JP On Gaming

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Is OSR the problem child? [Rant, Response]

The internet is abuzz with the recent posting of a certain Peter Bebergal's post on You can read the full article here.

Everyone got their shield and holy shields raised with a case of "oh no! not me". And they went off rants of their own.

I am NOT a fan of this OSR, even if a lot of the things I do and like would put me in league with the old schoolers. However, I have a profound dislike for the rules set of these old games.

I think he has pros and cons in his post.

Where we agree

Recent editions are only for money I mean really. Yes. But it's not unique to WotC. *EVERY* company is in it to make money. While a few guys may seek to "just put out stuff", the time it takes to produce something is non-negligible. Yes, they all want money. Is WotC more money-grubbing than say, Paizo, or LPJ Design is a WHOLE other debate.

WotC missed the boat on the PDF/PoD ship I think that is also given. While their competition embraced the digital age, WotC isolated themselves from the RPG world. I cannot quite fault them for that. By doing so, they really supported local game stores.

WotC published on a "Magic: The Gathering" model I think 4e in particular was build with that in mind: change your whole stock every 3-4 years rather than the 15+ years of 1e, 11 years of 2e, 8/5 years of 3/3.5. 4e had a life of what 2 years before 4.5 came out? And I think they felt the whiplash from that one. Many friends of mine left 4e at that time.

WotC's republishing their old material is a good thing I will admit that I had no interest in buying any of them, but I saw the wisdom and the good sense. For them, it is "free money" in that they do not have to spend a dime on re-design. The sales of PDFs of old products is also a windfall of freebies for them. Since they have no cost to themselves: only PDF sales.

Where we disagree

OSR promotes character development That is a common reason given by the OSR crowd to why their game is/was better. In my experience a good player will be good whether he plays OSR, 1-tru-4e, Pathfinder, Warhammer, Gurps or Fate. I've seen "cardboard players" in all of the above and I've played with awesome people also in all of the above. The ability to play a role is more dependant on the PLAYER rather than the background/ campaign/ character/ setting/ rules. For some - even in the "olden days" - it was all about leaving a trail of bodies behind them. I remember that all people wanted to do was kill stuff and become known for brutality and lovely elf maidens.

Ah.... Elf maidens... I haven't forgotten you...


OSR had fewer rules Just because there were fewer rule books in those days does not mean fewer rules. Going from one group to another in those days meant you had to learn how each DM had house ruled everything. Even things like hit points, AC calculations, ability checks could be massively different. If you had the change of getting a stable group - I didn't until I was MUCH older - then you were constantly learning the rules.

While interesting and fun, I never felt I could have a good handle on the rules (something the then-future-wargamer in me had difficulty adapting to).

OSR is all about nostalgia Though I disagree with him on this, there is a measure of truth. Many have gone to OSR as a way to "play something different". But to state that OSR as a whole appeals mostly to old nerds who refuses change... I disagree. Those guys have never stopped playing their BECMI edition or the books from the original Greyhawkbox. OSR for them is "Only School". Doesn't matter what, they would not move away from their prevered holy version.

Then there is a new phenomena, one of players going to try it to "see what the buzz is about".

OSR games were all about the plot No. No. and OH HELL NO. While a given GM may have put the focus on the plot, most adventures' plot involved you breaking down a door and beating up some poor schmuck for his gold.

Like OSR = character development, this affirmation is equally as false. For given groups/GMs, yes, but a blanket statement cannot be made.

What he does not say

One thing I have learned in my years of gaming is that gamers are a mixed lot and no two are alike. Making blanket statements on gamers as a group is difficult to hold to any scrutiny.

Similarly, assuming one person means you cannot derive a rule is wrong. "Nobody plays elf these days." "Not true! I have an elf character! You are generalizing." Touchy subject.

... Still thinking about the elf maidens...




  1. You hit on a lot of the points of why his article was a miss for me. It came across as nothing but an opinion piece. The thing that bothered me about the article is that it was written as "fact" instead of opinion.

  2. Absolutely perfect response. Too many people jump on the bandwagon of saying your side is perfect and the other side is awful. You are right when you say that it's the players and the group that make the most difference. Find a playstyle that works for your group and have fun. If somebody else is having different fun, be glad that they're happy.