Thursday, July 8, 2010

On Membership in the OSR

Why be part of the OSR?  Why define yourself as part of it?  Can't we just play the game we like, share our creations, and encourage others to do the same and thereby grow the hobby?

A couple if posts of James Raggi and Rob Kuntz are showing a couple of different mindsets.  Jim defines anyone who:

1.    Are you playing pre-1989 D&D, or a simulacra unofficially based thereon?
2.    Are you publishing material for those games? deep in the OSR.

Rob doesn't want to be part of it, basically because—-guess what---it doesn't matter why.  Everyone has the right to be part of whatever they want.  If we can't even self-identify, WTF good is life?

I think its cool that so many people are getting back into older D&D games.  But truthfully, maybe the whole OSR thing has run its course in terms of being useful to growing the hobby.  I mean, has it brought in any new players?  Or is it just 600 people on a nostalgia trip, rediscovering a game they loved as kids and making stuff for it? 

At the very least, its dogmatic tendencies make it something I don't want to be part of---if I ever was in the first place.  I'm just a guy who likes to play AD&D who can't get a group going because no one else plays AD&D around here.  I don't share shit with others on my blog, I don't write modules, and I don't write long pseudo-intellectual crap telling others what to think about old shit other people published, like some art teacher regurgitating to his students what to think of paintings in the words of his grad student teacher of  40 years ago.

The end result of such academic definitions is dogma, and things that “qualify” as old school, and things that don't.   Or they get categorized in a certain “age” of D&D.  I mean, who gives a shit?  How does that affect the game we play?

Fighter:  “Wow, that particular bit of dungeon ecology is a fine example of old school Zagygian Naturalism from the Golden Age of Dungeon Architecture.”

DM:  “Um...yeah.  While you were admiring the Bugbear's latrine, one one of them came up and chopped your head off.  3D6, six times in order bitch.”

In the meantime, we fight over bullshit distinctions, as to who's in it, who's not, what it means to be in it---and God forbid you don't drink the right color Kool-Aid.  Then you're ostracized.   Defining something just creates one limitation after another.  All that results in is limiting creativity as you are forced to create within a certain box for a certain audience, which defeats the whole purpose of a game with unlimited imaginative potential like D&D in the first place.

Can't we all just play the fuckin' game we like to play and share our best creative work with each other and try to get new people into the hobby?  Especially the latter part, or else the whole branch of the hobby we love so much will just die off as we argue over the virtues of bugbear latrines and their place in the history of D&D.  For Christ's sake, run a fuckin' game at a Con and get people exposed to the game.   That's something even I've done.

Otherwise, as Chogwiz said, its like a big circle jerk.

EDIT:  Just to clarify, what Jim is doing is above and beyond what most are doing to bring others into the hobby.   My post was directed against him at the beginning only, in terms of defining membership.  The rest of it was more towards the potential of the OSR to grow the hobby, yet not seeing much happen on that front.  How about running games at cons for example?  Probably the best way to do it.  Not seeing too much happen.  To run an OSR con is great, but does it expose others who wouldn't go to it in the first place to older games and gamestyles?  I see a lot of energy wasted on fights and history, but not much in sharing the game and growing the hobby.  On that front, Jim is doing more than most, with his exposing the game to others at Ropecon as well as other games and publishers.  He gets that a rising tide raises all ships.


  1. Welcome to the leading cause of my essentially wandering off into a near-perpetual hiatus punctuated only by the odd post.

    I don't like the OSR; the OSR is/has become something I am not comfortable with and do not like. This discomfort and do-not-like has soured me to the point that I can't even enjoy my own work for my games.

    Until I feel like dealing with it again -- if I much feel like dealing with it again -- I've been off in other pastures.

  2. And this pretty much the same kind of thing that keeps from most RPG related forums. So many people ranting "You're playing it wrong" and other crap.

  3. I like the OSR. But I also like Pathfinder, Basic Roleplaying, Fate, etc. I get the feeling at times that some folks want The OSR to mean you won't even look at another game.

    Not only is that bullshit gonna prevent folks from expanding their horizons, it's only going to hurt the old school gaming movement, because honestly, where do you think the OSR gains players from? Other games. Who'da thunk it?

  4. Amen, brother. Amen. I'm currently trying to stumble my way back into the hobby, and I feel like those who fight "edition wars" and bash others for what version of D&D they play are pretty much idiotic. Like you said, just play the damned game! Who cares if it's 1st or 4th edition? Thanks for the great post!

    - Anthony

  5. @RJK - there's a reason you rock hard and this comment is an example of it.

  6. Heh-he! Are you stirring the shit again, Joe? I've heard it said that you were a known shit-stirrer. I think I read that someplace.

    I myself don't too often run into the dogmatic end of the OSR too often. It may just be me not noticing these things though, I just glide over the ranting stuff if there is no usable mechanics or game applicable ideas imbedded in it. My mental filtering mechanism just tags such screeds, "wrongheaded", and shunts them aside as I trawl the blogs and forums for inspiration.
    The OSR has no head or direction, there are no rules or regulations. it's more like arguing over art movements than anything else. I like watching it roil and divide and recombine and bubble. No matter what happens, I still gain, there's always something interesting I can pick up and muse upon. I'm an idea looter, I suppose that's my OSR.

  7. @E.G, I am not the sort to post ideas to use in games. I am sort of an improvisational DM, and make up a lot as I go, or think stuff out that's so campaign specific that there's not much to share. What I do have is this weird ability to NOT keep my mouth shut if I have an opinion on something. No matter who it might offend, I just speak my mind. Some people agree, most probably don't, and a lot of people think I just say stuff to cause trouble or troll, which I don't.

    I guess I've been an Internet Asshole since 1994, when I argued all over Usenet about T$R closing down FTP sites with player created material on them, when they had no proven legal right to do so. Eric Mona remembered me from back then, 13 years later when I joined ENWorld.

    @Chgowiz, I agree wholeheartedly with your observation. :)

    @Rob, way to take it to a higher point of view. I know its not you v. anyone, it's just you trying to create the best stuff you can. Keep going, man.

  8. Thanks ChicagoWiz and Joseph. My hope is that the THREE CASTLES AWARD will spur on some upcoming designers out there to greater levels. And just for the record of how serious I am about this, my outfit, Pied Piper Publishing, disqualified itself from partaking of the award at all, though I am a judge for life on the panel as it was my baby to begin with. I feel that more excellent designs are needed to keep the industry's blood pumping. I am getting a little slower these days, not done yet, but I can feel it. But to see new designers coming up and taking the time to compete, sweating their blood into something for the love of excellence, now that gets me going. I hope to be around many years to see who rises to the challenge of excellence and wins; as it will be a win for us all, really.


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