Saturday, 13 October 2018

OSR Guide for the Perplexed Questionnaire

This OSR Guide for the Perplexed Questionnaire is making the rounds through the blogosphere. Like many of the participants, the imminent demise of Google+ has me thinking I need to blog more regularly so I'll take the writing prompt.

The OSR (Old School Renaissance) is a big tent so it should be interesting to see how everyone answers these questions.

Jez Gordon art from Scenic Dunnsmouth

OSR Guide For The Perplexed Questionnaire 

1. One article or blog entry that exemplifies the best of the Old School Renaissance for me:

There are a lot of these to choose from, but the one I find most useful is Jeff Rients' 20 questions for your campaign. It's useful because they are good bits of information to have settled before you start play, but it's what it says about how the game is played that makes it my favourite. 

The answers to these 20 questions about the campaign world for a foundation for the campaign. What is known is these things and the area around wherever the player characters start. That's it. The rest of the map is dark, like Schrodinger's Campaign Setting. It both exists and doesn't exist until the player characters go there. Everything is merely rumour until it is explored.

What's wonderful about that way of playing is the campaign is shaped as much by the players as the referee running it. They choose where they go and the way they play will influence changes in the world and inspire the referee as they create the world ahead of them.

2. My favourite piece of OSR wisdom/advice/snark:

I need to fall back on the foundation wisdom of Rulings Not Rules. OSR systems tend to be tight frameworks of guidelines for play that gives the referee what they need to make consistent rulings on what is possible and how it can be attempted. Playing this way means the game is influenced by the expectations and playstyles of the people at the table. It will grow as the group plays and become a better game for them over time. It also allows for faster, better play, as nothing breaks immersion like stopping to look up a rule in a 300 page book.

3. Best OSR module/supplement:

I think the best OSR module is Scenic Dunnsmouth. It is a toolkit for creating an adventure in a village corrupted by a cult, but it generates a different village each time so the referee while always find new surprises and elements to play out for the player characters to interact with. The core elements that don't change are great and my players have been blown away by it. It's also a great resource for new referee's who want to see how to generate a town with a quick table.

The best OSR supplement is probably the Vornhiem City Kit. The tables in there make running a city easier and it has good ideas I never would have created. I use it for running big cities on the fly and grab good stuff from it to use elsewhere.

4. My favourite house rule (by someone else):

This might sound dull to some, but I love Luka Rejec's rules for expedition/caravan scale encumbrance. The simplification of what supplies can be carried by a group and the consumables required to keep them going raises the stakes on every part of overland travel into the unknown. If you want to know more you can check out my review of the Ultra Violet Grasslands or go get it from this link.

5. How I found out about the OSR:

While I was a bit late to the party, it was long enough ago I'm not certain. There were two things I remember. My wife got me the 4e D&D starter boxed set as a present. The cover of that release was a callback to the old Red Box basic set that I had started with so I was excited to see a D&D product aimed at me. It was a profound disappointment. That disappointment fuelled a search for something that was actually for me. I found the Grindhouse  Lamentations of the Flame Princess boxed set and I was in! Around the same time I was listening to science fiction and fantasy podcasts and one of them mentioned the I Hit It With My Axe actual play videos. I eventually checked it out on a whim and that led me to Zak S' Playing D&D with Pornstars blog. From his blog roll and my search for LotFP, I found the OSR blogosphere.

6. My favourite OSR online resource/toy:

My favourite thing about the OSR is the vast amount of content and tools that are available. If I need a table for corruption/mutation I can find it. If I need some advice on sea travel encounters I can find it. So I'd say a google search of the vast materials available is my favourite online resource.

That's right. My answer is ALL OF THE THINGS!

7. Best place to talk to other OSR gamers:

The best place to talk to other OSR gamers is still probably G+. A lot of people have moved to MeWe and the blogs seem to be experiencing a surge of engagement again so I'm not sure how it will go in the near future.

Cons are probably a better place, but living in the North means getting to Cons to meet people in meatspace is not something I can do right now.

8. Other places I might be found hanging out talking games:

I talk about games on here on my blog, Facebook, and I'm giving MeWe a try. It looks like I'll need to get onto reddit, tumbler and a few other platforms to keep track of everyone though.

9. My awesome, pithy OSR take nobody appreciates enough:

Because the OSR focusses on player skill, creativity and flexible rules-light systems everyone is doing something different with the same core framework. That means it's easy to inject something new, surprising or wondrous into your game by borrowing and adapting ideas developed by others in their games.

Because everyone moves forward from the same place there are all kinds of options for different types of play and genres that are compatible. That means everyone has access to an incredible amount of material for their games.

10. My favourite non-OSR RPG:

My favourite non-OSR RPG is kind of on the border since it has a similar aesthetic to the OSR games, while using a different system.

Classic Traveller is a tight game that does science fiction well. It has everything needed in a handful of booklets that can provide years of campaign play. It needs a few house rules, like any other game of its age, but at its core is a useable game as written.

11. Why I like OSR stuff:

I think I answered this one. The OSR has incredible variety! I can adapt any of it into my game or draw on it to inspire my own new ideas. The more we have the further we can go!

12. Two other cool OSR things you should know about that I haven’t named yet:

One thing I haven't mentioned about the OSR that makes it really work for me is how going back to the beginning has people moving away from the default medieval fantasy that has gained traction in the mainstream. What seems to be a common ground for the products and material coming out of the OSR is a strong undercurrent of cosmic horror. The other, the weird and the horrific often feature in adventures, settings and so on. This lean more toward Lovecraft/Howard and away from Tolkien is only pushed farther by the mix and match mentality and creative competition to create something new that people can dig into while playing.

The other thing is how going back to examine the original rules as well as the original source material and assumptions the games and adventures were based on has freed up creators to move in a direction away from default tolkienesque fantasy. We get sword, sorcery and superscience again. We get post apocalyptic settings like Vance's Dying Earth where magic is the fragmented remnants of a lost age's technology that is misunderstood and dangerous instead of the dependable resource it has become. This shift in assumptions also means we get sandbox play where the stories are smaller, more immediate threats with personal stakes instead of railroad adventures to save the whole world. That means play is focussed on lower levels where death continues to be a serious threat and a party can be wiped out by a poor decision at any time. With failure a real possibility success becomes that much sweeter.

13. If I could read but one other RPG blog but my own it would be:

Considering what I've written above this question doesn't make a lot of sense. If I had to pick one, I would read Kiel Chenier's Dungeons and Donuts Tumblr/Blog. Kiel has great ideas and is always excited. Their basic take on game design is different from mine and I value that.

14. A game thing I made that I like quite a lot is:

I like my streamlined fantasy game I designed specifically as an introductory RPG under the working title, Realms of Wonder. I'm playtesting it right now and it is going great! It's class and level so it will take some time to see how well it works over a campaign but I am excited about how easy it is to use at the table with low prep so far.

Another thing I made that I really like is a system using a 3d6 curve to determine progressive levels of success and failure. I called it the 3D System. It works well and is OSR compatible. I have plans for that too.

15. I'm currently running/playing:

I'm currently running my Realms of Wonder playtest rules for a couple of face-to-face groups. One is in a totally homebrew setting, the other is using Keep on the Borderlands in the old Known World/Mystara setting.

I'm playing in a Fate Accelerated espionage campaign set in Las Vegas inspired by the old Prisoner TV show. That is wrapping up so we are looking at using Into the Odd with some modifications to play a modern Urban Fantasy campaign.

I'm occasionally playing in a 5e D&D game as well, but it may have stalled for life reasons.

16. I don't care whether you use ascending or descending AC because:

It does not affect me. It's all good.

17. The OSRest picture I could post on short notice:

Good old Dave Trampier art!

If you want to see what others are saying, there is a list of links at this DIYRPG forum post.