Defining the OSR by Identifying What it is Not (and other useless exercises of thought)
I was explaining to a teenager last night that defining the OSR was doomed to fail as each member of the OSR has their own personal definition. As that definition is personal, it generally is well defended and the thing of online battles that will never end ;)
Heck, we can't even decide what OSR stands for.
Is it Old School Revolution? Old School Resurrection? Old School Revival? Old School Renaissance?
Strange that we can't pin down what the "R" stands for but we know the "O" and "S" stand for "Old School" and not maybe "Original System" with the OSR becoming "Original System Rules"
Which is important, because if the OSR refers to Old School Rules (another possibility for the "R") then the OSR encompasses not just derivatives of the Original Dungeons & Dragons and its offspring but early RPGs such as Tunnels & Trolls, RuneQuest, Traveller, Chivalry & Sorcery, Bunnies & Burrows and so much more. Toon, GURPS, Champions (at least prior to the Hero System bloat), Rolemaster - All are 30 year old plus systems. Certainly they are Old School. (this list is far from complete - I'm not even going to make the attempt)
Or does OSR stand for "Open System Reference", as in, if it weren't for the OGL, there wouldn't be much of an OSR community. New releases certainly add life to the community.
So, what doesn't fall under the purview of the OSR? What is the cut off?
I think we can all agree that 3x and beyond of the D&D editionlineof succession are outside the OSR, but then 5e tries to skim the bubble.
Are AD&D 2e's Skill & Powers releases within the purview of the OSR? I mean, 2e certainly is (I think), but what about all the splat books that bloated the system?
Looking at new systems, I see FATE and Apoc World and all their spinoffs as outside the OSR, but recent releases such as Polyhedral Dungeon and Far Away Land seem to be grounded in OSR sensibilities, even if their systems don't line up with prior Old School games.
Maybe the OSR is like an onion, with many layers. The inner layers are for the Original System Rules, then the Old School Rules, followed by an even larger layer covering the Old School Revival.
In the end, I find the OSR to be much like porn - I know it when I see it, but where I draw the line of what is and what isn't isn't the same place that others would draw it. We're all right even though our answers are different.
Yes, this was occupying my sleeping mind last night...
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