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Tuesday 16 September 2014

The OSR, Storygames, and Attacks on 5e D&D

If we look at expressions of contempt for the OSR, attacks on personalities in old-school, and expressions of disdain or disapproval for or attacks upon 5e D&D, we find a common pattern emerging.  Some people might mistakenly assume that the issue is with the personalities in particular, and that things like the OSR or 5e are just "collateral damage"; that attacks on me, for example, may involve insulting the OSR or 5e because I'm a fan of both, but the real point of said attacks are to get to me. I think that's wrong; in fact, it's the other way around.

It's pretty often I get known Forgist/Storygamer types trying to claim I'm "not a real game designer" because my games are "derivative" and don't use jenga tiles and tiddlywinks like their serious examinations of space marines with ennui.  There are certainly people who, say, hate me and use the OSR as just a premise to attack me.  However, there's also a general sense of contempt for old-school gaming in certain circles that has nothing to do with me or any other "personality".  It has to do with the pseudo-intellectual Forge "theory" crowd feeling pissed off that their ideas largely failed, and that now the OSR's ideas are hugely influential on things like 5e D&D.

The issue is with their resentment over having lost. There are people who never forgave regular gamers for not wholeheartedly abandoning D&D and embracing their RPGs about playing degenerate victorian university professors or holocaust victims suffering helplessly or pirates raping the corpses of cabin boys.

Many of these people became the Pseudo-activists who we see all over G+ today, the ones arguing that regular roleplaying needs to be put down for the sake of the children or something.  It's that same elitist hatred of D&D that a certain sector of the hobby always had, only now they've weaponized social causes to use these to attack those people and games they've never ever liked.
Which is why if you have an OSR RPG that mentions wenches or shows an image of a warrior woman in skimpy armor (or even in FULL armor, as the whole "Aleena the Cleric is sexist" thing proved), you're history's greatest monsters; but if you are a Storygame-designer who's got a game where you play underaged maids who lust after their adult masters while wearing transparent uniforms, you're a bold visionary and sexism is irrelevant because you have the Cool-kids seal of approval.

It proves this isn't about "causes" but about going after the games you don't like.  So likewise, attacks on individuals isn't about individuals but about ideology.

These people doing the attacking are people who not long ago were saying all of D&D is "incoherent" and an inferior game. And the OSR was the furthest away from the spirit of all their ideas, saying "no, we don't need to invent all-new theories and radically re-invent the hobby; we need to get back to the roots.  No, we don't need to trust our games to a group of self-styled elite indie game designers, we need to give the GM more power, not less".  They DESPISE us for that, and for the OSR's success.

Never mind that the one group is an RPG group, playing games that are about interpreting a character in a virtual world, while the other are storygamers, whose goal is the creation of a story (with world and character being mere backdrops to that).  That's the core abyss that stretches between one concept of what RPGs should be like and the other, but the separation in basic philosophy goes further than that, when you look at the details of just what this means in practice.

Beyond that, the storygamers believe that rules must be played as written, and that no one should be able to alter them.  The GAME DESIGNER is god. The GM is like a monopoly banker, a mere facilitator who brings the glorious ideas of the designer (whose word is law) down to the players (who are the ones who get to be in charge of the group).  The GM is in charge of almost nothing. His 'world' and characters are just a potemkin-village for the players to weave their story-making in, and he very explicitly isn't allowed to be the one who makes Story (the whole point of the storygame) because that would be bad.

The OSR believes that rules are utterly malleable, you can take stuff out, put stuff in, you can run a game using the LotFP rule book, the AD&D 1e Monster Manual, and the Adventures Dark & Deep GM guide while running an adventure made for Labyrinth Lord and using magic items from Arrows of Indra.
The GM is god. The game designer is a producer of ideas to help the GM create and run his world, and the players get to play their characters, but are not the ones in charge of the world, or the group. They are in charge of their characters, which is 50% of the point of an RPG, and the GM in charge of the virtual world where the characters operate, which is the other 50% of the point.

Both the OSR, and D&D 5e, are a forceful rejection of all the core storygaming values.  So don't expect 'consultantgate' to be the end of things.  Nothing will ever satisfy these people because what it's really about is the entire hobby having rejected their idea of 'sophistication'.  Take this as a prophecy, cheap and obvious as it may be: it is only a matter of time until the next big attack on 5e, and the efforts to undermine the game, and the entire hobby, will not stop.


Currently Smoking: Raleigh Volcano + Brebbia no.7 Mix


  1. Checkers is an inferior game to chess, yet it stubbornly continues to find new players every year.

    I am an old man who remembers the original attacks on D&D in the 80s. Those failed to kill the hobby. I suspect criticism on social media will also fail.

    Now, you mentioned something about wenches?

  2. The GM is not God. God is one of his little NPC's.

  3. And of course, those haters could just play games they like and leave other folks alone...But NO!
    Actually, I like the storygames as an occasional one-off, but for a regular group meeting weekly (say) the more traditional RPGs work better. But somehow I am missing the urge to crush people with different tastes into the carpet.
    "Play and Let Play" is so simple, but apparently rageheads don't get anything out of it--which is what makes them rageheads.

  4. Could the attitude be a generational phenomena? Maybe we should start awarding participation trophies to the poor things.

  5. This is an excellent piece, unfortunately. I say unfortunately because this has now infected my own circle of gaming friends. You're so spot on about their attitudes as far as the RAW, the GM, and everything. The part of it that really pisses me off is that this one guy in particular has been anti-evangelizing against 5e, and it's all the things you've mentioned.

    In the past, I might have been tempted to try and see things in a brighter light, but I've seen it come home to roost in my own group, and it's truly horrible. Some people would rather expound their theories in grand philosophical terms than just let themselves have fun playing a game that a friend wants to run. And it's not enough for them to just say, "I don't care for the OSR". No, they have to attempt justify their opinions as objectively better or truer.

    It's truly disheartening.

    1. The way to combat that at the 'personal circle' level (which is probably the most important level of all) is by running totally fucking awesome OSR campaigns. That way when the Infected start talking smack, everyone else will be like "fuck that! Chris' games are awesome, so the OSR must be good!"

  6. "Nothing will ever satisfy these people because what it's really about is the entire hobby having rejected their idea of 'sophistication"

    The same sort of SJW scourge swept through the Atheist community a few years ago with #elevatorgate. And just this summer in the Video Gaming community with #gamergate.

    When it happened to Atheism I thought it was an odd one off thing, when it happened here in the Tabletop RPG community I was surprised to see the same sort of rhetoric and polemics used by the SJW's. When it struck the Video Game community just last month I was frustrated and dismayed to see the very same smear tactics in use. Twitter shaming, false accusations, letter campaigns to
    site admins and employees to slander those that disagreed with the SJW line.

    It's really the same sorts of people with the same agenda invading all hobbies and media. They've already co-opted academia and K-12 education, the courts and the mass media. Now it's onto the small fries like D&D and Halo gamers.

    Christ I sound like Rush Limbaugh but I'm a centrist I swear ;-). I've just finally had it with the SJW Progressives, their deceitful tactics and totalitarian approach to shutting down all discussion and dissent fro their world view.

    Censorship is the refuge of the coward, who's ideas are to weak to stand up in the forum of public debate.


    Perfect example of the above, Anita Sarkeesian and crew managed to get youtuber Thunderfoot's twitter account suspended.

    1. It is unfortunately going to happen all over the place, because it is a product of an entire generation of half-educated U.S. college students being indoctrinated into an anti-civilization moral-relativist worldview, by super-annuated baby-boomers desperate to keep pushing their fucked-up paradigm onto our culture.
      They're indoctrinated to promote Gramscian Socialism, which is to say the variety of socialism where the Middle Class is tricked into dismantling civil society by the manipulation of the very middle-class prejudice they already have: of thinking they're smarter and morally superior to all other social classes. Thus they are taught to hate the upper class and all authority and hierarchy other than their own conformity-culture, and that in turn the lower class cannot be trusted to make up its own decisions, and must instead by be strictly regulated through social engineering at the hands of middle-class college-educated elites who know what's best for the world.

    2. The relativism is why they have no problem lying or cheating to get their way "for the cause". The gramsci is why they're so utterly damn insufferable, thinking that their own petty values and world-view must be imposed on everyone else for the good of all.

    3. It is pathetic how conformist normies put up with it. If someone calls you 'racist' the response should be 'fuck yourself with a battleaxe', not trying to defend yourself. I kind of hate normies more than SJWs for that reason. Weak cattle enable swine.

  7. I think storygames and OSR stuff actually runs on a similar philosophy, the referee makes a little world and plots the players in to play it, though a lot of storygames to come across as pretentious

    1. They don't "come off" as pretentious, they are. Luke Crane is a serious game designer and rather haughty with his tone. But he's not conceited, precisely because he is a game designer who's making a system to work how he wants it to. The SJW half-wits making storygames are pretentious because their 'brilliant ideas' are actually incoherent.

  8. Forge was just the embodiment of SJW college swine in gaming. Like SJW college swine, they're midwits who think they're brilliant beccause they took four years of fake education on government welfare. In fact they know nothing and are toxic lunatics who use entryism tactics that would make Commies proud.

    I'm not calling SJWs commies, btw. Commies have a serious political-economic theory and are genuinely radical and anti-establishment (even if their ideas are bad), SJWs are the useful idiots of the Establishment every time.