Friday, September 26, 2014

Once again,the deal with the Old School Renaissance or OSR.

The Pundit goes off on Tenkar series on the OSR for the lapsed gamer. Accusing +Erik Tenkar  and +Guy Fullerton  who compiled the Hoard and Horde spreadsheet of having historical blinders.

The Pundit is wrong. Tenkar and Guy are just focused on their hobbies.

Guy Fullerton explicitly states at the top of the spreadsheet what it is about.
The list is for print and pdf products published since the year 2000 (approximately) for Gygax-era flavors of D&D: ODnD, Holmes Basic, ADnD, B/X, and BEMCI. So nothing for 2nd edition ADnD or later editions. Clone/simulacrum systems and related products count, but only if they remain true enough to the actual Gygax-era flavors of DnD. Castles and Crusades, for example, is not included. (But the Castle Zagyg products are included because of their strong thematic relevance to Gygax-era DnD.)
As for Erik Tenkar he explains it in this post what his series on the OSR for the lapsed gamer is about.

What the issue is really about is the term OSR or Old School Renaissance/Revival/Revolution.

My viewpoint from one who adopted the term early.

It was a never a perfect term. Then most terms that grows organically rarely are. That the first thing you need to understand. OSR or the expanded Old School Renaissance lives or dies on the sufferance of those using. It is not anybody's trademark, or brand name. It wasn't created by a single company or individual to promote something commercially. It grew because people didn't want to have to type something like,
I want to talk about  those who play, promote, and publish for classic editions of Dungeons and Dragons. 
Instead this is what caught on.
I want to talk about the OSR.
Really that it. And I documented it in this blog post so you don't have to take my word for it.

Of course there was a problem. And that problem started once it grew out of the confines of Dragonsfoot and other forums dedicated to older editions of DnD.

Old School.

Because old school means a lot more than just classic editions of DnD. It encompasses a lot of other games like Traveller, the Fantasy Trip, etc. It encompasses some newer games like S John Ross Encounter Critical and Mazes & Minotaurs. Both of which were new games created in homage to how older games were written and structured.

And that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.

Then there was the other problem. The fact that some who played, promoted, or published for classic editions of DnD. Didn't like to be labeled. Some despised labeled, others did not want to be associated for a variety reason with other people involved in playing, prompting, and publis... screw it... with other people involved in the OSR. Despite the fact they were doing similar things.

For example over on the Lord of the Green Dragon, Rob Kuntz one of the original Greyhawk campaign players wrote a post on the issue.

So now we know the backstory what is the deal with the OSR?

It what you make of it. It always has been that way. The OSR exist because of the confluence of


  • Open Game License
  • The ability of the Internet to support niche communities.
  • Cheap and powerful computers
  • Affordable Print on Demand
  • The acceptances and commericalization of electronic text (PDFs)
All these combined in a perfect storm to allow any gamer with an interest to reach a wide audience. More so it lowered the barriers of entry considerably and eliminated gatekeepers. Anything that gained widespread popularity has to do so on the merits. 

And the merit of the term OSR was when you told somebody that for the most part they thought you either published, promoted, or played a classic edition of DnD.

But because it so easy to get involved and do something, the OSR rapidly spread out from the initial core of those specifically interested in classic editions of DnD. Some of the things it grew into was

  • Games that changed a classic edition to the author's taste (Majestic Wilderlands, ACKS, LoFTP)
  • Games that used classic edition mechanics but in a new genre (Stars without Numbers)
  • Games that felt like old school games but were completely new (Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG)*
*This is arguably is not new thing for the OSR because of Castles & Crusades. But the DCC RPGs was deliberately marketed towards the OSR. +Joseph Goodman+Harley Stroh and rest of the DCC RPG development team went all out to get feedback from the OSR.

And because the OSR is comprised of gamers who are human beings with a broad range of interests other games got roped in from time to time. For example Traveller, Runequest, the Pacesetter series of game acquired by Gobliniod Games, etc. 

It has grown to the point that literally what the OSR is depends one who is doing the looking. Nobody can keep it up with it all.

Now I am pretty harsh on the Pundit's post. I will point that that he did put his money where his mouth is and released an OSR product, Arrows of Indra. What what you do if you want to change the OSR or think something wrong. Get your stuff out there and show the rest of us how we are doing it wrong. 

Because in the end that is what makes the hobby better. Getting more material out there to increase its diversity to the point that anybody can find something to enjoy about classic dnd specifically and old school gaming in general.

3 comments:

RPGPundit said...

I'll repeat my answer to your similar comment on my blog, where you admitted "there was a larger renaissance of interest in older games and fans of those games thought the OSR was being unfair and trying to coop the wider movement to mean ONLY classic editions of D&D.":

Yeah, see, that's exactly what it feels like to me: like the Clonemaniacs were (and still are) trying to own old-school, to control a movement that doesn't actually belong to them, and act as gatekeepers of what is or is not old-school.

Whether they like it or not, in part BECAUSE they went out of their way to insist on it in their takeover attempt, the term "OSR" has come to mean ALL the Old-School Gaming movement. So given that, it makes it seem disingenuous to try to use technicalities to try to erase the non-Clonemaniac stuff from the 'origin story'.
They made a play on controlling old-school, it got away from them, and in the process they lost a term they invented when what people associate with it got away from them too. Now they can't go backward and try to say "we take it back, the OSR is just this stuff over here".

(I appreciate the shoutout to Arrows of Indra, though)

schedim said...

I think the only way is to ignore the pundit, as usual it seems like it just enjoys being vitriolic and loudmounthed. After a while it just grows tiresome, it leads nowhere and is quite unproductive.
Move along citizens, nothing to see here...

Jeremy said...

Pundit. Seriously. Just, for like a week, try not to be such a little bitch.