Wednesday, April 26, 2017

What everybody forgets about the OSR

What people forget time and time again when it comes to what the OSR is about, what it ought to be doing, where is it going; that it defining characteristic is the use of open content, leveraging digital technology and using the internet for distribution.

The net effect is that there are no gatekeepers, there nothing that the OSR as whole (if something like that is even possible) or segments or cliques can do to impend any projects from being released and distributed.

No one incident prompted this essay but I follow the OSR as best as I can and I think everybody needs reminded of this aspect of the OSR. That in the end it the OSR is not about one vision, not even about Gary Gygax's and Dave Arneson's vision. It about the freedom to take the pieces that existed at the beginning of our hobby and assemble them into the form that YOU judge best not what some what publisher or author says is best. And it is perfectly fine that you wind up agreeing with what a particular author says like Gygax, Arneson, Mentzer, Gonnerman , Proctor, Finch, Raggi , etc.

If your favorite retro-clone or supplement is not open enough. Or you don't like the community that surrounds it. You can always go back to original wellspring the d20 SRD and follow the same steps as OSRIC, Basic Fantasy, etc did to realize your vision of your project. Regardless whether it is for sharing or for commercial sale.

Going hand and hand with that is the fact that for better or for worse the OSR is a thing. For the past decade and a half there been a group of hobbyists actively publishing, promoting, and playing classic editions of Dungeons and Dragon and similar RPGs. This is result of everybody taking advantage of the freedom granted by the open content found in the d20 SRD to expand the quantity and variety of material that supports classic D&D.

So it is any surprise that we have the situation we have today?

But the good news is that it is not a zero sum game. The projects that a group who is interested in using a classic edition 'as is' has zero impact on a group whose project is about using newer mechanics with classic edition concepts. This is what true creative freedom looks like, messy but the opportunity is there for everybody to participate in the manner of their choosing.

It not just about publishing either, technology has allow fans of even the most obscure RPGs to communicate with one another and find some way to play new campaigns. Software like Fantasy Ground and Roll20 make this even easier.

And the OSR has benefited hobbyists who never quit playing the classic editions. Today it is far easier to find new material, new gamers, that are willing to play your favorite edition.

I submit that we live in a second golden age of tabletop roleplaying and in some ways exceed the first age in the 70s. That if you ever find yourself wondering where everything went all you need to do is shift your perspective to another corner of the OSR. In the years since the release of Gonnerman's Basic Fantasy and Marshal and Finch's OSRIC the OSR has grown far and wide. There are forums, blogs, websites, kickstarters, paterons, Google Plus, Facebook, etc, etc.

On my blog I have a link to Hoards and Hordes which is a list maintained by Guy Fullerton of various OSR product he consider Gygaxian. Even with that arbitrary limitation by 2012 he couldn't keep up with the everything that was going on. The list from April 2012 onwards become about what Guy find interesting.

It is a mess but from where I stand it is a glorious mess.


grodog said...

Nicely said, Rob!


Eric Diaz said...

Awesome post, and a worthy reminder.

woĆ°bora said...

Honestly, when I think of the OSR you one of the Top Five in my book... Thank You (and I mean that)...

FrDave said...

I submit that we live in a second golden age of tabletop roleplaying and in some ways exceed the first age in the 70s.

Not only do I agree with you, but I've been saying the same thing for years.

Axel Castilla said...

Using newer mechanics with classic edition concepts.

I wonder, like playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd with GURPS —or Dungeon Fantasy rules. Now, these combinations have been around long before the birth of the OSR.

Robert Conley said...

It was thinking DCC RPG, Castles and Crusades, and Blood & Treasure. But GURPS Dungeon Fantasy works as an example.

Ben L. said...

This is sensible and generous post. Thank you for your sane reminders

Victor Raymond said...

Quite right. Thanks, Rob!

Handy Haversack said...

Sane and thoughtful. Thanks.