A British OSR?

There’s a lot of quality talk going on about the British gaming tradition; the things that influenced it, the way it developed, and the ways in which it’s different from what I shall hesitantly call the American tradition, the default setting of the Old School Roleplaying blogs.

Coopdevil covers the cultural influences very nicely; Chris does the differences; a whole bunch of Old-Schoolers explain their entry routes; and here’s an old post from the RPG Pundit which indicates something I have sneakily felt for quite some time, with ref: preoccupations with the games of one’s youth overtaking innovation with the games of today.  I started following the OSR blogs because Dungeons and Dragons is something new to me and they are good sources of inspiration and thought-food; my OSR has always been about getting back to the way I used to play rather than what I used to play; this turn toward the British OSR is nostalgia for the things that I am in a position to be nostalgic about.

I am unsure how I feel about this.  On the one hand, these people’s experiences are my own and I identify with those experiences on an affective level.  There is a difference between British gaming heritage and American gaming heritage, too, and I feel that should be acknowledged.

On the other hand, I’m not sure that making a badge of identification out of that is the right thing to do.  I am wary of any hint of that Britishness that draws lines between Us and The Uppity Colonials and makes of itself an excuse for fashionable nationalistic mudslinging of a sort for which I have no time or patience.  I am warier still of flying any subcultural flag that makes smaller niches of an already small niche that has enough trouble explaining itself to newcomers without a further differentiation making a mess of things, having seen the Goth scene turn a difference of cultural values into an excuse for toxic politics and newbie-bewildering manifestoes and allegiances and then fragment still further from that and become less than the meanest ghost as a result.

The feeling I’m starting to get is that I share many of the interests of the OSR folks regarding rulings over rules, elegance over exhaustiveness and creative pilfering over buying the splatbook, but that I might be more interested in where gaming’s going than in where it’s been, and in playing New School games with a bit of common sense than in cloning Old School systems in an effort to obviate it.  I may be British and love WFRP but my current players are more interested in D&D and have played little else.

Anyway, this is displacement activity that’s already eaten up a morning’s worth of time and brain-focus-power-thinking which I need for other things.  While I try to stop procrastinating, you can tell me what you think.  Poll on the right.  Feel free to add options, comments and abuse.

5 thoughts on “A British OSR?

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  1. That third link was a new one on me and I can see the reasoning, yours too. The future is also an exciting place and can be a happy one.

    I think the concept of a British OSR makes sense so long as it is kept loose, inclusive, recognising there’s a lot of overlap and we each have different experiences of even the same materials. It’s certainly fun to look back and be reminded a large number of other people know what we know.

    You’ve probably seen this, but if not, it could be right up your street:

    http://vaultsofnagoh.blogspot.com/2011/07/small-but-vicious-dog-steals-hearts.html

    1. In the immortal words of Lord Blackadder: “seen it, pinched it, spent it.” Only I haven’t spent it yet.

      I think you’re right about the concept of the British OSR making sense; the potential for extrapolation into Yank-baiting is a lurking horror on the fringes, though.

      Pundit is right to point out that all the retro-clones in the world are not going to drive us one inch into the future. A sense of the past is important but not at the expense of the present, and there is much to be done to, say, Swords and Wizardry to sell it to contemporary players.

  2. I voted against a British OSR, but this needs some explanation. Perhaps you could identify as part of the OSR community but with your own identity and approach, a part of which is your Britishness? Members of communities are still individuals who bring different perspectives.

    I don’t see why you need to be a part of some self-appointed sub-sub-culture anyway, and I know you’re hesitant. And I really don’t see why we need another self-proclaimed sub-sub-sub-culture. But you know my opinion on dilution and the taxonomy obsession.

    Re: the links, that third guy is a bit aggressive isn’t he? I somewhat agree with him, but if someone spoke to me like that about something as trivial as gamer culture I would find it very hard to take them seriously.

    1. I think that’s basically where I come down; that while I read the OSR blogs and share many concerns with their authors, I come from a somewhat different tradition in which – among other things – the centrality of D&D is not as big a factor.

      Your opinion on taxonomy and I are fast friends and it’s partly why I’m wary of thise whole development.

      If you (like Porky) mean the fourth link to the RPG Pundit’s blog… yes, he is somewhat over-the-top. I get the impression that he may have had to make this point before, perhaps a few times too often. The forum thread he discusses makes for quite interesting reading if you have time to waste on seeing nerd perspectives bounce off each other.

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