Old School Fun
When it comes to games, I’m not a very nostalgic person. That holds true for games of all stripes: rpgs, board games, even video games (where most nerdy nostalgia seems to originate these days)–I like to see things evolve over time. It keeps things fresh and makes the hobby more accessible for newcomers. However, lately I’ve found myself with the most peculiar hankering for some old school fun, and there are no shortage of games willing to serve it up.
Lately, I’ve purchased a number of “OSR” roleplaying games (certainly more than I have time to play, which is approximately zero). “OSR” stands for Old School Roleplaying or Old School Renaissance, which are games derived from that most venerable of systems, classic Dungeons and Dragons. In the same way that game developers have been leveraging the d20 System to develop contemporary games, OSR games leverage the original D&D system to the same effect. Kenzerco’s HackMaster game maybe the first game in this category (that I know of), but the number of “fantasy heartbreakers” rooted in classic D&D game play, has really skyrocketed over the years.
So what is it that has been drawing me to these old school games? It ain’t figuring out THAC0 scores, that’s for sure. I suppose it’s the same appeal that some people have for hot-rodding classic cars: you take something that works well enough, and turn into something exceptional. While the core mechanic of these games may be familiar, what is most captivating is how the authors enhance and add-on to the skeletal framework of the original D&D rules (there wasn’t much there, you may recall…). The results are games that feel familiar, yet with flourishes of modern game design that make them feel anything but dated.
Since OSR gaming is experiencing a groundswell of interest, I’ve decided to dedicate an occasional post to games in that space. In these posts, I’ll dig into an OSR game, talk about what sets it apart from the pack, explore the fiddly bits, and, if we’re lucky, have a conversation with the game’s author (these games are often labors of love that start with just one person). This series will start next week, when I explore a game that has been pushing the OSR boundaries in terms of both mechanics and genre, and has been pushing all my excitement buttons, Sine Nomine Publishing’s sci-fi heartbreaker, Stars Without Number.