Monday, January 7, 2013

Scions of the OSR

Yesterday's post presented a definition of OSR gaming - it’s about identifying the great bits about 1970's sandbox gaming, beyond just D&D, and applying what we've learned in 30 years of table top gaming to add improvements to that style of play.  Various DIY publishers have been leading the charge for a few years now.  So what kind of products have pushed the state of the art?

This megadungeon was one of the first OSR products I encountered a couple of years ago, and it taught me to love the 1-page dungeon format with minimalist descriptions, leaving a lot of room for DM improvisation.

LOTFP Adventures
The various Lamentations of the Flame Princess site-based adventures show complete contempt for game balance and will treat your home campaign with reckless disregard - long term consequences are thrilling and liberating.

Stars Without Number/Red Tide
Sine Nomine has developed a system of using simple descriptors, "tags", for quickly generating sandbox relationships and complications in a way I'd never seen before.  Plus, the publisher adapts a class and level system to some new genres (science fiction, post-apocalyptic, cyberpunk).

Hex crawls and dungeons are heavily dependent on maps and predefined content; Vornheim is full of alternative techniques for presenting fantasy cities on the fly.

Points of Light
The Points of Light supplements were born out of Bat in the Attic's step-by-step sandbox creation guides, and are excellent examples of putting theory into practice.

ACKS (Adventurer Conqueror King) is a retro clone rules set that adds campaign rules and some 3E style feats and combat options onto the classic D&D chassis to extend old school play beyond exploration, into the character's long term career arc.

There are tons of high quality adventures, hex crawls, and small rules supplements that have been written using the OGL for the retroclone games; I'm not listing them here because most of them present their maps and content in a way substantially similar to TSR's content - there's more of it, and many of the books break out of the cliché settings (like Carcosa, or Anomalous Subsurface Environment).   I highlighted the books above because they're the ones that opened my eyes to totally new or different ways of doing things.  The OSR is more than mimicking the 1970's; it's about distilling what rocked in those early game styles and evolving it with appropriate ideas from the full spectrum of games.  It also means adapting modern technology and methods, like the G+ hangouts or the use of crowd-funding.

My list can't be exhaustive - I'm one guy, and clearly can't speak for all - what do you see out there that's been a game changer for how we run our old school games?