Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Sizing up the OSR state of affairs (How to OSR, Part 1)

The OSR is an odd beast. On one hand, it is a game philosophy that has spurred tremendous creativity over the past decade or so (OSRIC was first made in 2006) that anyone with similar inspirations can DIY riff on. This is the wave I've found myself riding on as well.

On the other, it is very much a community of people exchanging and commenting on each other's ideas and gaming together online. This last part, I'm probably a bit on the outside of. I am not a frequent commentator, and I don't think my thoughts generate much traction with the 'it' people of the OSR. And I don't actually game online.

So, how does one participate in the OSR movement?

Is it enough to blog? Or should one also participate in the community? An opaque exercise of tracking down the right blogs, noticing the crowd that comments across them and join those discussions. And perhaps also sign up to join some of their games online.

Google Plus was a kind of hub for the OSR. In a format that even I could find myself participating in. And that's dead now (and taken all my blog comments with it. Fuck you very much for that, Google). It's mostly moved to MeWe (and perhaps also Tenkar's Tavern) but the feel of it is just not the same. I at least am finding it hard to even remember to go there. It is a big change for the communal part of the movement and one that has spurred its fair number of identity assessments on what the OSR is and is supposed to be.

Another identity crisis has been the frigging logo. For years, everyone's been mostly happy to agree that Stuart Robertson's effort

Was a perfectly consensus-making representation of the OSR spirit. Then he went and changed the license to say that no one who published "material that is harassing or hateful towards women, LGBT+ or ethnic/religious minorities" were allowed to use the logo. This was, as far as I can tell, directed against guys like Venger Satanis and RpgPundit vocal arguments and James Raggi's somewhat sordid associations.

It was nevertheless schismatic and went far beyond the few who did actually indulge in such viewpoints as others went looking, on account of principle, for a new fully open logo. Discussions of ethic vs censorship and to what degree politics and moral stances should influence perceptions of writings followed in its wake as the OSR evaluated itself and wondered what it should stand for.

Jeff Rients hasn't blogged since he commented on Raggi's part in all this, which is probably the single greatest loss to the OSR blogosphere of the past year. Get back in there, Jeff!

In synchronicitic extension of that crisis followed a third one: The recent Exorcism of Zak Smith, in what is perhaps the most comprehensive expurgation the RPG online community has seen. Zak was in many one of the center points of the OSR community whom many others revolved around to fashion the community and is now basically no more as far as the OSR is concerned.

This too has seen OSRists question the identity of the OSR and asking where it goes from here and what it is all about. People like Questing Beast is wanting to call his thing "adventure game" instead of OSR. This is, I believe, unrelated to above mentioned identity crises, but nonetheless significant as early 2019 seems to be a time of OSR review and re-evaluation and finding new identity in its wake.

Others are taking the Exorcism as a call for renewed vigor in the community as a longstanding toxic influence is now gone. Truth be told, I never really got Zak's work. I went to his blog a few times on account of exploring the aforementioned dynamic of "track down the right blogs, notice the crowd that comments across them and join those discussions." And Zak's blog was obviously a main hub. But somehow his writings never clicked for me enough to want to read the next article and his asshole-drama history was such I didn't want to get involved with that.

To answer the original question, I'm gonna settle for "it is enough to blog". In doing so, I am hitching my wagon to the wave of people who are calling for renewed vigor in blogging to be the new IT of the OSR, since this is basically the approach I've been following all along. Everything old is new again. It seems to be actually happening too. My blog roll certainly feels more invigorated of late.

It is also the "return to the roots" movement back to blogging as the primary platform of the OSR that I believe will be the most significant change in the OSR of 2019. One I believe will be for the better.

Which is also why I wrote this post, to start things up again on that front. I suppose I should also check out those who have been making efforts to connect blogs better with the death of G+.

OSR 2019 - A year of slaying dragons and burning villages, dropping out of the group discussion circle, poloishing your soap box and taking your show on the road. I'll drink to that.

I will be following up this post with my own review of the OSR blogosphere and namechecking the people I enjoy reading and follow.


  1. In my opinion blogging is enough - although I enjoy discussions on G+, my main interest is creative content posted on various blogs.

  2. Interesting that you mention Google Plus. It had me look up when it actually started and that was in 2011. Which just so happens to be around the same time when I felt the OSR starting to fade away and no longer producing any new contribution towards running more fun games. There are a few smart posts from 2012, but after that the thing that I regarded as OSR pretty much dried up.

  3. I think the decline in blogging had several causes.
    G+ is definitely one. I was struck by Evan over at "In places Deep" commenting a while back that with G+ dying, he needed a new repository to put his stuff and was going to use his blog again for that(!). So some new perfectly bloggable stuff seems to have been sectioned into g+ instead. besides the whole effect of spending time on g+ taking time away from writing blog posts.

    Also, I am still pissed at google for discontinuing google reader in 2013.

    And lastly, I think a lot of energy that might have gone into blogging is now going into DIY products for onebookshelf and lulu.

    Personally, I really like the blog format for creating stuff. I don't want the finished article with a page count. Hit me with your ideas and let it riff informally from there.

  4. I never got into Zak's writing. He was too big of an asshat for me to be interested in. I never saw him as anything but an outlier in the realm of OSR.

    Keep with the blogging, hit up MeWe for a fix or two now and again. But, most importantly. Roll dice and have fun.

    Don't let your adventure stop just because somebody has an opinion. For opinions are like orgasms. Mine are more important.

  5. I liked G+, but I get more out of blogs. It's nice to see my RSS feed lighting up again.

  6. Think it's time to fire up the old blog again, too. I have been posting rather irregularly during the G+ era because G+ was so gloriously convenient in so many ways. Made me lazy. Ok Blogger, get your boots on. We're heading out.

  7. As nice as it is to hope that we can all just reinvigorate the OSR blogging scene, that proposition ignores that social networks weren't as big a factor back during the initial blog days. As much as I'd like it myself, "going back to blogs" sounds a lot like the early 00's calls to "go back to usenet."

    I think what we'll see instead is a fracturing of the community by platform, so we'll have a Discord OSR,a Reddit OSR, a MeWe OSR (until that platform crashes) and several others, with a little crossover, but all trending in different directions until they become distinct separate aesthetics.

  8. I think a main reason G+ affected the blogging scene was not just that it was social media, but that it achieved critical mass.

    The fracturing of the social media scene is exactly one reason I can see the blogosphere being the centre of the OSR again, since it is the only platform most seem to be able to get behind.

    That said, I would love to be able to tag people in blogs again.

  9. You're definitely not alone in this sentiment. Even before G+ announcement, I was feeling pulled to get back into blogging. Still, having your own home base for people to find you can be helpful. Since I'm trying to wean myself away from Google products, I took to Board Game Geek's, or rather RPG Geek's blog ecosystem to plant myself in all it's clunky glory.

    Perhaps I'll separate myself from a 3rd party and go on my own, but this seems the right fit for me at the moment.