Back In the OSR

Today I turned 46, and I don’t seem capable of growing out of my affection for tabletop roleplaying games. Lately, I’ve been delving deep (again) into the OSR. That’s “old school renaissance,” which is short hand for a style of game and play that embraces the original game (the very early versions of D&D) and emphasizes creative thinking and play over detailed character capabilities found in most versions of D&D lately.

I’d dabbled with this stuff back in 2010-2012, but came back to it here lately while we’re all cooped up from the god damn plague. And it’s really grown in surprising and delightful ways. To date I’ve been reading:

  • Index Card RPG: Don’t be fooled by its prosaic name. The game is a brilliant take on the classic style game.
  • Old School Essentials: This is as pure a recreation of “Holmes box” B/X D&D. That means a leaner version of D&D (B/X = Basic & Expert rules).
  • Dungeon World: I knew about this one when it arrived in 2012. It is a well-developed “hack” of Apocalypse World by Vincent Baker, whom I consider the best RPG designer … ever. I actually started my return to OSR here because I wanted to bring Vincent’s concepts to the table.
  • Five Torches Deep: A D&D 5th Edition “port” of the old school style. That is a heavily slimmed down version of 5th. It’s a smart version, but cuts down a lot of corners.
  • The Black Hack: Like Index Card RPG, this one is a brilliant paring down of the B/X style rule elements.

I’ve got my sights on others, especially Electric Bastionland, an evolution of Into the Odd that looks like a twisted, Gilliam-esque game. Also, I’d like to see the upcoming Dolmenwood source book for Old school Essentials, which is a much more traditional fantasy setting but with heavy dark fairy tale elements.

All of these are getting my old design gears turning, following down the path of similar fun ideas. It may be just for my own amusement, but I’ve enjoyed re-thinking old ideas in new creative ways.

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