What hopes and fears do you have for the OSR scene?

I'm thinking in terms of game design and gaming culture. Consider the following questions, for instance:
* Have you seen a hope for new, elevated roleplaying in the OSR?
* Taken as a whole, does the OSR movement have problems that threaten its promise?
* What kinds of fruit do you expect out of the OSR scene in the coming years?

I'm curious about your answers, and will provide some thoughts of my own as well. I'm happy with both outsider perspectives and those of people who've participated in the OSR scene to different degrees.

NOTA BENE: Yes, this is the exact same topic that Hasimir tried earlier, except phrased in a different way. I think it's an interesting one, let's see how it flies on a second outing.

Comments

  • edited August 2017
    I'm thinking in terms of game design and gaming culture. Consider the following questions, for instance:
    * Have you seen a hope for new, elevated roleplaying in the OSR?
    * Taken as a whole, does the OSR movement have problems that threaten its promise?
    * What kinds of fruit do you expect out of the OSR scene in the coming years?
    What is the real point of this thread Euro? Are you genuinely interested in the OSR or is this just another angle of attack. I am seriously asking. I am fine exploring this topic, but I have to admit my skepticism that this even comes from an honest place. If you just want to critique the OSR, go for it. But don't be coy.

    Also my initial reaction to a thread like this is "Physician Heal thyself"
  • edited August 2017
    What do you mean by elevated and compared to what?
    * Taken as a whole, does the OSR movement have problems that threaten its promise?
    What, in your opinion, is the promise of the OSR movement?

    From my understanding, the promise of the OSR as a movement was to keep the old games alive, and I think it has been a resounding success in that sense.

    One of the things that I like about the OSR (though, again, I'm not a hardcore fan), is that they were among the first to address the space of solo roleplaying. Many aspects of the OSR have been very helpful to people interested in this niche. I credit the OSR for "rediscovering" solo dungeon and hex crawling through products like Ancient Odysseys, Scarlet Heroes, Ruins of the Undercity. Even games not intended for solo roleplaying are very solo roleplaying such as sandbox tooklits like Yoo-Suin, Red Tide, etc.

    By contrast, I've seen a lot of resistance in the "indie/storygame" movement to the mere idea that solo roleplaying might exist. This resistance has ranged from skeptical to dismissive-- even borderline hostile. I only noticed it start to change once Beloved became known.

    I guess in the sense of what I'm interested in, the OSR has been delivering more than the "indie/storygame" movement. In fact, beyond Beloved (and How To Host A Dungeon), the design of solo games in the "storygame" movement has been limited to what is realistically little more than writing prompts (i.e. Beast).
    What kinds of fruit do you expect out of the OSR scene in the coming years?
    As far as the solo gaming niche goes, I hope they can do more with the current format of solo dungeon/hex crawling. Maybe someone will be able to innovate from that too.

    Outside of that niche, I expect the sandbox model to continue being supported with other interesting settings, and maybe someone eventually will add new twists to it.
  • I don't understand OSR at all. I don't mean that to say "I don't get why people like it." I come from AD&D2e back in the day, and I've played and enjoyed some games that label themselves OSR. No, I mean I don't understand what OSR is supposed to be as a design philosophy.

    Some people claim that OSR is "a movement was to keep the old games alive, and I think it has been a resounding success in that sense." (I'm not picking on Dreamer here - their quote was just the nearest to hand for that sentiment.) That makes no sense to me: if people want to play 2e or redbox or what-have-you, they're easily accessed and played. Much as with people's protests about metaplots of olde, no one is holding a gun to your head saying you can't use the old texts. So OSR needs to be doing something more than just letting people play the old games they're nostalgic for.

    Nor is it keeping the old games alive by creating new supplements for old systems: I think the proliferation of things like LotFP, Into the Odd, Black Hack, ACK, etc. makes it clear that people aren't just coming up with new content for old rule-sets.

    So OSR isn't about keeping the old games alive. By issuing new rule-sets, it's quite clear that the people having a field day in the OSR movement were *not* content with the old rules. But they captured a certain spirit of play that people enjoyed, and want to bring back in a manner that, at least in passing, takes note of the several decades of thought on RPG design that have occurred since then. Keep the spirit, but fix/improve/etc. the system.

    And that is where I think any strict definition of OSR starts to fall apart - because each individual person is going to have a different nostalgia-tinted understanding of what the "spirit" of old-school gaming was, and which mechanics are best used to support it, and which can be streamlined away as irrelevancies.

    Note, for instance, the "rulings not rules" thing that a lot of OSR proponents talk about. My understanding is that it's about using streamlined and minimalist rule-sets combined with "GM judgement" in order to facilitate engagement with the game/story. Fine by me. These same folk, in discussions about story games (specifically, Dungeon World), find the ruleset incredibly intrusive, hampering, and immersion-breaking - finding the rules ambiguous, bringing lots of confusion and "GM handwaving." If you can distinguish between "GM judgement calls" and "GM handwaving," you're a better person than I. What I think this means, though, is that the aesthetic of "old school gaming" is as or more important than the mechanics themselves: the aesthetic helps evoke the spirit of old-school play, and its absence can be as damaging to the feeling one is trying to evoke as any particular mechanic.

    Bearing that in mind, I don't actually know what games are and aren't OSR, if one ignores our tribal affiliations.

    To me, Dungeon World is a legitimate OSR game: same old classes, same old stat blocks, lots of GM judgement calls, with an emphasis on old-school epic adventure stories. The last bit wasn't me trying to slip something past you: that's what we always aimed for in our old-school games.

    Some - not all - OSR proponents however feel that OSR doesn't depend so much on character skills as it does on player skills: solving the dungeon puzzles, bringing the ten foot pole, etc. It is, to harken back to the GNS system, a more "gamist" approach. Is Gamism critical to OSR, or just a vocal minority of OSR proponents? AD&D certainly lent itself to that gamist dungeon crawling approach... but it also had things like the early skill proficiency system, which allowed for the beginning of things like Diplomacy checks instead of players acting out diplomatic interactions with their own verbal skills. Heck, at its core, you still regularly had things like Wisdom/Int checks for figuring stuff out. Which is to say, that saying that "old school play" was purely gamist is really cherry-picking pieces of that experience.

    That is: to some, diplomacy checks are a symptom of the deviation from old-school play, and is the rule to be excised in order to foster the old-school revival. To others, the gamist element is the failure in old-school play to properly support story and role-playing, and is the part to be modified or excised to foster old-school revival. Neither of those camps is wrong, though I think only one of them is today referred to as "OSR." Which is why the stated design goals of OSR have little in common with the gaming culture that actually unites those designers.

    My point here isn't to criticize OSR, and I hope it hasn't come across that way. I just mean to say reviving that "old school experience" is a non-sensical goal: people look for different things in the old-school experience, and see very different design goals *and* aesthetics *and* feelings-during-play to accurately capture that. So, when we discuss design "stuck in the past", or "the promise of OSR", etc. these things make no sense to me. OSR's not stuck in the past: every bit of it is built around recapturing people's sense of the past, and chucking out the bits that don't fit.

    It's really just a slightly fancy term for "I've been playing RPGs long enough to have mechanical and aesthetic preferences informed by nostalgia, habit, etc. rather than design principles and want to see those things codified in game systems and supplements." A particular strain of that is OSR. There are non-OSR strains of that as well (there have definitely been some PbtA cargo cult games that are clearly "I like pbta so I will use it!" without grokking how the underlying system and design principles work.) To a lesser degree, *every* game design is informed by the above - OSR just seems to state is an explicit goal, rather than unconscious design influence.

    To your specific questions, then:

    (1) Elevated Play

    OSR - by my definition - is already incredibly modern (I won't say "elevated", because unless you're playing on an Airbus, I don't know what you mean.) The Indie Hack & Dungeon World absolutely capture the sorts of stories and experiences my old-school play had, sustain interesting play well, and do away with the bits of the system I found interfered rather than helped. The Shadow of Yesterday also did an incredible job at capturing old sword-and-sorcery feelings, though it's crap for dungeon crawling.

    When I want to do dungeon-crawler-cum-domain-manager, Adventurer Conqueror King completely masters its domain, with a very fine modern attention to the marriage of mechanics-and-desired-play, while not losing sight of the old school experience it's trying to evoke.

    And when I want to do pure turn-based tactical dungeon crawling, ... meh. Hell if I know. That's not my bag. But I'm sure others can name games that have come the distance in that respect, too.

    (2) Problems, Promise

    I address my issue with "promise" above. I also don't see that it can have problems unless it's mistaken for a monolith of some sort. It's not. It's, like all other RPG design groups, a bunch of disparate dorks playing what they like and writing in private, play-testing with friends. There's no monolithic obstacle that can stop a dork with a laptop from writing a game that captures *their* sense of what's missing in the gaming scene. And, since fundamentally that *is* the point of OSR as I see it, it can't fail. It might be boring and derivative if it's iterating on aspects of play you don't find engaging, but it can't fail to be itself.
  • Note on terminology: I used the word "elevated" in the first post, and it's evidently a bad choice here. What I was trying to say was "participating of qualities you find valuable and exalted in an artistic sense". For example, I would personally say that old school D&D is, for me, a noble exercise in wargaming, an elevated perspective on how to do it.

    Dreamer: That's an interesting point about solo gaming, I see what you mean. I don't foresee an actual design trend emerging around solo dungeoneering, but it's true that the tradition is stronger than it is in other schools or subscenes of roleplaying.

    As I've often remarked, my personal favourite thing about old school D&D is that it represents an unique, exotic kind of roleplaying game, a genuine school or cultural tradition with its own peculiar ideas and approaches. This alone makes the OSR scene notable and worthwhile, as an independent alternative in a world largely dominated by group-think. For me personally, I learned about old school D&D at a time when it came as a fresh change of pace for somebody who already was intimately familiar with most other traditions of tabletop play; needless to say, I got quite excited with it once I grokked how different it truly is.

    However, speaking for the thread topic, I have further hopes for the future. These are the things that I, speaking as a game designer, see as particularly interesting and fruitful in old school D&D. Perhaps, in the future, we could see this stuff developed even further:
    * Wargaming as a creative priority! This is basically what drives my own D&D play, the drive to get a first-person perspective on tricky situations and "game" them out, learning things and succeeding in a sort of tactical workshop with other hobbyists. It'd be great if we got more games with this creative agenda.
    * Organic rules-development upon a disciplined systemic chassis.
    * An expansive sense of what a rpg "campaign" is. Unlike traditional rpgs, the old school campaign is a much more varied and player-driven thing, capable of transforming on the flight. It is the only kind of RPG in which I've played campaigns several dozens of sessions in length, and for D&D that's sort of regular. One only wonders if there are other games that might reliably achieve a similar social footprint.
    * A very loose, yet intercompatible mechanical framework, combined with modular design. Plus, the individual campaign is truly expansive, and can make use of a wide variety of materials. Those enable D&D to be uniquely "shareable" in a way that already could be seen in the 'zine era, but that truly comes to its own in the Internet age. If you think about other games, there simply isn't that much to share compared to D&D.

    I will also tell you what I view as the big challenges of old school D&D, creatively speaking. These are basically things I don't like about the game, one might say. They are often also things that have already been resolved locally or globally or whatever; just some things that I've found difficult or challenging about the gaming presented by the OSR.
    * I'm not really into the Gygaxian fantasy paradigm, nor the TSR era of corporate content. This means that the D&D core actually has a lot of "fluff" content that leaves me disinterested, and even frustrated. It's really, really common, it would almost be easier to list the things I like than the things I don't, because I don't much care for the utilitarian magic, the fantasy race carneval, the vanilla post-Tolkien world-building, the cliche-oriented character typing and all that. An OSR that moves away from a perceived need to stick to classical content and into new, fresh settings is one that I like.
    * The fact that D&D is a commercially valuable IP is sort of a blot on the old school game. It's not a huge issue, but rather a small irritation that nags in many different ways at all times. For example, people can get into weird twists about the officialness of one's campaign, and it's not uncommon for gamers to be attracted to the newest editions of the game, discarding actual substance. I often feel that the corporate overlords of the game do their best in their creative decisions to dumb it down and take the gamers with them, into a safe theme park version of the game that lacks every attractive aspect of the original. The more OSR manages to distance itself intellectually from the commercial mainline of D&D, the better.
    * It'd be nice if the OSR tradition was applied more towards games that break out of the party-based adventuring paradigm. I've done a bit of this in my private games, but overall I suspect that the paradigm of the party and the adventure limits the topical range and expressive power of the game.
    What is the real point of this thread Euro? Are you genuinely interested in the OSR or is this just another angle of attack. I am seriously asking. I am fine exploring this topic, but I have to admit my skepticism that this even comes from an honest place. If you just want to critique the OSR, go for it. But don't be coy.
    The point is that I'm curious about what others see as the central contributions of OSR, and what they see as the future of the movement. I'm also happy to talk about my own expectations, if anybody wants to look at them in more depth. In general I'd be happy if we could understand each other's hopes and fears for the OSR a little bit better. This could perhaps also help people who don't appreciate OSR gaming to understand what others are seeing in it. Might even inspire some action plans, if somebody observes something that grabs another reader and compels them to do something about it.

    For example, I found Dreamer's perspective about solo gaming to be very interesting, and precisely the sort of thing I was looking for - something that I wouldn't have thought about myself. I would also be happy to talk about Hasimir's frustrations further - I can relate with his perspective to a degree, I think, even as I'm not myself bothered by the relatively conservative structural framework utilized by OSR gaming.

    I started compiling some dry witticisms about my lack of OSR street cred, but this is the Internet after all, and you've no reason to know me, so I can't blame you for being suspicious. I imagine that elaborate trolling is becoming quite a problem for the Internet in general. Difficult to prove my intentions, though, unless you really want to set up some sort of OSR inquisition to check my credentials [grin].
  • ... if people want to play 2e or redbox or what-have-you, they're easily accessed and played.
    Checked 2e and tried to wrap my mind around playing it to no avail. Coming from 3.5 I just found the whole deal unplayable by itself. Also, I had terrible experiences with 3.5 itself when it got poorly mastered by a DM who grew up on the old school tradition of lethality. It took a few OSR posts and games to finally help me understand what was the deal of the game, what was supposed to be fun there and how it was meant to be played.

    I mean, if you grow up thinking RPGs are all and only about "the fantasy of power" (as was my case for a while before reading anything on the forge nor here) and nobody tells you otherwise, the books by themselves don't do much to clear things on you. I kept checking old D&D modules and books and just feeling my disdain for older editions justifiable. Everything there felt railroady and inefficient in terms of rules and mechanics, advice was scarce and not useful enough to understand the deal of the game. It was one of those things that it would have helped me lots more to see the game being played to understand it than trying to get it from the texts.

    I get that for people who played the original games on their moment this is nothing new, but for new roleplayers this is a big deal, some of it it's like an archeological research on games rules and their evolution. No offense meant but let my try this image: If a roman citizen from the first century were to meet excited researchers from the 21st century talking about the recent digging they made of the cloaca maxima he would probably bored, nauseated and wouldn't get the whole point of it either.

    Hell, he would probably be more interested in things like cellphones, food and drones!

    So, OSR should be thought of not only as a celebration of the past from nostalgic people but as a rich source of fresh material for new designers too. Some of those people who kept playing the game have developed their own ways of fixing the original game until they made it their own. There are lessons to be learn there too. Believe me, for people who haven't played older editions all this feels as good as new.
  • Note on terminology: I used the word "elevated" in the first post, and it's evidently a bad choice here. What I was trying to say was "participating of qualities you find valuable and exalted in an artistic sense". For example, I would personally say that old school D&D is, for me, a noble exercise in wargaming, an elevated perspective on how to do it.

    Dreamer: That's an interesting point about solo gaming, I see what you mean. I don't foresee an actual design trend emerging around solo dungeoneering, but it's true that the tradition is stronger than it is in other schools or subscenes of roleplaying.

    As I've often remarked, my personal favourite thing about old school D&D is that it represents an unique, exotic kind of roleplaying game, a genuine school or cultural tradition with its own peculiar ideas and approaches. This alone makes the OSR scene notable and worthwhile, as an independent alternative in a world largely dominated by group-think. For me personally, I learned about old school D&D at a time when it came as a fresh change of pace for somebody who already was intimately familiar with most other traditions of tabletop play; needless to say, I got quite excited with it once I grokked how different it truly is.

    However, speaking for the thread topic, I have further hopes for the future. These are the things that I, speaking as a game designer, see as particularly interesting and fruitful in old school D&D. Perhaps, in the future, we could see this stuff developed even further:
    * Wargaming as a creative priority! This is basically what drives my own D&D play, the drive to get a first-person perspective on tricky situations and "game" them out, learning things and succeeding in a sort of tactical workshop with other hobbyists. It'd be great if we got more games with this creative agenda.
    * Organic rules-development upon a disciplined systemic chassis.
    * An expansive sense of what a rpg "campaign" is. Unlike traditional rpgs, the old school campaign is a much more varied and player-driven thing, capable of transforming on the flight. It is the only kind of RPG in which I've played campaigns several dozens of sessions in length, and for D&D that's sort of regular. One only wonders if there are other games that might reliably achieve a similar social footprint.
    * A very loose, yet intercompatible mechanical framework, combined with modular design. Plus, the individual campaign is truly expansive, and can make use of a wide variety of materials. Those enable D&D to be uniquely "shareable" in a way that already could be seen in the 'zine era, but that truly comes to its own in the Internet age. If you think about other games, there simply isn't that much to share compared to D&D.

    I will also tell you what I view as the big challenges of old school D&D, creatively speaking. These are basically things I don't like about the game, one might say. They are often also things that have already been resolved locally or globally or whatever; just some things that I've found difficult or challenging about the gaming presented by the OSR.
    * I'm not really into the Gygaxian fantasy paradigm, nor the TSR era of corporate content. This means that the D&D core actually has a lot of "fluff" content that leaves me disinterested, and even frustrated. It's really, really common, it would almost be easier to list the things I like than the things I don't, because I don't much care for the utilitarian magic, the fantasy race carneval, the vanilla post-Tolkien world-building, the cliche-oriented character typing and all that. An OSR that moves away from a perceived need to stick to classical content and into new, fresh settings is one that I like.
    * The fact that D&D is a commercially valuable IP is sort of a blot on the old school game. It's not a huge issue, but rather a small irritation that nags in many different ways at all times. For example, people can get into weird twists about the officialness of one's campaign, and it's not uncommon for gamers to be attracted to the newest editions of the game, discarding actual substance. I often feel that the corporate overlords of the game do their best in their creative decisions to dumb it down and take the gamers with them, into a safe theme park version of the game that lacks every attractive aspect of the original. The more OSR manages to distance itself intellectually from the commercial mainline of D&D, the better.
    * It'd be nice if the OSR tradition was applied more towards games that break out of the party-based adventuring paradigm. I've done a bit of this in my private games, but overall I suspect that the paradigm of the party and the adventure limits the topical range and expressive power of the game.

    What is the real point of this thread Euro? Are you genuinely interested in the OSR or is this just another angle of attack. I am seriously asking. I am fine exploring this topic, but I have to admit my skepticism that this even comes from an honest place. If you just want to critique the OSR, go for it. But don't be coy.
    The point is that I'm curious about what others see as the central contributions of OSR, and what they see as the future of the movement. I'm also happy to talk about my own expectations, if anybody wants to look at them in more depth. In general I'd be happy if we could understand each other's hopes and fears for the OSR a little bit better. This could perhaps also help people who don't appreciate OSR gaming to understand what others are seeing in it. Might even inspire some action plans, if somebody observes something that grabs another reader and compels them to do something about it.

    For example, I found Dreamer's perspective about solo gaming to be very interesting, and precisely the sort of thing I was looking for - something that I wouldn't have thought about myself. I would also be happy to talk about Hasimir's frustrations further - I can relate with his perspective to a degree, I think, even as I'm not myself bothered by the relatively conservative structural framework utilized by OSR gaming.

    I started compiling some dry witticisms about my lack of OSR street cred, but this is the Internet after all, and you've no reason to know me, so I can't blame you for being suspicious. I imagine that elaborate trolling is becoming quite a problem for the Internet in general. Difficult to prove my intentions, though, unless you really want to set up some sort of OSR inquisition to check my credentials [grin].


    That is fair. Honestly I think you are much better off posting this somewhere with a larger OSR presence that is more representative of its philosophy as a whole. I think it will be a much more fruitful discussion if you have people who are more established proponents of the OSR weighing in.


  • * Have you seen a hope for new, elevated roleplaying in the OSR?
    I used the word "elevated" in the first post, and it's evidently a bad choice here. What I was trying to say was "participating of qualities you find valuable and exalted in an artistic sense". For example, I would personally say that old school D&D is, for me, a noble exercise in wargaming, an elevated perspective on how to do it.
    * What kinds of fruit do you expect out of the OSR scene in the coming years?
    This I could not answer. I foresee little changing with regard to new developments in roleplaying or game changes. The OSR gamers--the old grognards and the younger-bloods like myself--are unlikely to stray far from this practice, as the elements that comprise OSR-style gameplay are what attract us to them.

    However, one of the greatest aspects of the OSR is its adaptability. On the OSR G+ group (in which I am, again, a silent-albeit-avid observer), I saw one GM who used Burning Wheel-style traits and wises in his game. It's this sort of cross-pollination and willingness to experiment that offers the ability to "renovate" the OSR, to take what works and discard what doesn't. To incorporate the unfamiliar into the known.

    In addition, the willingness of the community to create, to publish their house rules, to wing it and find out what works: that is what will drive the next "wave" of OSR material.
    * Taken as a whole, does the OSR movement have problems that threaten its promise?
    To some extent, the unwillingness of the OSR to adapt and change at all is problematic. There are frequent debates over what constitutes "true" OSR (is AD&D 2e OSR?), which sidetrack the strengths of the community.
  • Some people claim that OSR is "a movement was to keep the old games alive, and I think it has been a resounding success in that sense." (I'm not picking on Dreamer here - their quote was just the nearest to hand for that sentiment.) That makes no sense to me: if people want to play 2e or redbox or what-have-you, they're easily accessed and played. Much as with people's protests about metaplots of olde, no one is holding a gun to your head saying you can't use the old texts. So OSR needs to be doing something more than just letting people play the old games they're nostalgic for.
    When the OSR got started, the old texts were not accessible, and there were issues with publishing third party content. Then people took the D&D 3.0 SRD and backported it into a game text compatible with whichever older edition they were interested in, and used that to publish third party content. Then people started to take the SRD concept and publish a rule set that derived from the older editions, but had it's own unique twists. Meanwhile, the older editions became more available, and even reprinted.

    I'm not sure how to answer Euro's questions, I am glad the movement exists. I am mostly playing older editions using the original text, and have found various folks who want to play that way and want to talk about what these original games were. The movement vindicates my decision to keep the original editions of D&D and Traveller that I owned while disposing of huge swaths of later materials, even when at the time I decided what to hold onto I wasn't actually interested in playing those games at the time.

    I've latched onto some of the OSR products as providing interesting material for my game, much as I would latch onto other RPGs and magazine articles back in the day.

    I dunno if that helps this conversation at all?

    Maybe the "discuss the original games and explore them as games" partly leads to elevated play? I think my sense of what the OSR gives to me suggests that it is living up to at least one of its promises. And I certainly expect to see new material come out down the road that I will be inspired to purchase and use.

    Frank
  • Maybe the "discuss the original games and explore them as games" partly leads to elevated play? I think my sense of what the OSR gives to me suggests that it is living up to at least one of its promises. And I certainly expect to see new material come out down the road that I will be inspired to purchase and use.
    I thought that was a great answer. I agree that there is value in simple conservatism as well - obviously, as that's what OSR essentially is. In OSR D&D we sort of have one of those rare-ish situations where a stubbornly old-fashioned thing is preserving value that, when a new generation comes along and discovers it, is recognized for what it is. The way I've seen some old-timers write, it must be quite gratifying to have been "right all along" [grin].

    That's a valuable lesson quite aside from the OSR movement, by the way; the rpg scene has, since the general indie slash-out against traditionalism around 15 years ago, been generally characterized by progressivism. That is generally fine, but a starkly progressivist mindset may miss out on lessons of history, on the assumption that newer things are better by definition. Obviously this isn't the case when put out like that, and perhaps this OSR episode will help us maintain open and humble attitudes in the face of the unknown, both old and new.

    My questions may have been confusing because they are so design-oriented: I'm basically a curious artist type, always pushing boundaries, so that frames my thinking. Of course I speculate about the future, try to stay ahead of the curve so to speak. Imagining the future of OSR style gaming is of great interest there, as is critiquing the general direction should there be something to complain about.
  • Cool. For what it's worth, I've been defending story-games.com in discussions over on therpgsite.com... And threads like these (almost any thread you start it seems) are proof to me that story-games.com is NOT anti-old school D&D.

    If I had more time for RPGs, I'd also probably be more interested in trying out some of the innovative games coming out of the OSR movement, and the OSR celebratory games (I am about to play in a PbP Torchbearer game).

    Frank
  • By contrast, I've seen a lot of resistance in the "indie/storygame" movement to the mere idea that solo roleplaying might exist. This resistance has ranged from skeptical to dismissive-- even borderline hostile. I only noticed it start to change once Beloved became known.

    I guess in the sense of what I'm interested in, the OSR has been delivering more than the "indie/storygame" movement. In fact, beyond Beloved (and How To Host A Dungeon), the design of solo games in the "storygame" movement has been limited to what is realistically little more than writing prompts (i.e. Beast).
    This is all I do, actually. Cobble together narrative frameworks for solo play. I'm pretty sure I'm clumsy about it and stepping on people's heads instead of shoulders and reinventing the wheel left and right. I haven't seen any hostility to the idea (more like a faint "meh") but then I haven't really asked.

    For me, OSR is kind of like a romance or mystery novel. I pick one up when I want something comforting and familiar, and to see what the author does inside one of the standard frames. Which is overly simple, I guess, and I hope doesn't come off as dismissive. I just love that I know what I'm getting as the "base" so I can explore the layers the author's placed on top. To get into a mature headspace, to challenge myself on what I consider disturbing and unpleasant and why. And to see words put together in ways I never would have thought to put them together.

    So I hope there's more of that.
  • Dreamer: That's an interesting point about solo gaming, I see what you mean. I don't foresee an actual design trend emerging around solo dungeoneering, but it's true that the tradition is stronger than it is in other schools or subscenes of roleplaying.
    There have been some innovations in the form of increasing the survival chances when playing a single character (see Scarlet Heroe's). Kevin also created a soloable form of city adventure (investigations) which is fairly interesting, as well as riffing off the work of Tana Pigeon (Mythic) with various "oracles".

    As far as I can see, in the indie scene, prior to Beloved, there were elements that I personally find useful for solo roleplaying, such as player facing rolls and NPCs with no stats of their own (Trollbabe being my favorite example). I dislike knowing things about the game world that my character would not know, or that are sort of GM secrets, so Trollbabe is right up my alley in that way.

    Though the solo dungeon crawling games are solid in creating an environment that is unknown to me that is still coherent in a funhouse way, I dislike knowing the stats of the foes you face.

    This actually makes me want to try a straight dungeon crawl with the Trollbabe core dice mechanic.
  • I haven't seen any hostility to the idea (more like a faint "meh") but then I haven't really asked.
    Like I said, it's borderline. Some people are "pretty hardcore on the Lumpley principle" (whatever that means!). For whatever reason, they take that to mean that solo roleplaying is an oxymoron of some sort.

    Then again, Vincent Baker likes Beloved as an RPG so obviously someone is wrong on the internet. :)

    Sorry for derailing momentarily.
  • Call it rpg theory brain damage, but I just can't stop myself from an unnecessary correction: the Lumpley principle doesn't say anything about solo gaming. Maybe they were thinking of the Czege postulate (which does not, of course, apply to something like solo play, and is more of a rule of thumb than an iron-clad rule anyway).

    I'm pretty meh about solo play myself, but that's strictly because I've got my shit sorted out and am quite busy enough with multiplayer games. Were I in some lonelier period of life, I could see myself working on solo games - why not, that's basically most of the computer game design history right there.
  • Trollbabe is one of my favorites to solo (and tinker with) but I've never tried a pure dungeon crawl with it. Sounds like fun and very doable, if you have the patience for a dungeon crawl in the first place!

    My impression is that most people who solo do so because they lack people to play with or time to group. I do it because I like playing by myself and find other people's imaginations exhausting right now. Also, I do not have my stuff together, ha.

    On topic, I'm also hoping to see more systems like Four Against the Dungeon and Ruins of the Undercity. My last group game was generated "on the fly" with very little prep (and even the prep was oracle based); I think there's a lot of space to explore that left. And the beauty of OSR is that it's trivial to strip out the combat mechanics if you don't want to use them.
  • My favorite thing about the OSR is that a subtype of it is perfect for my favorite playstyle. I'm talking about the playstyle where everything flows from the fiction and everyone's thinking in-character and there's lots of danger and opportunity out there in the fiction to reward that sort of fiction focus. I'm not aware of anyone else designing to support that specifically, so that's a bummer in one sense, but it also leaves me room that if I ever publish Delve it'll be legitimately unique.

    So that's my big hope for the future of the OSR, that it'll welcome and enjoy my game as a specific niche under its broader umbrella. My big fear would be that some of the techniques I've found to be most effective get rejected because they're unfamiliar. I absolutely see the virtue in familiarity, as that's key to immersion for many, but I feel like we can get familiar with new ways of doing things pretty quickly if they're simple enough and on-point.

    I know that's very focused on my own little corner of OSR play, but I have no interest in the overall "fate of the OSR movement" one way or another. It'll have its mutations and its good citizens and its bad citizens, just like every other movement. It's already contributed plenty over the last 10-15 years in terms of disseminating tools and tips and best practices and sources of fun and awesomeness across the internet and in print. Mission accomplished, I'd say. If I were to predict any one change in OSR output, I'd semi-randomly pick "dungeons". I can imagine more really excellent dungeons being published than we've seen so far.
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