Sunday, July 28, 2013

Hacking the OSR

Okay, maybe I’m a bit late getting on the boat with this one. Maybe it’s because I started gaming in the early 90s when AD&D 2nd Edition was all the rage, although Palladium’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness was my first foray into the wild, wonderful, and wacky world of role playing games. I’ve played a lot of RPGs over the years. Admittedly, even though I could see through the publishers’ tricks, I was always interested in what was new and shiny, although I did always have my old standby games.

Unfortunately, like a lot of gamers, I grew up. I moved away from friends. I got caught up in work, kids, family, and all the other stuff us grownups do. Of course, when we need the escape the most, it is often hardest to pull off. Moving back home, getting on Google Plus and meeting a bunch of gamers, and having finally gotten my wife interested in the hobby, I have been able to come back and enjoy the great escape once more.

Mind you, this post is based on my own, limited experience with OSR. There may be plenty out there that I have not yet seen or read. And, should someone believe I am mischaracterizing OSR, has suggestions at something I should look at, I’m more than happy to hear the feedback and/or take the suggestions.

This whole idea of OSR, which what I can tell is short for Old School Renaissance, and retro-clone games kind of threw me for a loop. People started understanding copyright law a bit better. People started longing for the games the enjoyed in their youth. Others had never left. There are people today still playing the same game and even the same campaign they started some twenty or thirty years ago. New editions of games have been released. Totally new and different games have been published. But, here we have this idea of going back to old school gaming.

I get it…sorta.

Where I am at a loss as someone who likes to tinker with games and hopes to continue publishing my own material is where the lines are. Which ones can we cross and which things are held sacred? When it comes to OSR, we are re-hashing what came before. Most have made no changes, except for specific wording. Many have taken bits and pieces from different versions and weaved them together. But, when does the hack become too much?

OD&D, D&D 1e, even AD&D 2nd Edition had some substance, but there was hardly much to them. Everything was based on a simple die mechanic. Rolemaster and Palladium were really the same. However, there was always room to create a new skill or OCC/RCC/PCC or whatever for Palladium. There  was always room for a new profession, talent, skill, or table in Rolemaster. With D&D, what could you do? Maybe a new skill, a new race, or a new class or sub-class. All of these things worked on previously established parameters. For the most part, that is what I have seen happening with these new renditions of old material.

With newer games such as Savage Worlds, D&D 3x, Pathfinder, World of Darkness, and others, I have seen a lot of new rules enter the fray. This comes through the publisher’s supplements and 3pp books. It’s on the forums, blogs, and elsewhere.

How are changes or additions taken when considering them in relation to OSR material, though? And, so far, while many games existed back in the day, OSR seems synonymous with old school D&D. What about those other games that have been out for 20 plus years? Is there any OSR love for them?