Monday, November 8, 2010

Resources for the OSR Curious

Here we go with post number seven for the DBloC Challenge.

The Old School Renaissance is quite a curious thing. It's a bunch of older guys, often sporting beards, arguing about the various merits of a 35-year old game. They have their battles, but there is some level of respect, at least between the major factions. They have strong (and often varying opinions) about what is part of the OSR and what isn't. With about 18-months of loosely following these guys, I have to admit I've kind of developed a bit of a crush on the whole scene.

Now, I've got the beard and I'm just about old enough, but my gaming experience is a bit lacking. I think I got the Red Box (the one with the Larry Elmore red dragon on front aka the Mentzer edition) around age 11 or 12. I was a fan of the Saturday morning cartoon. I had played the Dungeon board game at a neighbors house. I devoured "Choose Your Own Adventure" books. I knew about D&D, but I didn't have that older friend or brother or cousin to introduce me to the game. I bought that first red box set at the Walden Books in the Clearview Mall. My first dice set was inked (I didn't have to use the crayon). I tried to convince friends to play, but we never got fully into campaign mode. We didn't quite get those concepts. I bought the rest of the boxed sets, but we never really progressed past the first few levels.I played a little AD&D at the time, too. As I got a little older, we started playing some of the Palladium games like Palladium Fantasy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (based on the comic, not the TV show), and Rifts. We never really got any long term campaigns off the ground though, which was unfortunate. Eventually that stuff got put aside. I still loosely followed the industry, occasionally bought a product, and was interested in playing, but we could never get the game together. I had to opportunity to get back into the hobby via a 3.5 D&D campaign and fell in love with the game again. I always wanted to play, but this was the spark that really kicked it off for me. Now that I'm back into the hobby, I've really taken to the philosophy of the OSR games. I haven't had much experience actually playing most of these games, but I've been reading a lot about them and plan on playing more in the near future.

One thing that newbies to the OSR have a bit of a hard time understanding is that this is not a centralized effort. It represents the work of a lot of people, often working independently. The participants are creating adventures, rules emulators, random tables, house rules, monsters, magic items and more. They are publishing this information on blogs, through print on demand operations and PDF vendors. Some manage to actually create a print version of the product.

My intention here is to give links to some of the online resources I find interesting or read regularly. I covered a few of these in other recent posts, so I'm just going to repost that here. I think it might be worthwhile to get all this stuff together in one place.

Starter Document:
A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming
In this free PDF, author Matthew Finch covers some of the basic philosophies behind the old school gaming and the OSR. It was written with the modern gamer in mind, as a way to introduce them to what it means to play with an old school style. He includes a lot of examples of play, comparing how specific scenarios play out in modern games and old school games. An interesting read for sure.

The Blogs:
The Underdark Gazette
I recently discovered the Underdark Gazette. James posts a regular Old School Renaissance newsletter, with links to reviews, new products and other blogs. Great for folks just getting down with the OSR. He also posts reviews he's written and gaming content he has created. I'd recommend The Underdark Gaztte if you are only going to subscribe to one OSR Blog, because he gives you a great overview of what is going on from week to week.

Probably the top, system-non-specific OSR blog. James posts retrospectives on class D&D modules, discusses game design decisions for classic systems and OSR games, and posts reviews. He usually has at least one or two (or more) posts a day. Great writing and great content.

The blog of James Edward Raggi IV. An American transplant in Finland and a die-hard member of the OSR, James (why are three of my favorite OSR blogs written by guys named James??!) doesn't pull any punches. He can be downright brutal when talking about things that anger him, and that seems to be a lot. Lots of great information here, but probably too many rants for some folks.

Playing D&D with Porn Stars
18+ only, please. Not really...At least most of the time. This is Zak Sabbath's blog. At this point he's probably more famous in these parts as the DM for I Hit It With My Axe, a weekly web series documenting his D&D game with various members of the alt-porn universe. The group plays a hybrid of 1st Edition D&D and 3rd Edition D&D, with a lot of Zak's house rules inserted. The blog discusses the show, some of Zak's RPG creations (he loves random tables), and other games the group is involved with. Always an interesting read, even if you eliminated the porn aspect.

Jeff's Game Blog
Jeff Rients writes a gonzo D&D blog with a lot of OSR related content. It used to have a lot of Shatner content, too. Now it has a stronger Mr. T focus. Yeah. Mr. T. Jeff provides all kinds of content to add to your game. Fun stuff.

That should be plenty to get started with for now. I'll get into some of the game systems, publishers, message boards, podcasts, youtube channels, and possibly a few more blogs in a future post.

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