What is the OSR? The *definitive* answer

With all the hullabaloo around the definition of “OSR”, I felt it was incumbent upon me to provide the definitive answer.

And of course, given that it’s the OSR we’re talking about, that means a random table!

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Die Roll (d20) The OSR is…
…Old School Renaissance.
…Old School Revival.
…Old School Revolution.
…Old School Rules.
…Old School Retro-clones.
…Old Shit Rules.
…any game I played, or might have considered playing, from 1980 to 1990.
…a design philosophy of creating systems, settings and adventures that fit within the boundaries of old-school mechanics and concepts; that is, either directly utilizing features that were in existence in the period before the advent of 2nd edition AD&D; or features that, in spite of not having historically existed at that time, could have existed in that period without the addition of material or design concepts that are clearly the product of subsequent ideas or later theories.
…Oh Shit Really? That’s what OSR means to me, because I realized I was playing the way I wanted to, and I liked it.
…anchored on classic DnD and on an interest in similar old school games.
…grounded in classic D&D.
…a marketing term and is neither old nor an identifiable single way to play.
…about stripping away rules and making gamers simpler.
…about moving away from storytelling to adventuring.
…a movement in gaming that focuses on role playing games from around 30-40 years ago. In many ways it is like freeform jazz-funk – it is very 70s/80s, it scares me, and I don’t fully understand it … and among the terrible squealing and hurumphening it produces moments of such sublime beauty and genius that it takes my breath away.
…a term used to describe the vigorous growth of activity and interest in TSR D&D over the last several years, begun online, but spreading beyond that medium.
…a type of RPG that allows a group to have a simple, elegant experience without the fuss or setup involved in more complex, modern roleplaying systems.
…about random monsters, hit locations and armor values.
…people who like certain kinds of games (‘old school games’) and sometimes product things (modules, rules books, settings, fanzines, etc.) for those games.
…like pornography. I know it when I see it.

With apologies to the various places and people from which I stole these answers, some of which date back to 2009. It could very easily have turned into a d100 table…

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

9 thoughts on “What is the OSR? The *definitive* answer

  1. The OSR is DEAD!
    And we found out that we never really needed it anyway to have fun. It was a fun run, yet all too brief, it's been done for what, three, four years now?

  2. Number 15 reminds me of coming home after closing a mall pub on Friday nights my late junior and senior years of high school. To unwind I'd read (often the latest Dragon which was in the Silver age leading up to 100 at the time) and listen to Weather Report (usually Night Passage or I Sing the Body Electric).

    Good times. Maybe I should toss some Weather Report (the a fore mentioned Night Passage or Mysterious Traveller) and design a few dungeon levels.

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