This post is a debate and an introduction. This post is a debate because the OSR is a groundswell of thought among some gamer communities that was never planned, directed or defined. OSR means different things to different gamers. That is to say, OSR, at least places different emphasis on different issues for different gamers.
The acronym OSR means different things too. Some take OSR to stand for “Old School Retro-Clones”. There is even a D&D retro-clone page on Wikipedia. Others use the three letters to stand for “Old School Rules”. The usage that I see most often, with increasing frequency, is “Old School Renaissance”.
As the word “Renaissance” suggests; the OSR is about how things used to be.
Can gamers agree on how games used to be, though? Can they agree on what changed?
The following statements are an attempt gauge whether there is any common ground. Each statement has a thumbs up and thumbs down option. Be Nero. Give the statement the thumbs up if you agree with it and the thumbs down if it needs to.
OSR is about stripping away rules and making gamers simpler.
OSR is about moving away from storytelling to adventuring.
OSR is about quick and random character generation.
OSR is about being able to play a whole scenario in just one evening.
OSR is about making roleplaying less pretentious.
OSR is about reducing the emphasis on combat mechanics.
OSR is about reducing power levels of adventuring parties.
OSR is about decreasing abstraction and using suitable game mechanics wherever necessary.
OSR is about roleplaying games that do not require high levels of commitment.
OSR is about random monsters, hit locations and armour values.
Many new RPGs have too many rules and mechanics.
Many new RPGs are too much like computer games.
Many new RPGs take too long to create characters.
Many new RPGs are too complex and detailed.
Many new RPGs are too abstract, bothering only about theatrical storytelling rather than heroic adventures.
You may feel that none of these questions go to the heart of the matter. You may also feel that some contradict one another – they do – or that the Nero live/die approach to an answer isn’t appropriate.
Let us know in the comment section below what you think the OSR is about. What does it mean to you? Why do you think so many gamers are lining up as firmly pro or anti-OSR while others remain perplexed by the attempted distinction.
Picture credit: Image taken from The Template of Elemental Evil (TSR)