Friday 3 August 2018

OSR and what to explain

Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF
These definition of the OSR posts are the worst.

I feel the compulsion to explicitly state the things I desire in play and assumptions in the material I write,
they overlap so much with what people state as OSR , that it would incongruous for me to deny that.

However if there was a new term or a sub-term that was getting used instead and that was a better fit , sure use that (like Patrick's "Pretentious Hipster" or DIY etc etc)


There could be a new term that would be a "better fit".

-if somehow it was more clear about what it represented right there in the name, like "story games" (also constantly argued about) gives fairly good indicator of what it means.

         -there's OSR as a style of play and there's OSR as (numerous)  communities. A new term that could dodging the misunderstandings around this .
Like when someone talks about a shit head "in" the OSR there's an implied question about what other (OSR) peoples relationship is  to this person . If this New Term was one that described a style of play then this confusion could be avoided.

So "board gamers" is a term that describes a style of play and to talk about a board gamer community you have to actually put the c-word in there.

     -Because OSR is referring to numerous communities (each generally congealed around particular personalitys and/or websites /social media) and OSR-play to each of these communities generally refers the play styles and assumptions they have. These can vary enough that it causes a lot of confusion . I've read people dramatically stating they are an OSR heretic because they don't like Thac0/descending armour class/Gary Gygax. And basically everyone I'm talking to in the """OSR""" could not give less of shit if one like or doesn't like these.

and against all this:
- The inertia of a  term that everyone is already using is massive and it's rare that anyone has ever got a "better" term brought in. Like, slightly bad example to due length,  "Procedural generated content with permadeath"  is better than "rogue-like" but I've not seen it stick.

-I can't really think of a catchy 2-3 word title that sums up and I doubt its possible to summarize all the stuff I'm about to discuss below in this way.

-I am looking for a new term to describe exactly what I'm about or for the OSR as whole?


 A term with a reasonable of traction is "traditional play" / "trad games" , and while it is a term that is kinda useful to talk about a distinction from  "story games".
However  "traditional" by definition is fairly unchanging and isn't looking for refinements, and a lot of OSR** game design is about the refinements and breaking abruptly  from "back in the day" methods.

Additional "tradition" play could be the sandboxy , high lethality , "bob the fighter"  style of play or railroaded to shit , 3 page back story, fantasy novel,  style of play.

**a good example here of contradicting goals had by different self identified OSR people/communities; people who want to have play/game design closely replicate "back in the day" methods and people who want to improve and experiment with play/game design that has the same playstyle/goals as "back in the day"



With the games I run and write material for, these are the assumptions and desired play styles I have that overlap with the OSR enough for the term to be correct.

>Players Decisions  Must Matter: The consequences of their actions and decisions is the engine of the entire game. It is what results in an "emergent story", but even before then , the moment to moment play is interesting because what they are doing matters to what will happen.

 To best support this:
 They should be given all the information that would be available to their character.

The g.m should be prepared to accept the results of the dice and roll with the players effects on the world.

>Trying to force a conventionally coherent/cliche narrative for a "better story" by trying to force or cancel player decisions or consequences or ignore a dice roll, will always act against the mattering of player decisions.  Don't worry about the final results working as conventional story , worry about the moment to moment play being interesting .

> Any encounter /situation will be "balanced" ( i.e have the ability to effect) as is appropriate for its existence in the world.
Therefore the players should be able to seek the challenge they want by seeking out different areas, getting information, or coming up with plans, alliances or schemes to balance things in their favour.

Outright avoidance , fleeing , negotiation, schemes, befriending, disguises, and the like are acceptable and even desirable outcomes.

>Because of above , only exp for killing monsters is a bad fit. Consider exp for treasure, pre-set goals, or the like

 Here are some other statements about """OSR""" play I felt were good summaries for me.
They were from a g+ post about OSR assumptions that people felt should be stated.


Resolution of action by player skill first then dice or character mechanics. Like players don't declare I roll X instead players describe their characters actions and rolls are done if neccesary.

Gregory Blair :
 Killing things is usually not the goal, there is nothing that is "supposed" to happen, combat is not the default assumption for an encounter.

Character death is not taboo and is to be expected.

The adventure will not enumerate the one correct way to resolve conflicts and puzzles; player creativity is expected and should be rewarded by the referee.

Balance as a design goal is generally absent.

Brian Harbon

This is a game primarily about interacting with this world as if it were a place that exists. Outcomes will be based on how this world would react to your interactions, and challenges will be as unbalanced, unexpected, and exciting as they would in a real world. Your goal is generally to survive the enemies around you, whether that be via avoidance, negotiation, befriending, or creatively throwing the balance in your favor./
I think I just view story more as an emergent, secondary effect of OSR play rather than it's active, primary goal. i.e. The goal is not to tell the most interesting story you can, the goal is to interact with and overcome the problems at hand. From those interactions, the story passively emerges.

Brian Murphy

 It is not the DM’s job to balance encounters; it is the players’ job to unbalance encounters in their favor. (AKA: if you find yourself in a fair fight your tactics suck.)

But why all this?

I read this Maze Of Blue Medusa review and the author appeared to have no understanding of other peoples play styles and it was a trip. 
So I thought I could try and make a pre-face to use in future for any material I create.

Annus Horribilis:

 Speaking of any material I might create, let's address the commonwealth .

-The Stretch Goal of me writing material for Demon City has been reached so that's happening.

-There's an edition of Neoclassical Geek Revival happening with just my art. It was a selectable option for backers of the just finished kickstarter.  Not sure what the availability after that will be . I'll let you know

-Jacob Hurst (Swordfish Islands, up for ennie) is doing a Deep Carbon Observatory new edition , he's got a lot  on, there's logistic problems etc etc, but it will happen at some stage with better maps (not  by me, don't worry) , not be a5 (fuck a5) , and have more art and replacements for the stuff I'm not happen with.

Additionally the next release me and Patrick are doing with him will be Broken Fire Regime.
This one has been nailed with so many fucking delays and piss arounds including the previous publisher suddenly dropping it (a whole year of unnecessary delay right there, thanks for that) .

It's got like 95% of the writing and art done but that last 5% plus layout or anything else involving other people is a minefield and we keep stepping on them.

Ones possiblitys and potentials open dramatically up if you find the right people to work with but boy can working with other people send everything into the doldrums.

-The Planescape material has got David Shugars editing it , he is a star, I'm on the last plane now (lawful evil one) and it's being difficult but progress is happening. I'm hoping the decisions and quality of the later writing doesn't make me then have to revise all the earlier stuff however (some of which was written 3+ years ago now). Eta by the end of the year

-The cyberpunk thing: this is on ice at the moment (no pun) , kinda waiting for feedback from someone else in the project .  Will resume this and give it my full focus once the planescrap is out , or if I feel massively inspired. I needed to load the brain with fresh ideas for this anyhow and also? trying to extrapolate a terrible future from the terrible realitys right now is depressing.
It will happen at some stage but don't hold your breath.

These last 2 are the only things that could use that preface I talked about...

After these are done I am so excited about doing something that I'm 100% into and not one that I got caught up in .  Who knows what it will be, something small not involving anyone else most likely.


did Sherlock Holmes say Never The Less a lot?  Jeremy Brett delivering the line has always stuck with me  enough to make seem like he didThe fuck is with this Burma Shave Format?


  1. I share both your playstyle preferences and your frustration with settling on an umbrella term for them. Early in my gaming life, I learned that almost any gaming group has different preferences and expectations about role-playing games. There are so many variables that it seems impossible to find 100% common ground between any two groups in the world. Within any given group you can find a variety of playstyle preferences that may even be at odds. Ultimately, do we really need a label at all, other than role-playing gamers? Can we not just invite anyone into our games regardless of their gaming background and surprise them with how fun our version of role-playing is? Maybe they'll take what they learn from us and try it with their own groups, and eventually it will just be the norm. We don't need the label to do what we do and be who we are.

    1. Well, yes sure you can but words are useful. Like if you invite someone around for a movie night and have boardgames they are going to a little confused

  2. The closest I saw was something Patrick recently called Artpunk, but even that seems to have some connotations to it, but it's close I think when it comes to the style of modules we create and play.

  3. We have "board game" and "story game." How about "worldgame"?

    Like Gary Gygax said: "ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is a world."

  4. "YouJustPlayYourGuyAndHeMightDie" rpgs is something I came up with that people seemed to like so if that catches on , you heard it here first

  5. AUTHOR DEATH PLAY was less popular

  6. The fucking awkward thing is those assumptions I wrote could apply to Apocalypse World , and which feels like a different thing very much to me but it's hard to explain the difference without gettting lingo-y.
    To attempt this briefly "If I try to burn down a guys house I don't want a result of 7-9 to mean that Yes I set it on fire, but I have to give a cop a blowjob or I will be a suspect"

    Or to be more fair than that;
    despite a lot of Moves listing the potential consequences of fail / partial success and these feeling not dissimilar to what would be approp for "YouJustPlayYourGuyAndHeMightDie" rpgs, there are too many which make what matters in the game and agency of me , the player unclear.

    By mattering I mean:
    My character is sneaking, does he snuck or not? The things as a player that I understand as mattering are the things like is she good at sneaking, is it a place that is sneak favourable, how alert are the sentinels ?
    If the g.m suddenly mentions My character is stressed by a fight with her girlfriend earlier that day, or even "but social relationship isn't going the way your character planned it, why is that?" and this is mattering to the sneak , well we are not playing what I thought we are playing.

    That said AW and various hacks often do genre emulation well because of what they say matters. So an anime bullshit game that example would make sense.

    However these games and their don't always seem to understand what people are going to want to matter and what they are not.


  7. Why not "worldgames"? The world is a main focus of interest and the way it works takes precedence over some idea about how stories should look, what character development means, or forcing artificial genre conventions on the way actions are resolved. You start from the world and the rest falls out from there.