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Sunday, June 2, 2013

What Meaning Does "Official" Have in the OSR?

Recently I participated in an "online discussion" with someone that was looking for more Swords & Wizardry material. He was looking for new classes and such. I pointed him to some of the material posted during April's Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day blogfest, figuring he's find something to use, whether new classes, monsters, adventures, settings, house rules - over 140 posts from various bloggers can generate lots of material.

It's not what he wanted. He wanted more "official" classes and such from Frog God Games. I mentioned that wasn't very likely and pretty much opposite of the whole OSR thing.

It's possible he was coming from the world of Pathfinder or 4e, where turning out new classes, spells, monsters, settings and the like from Paizo and WotC is part of the whole revenue stream.

The OSR doesn't really work in that manner. Third parties offer expansions to the rules as options. Heck, even when the rules publishers themselves go beyond the original core, it's all optional.

Nothing is official in the OSR, not even the core rules.

Everything is official in the OSR, at least potentially, after approval from the DM.

Therefore, official has no true value in the OSR.

What's you feelings on "Official" and the OSR?

17 comments:

  1. There's no such thing as an Official OSR anything.

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    1. Agreed - the only things that are "official" are the ones approved for my campaign, and that's damn specific ;)

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  2. I could probably go on a rant about consumer culture and how we've been conditioned to hit the feeder bar for another pellet of official RPG material like Pavlovian rats, but I'll instead just second what Jeff said.

    Nothing's official in the OSR, except what I say is official at my table when I run a game.

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    1. which is why I suspect the person I was interacting with was a Pathfinder or 4e refugee ;)

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  3. After all, one premise of the OSR is that the official owners of D&D intellectual property often do more damage than good with their official products. Therefore, using freedom to explore that the big company chooses not to exercise is part of the charm.

    I can see some interest being focused on wanting tested, balanced, professional-grade material instead of whatever someone who was half-sober scrawled out on the keyboard at 4 a.m. Part of the OSR baseline is that the half-sober scrawl will sometimes be superior on tone, flavor, and "balance" than something that toes the party line and is calculated as a money earner instead of a labor of love.

    I think part of the irony of the OSR is that it is a community fiercely opposed to bloat, constantly producing more material than it can use. The key here is the gatekeeper, the DM, who decides what goes and what does not.

    "Official" is what the one running the games calls official. That's dead on.

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  4. Labyrinth Lord has "official" supplements for both original edition and AD&D style characters. It also has a flagship product-- Stonehell Megadungeon... probably as close to being the B2 and X1 for that game as you're going to get.

    Digging through issues of Fight On! and Knockspell and having to (a) pick and choose what to use and (b) adapt it all to a slightly different system than what the designers were using... that is not always something I feel like doing.

    The Swords & Wizardry people are subtly different from the B/X and Labyrinth Lord playing folks. The fact that you can't play S&W out of the box without setting certain defaults is indicative of that community's mindset. Labyrinth Lord does not have those sorts of editorial here-you-make-this-game type of sidebars. The differences to matter... but generally not to the sort of Dungeon Master that happens to run a top 25 OSR gaming blog.

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    1. you could say that White Box, Core and Complete are pretty much equivalent to the LL OEC and AEC and core.

      six of one, a half dozen of the other

      you can certainly play S&W "as written", but the rules do include built in options that you may decide to use or not - use none of them and you are playing the default.

      S&W is certainly ripe for house rules, that is true ;)

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  5. I think another angle here is to clarify that what is in the basic rulebook is accessible. Anything that changes that, adding to it or deleting it, comes from the DM.

    So if you don't want to mess with other stuff, you don't have to. I was assuming a situation where you are looking for other things to graft, sifting the fathomless blogosphere for gems.

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    1. the individual in question was only looking for "official" rules expansions / enhancements from FGG for use with S&W, and that isn't going to happen as far as I can tell

      (notable exception is the FGG setting that will be released in Pathfinder and S&W flavors)

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  6. I think the OSR is officially unofficial.

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    1. so, assuming the site unofficial-osr.com was officially in the hands of the OSR, what would we do with it? ;)

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    2. Unofficially announce unofficial products, events, and of course unofficial news in general. Where as I can only speak unofficially about this subject, I would say we are individuals that form a group, but individuals first. We do what we like and add in what we think others will like. I think that's the only thing that can be expected of anything from the OSR.

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  7. The OSR is defined by those who do. Publish, promote, or play the rules of their choice. As a consequence everything is official and everything is not. Ultimately the burden is on the referee and his group to define that for themselves. A fact will drive some crazy and other will thrive with.

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  8. OSR or not, in my games, the only thing that is 'Official' is what I say is official. I have a distinct dislike for rules lawyering, always have :D

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. I actually had a shirt made that says THE FIRST THING I'LL DO IS KILL ALL THE RULES LAWYERS. First-time players sometimes laugh at it because they mistakenly think I'm kidding.

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  9. I believe it is a stupid question because "official rules" can only be interpreted in a tournament situation, which needs a degree of strictness regarding what types of characters can compete. As far as I know, that was the whole point of AD&D as well.

    However, the OSR is not a homogeneous crowd, there are plenty of rules sets with rather different approaches. If anything, the FLAILSNAIL rules are the closest to "officialness in the OSR".

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