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A member registered Nov 09, 2016

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Please, please, please check out Patrick Stuart's  Deep Carbon Observatory

An ancient dam has burst, flooding the valley below. The landscape is a drowned devastation filled with the desperate homeless and the opportunistically predatory; the lake past the dam is drained, and the things it kept drowned are now exposed, and open ... 

I love this adventure, as I love all of Patrick's writings. Its opening is a model for how to run human suffering amid natural disaster in an impactful-but-not-gratuitous way; it has to my estimation  the most interesting / nastiest Rival-Adventurer-NPC-Party in all of D&D-esques; I've not seen a better intro adventure to an Underdark campaign, yet.

Throwing in another vote for Emmy Allen's Garden of Ynn -- an adventure set in an extra-dimensional garden / maze, done via tons and tons and tons of random tables.

Also for Dead Planet, by Sean McCoy, Donn Stroud, and Fiona Geist -- *the* cutting edge in terms of layout and information design for adventures.

I'd cite Jacob Hurst's Hot Springs Island -- another masterclass in information design. A complete hexcrawl bursting with stuff, but a breeze to read and refer to because it is written and laid out to be usable first and foremost.

Luke Gearing's Fever Swamp -- hexcrawl set in a swamp. This is the kind of adventure I want to make when I grow up. Crazy, how much stuff it gets done in, what, two-and-a-half dozen pages?

Jason Sholtis's Operation Unfathomable -- just fucking fun. Underdark adventure. Pulpy goodness, doesn't take itself seriously, full of stuff for players to prod and pick at.

confirming that David's Principia Apocrypha is good!

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There isn't a simple answer to this question, because -- yes, the OSR tends to be a set of values / principles. If you are looking for a strict taxonomy you aren't going to find it.

Here are some definitions that I find useful, and reflects the stuff I like about OSR-style games / design / play:

" If you want a 'ten commandments' then this breakdown from the famous Scrap thread works as well as any;

1. This is a game about interacting with this world as if it were a place that exists.
2. Killing things is not the goal.
3. There is nothing that is "supposed" to happen.
4. Unknowability and consequence make everything interesting.
5. You play as your character, not as the screenwriter writing your character.
6. It's your job to make your character interesting and to make the game interesting for you.
7. If you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics suck.
8. The answer is not on your character sheet.
9 .Things are swingy.
10. You will die

By Gregory Blair, Brian Harbron, FM Geist, Zedeck Siew, Brian Murphy, Dirk Detweiler Leichty and Daniel Davis;

There's not deep theory here, I'm just trying to describe a 'scene' or social/creative web that I intuit more than see around me. " 

(from this post by Patrick Stuart; the list was crowdsourced from a discussion thread on G+)


Recently I saw Sean McCoy (who made Mothership) cite Ben Milton (who made Knave)'s definition of the Old School:

" OSR: The more of the following a campaign has, the more Old School it is: high lethality, an open world, a lack of pre-written plot, an emphasis on creative problem solving, an exploration-centered reward system (usually XP for treasure), a disregard for "encounter balance", and the use of random tables to generate world elements that surprise both players and referees. Also, a strong do-it-yourself attitude and a willingness to share your work and use the creativity of others in your game. "


Speaking personally, I like games that don't try to model "rules of narrative" stuff:

Ie: Mothership is a sci-fi horror game, and this is emphasised by how gear in the game works, how squishy the PCs can be, how easily it is for PCs to freak out. But, depending on dice,  it is still possible for a game of Mothership to veer "off-genre" -- it could be a funny comedy of errors, or it could turn out to be a Doom-like shoot-em-up. 

That's by design, I feel? in my experience, games built on OSR principles tend to be foundations -- "Here are some tools to help you imagine being in a thin vaccsuit with maybe a terrifying alien stalking you; go forth and have an unpredictable few hours in a shared imagined space with friends." -- as opposed to scaffolds -- "This game is about space horror, and your group will the narrative tools to have an experience similar to other kinds of space horror media".  

This isn't a mutually-exclusive dichotomy, more a matter of emphasis. 

(I think I first saw games described as "foundation" or "scaffold" by Mabel Harper; I'm not sure whether I'm using this framework as she intended, or misquoting her, though.)


Also OSR-y folks like Emmy Allen and Luka Rejec have touched on the idea that D&D / D&D-esques are a shared language. This feels true, to me. The Old School tends to use the familiar grammar of D&D (and other well-known rulesets) to write new and fresh things, and converse with each other. This is why Daniel Sell's initiative system for Troika! (as one example among many) is something you can easily jury-rig into other things.

The new, numinous edition of TROIKA! -- Daniel Sell's acid-science-fantasy RPG  -- is out.

It has wonderful art, tight and evocative anti-canon writing, and perhaps the best and pithiest introduction to roleplaying games (of the OSR-y / traditional / art-punk-y style?), yet:

I thought it appropriate to kick off these sub-forums with that.