“This is a game primarily about interacting with this world as if it were a place that exists. Outcomes will be based on how this world would react to your interactions, and challenges will be as unbalanced, unexpected, and exciting as they would in a real world. Your goal is generally to survive the enemies around you, whether that be via avoidance, negotiation, befriending, or creatively throwing the balance in your favor.” — Brian Harbron
What is the OSR¶
It is many things. Different people have different ideas. Here is mine (to those that know more of the details, so do I. This is an approximation / simplification / gentle introduction. It technically wrong in the minutia).
The Old School Revival (or Renaissance)a is a genre of games that harkens back to the first Role Playing Games in the late 70’s and early 80’s. To the origins of Role Playing Games and to the Sword & Sorcery, Sword & Planet and other Weird Tales of the 30’s pulp magazines and 60’s, 70’s fantasy literature. The co-author of D&D, E. Gary Gygax’s, own list of such literature is known as Appendix N.
The OSR genre was launched in the mid-2000’s with the publishing of the first “retro-clones”. Reformulations of out-of-print, and largely unavailable original D&D rules. There are multitudes of these now. But the ones I remember as being “first” for the three initial flavors of Dungeons & Dragons are; Swords and Wizardry for OD&D (aka LBB), OSRIC for AD&D, and Labyrinth Lord for Basic and Expert (aka B/X, Moldvay). Like all editions of D&D, each of these originals has adherents, detractors, pros and cons. A major goal of the OSR was to make these rules available to gamers so that they could experience them and determine for themselves how they like to play D&D.
Since then, hundreds of retro-clones, new rule sets supporting OSR style play, adventures, campaign settings, supplements, conventions and everything else imaginable has been produced. Much of it by gamers themselves, DIY. Just like was done and has been done since the original games. In addition several companies now support OSR products. Even WotC/Hasbro has made available PDFs of the original rules on DM’s Guild.
If you want to know more about the history and origins of Role-playing games, the definitive tome is Playing at the World by Jon Peterson. I have it. I’ve read 80% of it. It is authoritative, deep, detailed, and scholarly. “Definitive Tome” was not just flowery prose. It is well written and fun to read, but it is not a casual read.
OSR Rules Sets¶
I recommend Old School Essentials Basic Rules Free PDF for everyone. But especially for people who do not know where to start. The reasons are three;
It is a free. A prelude to the complete OSE rules
It is to my knowledge and to author’s stated intention as close to the original B/X rules from 1980 as possible. Making it unique among retro-clones and indie “old school” style rules.
There is a reason the B/X edition sold in the hundreds of thousands and is still played 40 years later. Fun, easy and appealing style of play.
Or, the original B/X products from DM’s Guild (PDFs only).
Questing Beast - Reviews of new products, learn about all the great OSR products being produced every day you didn’t even know exist.
Bud’s RPG Reviews - Reviews of original out-of-print games and products.
CaptCorajus - Reviews of original and new retro clones, modules and rules.
Playing at the Wolrd - History of role playing and related games. Companion to the book of the same name.
Forums and Websites¶
Delve the creations of your fellow gamers with the OSR blog Search.
B/X Mystara campaign setting lives on at the Vaults of Pandius.