Saturday, September 27, 2014

Another couple of copper pieces about the OSR "history"

I don't do blog-politics (usually), but often enough when the shit hits the fan, I'm around. Listening and thinking. Forming my own opinion. As soon as I have digested the problem, I focus on something more worthwhile to share and that's that.

Now +Erik Tenkar started a series of posts about an aspect of what the OSR is about, the RPG Pundit, for lack of a better word, attacked this (still unfinished, I might add) service to the community as being an attempt to alter the "truth" about what the OSR really is to fit some vague ideology. The word revisionism was used, implicating some sort of hindsight bias and ulterior motives. +Wayne Rossi (among others,I'm sure) wrote a rebuttal to confront some of those allegations.

Since I have the logo on my blog, I might as well say a few words how I perceive what is called a "movement" nowadays: the OSR. This is where I enter the fray. Not to attack, but to state my position on the topic.

Origin Stories of the OSR

Let's start with where I come from in this. That I took the D&D RC back out of the shelf was by mere accident, but still, a campaign emerged from it and it was during one of my random journeys through the internet that I stumbled across an excellent post about dungeon crawling on a, at the time, new blog called Playing D&D with Porn Stars some time in October 2009. It got me hooked to a group of people that held the "old ways" of the game as a high standard and talked a lot about how The Game is not about buying stuff, but about DIY. It didn't take long for me to discover Grognardia and Jeff Rients and from there on it was down the rabbit hole. First I started to tinker the hell out of the Rules Cyclopedia, then I started blogging about it November 2011.

It's also around that time that the OSR-logo bloomed into it's final iteration: in April 2011 Stuart from the blog Strange Magic proposed a version of the logo that found some huge resonance among bloggers. For me it is the point where the OSR got a flag, a condensed visualization of what the OSR wants to be and a compromise people could unite under. So even if there was some talk about an OSR before that, it (arguably) didn't become recognizable as a movement before that. This right here is the focal point, not some loose ideas one could compromise upon.

The OSR as a child of Web 2.0, Creative Commons and dtp

There would be no OSR without the internet and an easy access to technology that allows everyone to publish their own content for free (and the idea that this is a good thing). The fact alone that one can produce and share those contents or talk about those ideas with people all over the globe just by accessing the internet is the prime requisite to align something (that would otherwise be rather local and insignificant) up to a point where it might get some traction. There is no agenda in this, no politics, it just occurs naturally because it is possible.

So yes, you get your OSRIC, BFRPG, Encounter Critical, all those clones and spawns for free because people wanted to do this, you get your communities because like-minded people wanted to talk about this and you get your traction because finding and joining those people is just a click on the browser icon away and people have a tendency to label the groups they frequent. But this is all there is to it.

Marking your Territory, OSR-Style

I believe there is something like a smallest common denominator for the OSR: you do it yourself, share it and talk about it. It's the spirit of the first role playing game ever published (that's why it's "old school" and it really doesn't matter if you talk about your sessions, your campaign world, the Frankenclone your building, some house rules you came up with or your interpretations of some rules in the games you use. It is, initially, system agnostic, as there are no really big gaps between role playing games. They are all alike, just different flavors of the same idea, easily enough ported from one game to the other (new or old). Why should there be more? Isn't just this more than enough to make dialogue and co-existing possible, indifferent to what your "origin story" is?

Obviously not, as people will be people and start bringing their own problems and misconceptions into the fold. This is where you get your politics and agendas, not the OSR itself (or what I believe it stands for, anyway), but the people acting up for some reason or another. As they say, haters will be haters. It can't be avoided, but it can be dealt with.

That being said, I don't think that Tenkar has a hidden agenda (if you check out his first posts in 2009. you'll see that what he did in his series about lapsed gamers is what he did from the beginning), but the Pundit doesn't seem to act out of character, either. And he did it in public, arguing his case with those who oppose him. Maybe this needed clarification. I don't know. We'll see if they come to terms.

In the end it's just not what blogging in the OSR should be about ...


  1. The Pundit is tilting windmills today because of battles he fought with James Mal and others in the before time.

    I think there is also a feeling on his part that he never got the respect due to him from the rest of the OSR, or at least, that's what I'm getting on Rob Conley's thread on the G+ side.

    "I didn't want to be against the OSR back then, the OSR wanted to be against me." That's a quote from The Pundit's latest comment.

    In any case, if one is showcasing the OSR for the "lapsed gamer" the first things one would highlight are the clones that present the classic rules in a more modern layout, which is how I am starting the series.

    Thanks for the mention and the kind words :)

    1. The way I see it, respect isn't something one can (or should) demand, but something you get for your actions. I don't know the guy, so I really can't say what his beef is and I'm really not in a position to take sides in this. The impression I got was that you became more something of a sounding board for him because his argument really doesn't fit with what you are doing in this series of posts (especially since it isn't even finished yet!). You're just a big enough target, I guess.

      And I agree on your statement that those clones are a perfect start to showcase what the OSR can do and is about. There's more to it, but you aren't finished yet. Going by what you already announced, I'm looking forward to your take on it.

      I took the time to look at your first posts back in 2009, it is, as I understand it, a stated intent of your blog to highlight those things (and you did so in the past with several games that are not D&D or clones thereof). So yeah, you're welcome : ) I meant what I wrote.

    2. 2009 is a long time back - I literally had NO idea what I was doing back then when it came to the blog.

      Not saying I do now, but I was so lost back then ;)