Thursday, November 21, 2013

What Defines the "OSR" for You?

I've been thinking recently about what the "OSR" really means, at least to me.

Old School Renaissance

Old School Revival

Open Shared Rules

I think "Open Shared Rules" is closest to it's true meaning. No matter the rules you play with - OD&D, AD&D, LL, S&W, OSRIC, LotFP WF, ACKS, C&C, BFRPG AS&SH, C&T, DCC RPG and others too numerous to list - they all share a common DNA.

I can run ACKS with a S&W setting and adventures from BFRPG and LotFP WF without any advanced prep besides reading the material in advance.

I can run AD&D / OSRIC with a S&W megadungeon and crib rules from ACKS.

I can run S&W using a 3.5 version of an Old School setting using DCC RPG adventures with all conversions on the fly.

All of this wonderful stuff fits together with minimal fuss and maximum enjoyment. Sure, OSR is also a style of play. With the right group and tools, 3.5 can be played "Old School". Wasn't that the point of the old 3x DCC adventures?

Open... because of the wonders of the OGL

Shared... because they all share a common DNA

Rules... because without the rules, there is no need for dice... and we NEED dice.

So, what does OSR mean for you?


  1. Remembering that the rules can't cover everything, so you might as well improvise.

  2. OSR - proof that you can't keep an old game down. Also, the evidence that game design is as much art as science, and "shiny new" does not equal "mechanically superior." Most of all though it means "cool community of like-minded gamers who seriously love this stuff."

  3. I think there's two different meanings to OSR, each one equally valid. The first focuses, as you say, on the rules - building on a shared base so you get the interconnectedness, being able to tweak things so you get the play experience you want, and also figuring out how to stretch the rules to cover different genres, like the post-apocalyptic, the western, and even the space opera.

    On the other hand, I think the 'style of play' is an equally important consideration. This is where the "D&D Fantasy Genre" idea comes in, to a point, but even more important than even that is the attitude, the assumptions shared by the players - and if you've got that dialed in, you can play an OSR game with any ruleset you like - Peter D. Vell'Orto's GURPS Dungeon Fantasy campaign is a great example.

  4. Old

    Of which I am one...

  5. Old School Renaissance.
    "Old School" because it's a concentrated attempt to emulate the old ways of playing D&D
    "Renaissance" because right now it fits, many gamers grew up and had children and lost the time for gaming but now many of their children are grown or are old enough to play themselves and are rediscovering gaming, and some gamers are younger players who never got the chance to play 1st or 2nd edition when they were more popular and are discovering what it was that this older generation looks back on fondly.
    At some point it will be ridiculous to call any of this "old school" or a "renaissance" and the OSR acronym may indeed stick with it, in which case "open source rules" will fit more aptly. When that happens I may just start personally referring to it as "gaming." But for now, it's an "old school renaissance" and that fits quite well when describing it to fellow gamers and new players.

  6. My first reaction to the OSR was entirely negative. Partly because it turns out I've ALWAYS played the way the OSR peeps were going on about (with every edition of every RPG I've ever run), and mostly because the first experiences I had were with edition warriors decrying the destruction of the game by Wizards of the Coast.

    In my head at that point OSR = Oldwhiners ShittingonothergameRs

    I dealt with people telling me that I wasn't actually playing the game right because I was using a new rule set to play with, and so on. In person. Like face-to-face shit.

    I use rules, not rulings (the rules are simple as hell, why make a new ruling instead of just using a simple rule?). I allow for character skills, not player skill (I have played in a game where disabling a trap required that I understand not only the real world physical engineering involved in trap-making (REALLY? fuck, I just wanted to have fun!), but also understand the game world metaphysics enough to understand how magic and engineering can interact in the trap).

    But then I discovered the other side of the OSR. The DIY rules-hackers and game-builders. The people who were spewing out awesome ideas faster than I could absorb them. The people who weren't just rehashing how the people playing 4e and 3e were playing wrong, but were instead discussing stuff from their own games, and thus cross-pollinating their awesome stuff with other people's awesome stuff.

    These people reminded me of my favourite days of the World of Darkness - when people were tossing up new clans and disciplines on Abe's site every week. Where new sects, sub-sects and entire mythologies of kindred were being created on the fly and used by other people, not just the creators.

    The DIY ethic has always been the heart of gaming for me.


  7. 4CS, ZeFRS to name a couple...

    Superhero > Science Fiction > Horror > Fantasy for me, RPGwise

  8. Certainly Old School Renaissance. The "R" doesn't mean "rules" for me because I include T&T, RQ/BRP in the lot, and their rules are quite different from *D&D (even if there are many similarities).

  9. Old School Rebellion ~ because to me it's a rebellion against the grain of modern roleplaying ~ 500 page rulebooks, newer is better, more complicated is better, characters follow linear story paths, characters don't die etc.

  10. Jeff Rients had one I liked, "Old School Ruckus".

  11. OSR: "It's okay... Gary sent us..."

  12. Zarcanthropus - I don't see those things as the standards of "modern roleplaying" - just the standards of the two biggest games on the market (and even then, linear story paths are something that most games try to teach groups to avoid). Most RPGs I buy are not OSR, but they are small, simple, etc.

  13. I'm running a Swords & Wizardry adventure using a Faster Monkey setting with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rules for my son and his friends, who have never played before and are loving it. For me, OSR means Obliged to Share my Roleplaying.


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