Valuable insights into OSR play

I’ve read a couple of things recently about motives and methods for “OSR” play that make a lot of sense to me.

First, Zak Smith’s article StoryGame Design is (Often) The Opposite of OSR Design captures why many people play OSR games, and indeed any game where there is a strong emphasis on dealing with the challenges presented in the imagined world in terms of common-sense (and expert-sense when available) reasoning about that world (rather than in terms of rules). The claim-counterclaim elements in the latter part of it are particularly good.

(Aside — Zak relates his “narrative play” to Forge “narrativism”. From my memory of Forge theory, a better fit would be “genre simulationism”, as narrativism is extremely narrowly defined. I have little interest in refreshing my memory to check this, however, as Forge theory is a swamp.)

Second, a thread at storygames “Let’s talk about how OSR-style mechanics work“. If you don’t understand OSR play, or you don’t understand why a game involving a lot of GM judgement could be consistently enjoyable, the whole thread is worth reading.

I found one comment by Eero Tuovinen particularly enlightening. It succintly captures a common weakness in people’s understanding of GM authority. Key quote (emphasis mine):

“[The role of the GM in OSR D&D] has often been characterized in Internet discussions with extremist positions that obscure what seems to be really going on: both the “D&D can’t work because it’s impossible to be impartial and the players are deluding themselves” and the opposite “it’s the GM’s game and he’s got the viking hat and if you don’t like it you don’t have to play” positions ignore how much trust-building, hygienic practice and accountability goes into refereeing old school D&D.”

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