Thursday, May 29, 2014

OSR: an appreciation

I hope the forthcoming edition of Official D&D is a good system in the same way I hope today’s weather is nice in Mongolia. Might as well wish others well, but I’m not personally invested.

I like the OSR. And it’s not because of the ruleset. If the OSR were clustered around GURPS or FUDGE or anything else, I’d still be into it. Really, my personal favorite roleplaying ruleset is probably FU, which is a very un-D&D game.

OSR by Dyson Logos
Here’s what I like about the OSR: creative individuals from many walks of life creating distinct visions with just enough in common that we make sense to each other. It’s a big conversation in which a lot of different people can meaningfully contribute. My life has been spent in the art world, which means I’ve mostly worked with people who solve problems in similar ways. But in the OSR, you have engineers and economists and historians and hunters and cartographers and a million other backgrounds all bringing completely different toolkits to the problems at hand.

I like that OSR venues are pdfs and PODs and blogs—things that anyone with a laptop can put together, full of black and white illustrations and questionable font choices. The DIY aesthetic makes every aspect of the game seem approachable and tinker-able. I appreciate a professionally rendered full-color illustration as much as the next guy (more, probably, given my profession), but when I see it as part of a slickly-realized rpg publication, it’s like a hand in my face, telling me to back off. It says: This vision has been realized. We don’t need your input.

So, I hope the new D&D does well, and lots of folks have a ton of fun with it, and that it introduces some great new ideas into the conversation. But more than that, I hope we all keep doing what we’re doing, because what we’re doing is pretty is great.

JRR Tolkein. The plucky little guy is surprised to find the ancient dragon is awake and still possessive of its treasures. I feel like there's a metaphor in here, somewhere.