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OSR Tempest

Those are dice that were my eyes...

It's been a long and terrible week for clarity. And I blame Scott over at HUGE RUINED PILE for his stupid great ideas.

After reading Scott's analysis, I was inspired to re-read Moldvay Basic. This is the game that I cut my roleplaying teeth on. This is the game that I always came back to after failed (and sometimes abusive) relationships with AD&D, GURPS, and Rolemaster. Moldvay always welcomed me back with open arms. Even the much-liked Rules Cyclopedia gave me the occasional fit, and indeed, its shortcomings were the basis for pretty much every D&D rule mod I ever created. But not Moldvay. And never Cook either, for that matter. In all respects, and at all times, B/X was my best good RPG friend.

But Here's the Problem

I'm in the middle of finishing up Chimera 3.0. And while I don't mean to juxtapose the merits, playability, or elegance of Chimera against B/X, thanks to Scott and his Mesmerising Blog, the two are now competing for my present attentions. Here's the deal: Chimera has a lot of great ideas, it's easy to learn, version 3.0 (which is just about ready for playtesting) is very streamlined.

Chimera is an RPG about flexibility. Started as a multi-genre engine, Chimera gives you tools to create pretty much whatever you want in any setting desired. In addition to completely customised characters and character abilities, there are guidelines for creating powers, weapons, monsters, new classes, vehicles, and whole campaigns. These are all consistent and balanced and work in any setting. Anything you need to build and run a campaign--it's all there--though it's a hard sell.

Why would such a bounty of RPG goodness be a hard sell? Mostly because it's a new game. It's a whole RPG system. I'm not asking people to give it a look so they can incorporate it into their existing game. I'm asking them to make it their existing game.

And it really doesn't matter how good it is--just ask the Betamax people--if you can't get people to try it.

Deep Thoughts

All this is fine, but it prompts pause for due consideration. Consequently, Chimera's development is at a crossroads, and it's time to weigh pros and cons against what I hope to achieve.

Primary concern: Do I want to spend the majority of my precious gaming time trying to convince people to play Chimera?

No. Not at all. I'd rather be playing Chimera, or working on my campaign, or producing tools for the busy GM, or going down the occasional Scott-inspired rabbit hole.

Secondary concern: What do I hope to get out of Chimera?

Many things, in roughly descending order:

  • An easy, flexible system I want to play
  • An easy, flexible system that others want to play and discuss and improve
  • A solid gaming engine I can use to drive whatever I want to play, whenever I feel like it--whether that's medieval fantasy, sword & sorcery, pulp sci-fi, space opera, or Fun With Cthuloids
  • A platform for expansions--settings, rule mods, and character options--to share and to sell
  • Income (more than beer money but less than my mortgage)

Last concern: Is Chimera really unique?

Well, parts of it are. A unique encumbrance system, and I've never seen the character advancement model in any other game. Combat gets great feedback, despite the absence of hit points, and the Perk/Flaw system creates unparalleled flexibility.

But much of what I've done for Chimera could apply to any game. For example, an expanded version of the Hex-based Campaign Design system is included in the Core Rules, but it works for D&D, GURPS, whatever. Plus, it's important to note that most of Chimera's core mechanics and conventions derive from house rules made as an overlay to my Rules Cyclopedia campaign of old.

And that, my friends, brings me back to good ol' B/X.

So Then With The Crying

Scott's (likely unintended) prompting got me to revisit B/X. While clearly geared toward fantasy roleplaying, B/X is actually quite suitable for multi-genre play. Back in the day, I used B/X to run a pulpy sci-fi campaign set in the near-future Solar System. Thieves were bounty hunters, clerics were my version of Jedi Knights (or Sith, depending on alignment), magic-users were psions, and fighters were pretty much unchanged. Humanoids were from Mars, elves from Venus. "Magic items" were pseudo-science, and there were white apes everywhere.

It worked because B/X was so flexible. Trappings were easy to change--no problem going from fantasy to sci-fi--because the mechanics were so solid. Given that, didn't B/X already have the flexibility I was after? And, if it did, why not make use of it instead of reinventing the wheel with Chimera?

The more I thought about it, the harder it became to shake the notion that maybe--MAYBE, mind you--Chimera's current direction was not only a drain on my RPG time, but a redundant effort to boot. Reviewing my Deep Thoughts, it occurred to me that there was no reason B/X couldn't satisfy my needs. Plus, it was more familiar than Chimera, so I wouldn't have to spend all my time convincing others to take a look at my material and eventually agree that, yes, Erin's mind for game mechanics did in fact evince a sort of orphic genius.

Only problem was that there's no license to write for B/X. Hence the crying, though I'm sure the savvy among you can see where this is going.

Sea Change

Regular readers are no doubt familiar with my stance on OSR materials, which can be summarised thus: I do not want.

Yet, taking a more thoughtful approach yields a more moderate position, albeit one still seasoned with little crystals of salty doubt.

So--surprise!--sell-out time. What if (and, please, this is completely hypothetical), what if Chimera was ret-conned for Labyrinth Lord, the OSR version of B/X?

Go ahead, roll it around a bit. Get all the "Smale's a back-pedaling hypocrite reptile douche" out of your system. I'm OK with it. After all the terrible disdain I've heaped upon OSR, I'll own it.

But let's give it some serious consideration. Where B/X is flexible, where it's familiar, where it's portable and easy to learn and solid, so too is the bulk of LL. Why not graft the best parts of Chimera onto Labyrinth Lord, maintain my end of the OGL, and get back to playing my game, working on my campaign, producing tools for the busy GM, and going down the occasional Scott-inspired rabbit hole?

Final Words

OK, I know. This is a shock to some (least of all Dan Proctor, who, I daresay, has responded to my critique of LL with more patience and maturity than I probably levied at him). I identified the lack of originality to be OSR's biggest flaw, but to be fair, Dan makes no claim to originality, as stated in his forward to LL. For that, I owe Mr. Proctor a sizable apology. At least.

Still, maybe I'm not to be trusted. I strongly suspect that at least three people in particular are this close to never visiting this site again. And what of Chimera 3.0?

Well, to be honest, it's still in development. I reckon it could go any direction. Maybe it'll be about pushing an original game. Maybe it'll be about modifying a retro-clone. What it definitely shouldn't be about is re-carving the wheel.

But Chimera will exist, and it will be good. What I need to remember is this: Chimera is a pastime. Roleplaying is a hobby, B/X and LL are games. When these things start to become work, or when the struggle to reach my RPG goals becomes a frustration, it's time to re-evaluate.

So lay it on me--what's your take?

(Visited 2 times, 1 visits today)

  1. deimos3428
    September 29th, 2010 at 16:33 | #1

    Wow, that Smale character is one back-pedaling hypocrite reptile douche! Just kidding,

    The problem with the OSR movement is its utter stagnancy. It’s as if people think the early 80s was some pinnacle of RPG games, never again to be repeated or improved upon. Nonsense, says I, and I know you agree.

    After a while B/X was boring as hell, and that’s why we have other stuff. It’s not enough. Besides, if Gary thought like that we’d never have D&D at all.

    So go ahead and graft whatever ideas you’ve gleaned from three decades of RPG evolution back onto something resembling B/X if you like, and call that Chimera. That’s totally cool. Remember you can’t copyright ideas, just expressions of ideas, and don’t get suckered into adopting the OGL for that very reason.

  2. September 29th, 2010 at 16:48 | #2

    @deimos3428 : Fair enough. I’m still rolling this around, so nothing is written in stone. Though the fact that Chimera is looking at its 3rd edition in 4 years tells me that I haven’t yet hit the mark I’ve been aiming for.

    The stagnancy of OSR is based, I think, on what I’ve called slavish reproduction of the originals, and I don’t intend to continue that. What if Chimera made LL truly multi-genre? Would that alleviate the boredom? Would that address some of the stagnation?

    Like I said, much of Chimera started as mods to my RC campaign, so at the very least, I know they’re solid variants in the B/X context. Maybe it doesn’t require getting in bed with the OGL, but using LL as a framework would save a great deal of time.

  3. Nextautumn
    September 29th, 2010 at 17:04 | #3

    Resistance was futile. Just kidding. Seriously, though, I think the assertion that the osr is stagnant is utterly unfounded. I think, if you view everything that’s been created in an objective light, you’ll see that there’s a LOT of new ideas coming out of the movement. True, the foundation is the old editions, but people are taking them in some new and fascinating directions – not to mention creating totally original material for their preferred systems. Just my 2 cents.

  4. September 29th, 2010 at 17:37 | #4

    @Nextautumn : Yes, the Collective did cross my mind.

    I do agree with your post. The stagnation, or lack of originality, certainly exists at the system level (LL, OSRIC, et al.), but the is potential to get beyond it with supplements and add-ons. That’s what I’m driving at. Put aside the OGL for a moment and consider the merits of opening up LL to other genres, new ways to handle combat and other abilities, new ways to create classes and races consistently. Maybe using this approach is what will help OSR get beyond the originals, out of stagnation. Reaching? Maybe, but it’s worth giving a good think.

  5. September 29th, 2010 at 18:19 | #5

    Thanks for the kind words … glad someone’s enjoying my bloviations.

    I think when I start serious work on the Moldvay/Cook side project, I’m actually going to leave out B2 and X1 and use the rulebooks and source lit only. B2 in particular puts a Gygaxian stamp on the game that cramps some of the other possible cool influences.

    For what it’s worth, I like pretty much everyone with whom I’ve interacted who self-identifies as “OSR,” but I don’t like The Movement or consider myself a part of it. I just like working on stuff for old games and telling people about it.

  6. September 29th, 2010 at 19:17 | #6

    @Scott Thanks for jogging my brain – I forgot how much I missed (and was influenced by) Moldvay.

    FWIW, I think you’re on the right track by omitting B2 and X1 for your exercise. There’s plenty of open-ended inspiration in Moldvay alone to suggest direction (e.g., the monster descriptions have lots of hooks, and the guidelines for creating a dungeon are wide open).

    If you’ve read my prevous OSR linkage, you’ll realise that I’ve been less than objective about The Movement; since I’m lucky enough to still own my originals, it’s been difficult for me to see the value in replicating them. But as this post’s title implies, I’m beginning to see things differently. Or, put another way, I’m now seeing the value for self-centred me, which is where all my best ideas begin.

    BTW, I’m really liking the feel of your Wilderlands posts–truly great material.

  7. September 29th, 2010 at 19:22 | #7

    I’m only now discovering OSR products I find actually useful (LotFP, Stonehell, Dungeon Alphabet). Before that, I don’t think I bought much of anything published after 1980 or so.

  8. September 29th, 2010 at 21:14 | #8

    @Scott : As you can see, I’m taking a closer look myself, though outside of LL, I’m less interested in systems as I am in supplemental material. Stonehell and Dungeon Alphabet have been on my radar–I don’t suppose you have a review or two up your tattooed sleeves, eh?

  9. deimos3428
    September 29th, 2010 at 22:05 | #9

    @Nextautumn I disagree. I haven’t seen a single OSR product that isn’t a near-complete replica of D&D. You can write supplements/expansions/settngs/adventures ’til the space-cows come home, but what you end up playing is window-dressed D&D. That’s what I mean by stagnation — it’s not really new, it just looks new. It doesn’t depart from or improve upon D&D materially.

    @Erin: Making B/X multi-genre alone wouldn’t do much if you’ve still got the predictable set of six ability scores, a class or two, some hit points, and alignment. RPGs have so much more potential these days, if only more people would dare to break the mould.

    That said, I certainly don’t begrudge you for getting frustrated. Trying to make something both new and improved is an extremely onerous task. You’ve fulfilled those criteria far better than anyone I know, and Chimera as it stands now (v2.1) is a superlative game.

    If its current development isn’t reaping significant rewards it may indeed be time to change course. Alternatively, consider the possibility that you may have two different games rattling about in your head vying for your attention. Perhaps it is time to split them into separate projects. Game designers have been known to make more than one game, y’know. :D

  10. September 29th, 2010 at 23:20 | #10

    @deimos3428 : First off, thanks for the encouragement. Second, I just sent you a long-ish note about this very topic–mayhaps you’ve already given your answer: I do have two different games rattling about, and it’s damn hard to concentrate.

    I did consider finishing up Chimera in its current incarnation, then jotting off a B/X expansion, possibly to do it justice, or maybe just to get it out of my system. Hard to say in my current RPG-addled state.

    The problem, of course, is time. I barely keep up with Chimera’s current production, and truth be told, instituting a major revision less than a year after the last major revision isn’t saying much for my fixity of purpose–I continue to push back self-imposed deadlines, and haven’t done near the level of campaign/setting work my Magic 8-ball predicted.

    Maybe it is all frustration. Maybe it’s my natural impatience. This hypothetical course change does seem easier, but it’s not without compromise, and given my stauch opposition to being content, it may not be the right answer.

    Anyone have a red or blue pill to help me sort this?

  11. nextautumn
    September 30th, 2010 at 03:51 | #11


    On the one hand, yes, you’re absolutely right – aside from a few off-shoots like Mutant Future, mostly it’s about D&D; and I admitted in my previous post that Erin’s point about the systems themselves not being original was valid. I would never think to argue otherwise, nor, I think, would anyone else in the OSR – even Raggi’s LotFP:WFRPG, which does try to break some new ground in terms of mechanics, is unabashedly acknowledged as a derivative game. But that’s kind of the point. That’s why it’s called the OSR – as opposed to, say, the NGDIA (New Game Design Innovator’s Association). But the OSR offerings that you casually write off as immaterial – “supplements/expansions/settings/adventures” – are, in my opinion, far more imaginative and original than a new algorithm or method for dealing with ability scores or other design elements. I realize you may have a different perspective on what constitutes innovation, but I’d hope you’d at least allow that there’s more than one way of looking at it. Either way, I hold to my original assertion that the OSR is anything but “stagnant.” And considering what actually happens at the table when friends get together to play a tabletop RPG, I think a case could be made that everyone, no matter what they’re playing, is really just playing “window-dressed D&D.” But that is neither here nor there. I hope this doesn’t come off as adversarial because I didn’t mean it to be AT ALL. I’m just a guy who loves to play old school D&D and is really excited about a renewed interest in the game and a fresh outpouring of material written by some really intelligent, imaginative and creative people who share my passion.

  12. September 30th, 2010 at 08:46 | #12

    @Erin D. Smale I’d planned to review Stonehell but am running it and am not sure the best way to do so without providing spoilers. A generalized “it’s really good” review without concrete examples of what I mean doesn’t seem very useful.

  13. deimos3428
    September 30th, 2010 at 12:31 | #13

    @nextautumn: I can certainly understand that some people still like to play D&D. (Quite a lot of people, in fact…something that won’t change anytime soon.)

    I believe I can see a greater vision though — what OSR could/should be. Namely, a revival of the *ideas* from old school role-playing, but also completely free from the original RPG implementations. RPGs are so much more than just D&D, and once you make that realization, it’s very hard to stuff yourself back into a D&D bottle. The author of D&D got that, and was headed in this direction before he died. We too need to take our learnings from D&D and move on, rather than endlessly replicate the first RPG.

    I want to add that I’m not casually writing off content as immaterial, merely observing that such things aren’t really materially *innovative*. Consider how little a Star Trek-themed checkers set modifies that game in any real sense. Yes, it’s creative, but it’s not innovative. To take the analogy too far, what gaming needs is chess. (Yeah, I know that chess isn’t really derived from checkers at all…ignore that bit.)

    I think Chimera is on the fence at the moment between leading the charge towards a completely new paradigm or a somewhat smaller departure.

  14. Greg MacKenzie
    September 30th, 2010 at 13:53 | #14

    ick…erg…gurk… I’m having an allergic reaction. I remember the flame wars over 3e not being 0e or 1e and why those were better. This is much the same, only worse. In my opinion because the OSR is based on the 3e SRD it is flawed at its very core and this source can never be D&D. Not by a long shot. Close, maybe, authentic, no. Give you a simulcrum of 80’s playing – wishy washy hogwash. It inspires mediocraty not innovation. In my opinion there’s no substitute for the real thing. The new OSR games, and rationalizations in support of them, will not bring B/X D&D back. You will not get an authentic D&D experience without finding someone who grew up playing that game and knows how to run it with the actual rules.

    Your allowed to change direction and produce material for the OSR market. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve worn that old sock already and can do it in my sleep.

    I loved the old game and still do. So why choose something different? Well, simply because D&D and by analogy the OSR has its limits and a single focus. At least with Chimera RPG I can play a 17th century buccaneer, Lovecraftian alchemist, or fantasy hero in the mould of Conan, or take part in a space campaign all in the same rule system.

    As a writer I can easily do all my creative work within the same rule system without having to learn three or four. The players don’t have to learn another rule system with each setting. In this regard it is by far a better game than B/X (ducking inevitable hailstorm) and has many innovations. The important thing here is stretching the notion that fantasy role playing is more than just a convenient and limited “formula” in one genre.


  15. September 30th, 2010 at 16:30 | #15

    @Scott Understood about Stonehell. I think the fact that you’re using it is sufficient–if it sucked I assume you’d feel free to say why.

    @deimos3428 Ooh, ooh! I’d like “new paradigm,” please. To be more specific, I think I’ve sorted this all out. **DICK MOVE ALERT** Check out the October issue of The Piper to get the skinny.

    @Greg MacKenzie : I hear you, and am doubly pleased to learn that Chimera is better than B/X (I think John Lennon would have agreed).

    While I believe the non-fantasy mould can be cast within the OSR framework, it occurs to me that the framework is not without other, perhaps more mechanical, limitations. Given the time and energy I’ve already devoted to Chimera’s mechanics, stuffing it back into the wrong-shaped hole may be a regretful mistake.

    Today’s deep thoughts taught me that OSR does have its place, and at least it’s not making me angry anymore. But Chimera may be better off a neighbour than as a lodger.

  16. deimos3428
    September 30th, 2010 at 21:49 | #16

    @Greg Geez, an’ I thought I was being harsh. :D

    You bring up a good point about being able to “do all my creative work within the same rule system”. Thought I’d share an idea in that vein.

    Some time back, a few of us bandied about the concept of a writing standard. It seemed that everyone and their dog was aiming to write their own game, and then statting adventures for only that game. Which is quite counter-productive, if you’re later going to share these adventures and possibly convert them to another system.

    With a writing standard in place, thel adventures would be statted in that [neutral] system. Each game author would then write the “bridge” material to convert from the standard to their own system, and include that information in their game as an appendix. This is oodles more flexible and extensible than multi-statting adventures in numerous systems, and also saves a lot of trees.

    It’s also somewhat of an improvement over the statless adventure, as it can be used right away. Finally, the conversion work is taken off the shoulders of the individual GM. Any adventure so written would be instantly usable by whatever systems had already provided conversion rules, and by any additional game that did so in the future. It also removes a lot of copyright/trademark concerns, as the writing standard itself isn’t owned by any one entity.

  17. October 1st, 2010 at 01:53 | #17

    In one sentence: welcome to the dark side.

    I’ve been using some of your stuff with LL for over a year. I think it’s a natural choice…and I see it less as backpedalling and more putting your money where your mouth is.

  18. Greg MacKenzie
    October 1st, 2010 at 07:01 | #18

    @deimos3428 I can be fairly direct, even short. :) Get those ersatz OSR elves off my lawn!

    Your standards concept is interesting. Sort of an ISO 9000 approach to the production of documentation. My thought would be to arrive at a DTD (document type defiinition) template for XML which would contain contextual markup describing the content of the documentation. You could then use various XSLT transformations to apply to the “generic” content and render instances to fit the various rpgs, i.e., whatever output seems appropriate for them.

    Brain Suckers of Mars
    Theodore Carp

    Each separate xslt stylesheet for the games Space Mentors, and Galactic Mistake, would have matches that could pick up the attribute of type scifi and apply the rpg rules for the desired systems. So somewhere in the content when you got to the Martian Brain Suckers you’d have other attributes or elements which would then output specific content relative to those rpg rules, based on formulas or other pre determined content.

    Wait, I take it all back it sounds horrible, Doctor Horrible, and now you’ve uncovered my plan for taking over the world.


  19. Greg MacKenzie
    October 1st, 2010 at 07:05 | #19

    FUBAR. None of my xml markup appeared. You’ll have to imagine it.

  20. Greg MacKenzie
    October 1st, 2010 at 07:46 | #20

    Finally, the conversion work is taken off the shoulders of the individual GM. Any adventure so written would be instantly usable by whatever systems had already provided conversion rules.

    @deimos 3428 I’m a cynic. The only problem with this is GM’s are lazy, and given a choice between a module where they have to work and one where they don’t, it’s easy to figure which one the’ll pick. You would be better off to instantiate the module to a specific RPG from one source as I described above. That way they get exactly what they want.


  21. October 1st, 2010 at 10:00 | #21

    @Herb : That’s funny…I’ve been following your blog for over a year…

    Today’s horoscope suggests that I’m not likely to fully embrace the dark side. But I’m highly interested in hearing about your use of the material for LL–are you referring to the Chimera material or the stuff on breeyark.org?

    Not sure I follow the money/mouth bit, though. Unless you’re referring to the common lament about my Non-production schedule…

  22. nextautumn
    October 2nd, 2010 at 09:18 | #22

    @Greg MacKenzie

    “At least with Chimera RPG I can play a 17th century buccaneer, Lovecraftian alchemist, or fantasy hero in the mould of Conan, or take part in a space campaign all in the same rule system.”

    All this can be and has been done with B/X. The system is simple and extremely flexible.

    Also, deimos, I would submit that you’re either creating an entirely new kind of game (a truly new paradigm) – in which case, good luck and let me know about it when you’ve done it cuz I’ll want to try it – or you’re just talking about variations on a theme (tabletop role-playing). Also, your example of chess seems kind of ironic, given that that game has remained successful by not changing much in thousands of years.

  23. Nextautumn
    October 2nd, 2010 at 09:46 | #23

    Edit: Hundreds of years, I meant.

  24. October 2nd, 2010 at 10:36 | #24

    @nextautumn : True, B/X can support non-fantasy, as I mention in the post. Thugh there is a strong fantasy element once you get past Moldvay proper: Scott puts forth a good argument that B2 colours Moldvay in fantasy stripes, and naturally, the technology in the ruleset is capped at fantasy.

    I think Greg’s comment reflects the fact that one could use Chimera right “out of the box” to play non-fantasy characters/campaigns, without the tinkering and rule mods one would have to apply to a more strictly “fantasy” RPG like B/X. Plus, there’s little risk of genre incompatibility, since Chimera uses the same rules and mechanics throughout.

  25. Nextautumn
    October 2nd, 2010 at 14:55 | #25

    @Erin D. Smale
    Fair enough. And I do really like what you’ve done with Chimera – I’ve even incorporated some of your ideas into my bx (LL) game. I just think it’s great that you’re so passionate about it. Anyway, just keep doing what you’re doing and it’ll work itself out eventually. And thanks for the great blog. Cheers.

  26. October 2nd, 2010 at 15:25 | #26

    I’ve been using the Breeyark.org stuff, mainly the class builder and the revised MU. When I tried to create a LL version of Witch World (playing with Jeff Reint’s old 3 RB/3 inspiration idea) I was using it. The Initiates of Mithras were the only thing from that to really make the blog.

    As for the money where your mouth is I’m speaking of the complaint that much of the OSR is simply recreating the past instead of trying new things. While I’m not 100% in agreement I think making Chimera a LL & B/X supplement is taking up the challenge you made.

  27. October 3rd, 2010 at 01:44 | #27

    @Herb Nowell : Thanks for the kind words. I hear you on the OSR comment, as I’m certainly guilty of accusing OSR of being largely unoriginal. In recent days, I’m rethinking Chimera’s role, and I submit that making it a supplement to B/X isn’t enough–true innovation could be acheived by providing an “old school” feel within a completely new mechanical framework. Stay tuned…

  28. October 3rd, 2010 at 01:45 | #28

    @Nextautumn Well, passionate is one way to describe it… I think I’ve already sorted it; my fervent hope is that Chimera Basic (out in a few weeks) feels like old school but fixes old school issues.

  29. October 3rd, 2010 at 18:22 | #29

    OSR is experiencing an heydey because of one simple fact – the internet was not around when Old School was here the first time around. That made it much more difficult to share information, get new ideas, create and publish new work, and so forth. Major projects exist simply to bring Old School to the masses, simply as an archiving service.

    All too often, it’s a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water when it comes to revisions and innovation. The few bits that work get lost amongst the mess that does not as new trends arise, people tweak rules until the break, and most publishers – large and small – have realised the need to keep publishing and republishing their products to stay in business.

    But roleplaying gaming is changing, and the internet is a big factor in that change. The ability to publish and update material is not so cost intensive and material intensive, and is slowly changing from a product-driven industry to a service-driven industry. Communities and forums are springing up that produce more discussion and information than any single publisher can ever produce.

    OSR is a big part of this because a lot of “veterans” with the internet are Old School. Anything pre-3.x D&D is Old School. And these “veterans” are not selling products, but their skills and experience. When you think about it, most people coming up to 30 with a significant history in gaming, enough to pursue their passion to seek self-publication for business or personal reasons have had a lot of experience with a multitude of games systems.

    With all that in mind, Chimera RPG should not be concerned about whether or not it is Old School revival or not. Instead, it should be able to take the best parts of the Old School experience – that parts that makes people want to play Old School and drives the whole Old School Revival movement and incorporate that within itself.

    Nintendo are being mocked mercilessly this month because for Mario’s 25th Anniversary they released Super Mario All-Stars on the Wii – a game compilation released in 1997 for the Super Nintendo featuring the three Super Mario Games for the NES, the last of which was Super Mario 3 in 1992/3. That is Old School – these are great games, but Nintendo did not add anything to them. No graphical updates, no patches, no bonus levels – nothing. No improvements or innovation for games which are now almost two decades old. Video games have improved since then. Mario has improved since then, but these games have not – and it drags players right back to the old days, warts and all.

    Old School Revival makes the same mistake – a lot. It harks back to the time of b/x D&D and other early systems, forgetting all the positive steps forward that have been made in the mean time. How many of us truly want to go back 20 years into the past and forget EVERYTHING we’ve learned along the way? I certainly don’t – I’ll be 30 next year, and will be celebrating two decades of gaming with a variety of systems – I don’t want to go back to the point where I didn’t even know what gaming was and forget all the progress I’ve made. Sometimes 4th Edition makes me think a rewind might be good, but we’ll only make the same mistakes around the next time anyway.

    So don’t rewind your mistakes, learn from them. Don’t make them again. Even better if you can avoid making mistakes other people have made. Experience is learning from your own mistakes. Intelligence is learning from the mistakes of others.

  30. deimos3428
    October 4th, 2010 at 17:14 | #30

    Y’know what’s kinda fun? Going back and re-reading the very first entry in this here blog. Prescient stuff.

    “the industry is still awaiting the third generation of RPGs: generic systems done well.” — Erin Smale on March 15th, 2000.


  31. October 4th, 2010 at 17:25 | #31

    @deimos3428 : Maybe I should reread some of those early entries myself…hard to stay on target sometimes.

  32. October 5th, 2010 at 09:34 | #32

    @Erin D. Smale
    Not so much staying on target, Erin, but keeping the faith… or as Yax puts it “dealing with our lizard brains.”

  33. Greg MacKenzie
    October 6th, 2010 at 07:22 | #33

    @Da’ Vane In my opinion people talk about the OSR like its some noble cause. It’s a rip off of the 3rd Edition SRD and the motivations are no more noble than a trip to the cash register. In the end it’s all about making money. The SRD was designed to allow people to legally publish supporting materials for the 3rd edition of D&D not re-create B/X like games. No OSR evangelist is ever going to do anything more than recite whatever rationalizations and justifications they need to continue doing whatever they want, short of a legal injunction from WOC to cease and desist.

    @nextautumn B/X and other games of the era are all have a single genre focus. It’s a lof of extra work to make the systems do things for which they were never designed.

    I’ve really said all I want to on the OSR. Others are not likely to see it in the same light as being ethically and legally questionable.


  34. October 7th, 2010 at 08:41 | #34

    @Greg MacKenzie

    Aye, and this fact annoyed me with certain OSR products. They were blatantly copyright infringments that the SRD and OGL were never designed to support. While I personaly have nothing against OSR, the simple fact that someone can take the contents of B/XD&D and copy it word for word and release it as something like Labyrinth Lord under the OGL was a blatant act of copyright theft. It is not new. The only benefit it has is that it allows those who have never experienced B/XD&D to see what it was like, but if they are calling it Labyrinth Lord rather than B/XD&D, these new players won’t make the distinction.

  35. Greg MacKenzie
    October 7th, 2010 at 10:17 | #35

    @Da’ Vane Shifting the discussion slightly. I note the non-reproducable blue which was used by TSR is now widely held as a mapping style loaded with “nostalgia” (sniff the paper) but really it was designed as a copy protection method. It amuses me no end to see it proclaimed widely as though it were traditional styling.

    Really, I don’t think many of the newer generation have the slightest idea about what it was like when D&D was a “new” game. I can applaud the interest in the original games 74 through B/X but the attitude to copyright is rather baffling, different generation I guess. The only thing here is it really does place anyone who wants to create a new game in a real bind. If you don’t play along with the OSR in some fashion your cutting off a significant revenue stream. A significant group of people that would otherwise be interested in your new game has been lost.


  36. October 7th, 2010 at 15:37 | #36

    The OSR sounds a lot more like an over-zealous reaction to newer trends like 4th Edition. In a time where everything seems to becoming easier, going back to your roots and playing on nostalgia is gaining a lot of ground. But if that is all you are doing, it is pointless – but learning from those roots and growing from them is useful.

    I still remember an old Wizards marketing campaign where they harped on about “Rembering when you had to earn your copper pieces.” Back then this was the case, because the games were lethal, and characters were low-level – for some this was fun, for others, frustrating. Now, by comparison, the same character level in an equivalent system can do so much more that it doesn’t feel so low-level, and this is a key issue with many people advocating for or against Old School games – it’s the relative power balance of the system and what they expect from the game that does this.

    In the days of B/XD&D, you had videogames where you were lucky if you had a password save, and things weren’t just hard, they were Nintendo Hard, while now it’s instant gratification for the MTV ADD generation. These have obviously led to expectations about what characters should be able to do at certain power levels, and resulted in a lot of power creep that some people do not enjoy. It certainly is a different generation.

    Oh, in case you are wondering, I specifically named Labyrinth Lord because I got a free copy of their promo stuff from RPGNow, and it read virtually word for word like the rulebook for the Easy to Master D&D Boxed Set. The one that came with the module, Zanzer’s Dungeon, that had the GM learn to play the game step by step before leading their players through it in a similar tutorial process, through a specially prepared series of A4 cards. It covered the same content, the same power range, the same rules, everything. How they got away with that I do not know – I am guessing they do not make enough money or interfere with enough of Wizards profits to warrant their attention.

  37. Greg MacKenzie
    October 11th, 2010 at 11:35 | #37

    @Da’ Vane You can immediately see the issue, OSR free game + free module. Make no mistake I enjoy the original D&D game in its own right. However, from a certain point of view I moved creatively beyond its rule system long ago. I guess what I’m trying to say is that as an author the adventure ideas I have cannot be satisfactorily expressed in one of the OSR Klones. Given the Hasbro lawsuit over Scrabulous I find it very surprising they haven’t gone into the OSR with a hammer and tongs. I can’t figure that one out.

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