.

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  18. Boot Hill, FTW! I would totally be on board with a re-imagining of these rules... Although technically, Deadlands could fill that role if you played it "straight" and removed all the magic.

    Anyone played Aces and Eights? I'm wondering if that fulfills the Boot Hill niche...

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