2019-02-16 OSR & Indie

I’m interested in seeing whether we can bring indie or story games and OSR or DIY RPG games back together again, now that one of most divisive people in recent years has been unmasked. I knew Zak S was abrasive online but heard that he was nice in one-to-one conversations. I wrote it off as him being socially awkward and I needed the shocking, detailed accounts of his victims to wake me from this magical slumber. See I stand with Mandy by @linkskywalker for some links if you haven’t seen them already.

As I was reading the blogs, I noticed that I wasn’t alone in my liking of both old school and indie gaming. I do blog a lot more about the old school games because that’s what I’m currently running, but I still care about the other games. And now I suddenly realize that the rift between the two communities might have been exacerbated by Zak and I have been led along. I hope I never went as far as joining his tirades, but simply seeing it again and again worked it’s magic on my brain, a bit like ads that warp your perception of the world even if they’re stupid or perhaps even if they’re particularly stupid. The words continue whispering in the back of your brain.

I was recently reminded of this as I read Crossroads by Ben L, where he writes:

But one of the great hopes I have for the OSR is that it can now begin to heal the rift with those parts of the SG [story games] community that are interested in cross-overs. I think this would be very good for the OSR, and that we have many shared interests and overlapping design values, as the success of Fear of A Black Dragon [a podcast] shows. We have a lot to learn from you, if you’ll let us.

There was also what Michael Prescott said in Thank You, Mandy:

Here’s an idea, don’t take community-building advice from people who act like sociopaths.

Then I remembered an interchange with Brad J Murray on Indie or not? where I talked about the two Planets I had created, the Old School RPG Planet and the Indie RPG Planet. He wrote categorizations and explained:

OSR? Story games? Some other category? I don’t buy into the idea of categorization of games. I do buy the categorization of people since most efforts at categorizing games only manage to categorize people, to create an inside and an outside. I consider this destructive. And honestly only the people in a group invested in there being an outside even care.

I had created two planets because the rift between the two communities seemed so deep to me at the time, and now I’m thinking perhaps it had only seemed so deep because of Zak and the counter reaction he provoked. I even listed liking Zak as one possible reason for picking the OSR planet, thinking that all the others were free to choose the other planet, and I didn’t care because I liked them both anyway. Gah, I was such an idiot.

To be sure, there were some very disappointing interchanges. I remember Innovation and the Old School Renaissance, for example. Robert Bohl had asked for examples of innovation in the Old School Renaissance and there were some good answers in his thread. Sadly, it got deleted and so I went ahead and collected the comments I liked.

But now I’m also recalling Ramanan S’ Review: The Perilous Wilds and Brendan S’ Test-driving Dungeon World, and later my posts on fronts, or my love of Lady Blackbird. And Ray Otus’ Plundergrounds podcast often crosses the line between Dungeon World and classic D&D. The line is a lot fuzzier then I was somehow led to believe. Gah, I really was an idiot!

Anyway, so what to do now?

One thing I’m considering is how to merge the two planets! Without too much effort, we can simply merge the data for the two and generate a single web page.

I hooked it all up and it should update every four hours, like the two “source” Planets.



The Planets must Align!

Matthew Haines 2019-02-16 14:52 UTC

Today I learned something new: “One calculation of alignments within around thirty degrees (about as close as they can get) shows that the last such alignment was in 561 BC, and the next will be in 2854. The eight planets plus Pluto are somewhat aligned every 500 years, and are grouped within 30 degrees every one to three alignments.” [1]

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-16 15:00 UTC

Also, let me know if you want Dark Patterns to be added to the Indie RPG Planet, of course! 🙂

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-16 15:01 UTC

I don’t know.

I personally do see a large gulf between indie games/story games and the OSR. I’m not interested in the former, but I am interested in the latter. I’m interested in rulesets which model a fictional reality, but not in rulesets which interact purely (or primarily) with the fiction itself.

There may be some bridgebuilding to do, but I think there are core philosophical differences between indie games/story games and the OSR which mean there isn’t really a lot of common ground. Just my 2c.

Charles Angus 2019-02-16 21:55 UTC

I definitely don’t think that we all end up playing the same play. But there are good ideas everywhere. Looking to turn in-game discussions into a mini game? Take a look at Burning Wheel. Interested in new ways to earn XP? Take a look at The Shadow of Yesterday or Solar System or Lady Blackbird. Interested in how “a short rest” might work at the table? Take a look at The Mountain Witch. Interested in modelling threats in a sandbox without playing it all out behind the screen? Take a look at Dungeon World or Apocalypse World fronts. Or even – considering your last blog post – looking for an alternative to existing initiative systems might lead somebody to look at Dungeon World or Apocalypse World turn structure. Some of these are keepers, others I looked at and decided I didn’t want them, but I sure felt the pull.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-16 22:43 UTC

Also, can I add your blog to the Old School RPG Planet? 😀

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-16 22:46 UTC

Please do! I’m finishing up a project at work soon and will likely be posting a bit more after that. RPG writing/thinking always continues, but when I’m busy, blogging falls by the wayside.

Re: good ideas. I guess they can be found anywhere - I’ve looked at some of those games you mentioned and personally found them uninteresting. Dead-ends and irrelevant avenues the OSR has examined and discarded, for the most part.

I guess what I’m saying is while I’m all for convivial relations with the neighbours, the fundamental design principles behind the indie/story scene and the OSR scene are antithetical and incompatible. No value judgment - they simply are in two different design spheres.

Charles Angus 2019-02-16 23:37 UTC

Thank you for your work on this Planet and the contributions you make through your blog and podcast.

I would also request that the story/OSR categories remain as two. Charles Angus states it well:

“I’m all for convivial relations with the neighbours, [but] the fundamental design principles behind the indie/story scene and the OSR scene are antithetical and incompatible. No value judgment - they simply are in two different design spheres.”

Thanks again!

– Blunder 2019-02-17 02:35 UTC

Sure, I’m not planning to get rid of the two “source” Planets. But having the combined Planet available opens up an avenue for “mainstream” blogs about D&D 5E (unless they consider themselves to be part of the OSR), Pathfinder, Vampire, or whatever else people are blogging about without thinking of themselves as “old school” or “indie”. One day, maybe! 🙂

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-17 07:53 UTC

As someone who is mostly interested in and plays PbtA and OSR games I find this connection quite natural.

So good for you Alex! People are entitled to perceive a great gulf between these things, but in practice I borrow freely across this gulf, so whatever.

Elad Hen 2019-03-04 06:18 UTC

I could smash German words together to give us a name, but for the moment trans-gulf-gamers will have to do! 🙂

Also, looking at these comments, I notice how I really like to use smilies. And I feel a very strong urge to add one to this paragraph as well. What is wrong with me? Will. not. add. emojis!

– Alex Schroeder 2019-03-04 06:53 UTC


Elad Hen 2019-03-04 08:53 UTC

James V. West wrote Story and Games, talking about Fear of a Black Dragon, a podcast by Tom McGrenery and Jason Cordova about old school D&D from a Dungeon World perspective (and other games!). James said:

Great show. I love the hosts’ enthusiasm and their non-OSR approach to OSR adventures. They clearly appreciate a good old fashioned dungeon romp, but they are not locked into the bog standard, quasi-cultish devotion to a rose-colored-glasses version of 1970s-style gaming. They are quick to dismiss things they don’t find useful at the table and introduce ideas that are often treated as anathema to OSR.

I find myself in the same camp: I love me my OSR stuff but I’m interested in all sorts of extras: fronts from Dungeon World? Yes please! Timers from Blades in the Dark (I’m guessing?) – I’m interested. Duel of Wits from Burning Wheel? I certainly did try it! Resource rolls? Yes! Life path, either random like in Traveller or planned out like in Burning Wheel? Yeehaaawww! Upping the ante on duels like in Mountain Witch? This is great! I’m totally going to look at cool ideas even if they don’t make into my games in the end. About 98% of the AD&D DMG didn’t make it into my games, either. 😆

– Alex Schroeder 2019-12-11 18:33 UTC

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