The OSR is sliding into an age of darkness. The titans of old, who have snatched away the embers of the Promethean flame from the hoary clutches of Hasbro and kindled it until it is become a roaring bonfire, have perished or are reduced to shadows of their former glory. Few of the olden guard remain, and they are shunned and villified or merely forgotten, forced to dwell in caverns and ancient tombs while mummers and thieves mumble and posture in the limelight. All that is good is made obscure, and all that is evil is dressed in robes of carmine and sable.

The Great King who took the Sacred Fire, and with it kernelled his own dream, is also but a shadow. His kingdom grew and grew and fell, and half of his retainers were beholden to the Evil One, and left him to rot, and from his fallen kingdom started other petty kingdoms. They rule now, the Artpunkmen, purveyors of the DnD that is not DnD, the very greatest of these never having played a character beyond the 6th level. Garish preening, endless effeminate slapfights, cancellations, and trash, trash that is promoted as worthwhile. Newcomers enter and say unto themselves ‘The OSR? It was invented by [REDACTED] and it is about making garishly colored modules and selling them on!’ There is no link with the past. M.A. Barker is verboten. Bob Bledsaw is verboten. Soon Gary Gygax will be verboten. A broken machine made in imitation of older machines that is slowly winding down. A million classes for Troika each costing 0,5 dollars, zero effort for zero value.


The Sacred Fire must be rekindled once more, and the mounds of ashes must be sloughed off, lest they smother the rebirth of the Phoenix and leave us in this Dark Age.

Seek you to be a bearer of this sacred fire? Then heed ye well what must be done.

Let us remember once more that the OSR is a pasttime first and foremost. Let material be made primarily not for the tinkling of coppers, but for the sheer ebullient joy of it. Let the spirit of competition and chastely love of the game inspire you to make work that is WORTHY. Let games be run with ecstatic glee. The griftsr, the petty merchant who grinds out his vulgar pulp to ensnare the credulous youth without ever having laid hands on dice and GMscreen, the copywriter and layout man who xerox your ancient games, let him starve. Let us decimate the merchant caste, the twitter parasites, the bandwagoneer, the revisionist, let us savor their death throes and leave only the fittest, the chosen few, to peddle their wares in the ashes of rebirth.

The OSR is about oldschool games and their continuation. And what could be more self-evident? There are some who peddle the fraudulent and diseased notion that the OSR is about making new games, but this is obviously false. There are too many games in the OSR, and in no other category of merchandise do you find lower yields! There is not one in twenty of the new games that is worthy of more then contemptuous scorn, a disgusted, disappointed, tired sigh. It takes immense craft and years of fine-tuning to make something, a whole game, that can stand shoulder to shoulder with its predecessors, yet novelty and fickleness make them common as lice on a mangy dog. What few worthies exist: ACKS, DCC, Lotfp and some choice others, retain a spiritual connection with the old material, or are sustained by a unique creative vision, and are honed, and played over the long years. Spare me your micro-games, your rules-lites, your B/X clones. Take your idiot rules and burn them! Put your house-rules on a blog, and take solace men enjoy your game, and bother us no more.

Thou wouldst achieve excellence in module cobbling? Is it seemly to vomit color all over an electronic sheet, or to obsess over layout like a neurotic, or to inject the adventure with all the buried memories of the time Uncle Gerald wandered drunkenly into one’s bedroom? Must entire pages of text be devoted to the exact manner in which various statt blocks mischannel and contort their sexual drives? Nay. Nay sir.
Would knowing something of space make one more adept at running science-fictional space operatic games? Would knowing something of police work allow one to inject a game of pretend-police officers with a degree of liveliness and fealty that would otherwise go missing? Then why do ye run DnD, not understanding its inspirations also? Why do ye forsake ye Appendix N not even knowing why ye forsake it?
Once a distinct style has been found, and the groundwork has been laid, THEN it is time to see what has been done before ye. You must utilize all the guile of those who came before, and with them forge mighty things. Things have been written in 1978 that are not eclipsed today, not because it is tried and the attempt falters, but because the midwit, the charlatan, the deceiver, has performed his ludological sleight-of-hand, and claims that layout and silly ideas is what made DnD great, and thereby eclipsed the older forms with recent iterations that are but pale shadows, and knowledge of the old ways has been made a rare secret. But there are some who burn with the hidden knowledge, and who will grow to do mighty deeds.

And do ye not, if you would run another mans adventure or another mans game, tinker with it without first understanding why ye should tinker. To tinker and experiment is natural, that ye may gain a feel for various things and secrets. But to move beyond you must understand why things are, and be humble in your ways, and you will change only those things that must be changed.

And to ye older ones, ye much villified Grognards, some of whom opened the gates to these sickle-smiled usurpers with their pink hairs and rubbing hands and shifty eyes and paid a hefty price thereby. I say to you: Ye have failed. For the torch must be passed on, and the young minds must be shown, that they may carry on your legacy, and fetch logs for your fires. Do you now leave them to be groomed on the OSR discord by perverts and malcontents? I say unto you, go out into the wild where the newcomers congregate and mingle with them. Keep ye your fortress impregnable and sancrosanct, but tread beyond it and mingle with these younger men. Be ye not afraid. Be ye patient but stern. Be ye forgiving of their ignorance, for they know not what they do. It is time you become teachers, as well as game players.

What is then, the highest source? It is the long home campaign, which grows over time, and is nurtured lovingly, and is tinkered with, and becomes a thing in and of itself, which can sustain multiple groups. If this is not mastered, then there is yet work to be done, and one may not call oneself a dungeon master. Do ye not look longingly at the gleaming game system in the parlors of drive-thru, thinking it will bring you success where other systems have failed. Do ye not flit from game to game and group to group like a nervous sparrow. I say ye must be diligent in your efforts, and pick your system well, and refine it over months and years and in that manner gather great craft.

And those who speak with nothing but evil of the place in which they pretend congregation, those who do nothing but point fingers and say: ‘Ye shall not work, nor be allowed egress, for your ways are not those of the great gleaming screen that tells us what to think’ and say also ‘Verily he should be outcast, for I have labelled him with one of the Sacred Curse Words, whose exact meaning is mutable like the river, but whose import is Dire’ I say unto them: Woe!

Woe! For your time in the sun and the grace of your Dark Lord is not eternal. And we know well the wickedness that lies behind your seeming virtue and soft potato face. And I say it will be made difficult for you to work your evil ways among honest men. And I say you will be driven back, behind your fortress walls of lies, and fear to walk abroad by day. And I say we have kept record of your evil ways, and you will be confronted with the proof and the fruits of it at every turn until such a time as you forsake them wholly. And in this there must be determination, and in this there must be no relenting. For ye love not DnD and have become a burden unto it.

And of those of you who wish for another No Artpunk contest, I say rejoice! For a contest is in the making. And also a module is in the making. I have been busy moving and am slowly settling in. It is time that I apply my craft once more, and by doing so, prove that there is yet greatness and goodness in this hobby of ours. And let us apply true craftsmanship, and see if we cannot elevate the craft of adventure writing yet further.

I say these coming years will be years of Winter. With few things coming out, and even less that are good. And I say unto you, cherish that cleansing Winter. Are there not a million worthy deeds that are already done? Savor the death throes and the die-offs of the unworthy and remember with fondness the worthy who fall by the wayside. And keep fed, those chosen few, those keepers of the flame, who yet make things that are worth making. And do ye congregate, and participate, and gain great mirth therefrom.

And to ye Once Great King, I say fondly: Your dream will live yet. You must slough off the trappings of the old, the Artpunk ways, and become what you were always meant to be; A grim and perilous lord, for there are no equals and no rivals in that field, and much can be gained from it. And I say this is already done. And by grace of the old gods, you will prosper.

The OSR is dying. Long live the TrvSR.


82 thoughts on “TRVSR

    1. Sir, your words really sound like something that has to be said between the walls of a magnificent and ancient cathedral, echoing in the dark corners and the souls of the congregation.
      Also, I’ve would really consider to participate in the contest, although I’m no sure if I’m worthy.


  1. There will always be “OSR grifters”, that is those who produce such magnificent work as the new Protagonist class for OSE, a fighter who has an initiative bonus due to “quick draw”, and +3 on checks against intoxication, with the flavour text taken from the relevant WFRP entry. And there will be those who claim to have invented (or reinvented) the OSR, with the intention of increasing their sales; this should be treated with the same raised eyebrow reserved for the barfly who says they won Wimbledon. Where I think there is a genuine problem is in getting excellent new work recognised for what it is, and people playing it. Maybe you could persuade Aaron the Pedantic to host a series of live streams on a (mostly spoiler free) discussion of the best modules (organised according to low, mid and high levels),
    with a mixture of the old and the new covered.
    No Artpunk 1 was a triumph: excellent entries from an eclectic bunch of authors. Maybe Bryce’s competition will generate some interesting material. All should be welcome, unless they are only interested in being wreckers.


    1. There is a schizophrenia to the commercialization in the OSR where the very forces that cause it to expand and make it possible to create wonderful, high-quality material end up strangling and ruining it that will probably never be resolved.

      Aaron does occasional reviews but his taste is not developed. Not critical enough. It might be worthwhile to talk about some good material people have read and played, even if many of the regulars tend to be scrubs. I’ll suggest that.


      1. I received an update for the Gyllagoon’s Island Kickstarter this morning, and whilst I was delighted it has passed the funding threshold, 56 backers for something that is surely going to be at least very good is a bit disappointing. I would suggest Aaron the Pedantic’s viewers might include the sort of open-minded but inexperienced folk who long for a more satisfying play experience but don’t know where to find it. And the choice of messenger/form of communication is important, or you could run into the problems that Trent describes.
        A roundtable Live Stream with 4 or so guests giving three minute introductions to two modules each might work. If the
        topic was introductory modules, how about B2, T1, Lichway, U1, N1, Lost Mines of Phandelver, Melan’s Vaults of Volokarnos, and a newer offering. I would bar authors from talking about their own products!


      2. But Shuffling Wombat—those 56 Backers are upstanding and beautiful people and clearly are worth 3x any other person….I admit, I may be biased on that view…


      3. The backers are the lucky ones: they will be getting a product that has a lower bound of very good, and may be better still. (The sample artwork looks great.)


      4. For Prince: I see you suited your actions to your words. That was an entertaining stream that Aaron hosted. More variation in system than I was expecting, but the enthusiasm of someone talking about what they like is infectious. To pass onto Aaron, B12 is now available as a POD, but better still, so is B10 (and it is a pretty good scan). I may have to take the plunge with Tomb of Annihilation (although I felt a little burnt by Curse of Strahd in the cold light of day). No takers for the OSE favourites, which was interesting as the Kickstarter rockets. For a first shot that was great; there might be more back and forth between participants (and the chat) if the choices were more themed or mainstream, but you did well to interject some S1 chat.


  2. BTW, M.A.R Barker is verboten only for a very good reason: he wrote a proper Neo-Nazi novel. Not like some dubious remarks or culture war shennanigans. Swastika, Anti-Semitism, RaHoWa, the whole thing. Serpent’s Walk, written under a pen name, the Tekumel foundation cannot hide it anymore:

    “The Tekumel Foundation Board of Directors wants to acknowledge that our research shows Professor M.A.R. Barker wrote Serpent’s Walk, an anti-Semitic novel that was published under a pseudonym in 1991. We have done our due diligence to ascertain the facts regarding Serpent’s Walk and Professor Barker’s affiliation with The Journal of Historical Review and we believe this needs to be recognized as part of Professor Barker’s past. While nobody today is responsible for the odious views Professor Barker presented in Serpent’s Walk, we are responsible for recognizing this book as part of his legacy.”


    1. I was aware. As I am equally aware of the charges against Bledsaw, or for that matter, other individuals that have been swept under the rug. The point is that under the current regime, there is no history, only an eternal now, with an eternally churning, revisionist mayfly past. This does not work.

      It is acceptable to deny service or even participation to a person who pledges allegiance to a sworn enemy, but this zone of stillness, this enforced silence, it does not sit well.


  3. Something the 2012 OSR had was many active and interconnected blogs. Now there is no good aggregate of OSR blogs and most in the sidebars are dormant. For such a small scene the aggregators I know (the OSR blogosphere twitter account and the osrblogosphere.blogspot blog) seem very picky with who they include. Maybe a big list would drive more views and spur bloggers to be more active.


  4. I’ve been repping old-school AD&D (and posting photos of my dogs) on Reddit for the past couple months but it feels like I’m out there on my own: there’s a handful of 90s-style 2E AD&D die-hands, but otherwise it seems like pretty much everyone there has zero first-hand knowledge or curiosity about anything prior to about 2012.

    The conventional wisdom about the old stuff is that there were some interesting embryonic ideas but that it was so poorly organized and laid out to be completely incomprehensible and unusable and that the contemporary stuff takes all of the good stuff from those days and improves on it in every way so that there’s really nothing worth looking out there – that the archeological bloggers have already gleaned and adapted everything of value.

    OSE is very popular (alongside Mork Borg, Mothership, Worlds Without Number, DCC, Knave, Troika!, etc) but there doesn’t seem to be much awareness that it is literally an exact copy of the 1981 BX rules – I’ve gotten downvotes for answering OSE rules questions with references to the BX rules. Contemporary bloggers and vloggers are given credit for conceptual “discoveries” that are rehashes of stuff that was well known in the 70s. There are constant attempts at reinventing the wheel to enhance or expand OSE with material that AD&D already covered, but again trying to point that out is another way to guarantee downvotes. And of course mentioning Gary Gygax by name is guaranteed to bring a deluge of hate and resentment and slander.

    There is a palpable appetite out there for something deeper and more developed than the simplistic OSE – at least some people are outgrowing the minimalism fetish and want something more, but they are absolutely unwilling to look backwards for it. They are so convinced that the modern OSR is better than the old days were that it’s inconceivable to them that the answers they’re looking for already exist and that their heroes like Matt Colville and Questing Beast are just rehashing stuff from decades ago, usually in a shallower and inferior manner.

    I watch these folks flailing in the dark and trying to find the light that I’ve already known for decades, but I’ve learned that they don’t want to hear what I or other folks from my era have to say because they’re totally invested in the idea that their generation is fixing the problems of the past and creating a new golden age – that all of the lessons of the past have been fully ingested and applied and they’re all about progress and breaking new ground – whether it’s true or not.

    So I have mixed feelings – it’s heartening to see people moving in the right direction and looking past both shallow minimalism and “mainstream” railroad OC fanfic garbage, but frustrating that they’re doing so by reinventing wheels and then acting smugly superior about having done so. I guess it’s part of getting old.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, it’s part of reddit having become the universal forum. Reddit sucks at the best of times because the majority there have small brains, small hearts, and small dicks and so downvote anything that makes them feel confused or inferior. Regarding Questing Beast: he’s built up a following and is obviously anxious about reviewing material produced by the wrong kind of people – his self censorship makes his channel dull and woefully incomplete.

      Is dragonsfoot a living community? I’ve only peeked in there. Does anyone know how it compares to the recent OSR spaces?


      1. I’ve been a member at Dragonsfoot for 20 years and can state without reservation that it has been worthless and embarrassing for at least half that time. There was some value to it in the pre-OSR era, because it was one of the only places you could talk about old-D&D without getting shouted down about how much better 3E was, and because Gary Gygax was active there and happy to chat and answer questions.

        As someone getting back into AD&D after a decade or so away, and re-reading everything with an adult perspective there was some value in having a community of other like-minded folks mostly in similar situations – it was mostly through conversations there (and also at early satellite forums like Gene Weigel’s and Rob Kuntz’s sites) that I figured out and recognized the value in some of the advanced rule-stuff we mostly glossed over as kids (like segment-based surprise and initiative) and also became more conscious of stuff like open-ended campaign structure and non-railroad adventure design and faction-play and good map design how to design stuff that incorporated these elements consciously and didn’t just ape the old modules cargo-cult style. Without the people I met at Dragonsfoot I doubt I’d ever have figured all of that out on my own and probably would have moved on to some other hobby.

        That said, for the past dozen or so years – after the center of gravity of discussion and fandom moved to other venues (blogs, social media) – Dragonsfoot has become totally dominated, to the almost total exclusion of everything else, by two types of poster: 1) clueless geriatric farts who are only interested in taking about either their games of 30-40 years ago (and show no signs of having played more recently than that) or complaints about modern society – how much they hate modern movies and TV and having to do stuff online and not being able to work their computers and how everything is so expensive and so on – a bunch of loser white dudes in their 50s-60s who resent everything that’s happened in the world since Ronald Reagan left office; and 2) pedantic rules-lawyers who’ve done deep dived into the text of the rulebooks and come up with their own interpretations of how everything ix supposed to work (that are invariably overly complex and counterintuitive) and insist that everybody since day one has been doing it wrong (despite the fact that we have very extensive first-hand knowledge and experience with how the creators played and intended the game to be played) and they’re the first ones to have figured it all out so everyone needs to change what they’ve been doing for decades to conform to their new superior understanding, even though doing so almost invariably produces a worse play-experience (which doesn’t matter to these guys because they don’t play the game with other humans – it’s all about abstract analysis to them).

        It’s a toxic and boring combination and a huge turn-off. I can’t imagine anyone under age 40 (hell, age 45) coming there for the first time, reading some representative threads, and deciding it’s s community they want to stick around and become a part of. You will absolutely not find anything at contemporary Dragonsfoot that will improve your game or inspire you or help you understand anything better. But if you want to reminisce about playing in 1978-84 or want to read some nerd’s dissertation about how everybody has misunderstood how saving throws are supposed to work and have been doing it wrong all these years or some similar shit, then it’s the place to be.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Thanks for the summary, Trent! That was my impression on a cursory glance, I was worried I was missing out on some subforum where creativity was thriving.


    2. Anthony Huso has some done some great writing about his AD&D campaign, using the other original rules as written. Has alway made me want to go out and pick up copies of the old rule books and read them through an adult lens, as you’ve mentioned above. Tough part is finding like-minded people to play with… My nieces and their friends all love 5e, but, to their credit, they’ve been open to LotFP and Delta Green, so there’s hope yet to find others.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Trent, I sense a chance here: a thing anathema to us might be worth a try: doing an “OSE-Campaign” supplement, that presents the 1e rules the OSE way, pretending the author invented them just in 2020…

      Liked by 2 people

    4. Its kind of who you pick I think. I get emails from younger people a lot, or talk to young folks at the pedantic discord, and they have a completely different attitude. Reddit has the unfortunate habit of giving bovine stupidity and midwits a voice, and discouraging mockery, something that should never be done.

      I like to think that this form of gaming is fairly natural and showing the merits of it is not overly difficult. The desire to try something new is good but if you begin from shoddy principles you cannot help but generate mediocrity.


    5. I think the Reddit crowd is just young, and I wouldn’t expect them to take on board much very quickly unless it comes from the mouth of one of their ‘OSR heroes’, You must at some level think it’s worth the effort to encourage the next generation to look at actual old D&D and the lessons that can be learned there, or you wouldn’t have posted this comment. So if you think it’s worth doing, do it. There needs to be more of an influencing effort there and in other media; not necessarily to produce a quick result, but to slowly chip away at established thought patterns and show there is more to the game.

      Oh yes, not sure why you Americans feel that it’s ok to be racist and ageist against people because they happen to have white skin. Really is a cancer on your society.

      Regarding Dragonsfoot, it’s a strange place for sure and unlikely to be of much use. They generally seem to be obsessed with discussing the past, rather than in preserving it (if that makes sense), and have virtually zero interest in anything new that gets produced. In fact, they almost seem to act as though you’ve done something dishonourable when a publisher charges money for a new module.


      1. I didn’t mean to suggest Dragonsfoot’s members are bad BECAUSE they are old white men (after all, I am myself a middle-aged white man) but when discussing the atmosphere and character of the place I do think it’s a relevant fact – AFAIK there are only maybe 2 active forum members who identify as female, I don’t think there are any who identify as non-white (at one time there were a couple), and recent demographic polls there have shown that something like 80% of respondents are over age 50 and started playing D&D between 1978-82. That may be coincidental to how the focus of discussion there is almost entirely nostalgic and backwards-looking and that there’s a heavy undercurrent of hostility and resentment towards everything of the last 30+ years (not just in the D&D space but in the world generally) but I’m pretty sure it’s not.


      2. “Really is a cancer on your society.”

        Yes, it’s gone from gentle, tongue-in-cheek self-deprecation to something ugly and targeted. Nothing good about it or the myriad other forms of hate.


      3. “Yes, it’s gone from gentle, tongue-in-cheek self-deprecation to something ugly and targeted. Nothing good about it or the myriad other forms of hate.“

        You’re right. I’m an asshole ageist and anti-white racist. Glad we got that cleared up. You [squeen] asked me a few weeks ago if I had beef against you. I didn’t then – and the question seemed so bizarrely out of left field that I didn’t even know what you were referring to – but it’s safe to say I do now.


      4. Come on Trent, I’m not going after you — I’ve just heard the white-guy thing too much. I don’t think it’s well intended by others, even if not from you.


    6. New on Kickstarter – “Aquatic Adventures,” a deluxe full-color hardcover rules supplement for OSE about underwater adventuring, introducing a whole new dimension to the world of old-school adventure gaming, just like D&D Supplement II did in 1975, and theAD&D DMG revised and expanded in 1979. But this time it’s got large print and bullet points and full color art! Some text may even be in boxes or printed in different fonts or colors so the reader won’t be intimidated by dense paragraphs! Yay?


      1. At least the authors have a good track record. What would be welcome is a Ship vs Ship or Big Monster system, with rules for how many crew are needed to set sail, manoeuvre, what directions and speeds are available dependent on wind velocity etc. Something fairly light that could be understood by someone who has read the odd seafaring novel. I scanned the 2e Of Ships and the Sea and thought that was OK; I like High Seas for Flashing Blades more; Hearts of Oak is overly complicated for the task in hand. And if it was written for OSE, we all know that is B/X.
        This came to mind when I read the Cauldron (recent Merciless Merchants Kickstarter), which has a number of potential sailing ship/monster actions, and I thought I would inflict my views on everyone twice.


      2. Shuffling Wombat–you bring up a good point. I threw in some optional underwater rules in Ascent, but doing something for ships seems appropriate–especially for Vermilion. But I wouldn’t want to rehash what’s already out there. I’d have to do some heavy research myself first about it and see if there was something new that could be proposed–but I think people already have a list of rules they enjoy using for that type of thing already.


      3. I don’t mean to pick on those guys – their book may well turn out to be good and obviously even with big print and open modern layout and A5 size a 120 page book will include more than the ~10 pages of coverage the topic got in AD&D (3 pages of rules in the DMG + some monsters and magic items). It just seemed ironically fitting and exemplary that this thing showed up in my feed literally right after I made the comment about OSE fans reinventing the wheel and acting like it’s something new.

        But, tangentially, this brings back up an unpopular opinion of mine (the very one that got me declared the Khmer Rouge of old-schoolers by RPGPunditbback in the day) – that rpgs shouldn’t require purchasing an endless treadmill of new material and at least 99% of the stuff out there is totally unnecessary and if anything detrimental to the intended DIY spirit of the hobby. All anyone needs is the core rules, maybe a supplemental rulebook or two covering advanced options or special topics, maybe some toolkit accessory stuff like big collections of random tables or prerolled encounters or generic/reusablea maps (nowadays probably better served as apps than books), and a handful of exemplary adventures demonstrating and illustrating different aspects of the game and how play is envisioned. And as far as commercial product goes, that’s really it. Hundreds and thousands of adventures and setting books and full rulebooks on narrow topics and endless collections of new stuff (monsters, character types, spells, magic items, etc) are totally unnecessary. Anybody can (or at least should be able to) make that stuff up on their own so there’s no reason to pay money for somebody else’s version of to expect that people should pay money for yours. If you’re really proud of your stuff and want to show it off, put it up on a blog.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. I am in complete agreement concerning OSE. Easy on the eye, apparently well organised and clear; but it is material I already have.
        Few books pack the inspirational punch of the 1E DMG,


  5. I believe the real issue everyone here seems to overlook is how unwelcoming is the OSR scene for new creators.

    Most Artpunk creators might be misguided in giving priority to creative layout an artwork (a fundamental misunderstanding in my opinion of what artpunk represents) but their efforts are accepted by the community and new content production is encouraged, experimentation in cherished.

    On the other end we got the OSR, with Prince assuming the role of D&D orthodoxy custodian, actively belittling whoever does not conform to its ideal of original purity. (FYI back when I started playing D&D internet was not a thing, every group was an isolated community playing D&D with a different ethos, aesthetic and mechanics from everyone else, there is no thing as “not understanding D&D in my opinion).
    We have Bryce with his stone-cast set of rules for module writing and god forbid anyone for deviating even an inch from that. You might as well throw your creative vision and ideas in the toilet, almighty Bryce and his loyal followers would make you feel so shitty for even trying to share your work that you’ll never write anything OSR again.

    Sorry for the rambling post but it feels like the problem lies not in the artpunk but rather in the calcified obstinacy of the main OSR personalities in defending a made-up ideal of D&D reacting to any slight deviation with ostracism and derision.
    I love the OSR aesthetic and, of course Bryce rules for module writing have their merit but OSR creators are starting to look like reactionary academic bigwigs .


    1. If you actually look at the diversity of the modules praised by Prince in his contest you’ll find far from a narrow selection – even when the rules limited you to unorginal elements! Compare Tower of the Timemaster, Melonath Falls, City of Bats. At a glance they seem similar (maps of limited locations, room descriptions) but when you think through how the adventures actually play out and how the pieces move and fit together they are very different.

      Do you have any examples of belittled newcomers who got shat on for their innovations and not their ineptitude?


      1. I know that Prince is very intellectually honest. Same applies to Bryce.

        My point is that criticism is ok if it’s constructive. What puts me off is the tone of the criticism.


      2. Not sure if this is what you mean, but I thought Bryce’s review of Arden Vul was way harsher than it deserved. IMO it’s a masterpiece, and he was all over it for being too wordy and not well organized enough.


      3. Arden Vúll is still on the list, but it would have to be some sort of Emperor.

        Bryce is a bit too hard on layout I think. I understand the origins of the argument, but it does cause him to overlook some gems, Melonath Falls not the least among them.


    2. @Matt

      This is a fake position. It bears no resemblance to reality and is based on hurt feelings.

      Mindless experimentation generates mindless results. If you start from the same principles and simply erase 90% of the insight that is already gained you will just end up very slowly and tortuously crawling back to where you came from. All the current artpunk ‘experimentation’ is along lines that have already been explored, or involve a rediscovery of things that already existed, or involve innovation in meaningless dimensions. One can argue that the only meaningful innovation Artpunk has done is the Depthcrawl mechanic published by Emmy Allen in Gardens of Ynn in 2016, an adventure I continue to promote btw.

      Likewise the ‘Community’ does not exist. The OSR is not a monolithic whole, but a plethora of subtly interlinked little tribes that occasionally comingle. You can ask any two or three people about what the OSR is and you will get completely different results. The ‘community’ is a rhetorical cudgel that is used to generally justify exclusion, censorship and other coercive measures.


      Again, this position sounds nice but if you actually read my reviews this is also not real. Read any number of reviews I do of donations, or Patrick Stuarts work, or hell, Six Faces of Danger. In fact, the reason I enjoy a following is that I will give people a fair take, despite my preferences.


      I certainly think Bryce’s Utility standard has far outlived its usefulness and I do not always agree with giving a newcomer PWYW product a scathing review but this position is also false. Bryce has a fairly broad standard for what makes good material and though he sometimes drops the ball (imho), he is very often on point. The set of standards that is being adopted is a decent beginning set for oldschool gaming. If there is criticism to be levelled at Bryce it is that his set of standards is not strict enough.

      Don’t want to get a poor review and get your feelings hurt? Might I offer the suggestion of, perhaps, not putting material for sale in a public venue, where people can purchase it and expect to gain a decent return of investment? Might I, for once, offer the suggestion that perhaps a 20 year old with all of 3 months experience in the OSR under his belt should consider just playing the game or putting some material out for free before proceeding immediately to the generation of ABSOLUTELY WORTHLESS DRIVEL and then throwing a big temper tantrum when it is pointed out that the material is not worth even the time spent downloading it.

      And there have been fine dungeons by 20 year olds that have been worth every tenth cent don’t get me wrong, some people are just good. But heaven forfend someone actually purchases your work and gives you their relative estimation of its merits. Booh hooh!


      This is again not describing reality. The ‘main’ OSR personalities, that is to say, with the exception of some remnant old-timers, are whoever the junta is that survived the last purge, are largely outsiders that have been placed there by god knows who, don’t know anything, and spend most of their time, engaged in petty feuds, begging for money online or getting people cancelled for reasons that have nothing to do with DnD, because they don’t know anything, like you. The idea that Grognards are banning access to the hobby is a meme, and always has been.

      OSR ‘creators’, if anything, have been too open-minded, too lenient, too accomodating and the result is aggressive mediocrity, status based on popularity, pervasive ignorance, and the elevation of people that barely play the game and have little interest in doing so. I think we can do better.


      Tone policing is the last refuge in hopeless arguments. If you had bothered to read my work you’d find that even in my most scathing critiques I am constructive, offer advice, or will point out ways of fixing the problem.

      I give this attempt a low **/*****


      1. My feelings are not hurt, why would they be?

        I swear you nothing about this topic of conversation could hurt my feelings. If your feelings are getting hurt at all I apologise.

        I know it must be hard producing very good to great stuff and get almost no recognition outside of a crowd you nearly know by name while “Troika compatible 16 page risograph zine about crawling up your own ass, while being about as deep and as smelly” (35$ a pop) or “I got nothing to say but look fluopink gritty fake-punk artwork of ass-goblins in pamphlet format” (16$ plus shipping) rake up tens of thousands .

        What I mean is trying to sound a little bit less bitter. I know artpunk it’s mostly (overwhelmingly so) shit but there’s no need to keep pontificating about that.


      2. @Matt

        That’s good, then both of our feelings remain inviolate, but if you look at how I approach most of the stuff I write, No Artpunk and everything before, you will find I take genuine enjoyment out of taking the piss, and this is no exception. Whining bitterly is no good, but making a fun contest where you illustrate that good adventures have actually very little to do with what is being touted as good or refined is great fun, as is tearing something down that has no place being up.

        Bitterness does not quite describe it. Contempt? My own popularity is of secondary concern (though I have no complaints that Palace is on or suprasses par sales-wise many of these ‘luminaries’), but reviewing to show what is good material or how to make it is a goal worth pursuing.

        Again, if you read my blog regularly (recommended if you like D&D), you can see the bulk of my time is spent talking about stuff I like, and even when I do not, the criticism is perscriptive. I review people’s 5e modules without frothing at the mouth ferchristssake.

        There is nothing wrong with pointing out an Emperor has no clothes, a Spade is a Spade or a cigar is just a cigar, in fact, doing so is beneficial.

        The ** is for basic competence. I’ll neglect to follow up on your initial point making no sense. Have a fine day.


    3. There IS a ‘unwelcome’ feeling. I’ve been a part of the Dragonsfoot community for a bit now and still feel unwelcomed or unsupported. I share some of Trent’s views on that community. Honestly, I haven’t really felt a ‘home’ anywhere to hang my hat. I do like Bryce’s forums as at least we can hash out design topics once in awhile. But reviewers are great…I’ve had my share of misses and the feedback is what keeps me going. Sure, it can be harsh, but it’s not taken personally–I glean the useful tidbits so that I can strive to be better. I prefer the harshness because it’s truth–I don’t want 5 star ratings unless it deserves a 5 star rating. The hard part for me—is finding more (truthful) reviewers who want to review my stuff. I don’t ask Prince because we have worked together in the past. Melan and Bryce have done some reviews which is great (without me asking)…but getting Questing Beast or some of the other reviewers to review some of my material is like hitting a wall. Flat out ‘no’. Why is that? Can someone please enlighten me? It’s a bit frustrating with Kickstarters as well…I’m happy to reach the funding goal, but it’s a fight every time and the Backers have to wonder if its going to fund or not whereas others blow up. So yeah, as being somewhat of a new guy, you are right Matt….there is an ‘unwelcome’ feeling and I disagree with Prince that it’s not based on hurt feelings…there is a vibe and it’s fact. Too many getting frustrated with each other over the years I guess so when a new person comes along, it hits them in the face whereas the old timers may be immune.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are going to get this pressure for competition, or status-based cliqueishness in any scene that grows to be a certain size. QB only reviews material that is already ‘approved’, i.e. it must be liked by the right people, and if you are not in that zone it is difficult.


      2. A suggestion for Malrex: maybe approach one of the OSE guys and suggest a collaboration? If it goes well the hope would be that interest is rekindled in the Merciless Merchant Catalogue (and Kickstarters of the future).
        Regarding rules for ship to ship/big monster combat, there seem to have been a number of “Pirate” rulesets that might be worth a look. (I think High Seas for Flashing Blades is still my favourite. David Pulver is a good designer, Freebooters is a possible.) For ships with crew sizes similar to the Cauldron, regular (TSR era) D+D ought to work with a few tweaks to take care of the sailing aspects (e.g. what happens if you lose your main mast?) Anyway, I’m sure existing mechanics cunningly repackaged would produce a more satisfying experience than the “Pathfinder solution” of the PCs fighting the opposition captain and mates on the quarterdeck, and that determines the result of the encounter.


      3. Well, that’s good to know. I don’t want my stuff ‘approved’ before it’s reviewed, I want honesty…and I thought we were the ‘right people’..damn the gods! Seems like the Ennies are like that as well. Maybe Prince/Bryce/Melan could come up with their own “Ennies” because from all these contests lately there has been a hoard of cool stuff coming out of the woodwork–I love it. It could be a contest for us “wrong people”.

        Shuffling Wombat—perhaps when I get back from my wilderness voyage (around November), maybe you would be interested in collaborating or consulting on some ship stuff? Maybe Ill get some of the stuff you mentioned and read about it while on the trail. I have some future adventure ideas that some cool/new ship rules might make it more interesting.


  6. Some meta-thoughts:

    A crucial category mistake must be avoided. It is quite unclear, what “the situation” refers to. Sometimes we talk about an online scene, sometimes about module cobbling, sometimes about a hiearchy of authors, sometimes about the state of the RPG equiv. of the Overton-Window etc.
    What intersts ME is the actual culture of play. The pragmatic dimension, if you will. And here, the home campaign, the open table campaigns with DIY-modules, and a culture of campaign play are my goals to strive for.

    Now, with Winter looming, which winter and why? I feel to get beyond sentiment and hearsay, one must differentiate the state of the hobby into different categories and judge them indiviudually. I am not so sure that the state of online discussion is a good indicator of the state of the hobby anymore. We sorta had some inkling of a grip in the wake of Critical Role, that exposed the current culture and it’s venues. I do feel that the 5e scene is in a downswing itself, and has partially settled/ossified, with Critical Role being not a force of innovation or recruiting anymore, it’s fad having run its course. It has plateaued, hasn’t it?

    Forums & Blogs**
    RPG-Instagram culture
    RPG-TikTok culture
    House Hasbronnen as Vaultkeepers
    Home Campaigns
    DIY-culture in the OSR
    DIY-culture in 5e
    OSR-subculture for new arrivals
    OSR-subculture-legacy wars**

    mainstream culture of eternal now
    popcultural human centipede

    all need scrutiny of their own.

    Keeping the flame is easy: stop lamenting and DM, setup an open table campaign and PLAY. This is what we do here in Germany, among other things.

    But a debate of a more cerebral kind will have to analyze individually, state or debate goals or positive states for each category (including ontological thoughts on what is actually a category etc.) and only then synthesize a meta-judgement.

    I marked with asterisks what I think our host has mostly his eye on. And is this not a rather miniscule or at least narrow part of the whole? Sure one man cannot do, see or read everything. So no attack vs Prince. But we are in a very real danger of not seeing the forest for being blinded by the bushes and hedges we crawl through, around the trunks of large trees…

    So maybe we are not so much in the cold of Winter, but in the darkness of night, we cannot see too far and huddle around campfires, because the other light sources are too far away, even if we hate the other guys around that particular campfire we stick around and bicker.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. further categories:
      – fanzines
      – conventions
      – miniatures sales
      – miniature/battlemap use culture
      – miniature painting culture
      – strategic level play
      – high level play
      – Old Ones (FGU/palladiumbooks/Flying Buffalo)

      Liked by 1 person

    2. You must be diligent in your choices. For are we asses, that our backs must shoulder infinite burdens? Nay! Nay! We must be spearpoints, and fly narrow and true, that we may go into the ground and face our creator with straight backs, not crooked and bent, weighed down by a thousand burdens.


  7. Good stuff, all of it… the original post and commentary!

    The OSR is in trouble because worthwhile things are always on the verge of destruction or becoming their antithesis.


  8. But I will not end here, taken like an old badger in a trap. I will ride forth. Will you ride with me then, sons of Gygax? Maybe we shall cleave a road, or make such an end as will be worth a song—if any be left to sing of us hereafter…


  9. > M.A. Barker is verboten.

    Served a decade on the board of governors for a company that only existed to publish neo-nazi fiction. Yup, fuck that guy and anyone who sucks his cock.

    > Bob Bledsaw is verboten.

    Stop making up shit. Bob’s neo-nazi son and grandson go in the garbage with the other fascist cocksuckers, which sadly it appears you’re eager to join as well. WTF mate? You used to talk good shit about oldschool D&D… you’ve become so fucking pathetic in your love of old fascist dicks.

    > Soon Gary Gygax will be verboten.

    Let’s be honest again, Gary romanticized the genocide of millions of North American Aboriginals, or “Indians” as you’ll call them, as a great achievement for all of mankind in the “settling of the West”. That’s pretty fucking repugnant if you know some Indians bro.


    1. Claiming that Gygax is deserving of “cancellation” because he spoke favorably about white American imperial expansion into the west in the 1800s, and that doing so is equivalent to what Barker did, is the last refuge of dumb fucking assholes, since that was a completely mainstream view up until maybe 20 years ago,

      And while I might be mistaken and have missed some comment where he actually literally spoke favorably about Native American genocide, I strongly suspect you’re extrapolating from his quoting Chivington as a proper attitude for lawful good AD&D characters to have towards evil humanoids. If so, your dumb fucking ass had somehow missed that he’s talking about a hypothetical attitude of a fictional individual towards a fictional objectively evil group in a fictional world. Yeah it was an infelicitous and insensitive choice of reference with uncomfortable overtones, but it is in absolutely no way comparable to what Barker did by any reasonable standard of judgment unless your so blinded by your agenda that you will cling to any tenuous thread that you feel supports it (or you’re an idiot, of course).

      Liked by 1 person

    2. My blog was never a good place for people with sub high-schooler reading comprehension and in your zealot’s thirst for blood you are making my point for me.

      You get one retry. Try to figure out what I meant (and it wasn’t Heil Hitler dummy).


  10. Drink a cup of positivity. Remember that we play these games for fun. Some negativity is appropriate and a bit more is sometimes fun, but we best convey the game by expressing how good and fun it is. It doesn’t mean other games are terrible or not fun, or that people with different play styles are bad or ignorant. AD&D is a really fun game with an interesting play structure and I prefer it. But I have played a lot of other games as well and will continue to do so. The good folks at Dragonsfoot were criticized as being closed minded, but how does this discussion look to outsiders? Yes, we prefer certain styles of play and find them more fun. The No Art Punk contest was about expressing this, and the reviews mostly express this. Look at what fun can be had with old things. The game is good. Politics and snobbery are distracting. Game on.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Real OSR gamers play games, rather than sulk about them online. Got it.

    It is important for people to remember that enjoying the same hobby, or even the same style of rules, does not and cannot automatically result in anything else in common with someone. Be odd if we all were friends.

    Artistic community is overrated anyway. It seems to lead to a lot of having weird relationships with each others spouses and children. Better to be craftsmen who occasionally collaborate and share ideas than to try to be talking to each other about stuff all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. however shall people learn the ways of real OSR? if only there was a second volume of the critically-acclaimed, world-famous, best-seller ‘No Artpunk!’ 😀


  13. I have been reading a ton of napoleonic history and Chainmail is far from how I would manage divisional combat. You have to read a billion pages of warfare to understand why the battalion and division are the key units. Also you can’t manage a skirmish with AD&D combat rules which are fine for duels and don’t upscale for the very same reason that a sergeant is not a colonel.

    Now I love the idea of players in charge of military units. And I think this is a better way for players to have more HPS than the ruby magic vial.


    1. You should check out Domains at War: Battles, it’s is a solid D&D-wargame with coherent integration of the classic spells and classes. The size of a unit you can command is a function of your level and essentially doubles each level so that 7th level characters are commanders at company scale, lieutenants at battallion scale and irrelevant at brigade scale. The platoon scale rules are useful for running wilderness encounters if you travel with dozens or a few hundred mercenaries and run into humanoid villages or big monsters who don’t know to aovid you.


    1. FWIW–“Testament” (crunchy, research-heavy roleplaying in the ancient Middle East) was one of the most creative, play-inspiring books of the era. The author died recently, and the book is worth checking out in memoriam.


  14. The more I read of this discussion, the less I think it matters. Let’s first talk about quality. The difference between a Golden Age and the so-called death of a medium has always been surprisingly thin; if 15% of the commercial content is good, you could even call it a Platinum Age, while you might ring the death knell at less than 5%. And in a time when content is so plentiful and cheap, the main difficulty is sifting through the rubbish. There is no lack of quality material, at least in terms of quantity.

    On top of that, as it has been remarked, The Play Is The Thing. And you don’t need a million supplements to have a good time. Hell, that’s a core implication of OSR—a good GM can make rulings on the fly without consulting three different sourcebooks.

    So who cares if people publish dreck? It’s almost as inconsequential as the question of whether other people are playing the game properly. The community doesn’t matter. Or rather, the only important community is the one you game with.

    I don’t agree with everything that Matt said, but I think he’s correct that there’s an unwelcoming spirit in the OSR community, and that’s detrimental to a flourishing creative scene. Yes, quality control is also an ingredient, but these opposing camps produce unhelpful extremes of acceptance. But, like I said: it doesn’t really matter, anyway.

    I enjoy playing. I enjoy creating. I have less and less to do with the community because it’s a waste of time. OSR injected something new into role-playing by dusting off what was old, but I’ve learned those lessons. They don’t need to be constantly reiterated, and there are decades of great adventures to draw upon. What else do I really need? I stopped posting on RPG Pub even though it’s a perfectly lovely community, simply because it seemed like there was nothing more to say.

    So play, create, have fun. RPGs are becoming increasingly resistant to commercialization, and I think that’s totally fine. The only thing that matters is what happens at your table.


    1. From a personal point of view, this is a splendid time as there is a good quantity of high class material being produced (mainly by those who participate on this blog). But whilst I have more material that I could ever hope to play, I’ll make space for top class stuff.
      In so much as there is a desired outcome here, it would be that talented authors get the support they need, for example: (i) Merciless Merchants get enough backing for Coppercore and City of Vermilion Kickstarters to succeed; (ii) a talented artist reads some of the more “manuscript-like” No Artpunk entries and makes an offer of collaboration with the author.
      There are scenario ideas that have yet to receive the “5-star treatment”. For me, nobody has written a small unit war module of that quality yet; what about an anthology of urban adventures along the lines of the cases of Sherlock Holmes/The Rockford files. (For the latter, gathering evidence acceptable to the courts/client may be the biggest challenge). The OSR continues to surprise in a good way: a couple of No Artpunk modules made great use of the Mimic, which I normal regard as an annoy the players nuisance monster.


      1. Sure, don’t get me wrong; I love great new content. Specifically adventures. New rules and supplements rarely do it for me, but high quality adventures are always welcome.

        I just don’t think that there’s any crisis to remedy. There’s nothing to be upset about, no reason to sharpen spears and march to battle. There can always be more better stuff. Personally, I’d be glad to be part of a community with a positive creative vision, proving its point by example. Or not even proving a point—just making cool shit. It’s just that all this defending-the-ramparts stuff doesn’t do it for me, and I don’t see the point. Not only that, but I just don’t see it going anywhere, because there’s no demand for such a thing.

        I think that Prince is doing some cool things here. I really liked the No-Artpunk contest, because it was about creating. I just wish he wouldn’t keep girding for war. The best revenge is living well, and the best critique is creating better. I couldn’t care less if people out there are enjoying their terrible steampunk furry dreck, or artsy rules-lite opium-fueled nonsense. If that makes them happy, why would I have a problem with that? On the contrary, I’m glad that they’re having fun. Life is too short.


      2. I see it as an issue of visibility based on productivity levels and quantity vs quality. Writing a good substantive old-school-style adventure takes time and effort, and producing it to a professional standard of layout and graphics and art takes even more time and effort (and money if you can’t do it yourself). If you’re doing it in your spare time while also working a real job, having a life, and actually playing in a regular basis, it’s a big commitment and producing more than maybe one product a year is beyond what most folks can achieve even if they have the ideas and skills to accomplish it in the first place.

        By contrast, a 1-4 page pamphlet with a couple poorly-thought-out random tables and some ugly art can be churned out in an afternoon and uploaded on the next day and in the same time author #1 produces one product author #2 might produce 20 or 30, and because the barrier to entry is so low there could be a dozen or more #2s for every #1, so for somebody looking for stuff to buy they might encounter 300 type 2 products for every type 1, assuming they’re even able to find it at all in the ocean of #2 stuff.

        We’re never going to match that quantity, so what I see Prince trying to do here is to even the ground rhetorically, so make the type 1 products count for more – to make sure they’re recognized and to encourage those capable of creating them to do so and not either give up altogether or decide to create type 2 stuff because it’s easier and more in line with what everyone else is doing. It can be read as an attack on the type 2 stuff (and its creators) but I read it more as an attempt to rally both the existing type 1 creators to keep going and those who could be type 1 creators but either aren’t creating at all or are mired in type 2 as the path of least resistance. Not to stomp out the type 2 stuff, but to maybe even the odds a bit, so that it’s both more like 50 to 1 than 300 to 1, and that the good type 1 stuff that does come out gets more attention and praise and serves as a model to held other would-be type 1 authors understand why it’s good and how to step their own stuff up to the same level (or even surpass it).

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Edgewise: if you want to see girding for war, watch Pundit’s youtube channel. Prince does this kind of post once in a while and they are always inspiring, positive, humorous and fun. What more can you ask for, online or off??


  15. Just typed in M.A.R. Barker controversy into Google and……… That was depressing.
    That old Book of Ebon Bindings is starting to look ickier than ever.
    Is there some, “I’m not a snowflake but….” Preface we should start using, INASB maybe. Incidentally much as I love Nights Dark Terror as a module, there are a few comments about slavery in there that could be problematic from an early 21st century viewpoint.
    Or the viewpoint from about the time they were composing Amazing Grace to be honest about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Having said all that, I’m not sure I want to live in a world where a Fighter, a Cleric, a Thief and a Dwarf (pronouns optional) can’t team up to rescue some Elf maidens from evil orc slavers.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I wish I understood more of your references:

    “And to ye Once Great King, I say fondly: Your dream will live yet”

    Who is this “Once Great King” of which you speak, and where would I find more of him?


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