Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Is the OSR Dead?

So I made some interesting, though not entirely new or unique, observations.

The OSR, as a Movement, is Dead.

This is the point of view of Tavis Allison who gave a talk about the OSR at Gen Con this past week.  Tavis has the street cred to back up his claims too, author of The Mule Abides blog and the Adventurer Conqueror King game system.

Though he has his reasons, I think I am looking at something slightly different.

I am not talking about the lack ENnies or even representation at Gen Con.
There was the the OSR Publications booth, which was great.

I am talking about the OSR as a movement.  If the stated goal* of the OSR was to get old-school style gaming back into the hands of gamers, then one only needed to go to the Wizards of the Coast booth and buy a copy of the 1st Ed AD&D books, or listen to their keynote address about the availability of older products, or go play D&D5.

(* lets be honest here, no one ever stated any goal of any sort)

If the goal was get products to go mainstream, well the OSR Publications booth was a good step in that direction.  George Strayton of the Secret Fire RPG was an industry guest of honor at this past Gen Con as well. Castles and Crusades (one of the earliest Retro Clones in my opinion) never seemed more popular.

So if the OSR as a mission was get "old school" products in the main-stream, then that goal has been met.

The movement then is dead. Why?  Well if the "R" mean Revolution, Revival or Renascence, then the goals have been achieved.   Old School is back.

The OSR as a community or even as a loosely affiliated publishing movement will live on.  Much like the Indie Press Revolution (who, to be perfectly honest, does everything the OSR could do and does it well).
There will still be sites and blogs that support old-school play.  They existed before the OSR movement and will (in some form) afterwards. 

I fear though that for many that the "R" stood for "Resistance" as in the alternative not because they liked old school play so much, but because they hated the "new school" of 4e or even 3.x.  Well for them I fear the battle wages on and it will never be won.  TSR is never coming back to life, WotC owns D&D and there are  many that enjoy the newer games.

In any case the OSR will change.  Not because it wants to, but because it will need to to stay relevant.

I will have to post on this topic more in a bit.


Trey said...

I heard that comment in his seminar. As you say, there is some truth to it. It largely depends on what the OSR is and what it's goals are/were. I don't think there's an easy answer to that question.

Philo Pharynx said...

I thought the Old School Revolution was to get people playing D&D on turntables...

Unknown said...

I never really took it as a movement so much as shared affection for a certain style of gaming

Anonymous said...

R is for Roleplaying

Cygnus said...

Well, okay, but I think it skews one's point to say: "N is dead," when the fine print down below says "(I really mean that N has achieved victory and can now go home and lay down its weapons.)"

If the footnote is what one really wanted to say in the first place, one may have a bit of an axe to grind by phrasing it as "dead," dontcha think?

Anonymous said...

For those who see the 'R' in OSR as standing for rebellion or revolution, it would appear that the thing is dead.

For those who see it as a renaissance, well, obviously the new eventually becomes old hat, or at least status quo.

But for those who are happy with the idea of OSR standing for 'Old School Rules', the OSR will never die.

TSR used to actively crush fan-produced D&D derivatives, websites, etc. WotC changed the game but gave us the OGL. Now D&D is in the hands of the fans and it's ours for all time. We can legally publish, we can legally reproduce the game we love and then take it in directions the company never did. We, the fans, now own the 'Rules' in Old School Rules.

And let's face it, if WotC moves from reprinting TSR products to producing new products for those games, they are then supporting the OSR and not supplanting it. Too late for that, just take a look at what is out there. Write up a list of OSR publishers and games. It's bloody huge and still growing.

I don't believe the OSR is dead, I reckon things are just kicking off - and it looks like WotC might actually be coming to the party.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't refer to Allison's one (self-) publishing credit as "street cred."

Tenkar said...

Tavis is good people, but he is not the main author of ACKS - that would be Alex Macris.

Also, I think there is some feeling that for certain games to be successful, they can't limit themselves by being attached to the "OSR" label. Tavis has good business sense, and I think that may be the angle.

If something achieves it's goals, does it die and cease to exist, or does it hope to grow and find even grander goals? I hope (and expect) for the OSR that it is the later.

dervishdelver said...

hmm. This is something that needles me a little. If you've been around to follow the OSR for any amount of time, I'd say it has definately changed. I don't know if that's because "mission accomplished" or products going main stream or new people coming and old people going or you can only reinvent the wheel so many times. Maybe these are normal ebbs and flows of the hobby?

Porky said...

I like the fact it gives us definition even if we can't define it.

OSRs (3 x 1d30)


1. Obscure
2. Obsessive
3. Odd
4. Offbeat
5. OGL-driven
6. Ongoing
7. Old
8. Older
9. On-again, off-again
0. Online
11. Open
12. Open-ended
13. Open-minded
14. Opportune
15. Opportunistic
16. Optimistic
17. Oracular
18. Orc-ridden
19. Organic
20. Original
21. Ornery
22. Orthodox
23. Ossified
24. Other
25. Otisian
26. Outcast
27. Outdated
28. Out-of-print
29. Outstanding
30. Out-there


1. Sandbox
2. Save-or-die
3. Scholarly
4. School
5. Scribblings
6. Scuzzy
7. Self-publishing
8. Self-satisfied
9. Self-sufficiency
10. Senescent
11. Sententious
12. Seventies'
13. Sharing
14. Silliness
15. Smart
16. Social
17. Source
18. Sparky
19. Spatial
20. splicing
21. Squamous
22. Standard
23. Stat
24. Stuffy
25. Style
26. Suboptimal
27. Subterranean
28. Subtle
29. Sword-wielding
30. System


1. Radicals
2. Rage
3. Rambling
4. Randomness
5. Ranting
6. Reassessment
7. Rebellion
8. Rebirth
9. Reboot
10. Recovery
11. Refusal
12. Regardless
13. Relief
14. Renaissance
15. Reordering
16. Repartee
17. Repetition
18. Repostings
19. Reprimand
20. Rescue
21. Resources
22. Retroclones
23. Reunion
24. Revision
25. Revolution
26. Rhetoric
27. Rogues
28. Roleplaying
29. Rubicon
30. Rules

5stonegames said...

Every revolution comes to an end and as much as victorious revolutionaries would like to keep the fervor of the early days alive its often unwise and seldom possible.

The fact is we won this one hands down and everyone is better for it . WOTC defected is reprinting old books some in hard copy even, 5E has old school traits too, people are playing, new people are playing and a few people are even making money, no mean feat in a PPCOC hobby.

whats left for us is to keep playing, keep recruiting and keep up the faith.

Tavis said...

My first self-publishing credit was A Swarm of Stirges in 2004. After that I did six 4e books, three for Goodman and three for WotC, plus some Dragon articles and stuff that never saw print. Whatever OSR cred I have is despite this new-school publishing! Like Erik says below I was a co-author on all of these except Stirges. I wish I was savvy enough to say only those controversial things that will advance my business interests, but alas it ain't so.