Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How Official is "Official"?

Back in my AD&D days, pretty much anything published by TSR was considered "official", with Dragon Magazine articles often being referred to as "semi-official". Third party supplements, what little there were, were "not official" - they could be used by the DM, but pretty much never by the PCs.

The D20 / OGL explosion blurred many of the lines of what was / was not official for 3e, for good or bad.

With the OSR and the birth of clones / retroclones / simulacrums - there really isn't a definition of official anymore. Each ruleset is by definition a set of house rules, no matter how close they cling to their original brethren.

Actually, the strength of the OSR in my opinion is how fully the community embraces house ruling of the various rulesets. Make it your own.

Which is another reason I think I turned my nose at Tunnels & Trolls the first time I was exposed to it back in High School... it was being house ruled even back then. I wanted structure, and T&T wasn't structured like AD&D. I bought into the EGG line of "official play", but even the father of RPGs didn't follow that rule.

I'm happy to be playing games that embrace house ruling these days.


  1. I love that there isn't an "official" source anymore. It's freeing. :)

  2. It's a very satisfying way to play. Almost anything goes, or can be negotiated.

    With certain game types, games or circumstances this may be more or less easy to achieve of course. With a regular group, variation will likely grow naturally, but where players move around more freely between groups, especially where the game focuses more on one-off play or is competitive, there's likely to be a more conservative attitude, to create a clear level playing field.

    If I had one Limited Wish, it would be for more spontaneity in games, much less reliance on the rules as written, or rules at all, more interest in using the imagination and telling a good story over getting a good outcome or winning, basically greater trust in our ability to have fun without an overarching framework or a goal beyond enjoyment of the narrative.


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