I figured it might be helpful to add a little glossary for those few readers not intimately familiar with the OSR or only somewhat familiar with roleplaying games. I use a lot of terminology (out of neccessity) when I review shit and rather then strapping an explanation to every term with each review I figured I might as well dump them here. This blog does assume familiarity with the basics of roleplaying games, if you don’t know what those are, most of the stuff here is going to make very little sense to you but thanks for playing nonetheless (and you can always just read the flavour text and talk about that in the comments section or with your significant other or your cat or whatever). If you consider yourself too much of an rpg tough guy to need a glossary it’s safe to skip this page.
Old School Gaming: Nobody knows what this really means and no one agrees but in general it means those games or game styles that have the characteristics of the older editions of Dnd (i.e halfway up to 2nd edition). This generally means high lethality, slim ruleset, few character building options (feat selection, class abilities, skill points etc.), crummy balance, a focus on exploration rather then story, the ability to make a character within half an hour and a good deal of randomness. It also means fun*. Contrast with: New school?
Xe(as in 1e, 2e etc.): Shorthand for Dungeons and Dragons of a particular edition. If the author means to describe or discuss a particular edition of another game(Dark Heresy for example), one should proceed like so; ‘Dark Heresy is pretty cool. I particularly like the 2nd edition core ruleset,’ to avoid bewildering prospective readers and thus invoking their righteous wrath.
d20: Even though pretty much every fucking edition of dungeons and dragons uses a lot of twenty sided dice, the 3rd edition of dungeons and dragons is often referred to as the D20 system for using even more fucking 20-sided dice to resolve conflicts in its game mechanics. Generally considered terrible by grognards and old people, the author considers it a valiant but flawed effort that nevertheless may have saved Dungeons and Dragons. It is enjoyed by many even to this day, in the form of its spiritual successor, mighty Pathfinder. Famous among other things for making its rules more or less open domain, thus spawning a veritable legion of 3rd party supplements, some of which are great.
White Wolf: A Gaming Company that makes angsty horror roleplaying games about being a sad werewolf or a vampire and whatnot. Fairly well known, infamous among some for its pretentiousness, insane amount of increasingly useless supplements and baroque naming conventions. Very popular in the 90s. With a few noted exceptions, the author is not overly fond of White Wolf games, not even the unintentionally silly ones, but you can like them if you must.
OSR: Shorthand for Old school Revolution. An informal group of twats that started making games that emulated the old editions of dnd or were based around the mindset of old school play. Noun, adjective or verb. As in: Ich bin OSR, This blog is OSR, what a bunch of OSR, Prince is one OSR sonofabitch, I OSR’d your girlfriend last night etc etc.
Retro-clone: A game (usually OSR) based on an old ruleset with only minor modifications. You might ask, why don’t people play the original game? Usually its because the old game went out of print and this is an easy way to get it back in circulation and make new content for it. I’m told there might also be tens of dollars at stake. Some retro-clones like to mix it up a bit by adding rules, streamlining shit, finally making managable encumberance rules that remove the need for painstaking recordkeeping or going medieval on your ass. Examples: Labyrinth Lord(Basic), Lamentations of the Flame Princess(Basic), Swords and Wizardry(Original edition DnD). Contrast with: Old-school games that have an oldschool feel but are too divergent from their parents to really be called clones. Examples: Castles & Crusades, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Stars without Number.
Hexcrawl: You know how a dungeoncrawl is a thing where you crawl through dungeons? Hexcrawls are a thing where you crawl through hexes. Generally one uses Hexes for large area maps, thus the term Hexcrawl. An overland adventure.
4e: A terrible edition of Dungeons and Dragons that split the fanbase, leading to the coming of Pathfinder. Some people like it for its streamlined minature combat based gameplay, but some people like Michael Bay and huffing paint. People will like anything.
You should be good now.
* = New School can also mean fun.
16 thoughts on “For New Readers”
“With a few noted exceptions, the author is not overly fond of White Wolf games, not even the unintentionally silly ones, but you can like them if you must.”
You’re too kind. Also it’s The Onyx Path now (that they’ve gone bankrupt because they can’t make games for fangirls), get with the programme.
“* = New School can also mean fun.”
LIES. Pick a faction and stick with it. That’s how this culture works.
Ey Von, welcome back!
Befuddlement and Vexation! To me it will always be White Wolf. And I see they have almost finished Beast: The Primordial so we can look forward to some angst-godzilla gaming in the not too distant future.
Whenever I set out to declare jyhad on White Wolf and its loathsome catalogue of angst-wank I usually discover a sourcebook or product that is not entirely made of shit and thus I bury my krisknife for another day. Hence the tolerance. Also I think they may have been taken over by aliens and produced Scarred Lands for d20 at some point, which will forever remain an unblemished mark on their excrement-covered regalia.
Perhaps I should pick a product on which to vent my righteous indignation and disguise it as a review. Are there any ONYX PATH publications you consider especially noteworthy or do I rig the game and go straight for Vtm: Blood Bond and thus declare upon WoD apostasy and excommunication from the right and virtuous body of role-playing gaminghood?
I can’t help myself I started gaming during a transition phase and I am such a good GM everything I run turns into rainbows of molten gold 😦
ONYX PATH – fuck knows, really. I still own all my White Wolf shit (the stuff I didn’t lend/sell/give Dr. Shiny, anyway) and so I have no particular desire to buy any of it in SHINY NEW 2OTH ANNIVERSARY EDITIONS. That appears to be the ONYX PATH’S bread and butter and so I’ve not really paid attention since the name change.
NEW SCHOOL – ‘Transition phase’? What tossfiddle is this? There is the Latest Thing and then all those Obsolete Things and then there is the One True Olden Way (usually the first thing). You’re a disgrace.
I use the d20 Scarred Lands books as my DCC setting. I liked those quite a bit.
No fuss old bean. A pre-bankrupcy White Wolf recommendation will do just as well, provided you keep it under 400 pages(and jesus shit have some mercy with the opening 10 pages of fiction that part in Mage the Ascencion almost fucking killed me).
I have been unmasked for the treasonous interloper i truly am. I guess i’ll have to go back to checkers or converting Tomb of Horrors for Polaris or some shit. I regret nothing. Down with the hegemony! AD&D 1st edition is an objectively worse game then 2e! Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance are not entirely shit! Iä! Dave Arneson Iä Wolfgang Baur Iä! Iä!
If you are looking for an opportunity to mock the developers for all that they stand for I recommend Tradition Book: Hollow Ones. If it is an opportunity to express moral outrage and clutch your pearls, anything from the Black Dog imprint, or the Giovanni Chronicles. Keep your filthy mitts off the Dark Ages and Victorian Age lines though, those are actually decent (or at least I run them, which amounts to the same thing).
I can’t judge you for being a Swine, if I’m honest: I’m about to start running the resolutely modern Iron Kingdoms RPG again despite it exemplifying so much of what I scorn about RPG design in the here and now. Glutton for punishment or secret hypocrite? You tell me.
I’ll make a compromise. I’ll find something i really hate and something i do not hate and compare and contrast. I think part of the problem might be that i prefer games that use characters as a vehicle to have fun adventures and explore the setting and White Wolf is explicitly made(we can argue about its success in that area) to be the reverse. You get kewl angst-powerz and you are put in a setting that is meant to facilitate you roleplaying and exploring your character. Thus the perpetual conceptual gap between the two schools. Even if i ran WoD i would probably do it ‘wrong,’ i.e motivate the creation of more archtypical characters to facilitate easier motivation to go and have fun adventure, rather then the creation of, in my mind, unecessarily detailed angst-muppets that require every action they undertake to be firmly rooted in personal motivation so that they can roleplay how it affects their characters. I get that some people like that style, i may have even played with those people, im just not one of them. I like roleplaying but i like doing so in extreme, exciting and dangerous situations.
Hah! I knew this. Its perfectly possible to like both types of games as long as you are willing to accept the difference in playstyle that inevitably comes with radically different rulesystems. I love Basic D&D but the game i have GMed the longest consecutively is Dark Heresy(still at it, breaking into acenscion soon).
I reckon you’re pretty much on the nut about White Wolf so no bad vibes here. There’s a definite schizoid shriek between what the WOD says it’s about and what the WOD’s rules indicate that it’s about.
The fallacy, though, of which I would never dare to accuse your good self, is that ‘explore your character’ has to mean ‘sit around examining your greasy secretions all night’. If you stop worrying and just run an RPG where all the adventurers are vampires and their cool powers mean they’ll probably kill someone who doesn’t deserve it at some point, chances are things will occur that make feelings happen. Character-defining thespian wankery isn’t mutually exclusive with extreme, exciting and dangerous situations, it’s just that Vampire knobs act like it is.
Muchos gratias for the suggestion, i will look into it. One of my other problems with WoD is that i also didnt really like the Storyteller system mechanically speaking though i am told the new edition is a less cubersome which is a godsend.
Perhaps you like the setting? People will play atrociously designed garbage if the setting appeals to them enough. Ultimately, though i feel a good system informs good gameplay, without a good setting or a good quasi-setting/toolbox if you homebrew shit, the centre cannot hold.
[WoD] New WoD displays a more functional grasp of probability and streamlines the process of modifying die rolls. It still has the awkward hit-damage-soak combat though, IIRC, so that ‘less cumbersome’ is relative.
[IK] Definitely. It should be noted that the IKRPG is very well designed tactical combat skirmish miniatures crunch crunch build optimisation fat rulebook malarkey. It’s not a BAD product, it’s one which runs so counter to my usual taste that I’m surprised I like it.
Maybe you muster some background music and check out your own favorite from http://www.ffproject.com/ ? Just a hunch, kinda…
hey, french follower here
great blog, enjoy your style
kind of a newbie in OSR
give me a top 10 books i should buy : system/adventures/setting (i am already familiar with LotfP books)
Hello and welcome Nicholas,
It’s always hard to give advice if you don’t know their particular taste and Lotfp is so quixotic it’s hard to pin down exactly what it is about but I’ll give you the best five I have come across, played or ran. You can find most of these on my blog (under Reviews). The ones below can be played with any oldschool gaming system (Labyrinth Lord, AD&D, Lotfp etc.).
1. Stars Without Number by Kevin Crawford (core game). I don’t know if you like sf, but if you do, definitely check it out (and there is a free no art version). Great sandbox game, reminiscent of Firefly, Cowboy Bebop, Dominic Flandry and so on. I thought its tools for helping one make one’s own sandbox were great.
2. Slumbering Ursine Dune and
3. Fever Dreaming Marlinko are both adventure locations by Chris Kutalik. While they might be too bizarre, as a rabid fan of Jack Vance I cannot in good conscience not recommend them. Witty, whimsical, imaginative.
4. Mines, Claws & Princesses by Steven Oswalt. Again, it’s PWYW so you can always check it out. A classic premise, great map and terrific description. For a newbie it might be a bit too sparse to run, check it out yourself, but I find the descriptions communicate the author’s intent very clearly and help him set the mood.
5. Many Gates of the Gann. Essentially a masterclass in adventure design, Gates nails the classic feeling of AD&D and has a lot of hidden depth. Absolutely check it out if you enjoy AD&D.
thanks a lot for your long answer !
i am fairly new to OSR but not to RPGs : i dig CoC a lot, and i enjoy weird dark fantasy
i own Stars Without Numbers & Godbound : these are amazing pieces of work
i’ve noted all the titles you’ve mentioned, but i want MORE : i asked for a TOP 10 😉
thanks a lot, i’ll try to find these gems !
take care, have a great summer
Monsieur will have his due ey? Very well.
5. Red Prophet Rises. I would be an idiot if I did not recommend this since A) I co-wrote it and B) It’s gotten some damn fine reviews. It’s also dark and weird, so that fits.
6. Broodmother Skyfortress. If you are new to the OSR, Rient’s essays are a great primer on oldskool gameplay and adventure design and the adventure itself is a fucking ball.
7. Most of the Labyrinth lord Adventures of Peter C. Spahn I found to be well written. Feel free to browse the reviews.
8. Kabuki’s Castle Gargantua was pretty damn fine.
9. Technically it predates the OSR, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Temple of the Frog for Basic DnD.
10. Into the Odd might be worth checking out if you are a fan of China Mevielle’s Perdido Street Station, Roadside Picnic and the Viriconium Sequence. It’s a bit too rules light for me but if you want weird and dark it’s a pretty solid bet.
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