Yes, just as written in the title. Only in this case, from the point of view of design. I think that’s what makes the OSR what it is, which is not exactly the same as just old-school gaming, or traditional gaming, or vintage gaming.
I think you can view the OSR as a framework for design. For some people, the first instinct is to think of that concept as limiting; as something that somehow hampers the opportunity for creativity. In fact, I think there’s ample evidence at this point with what the OSR’s post-clonemania second wave has put out to say that the truth is the exact opposite of that.
Let’s say you were told to paint a picture, but you could only do it with certain colors, or a song with certain notes; what this means is that the creativity required to make something new and interesting out of this framework is a lot more than if you were just told “do whatever you like”. It is the framework, those self-imposed definitional limits, that allow for the creation of something awesome. Without trying to get pretentious about it, its not unlike the concept behind a haiku; the “rules of design” mean that it takes more thought to make something really viable and interesting, and it can be appreciated not only for itself but also because it was done within these boundaries.
So I think when you’re trying to define what is an OSR game, that framework becomes the most important thing. Are the mechanics of a game something that was designed WITHIN the framework of old-school rules? If so, then however innovative or radical the application may be, it would be an Old-school game. If not, then regardless of how much it tries to put on an old school “vibe”, “air” or “style”, its not really an OSR game.
Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + H&H’s Beverwyck
(originally posted June 25, 2013; on the old blog)