Do you even OSR ? | Response to Oct-OSR

I’ve recently been listening to lots of Oct-OSR podcast and I began to wonder why I find myself more often than not agreeing with what seem to be different/divergent statements about what the OSR is.

So, I had a bit of a think and tried to put a pin in it.

Some say the OSR is playing in a 70’s style (or at least what they think happened back then), others say the OSR must be mechanically compatible with 70s D&D, others think it is an ethos or is the DIY scene etc.

Can these all be OSR, can the OSR really be this broad?

Perhaps yes, if these are all views/movements that represent ‘dials’ in the OSR that people can dial up or down. So, when peoples say OSR is “X”, what they really mean is “X” is what is important to me in the OSR. The other stuff (that is not “X”) is not so important to me, and perhaps negligibly important. When enough people have the dials set at the same-ish position, then you begin to generate a gravitational well that draws in more adherents. This gravitational well may even become sufficiently distinct to gain a new identity like the NSR movement/wing.

So why these gravitational wells in the OSR?

I think what is important to you in the OSR is what drew you into the OSR in the first place. It is likely that what drew you into the OSR was a contact with an “OSR” (be it a person, group or product). If you liked that “first-contact-OSR” you joined the OSR. If you didn’t like that “first-contact-OSR” you left or never joined the OSR, and probably warned others off the OSR. That “first-contact-OSR” will therefore have strongly coloured your understanding of what the OSR is. Of course, the bigger the gravitational well of an OSR wing, the more likely it is to be a person’s “first-contact-OSR”, and so these wings of the OSR grow.  

So, bringing this together – what do I think the OSR is?

I think the OSR can be as broad as the various people say it is. People naturally think the OSR can’t be that broad. But, I’m not so sure. I think the OSR is like a thin membrane capturing all the OSR gravitational wells and movements derived therefrom.

To me, I now lean towards thinking that the OSR is … a non-conformist movement (like the Arts and Crafts movement) where free-thinkers do ‘RPGs’ in the way they want to, and do not simply accept what corporates like WOtC (or other main stream commercial publishers) said RPGs are, e.g. currently 5e D&D.

I think the OSR was kicked off (began to crystalize?) when people read D&D 3/4e and said: nooooooo, I’m not playing D&D that way!

But, what do I know!


– – –

Me on DriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural:
:: High Seas ‘Hex Crawl’ – In the Heart of the Sea,
:: Wilderness Hex Crawl – In the Heart of the Unknown,
:: Dungeon/network generator – In the Heart of the Delve & Dangerous

9 thoughts on “Do you even OSR ? | Response to Oct-OSR

  1. yumdm

    To me, OSR started out as a way to bring the old school ways of playing D&D back – for example, hexcrawls.

    Lately, I think OSR has morphed into something different: mixing new and old rules together to make a new hybrid-D&D.

    That’s how I read things.


  2. Ruprecht

    I like your explanation. If the r in OSR means renaissance, well they had a Northern Renaissance and an Italian Renaissance. Plenty of crossover in styles. Plenty of room for both.


  3. OSR is eh

    I see OSR as basically “not dnd 5e”. I have seen nothing coherent unite OSR other than “it’s definitely not DND 5e”.


      1. Goblin's Henchman Post author

        Not by me !!

        But, more seriously, OSR was before 5e, so that’s can not be the definition (but hey did consult some people in the OSR).

        To the extent that it’s not “X” definition, it’s more that OSR rejects simply accepting the current commercially available sources just because they are the ‘up-to-date’ commercially available sources.


  4. Yora

    From all that I’ve seen, it simply was that around 2009, some people looked at D&D and thought that something at some point had gotten seriously wrong. And then they just traced back what had changed in the last 25 years to see which innovations had actually been terrible ideas, and what useful elements had been mistakenly discarded.
    And then there were maybe 3 to 5 years during which lots of people reexamined old material, shared their thoughts, and compared their ideas. That’s really all that OSR ever was. Basically nothing new has been added to that conversation in the last decade now.
    Of course people still create new content based on the conclusions of those conversations. I guess those could collectively be referred to as post-OSR, but they’ve gone off into several different direction since then.


  5. simplednd

    I think that old school RPGs are still amazing. The only reason to revise the rule or jump to a new version is for the corps to make more money. Why do we need 5 versions of D&D when the first version is totally playable – maybe not in the same way as 5e, but still a great game. Personally, the risk/reward model of the 1-2 editions was what made it for me. The newer versions, with crafting or super heroes, seems to be missing that.


  6. E. B.

    The way I see it OSR is a mirror of the D20 zeitgeist (which would include 3e through 5e and pathfinder etc.) They are two big play cultures of D&D and have roots going all the way back but they really became their own distinct consciously separate things in the 2000s.


  7. Pingback: ” R ” is for Religion [[ OSR ]] | Goblin's Henchman

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