Wednesday, March 5, 2014

OSR Fundamentalism and the Coming of 5e

OSR Fundamentalism?
I've been poking around the history of the Old School Revival/Renaissance, and I keep coming across that the OSR is somehow inherently fundamentalist. This is, apparently, an old argument, but some haven't ignored the term's religious connotations. One blog compares states the OSR is like "the tea party" of the gaming world. Or are OSR fundamentalists just a bunch of loud mouth jerks? Even James Maliszewski addressed criticisms of the OSR being essentially fundamentalist.

Where did this come from? How did I miss out on this? Or was I a part of it and didn't really know it?

Even before 4e, during the height of 3e/3.5e, I thought the hobby needed to back to the "fundamentals"--still do--with rules light systems and reading the history and literature that inspired the game to begin with. 

I really couldn't stand 4e after I had run it for 3 months back in the Spring of '09. But at least I tried it. Before that I got criticized by some hardcore 3.5ers for even wanting to try it out.

Afterwards I felt a bit like a chump, having bought the core books, a couple supplements, and a subscription to that stupid D&D Insider. I sold my books instead of burning them, but dumping gasoline on them and lighting a match did cross my mind. Spending $150+ on something I didn't like was a hard pill to swallow.

Others were obviously pissed, too, given how the Edition Wars waxed hot.

I can see why, out of all of that, the OSR would be accused of fundamentalism. But its still news to me.
I also don't think being "fundamental" isn't necessary a bad thing. It's good to back to the basics every once in a while, no what you do, even in gaming. Just don't stay there.

But I also know the clock can't be turned back. Which kinda stinks.

I'm curious where the OSR is going to head after 5e arrives. Given how WotC, in the last couple years, had tried to earn back a lot of good will, I feel the OSR is almost sidelined--still vocal, still producing, but its influence is waning.

Will we have a 2nd Old School Revival, perhaps even more fundamental than the first? Or will 5e be the end of the OSR? 


  1. Personally I don't like the term "Fundamentalist". These days its too associated with "Extremist", though technically they are different. I tend to think of the OSR in terms of simplicity and reduction - cutting away unnecessary stuff so that instead of 3 or more core rulebooks, you just need one small book (whether that be LL, S&W, OSRIC). As for opinions about what OSR advocates are like, I just consider such differences of opinoin to be minor skirmishes in the edition wars. Each side, if being sensible, will say that they prefer gaming their way (3E, 4E, OSR, 5E), or if they get out of hand, will say they are playing the proper way, and that anyone playing differently is playing wrong.

  2. The OSR is a bit fundamentalist in that it wants a return to a "good old days" when life was simpler. They insist on cleaving to the old prophets and traditional interpretations and avoiding all newfangled nonsense. Like the Tea Party they see big WotC as bad and want to decentralize everything so each game is run with locally determined house rules. It's pushing the analogy but there are a few similarities.

    1. Now I'm envisioning a crowd of gamers protesting outside WotC HQ, and Sarah Palin commending them for being "mavericks." But then the really hardcore elements start calling her a cosplay poser.

      Meanwhile, Mike Mearls is looking out a window with a shocked look on his face.

  3. Usually the complaints of fundamentalism get leveled at (not necessarily OSR) persons who would denigrate the value of another's gaming experience simply because it doesn't match their own ideal of what gaming is. Even though I love Jeffro's blog, I've called him on it a few times, but one of those times, he was crapping on Cory Doctorow, so it's hard to blame him; he's mostly just a guy who believes that if you're going to play a game, you should play by the rules (especially Monopoly). Most OSR folks, I think are pretty open minded about systems and system tweaks, given the wide variance between OSR systems. The main thing is, I don't think they like DC and skill rolls.


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