Comments on 2016-01-24 Rob Conley on the OSR

I thought this discussion started by +Stacy Dellorfano on Google+ was interesting. She says: “I started seeing there was this sharp divide between what I’ve always thought of as the OSR (mainly the G+ DIY crowd represented by folks like +James Raggi and +Zak Smith and a whole lot of other of you [...]) and what the outside world sees as the OSR (genuine “old school” personalities re-entering the market). [...] I suppose we’re calling ourselves the ’DIY’ crowd, but it feels to me like there’s an even better distinction required there.” Zak Smith says he tried to get people to use DIY D&D and it didn’t work.

I’m not sure what to think of people quickly rejecting labels. I’m totally OK with using labels. People don’t have to self label. For me, labels are the tags and categories of thought we use to talk about groups. The people doing the talking are grouping other people according to some features – their income, their skin color, the games they play – in order to talk about them. And yes, this can be misused, see racism. But all in all it’s a useful tool to communicate.

In the old days, I never played OD&D, never played B/X D&D, played BECMI D&D for one session, bought some AD&D 1st ed books and ran it for a while, then we switched to AD&D 2nd ed, and within a year, we moved, and my gaming stopped. That’s it. Less than a year! That’s all the gaming I did as a teenager. It’s not much. It doesn’t qualify for nostalgia. I don’t feel a lot of loyalty towards the people that started it all, Gary Gygax and his players, the first TSR employees. I’m not sure how they played, I don’t know how they run their games now. In so far, I’m not using the label “Old School” to refer to how the game was played in the old days.

I am reminded of this old blog post of mine: Old School Affordances. I wanted to move away from a discussion of rules and feelings towards something closer to the truth at my table and still more quantifiable than “I’ll know it when I see it.” Affordance is a term I like because I can talk about the features that encourage the behavior I like to encourage.

“Affordance” is a term used by perceptual psychologists. Affordance is what an object suggests to us. For example, if you see a bench, you might think to sit down on it, or to lie down on it. Some doors have a panel on once side, and a handle on the other. If you see the panel, you think to push it. If you see the handle, you think to pull it. Perceptual psychologists use the phrase “object affordance” to talk about how objects make us think to use them. [1]

And that’s what I did when I talked about my game in the blog post B/X Affordances. In that list of features that encouraged the kind of game I enjoy the Do It Yourself (DIY) ethos isn’t named. It’s true that I like that part as well, but I’d probably be using some D&D variant like B/X or Labyrinth Lord whether there was a DIY community behind it or not.

Perhaps I’ll just have to agree with all those people that said we are stuck with the term OSR even though it doesn’t actually fit. It grew “historically,” i.e. it can only be understood in terms of looking at old blog posts, not in terms of the actual words that make up the label. Or perhaps we should simply emphasize the term Renaissance a whole lot more.

The Renaissance’s intellectual basis was its own invented version of humanism, derived from the rediscovery of classical Greek philosophy [2]

We have a “our own invented version of D&D, derived from the rediscovery of classic D&D rules,” perhaps?

Old school D&D was rediscovered and we invented our own version of D&D based on that. We talked about new and different ways of doing it.

And that in turn reminds me of this old blog post:

D&D rules as oral history: If you remember the rule, apply it. If you forget it, it was not important anyway. Thus, no need to consult the rule books. Rules change over time, depending on the interest of players.
Fluidity in Rules and Setting

I still like it.

So, this thing we did, this invention after a rediscovery, this community we found on the blogs and then on Google+, this discussion of all the stuff, we can call it OSR, or DIY D&D. I guess I’m going to keep calling it OSR because that’s what so many of us do. And I shall remind myself that it doesn’t necessarily have to include the people that never stopped playing the old games. Those people did not invent their own D&D after a rediscovery. Perhaps those people were part of the great D&D inventing after the original discovery in the seventies. Quite possible, in fact. But those two groups don’t necessarily fall under the same label.

– Alex Schroeder 2016-01-25 10:44 UTC


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