Friday 5 June 2015

On OSR Gaming

So. This is going to be an OSR gaming blog.

On the off-chance that anyone reading this doesn't already know, 'OSR' stands for 'Old School Renaissance'. It's a grass-roots movement in tabletop gaming, mostly propagating via blogs, pdfs, and print-on-demand books, and linked together by a shared interest in the very earliest versions of Dungeons and Dragons, such as the Holmes Basic edition of 1977 and the Moldvay / Cook edition of 1981. If that sounds like just about the geekiest thing imaginable, then that's probably because it pretty much is.

However! Over the last five years or so, the OSR has become a font of astonishing creativity. Turning back the clock could have just been a form of arid traditionalism, a kind of gaming version of ancestor worship, but the truth has been quite the reverse: freed of the voluminous rulesets of modern D&D editions, and the generic trappings of post-1980s 'map fantasy' which are encoded within them, a whole lot of very talented people have taken the opportunity to do some truly impressive work. A lot of it's inspired by the 1970s weird fiction roots of the game, from back before 'SF', 'Fantasy', and 'Horror' were pushed into their own little boxes: so a lot of OSR stuff might mention a dwarf on one page, a robot on the next page, and a ghastly horror-monster that rips out your kidneys on the one after that. For many people, it's obviously been extremely liberating.

I started gaming with Basic D&D, many years ago, but like everyone else I moved onto Advanced D&D as soon as I got the chance. ('It has more rules and it says 'advanced' on the cover! It must be superior!') For about twelve years, I mastered more and more complex gaming systems, until finally the slow-motion disaster that was the Exalted rulebook convinced me once and for all that more rules did not mean better gaming. For the next twelve years or so, I moved backwards through progressively simpler systems, until I returned to the point I'd originally set out from: basic D&D. And at that point, I found the OSR waiting for me.

There are loads of amazing OSR blogs out there. My favourite ones are probably False Machine, Goblin Punch, and The Dungeon Dozen (which also has a sister blog, They Stalk The Underworld), and anyone who has the faintest interest in OSR-style gaming owes it to themselves to take a look at all three.

But there are hundreds of others.

This one is mine.

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