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Saturday 23 July 2016

The Forge is not an "Ancestor" of the OSR, it was its Greatest Enemy

There has been some talk on G+ about how we "need" to view the Forge as some kind of 'ancestor' to the OSR. The argument, mostly being put forth by opportunistic former Forge Swine and their collaborators who kind of like the idea of the OSR being as elitist and pretentious as the Forge used to be, is that they were really trying to do what we do at the OSR now, and that some of the ideas the Forge had about design were slightly similar in some ways to OSR ideas.

In other words, this 'ancestor' shit is just the kind of total bull that people like Ron Edwards and the Dungeon-World-style opportunists are now trying to push, that this was what they "really meant all along" and that we really owe it all to them.


The Forge is NOT the ancestor of the OSR, it is the opposite of the OSR.  It succeeds at some of what the Forge claimed it wanted to do not because it's related to the Forge but because it *DOES EVERYTHING OPPOSITE* to what the Forge's leadership demanded we make RPGs into!

To say that they're the ancestor would be like saying "Marxism claims it wanted to bring people out of poverty and into prosperity, Capitalism actually did bring people out of poverty and into prosperity, therefore Capitalism comes from Marxism!"

But this isn't true; just like Marxism failed on all its promises and murdered millions of people because its theories were fundamentally flawed, the Forge massively fucked up the hobby and produced nothing but shit games because its theories were fundamentally FLAWED.

That we succeeded where the Forge failed doesn't mean we "owe" something to the Forge or it's pseudo-intellectual 'luminaries' (now desperately holding their noses and trying to create OSR-like games for a quick buck like the good little parasites they are). On the contrary, it means we are BETTER than the Forge, we were RIGHT and they were WRONG, and we owe them NOTHING.

The Forge produced nothing whatsoever that wasn't already pre-existing in the RPG hobby or that wasn't a complete and utter failure. The Forge contributed nothing to the OSR that was not already present in regular RPGs, and on the contrary spent the decade or so of its existence as a sworn enemy of the 'incoherent', 'anti-intellectual' D&D fandom, the 'great unwashed' that they despised and wanted to force to play in the superior "GNS" way that they were selling.

Any Forgist that refuses to admit this, and wants to pretend that they were our allies for the ten years that they were SHITTING ALL OVER D&D can go fuck themselves.

These worthless little bloodsuckers want in at the table to frantically leech some bucks off the OSR's success? Fine. First they have to go to a truth & reconciliation commission and ADMIT THEIR FUCKING CRIMES.   They have to acknowledge the theory they supported was fundamentally wrong. They have to admit that they tried to force it onto the hobby and redefine the fundamental definition of RPGs. They have to admit that storygames are NOT RPGs. They have to admit that the Forge was a pretentious elitist movement in opposition to regular RPGs that despised and attacked D&D as 'incoherent', and pursued prominent regular roleplaying advocates through blogs and gaming forums (which they also tried to subvert and take over).

Do that, and then maybe they get a seat at the table. If not, they can go fuck themselves, and the OSR should repudiate them.

I won the war, they lost it. After everything they did to me and the games I love, they don't get to pretend they were always my allies and ask me to fucking thank them! I know where the blood was shed, and who was doing the knifing. If they now want to benefit from the prosperity generated by peace that was won (that I won!), a prosperity only made possible by the total defeat and failure of every idea they've ever had, prosperity that only exists because we did the opposite of all they demanded we do and proved them wrong against a constant stream of endless and vicious and dirty-fighting opposition, then the very least they have to pay for that privilege is abject humiliation.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Billiard + Image Latakia


  1. Dungeon world is stylistically set up to confuse people into thinking its OSR. Torchbearer is another of the same. There's others too, imitating the image of the OSR to try to stealth-sell their crap.

  2. I haven't seen any shitty Fiasco clones. Shitty Dungeon World derivatives on the other hand... >_>

  3. Is Hackmaster not considered OSr? I think it either predates or is the same time as the forge. Either way, the forge is as best a "cousin" of the OSR, and a crappy cousin at that.

    1. The only common thing between the Forge and the OSR is that they both dominated by small/hobbyist publishers.

      More telling the OSR is built around open content and the Forge is not. The foundation of the OSR are open for anybody to play with.

    2. Well the Forge doesn't exist nor does it publish games.
      However many non OSR games are open content. All the PbTA games (like Dungeon World or Uncharted Worlds) are based on open source materials, as are the FATE games, and so on. In fact I'd say that the whole OGL thing combined with earlier Creative Commons stuff (like FUDGE) has really enabled all sorts of collaborative games writing.

    3. In the chronology of the OSR movement, one can argue (and I include myself) that Hackmaster 4e might have started the OSR movement back in 2001. It was essentially 1st Ed with some 2nd ed stuff and some other "crunchy bits" added. Yes, it was a parody of sorts, but it doesn't have to be played that way. I was part of the HMA (Hackmaster Assn) for many years, and I can tell you for a fact that the following was huge. The old school feel was part of the attraction. Many folks jumped ship to HM because of 3E at the time. Myself included. Once 4e ran it course (legal issues with WoTC), KenzerCo went a different direction, and quite frankly I hated the new direction. They could have published HM under the 1st/2nd ed derived rules using the OGL, but unfortunately they went to their own system, which I find clunky. Since then, they've alienated a large portion of their fan base (like me) and it shows when you go to cons. Nobody is playing the new HM, and it's a shame. I like the folks at KenzerCo, but certain marketing decisions have made an impact. But since then, you have Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, etc. which are EXACTLY old-school in their systems and feel. And as far as the Forge? F*ck them trying to rewrite history.

    4. @blackstone, what ignited the OSR was the twin efforts of Basic Fantasy and OSRIC. And the immediate progenitor was the playtest of Castles & Crusade. Hackmaster 4e was a dead end because while was AD&D 1st reimagined everybody knew it was a special license granted in the aftermath of KoDT appearing in the Dragon Magazine reprint CD.

      What spawned C&C was the old school side of the d20 boom with Necromancer Games and Goodman Games being the leaders of that segment.

      The guys behind Troll Lord put out the idea that instead of just going for the feel make the actual rules work more like AD&D 1st. However they stopped short and went with the compatible with C&C instead of a outright clone.

      Disappointed with what was going to come out OSRIC was developed as well as BASIC Fantasy.

    5. I politely disagree. HM 4e at least started the idea and then Basic Fantasy, OSRIC, et. al. followed suit. Chronologically that's the case.

      Yes, HM 4e did die out because of the "special" agreement with WotC due to the "parody" aspect. I know this first hand when writing a tourney module back in 2007. Each time it was submitted to WoTC for final approval they said "not enough parody". How goofy did they want it? Jeeze! KenzerCo could have done what LL, OSRIC and others did, but oh well. Dave Kenzer did what he could at the time, and it worked for a while. Over time, WoTC got more picky and strict because they didn't want anything to outsell 3E. In the end, WoTC killed it by slowly strangling HM 4E.

    6. Necromancer's "Third Edition Rules, First Edition Feel" predates Hackmaster. Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classic game out the same year as Hackmaster 4e.

      Hackmaster 4e had an impact on cultivating a fanbase for 1st edition materials. But for the early authors of the OSR it was not an influence for several reasons.

      It was greatly expanded from AD&D 1st and was in effect a AD&D 1.5.
      It had a parody tone.
      It was not open content.

      I was involved with Judges Guild along with Necromancer Games and Goodman Games and was keeping up with the various old school communities at time in order to promote the various JG products coming out.

      Hackmaster 4e was just there as far as these communities go. A lot of people viewed it a parody and treated it as such.

      Most of the action at the time was about finding and securing old copies of the rulebooks along with writing PDFs of adventures and support materials. The only difference compared to other out of print RPGs was the sheer size of the fan base.

      The Old school 3rd edition products had slightly more interest than Hackmaster 4e stuff only slightly. Because of the enormous amount of space that 3e stat block most of the old school 3e products were unappealing to classic edition fans.

      Troll Lord Games started out with their own RPG but quickly switched over to d20. Also they hooked up with Gygax and other old TSR Authors and started released d20 products from them. So they joined Necromancer and Goodman Games in promoting old school products using 3e rules.

      Eventually the idea of Castles & Crusade was floated by Troll Lord Games which generated a lot of excitement. However during the playtest a major dispute erupted over how much of AD&D should be replicated. Troll Lord backed off and when with the SEIGE engine and a game that is compatible with AD&D.

      The disgruntled fans split off into the Knights and Knave Forums and there Matt Finch and Stuart Marshall developed and completed OSRIC. At the same time Chris Gonnerman wrote and developed Basic Fantasy.

      The two systems showed everybody else how classic D&D could be supported and when it came clear that Wizards wasn't going to sue either out of existence the OSR was off and running.

      The fact is that Hackmaster was a side note. It was an interesting side note but contributed little to the development of the OSR.

    7. I think that if there are 'ancestors' to the OSR, aside from old-school D&D itself, they were Hackmaster, Mazes & Minotaurs and Encounter Critical.

    8. Rob, I guess we'll agree to disagree. Opinion are what they are: opinions. What you see as "fact", I probably see differently, and that's fine. Does it really matter in the long run? Probably not. The bigger issue is some folks from G+ trying to rewrite history and leave OSRIC, LL, etc. out of the conversation. That's not cool.

      @RPGPundit: I can get behind that: ancestors.

    9. Come to think of it, you and I might be looking at it differently. As far as game design, I would agree that HM wasn't exactly innovative. It was a 1st/2nd ed hybrid with some Rolemaster stuff. OSRIC, LL, & S&W are a bit more so, because of the OGL. I do think HM was partly responsible for at least keeping the idea/concept of "old-school" gaming alive. The spirit of it. It sounds like you're seeing it from the design standpoint, which I agree HM wasn't influential. I do know that most of the fan base jumped ship once KenzerCo abandoned the 4E rule set for a new system they devised. it lost it's old-school charm IMO. And that's a shame. Saying HM was a side show is untrue to the people who devoted a lot of time and money, such as myself.

    10. Hackmaster 4e was a sidenote in respect to the development of the OSR. As far as the hobby and industry goes, KenzerCo had a good deal of success with it.

      Remember the goal of the early OSR was to publish new material for the classic editions. That what drove Gonnerman's Basic Fantasy, and Marshall/Finch's OSRIC. Especially OSRIC, the first version was formatted as a publisher reference not as a set of rules to be used at the table.

      The people involved felt publication was possible because of the interest shown by fans of Necromancer, Goodman Games, and yes Hackmaster 4e, as well as the communities centered around forums like Dragonsfoot.

      Now how to do this? Well in the runup to Castles & Castles a lot of things were talked about. It was realized by Gonnerman, Finch and Marshall that if you take the d20 SRD stripped out of feats and other new mechanics what was left was very close to how the classic edition played.

      Gonnerman went off and wrote Basic Fantasy, Finch and Marshall went a step further and got IP attorneys involved and pushed OSRIC to be as close as to AD&D 1st as they could.

      After their respective release 2007, those active in playing classic editions realized those edition now can be supported by commercial efforts.

      It grew from there step by step over the next decade to the point where anything could be done with classic D&D mechanics is being done by somebody somewhere in multiple versions.

      Single biggest strike against Hackmaster 4e being an influence on all this is not the rules additions or the parody elements but the fact that everybody knew it was a result of KenzerCo scoring a special license as a result of the screwup over the Dragon CD Archive.

      That offered no path for the hobby to support classic editions of D&D. The only thing it did was the fact is showed that older edition rules still can sell and support an extensive product line.

      But Necromancer, Troll Lords, and Goodman Games also did that as well with their 3rd edition rules, 1st edition feel" products. And what they did offered an important clue in how to start producing commercial products in the fact they successfully used the d20 SRD to produce "old school" products.

      Again Hackmaster 4e is a very successful RPG in terms of the hobby and industry. But what being discussed here is the OSR focused on classic D&D.

      Last you have to also understand nobody thought that the OSR would be a thing. Sure people thought about it but it was not considered realistic.

      The attitude was that with OSRIC and the retro-clones now people can charge to make enough money to pay for things like nice art and small print runs. Basically do the usual fan releases but in a nicer format and with a little more craftmanship.

  4. Thank you for this blog post telling the truth once more about Ron Edwards and the Forge. May he never be able to deceive anyone again.

  5. If the Forge was truly about innovation and freedom then where is the open content produced by it main advocates?

  6. Actually Marxism was developed from Hegel, and indeed Hegel was a main supporter of Capitalism. As Marx himself would say, socialism and communism can flow from capitalism. Marxist thought is a mix of philosophy, economics, and political action. Bits of it has led to some great stuff (IMHO) such as social democracy and the saving of capitalism from itself, some of it has led to awful stuff such as Soviet statism and totalitarian dictatorships. But, the to and from of history ain't over yet..

    1. To say Marxism developed from Hegel is quite an exaggeration, though much LESS of an exaggeration than claiming that the OSR developed from the Forge. At least Marx was inspired by Hegel before going his own way; whereas the Forge existed in direct opposition to D&D.

    2. Socialism and Communism flow from Capitalism? If you mean lazy idiots demanding freebies from the rest of us while they espouse socialist and communist ideology that they want capitalists to pay for, I suppose that's true. sandersnistas

  7. However, on the FORGE and OSR thing, I am amazed how confused people get. The nonsense that is spoken. The Forge was not the OSR's origin. They are quite different strands of the rpg hobby. I like and dislike elements of both, which I why I find Pundy's utter over the top ranting about it so weird.

  8. Oh tosh and piffle. Stealth-sell? DW is a way to recreate the games we played when we were younger using all the naughty nonsense you don't like. It makes it no less valid. Ditto with Torchbearer. DW isn't trying to pretend it's a retro clone of 0e, in fact it's saying 'we think we can offer an experience that feels like some people's old dugeoneering games' but using different narrative methods. I know you don't like it, but it's clearly stated and clearly know. I can both both, well not 0e, but 5e or RuneQuest and then jump into a PbtA game.

  9. I have never found his ranting weird, I have always found it charming and refreshing. The over-the-top-ness of it was a lampoon of the deadly seriousness many of the loudest voices from the forge were stating about ten or fifteen years ago.

    I have been following this blog since its inception back on Xanga (I remember being able to read the backlog in an evening because it was maybe 30 days old). I have a pretty good grasp of what he was doing then, and what he is doing now.

    I also own (and have reviewed on my show) every game he has written except Gnomemurdered (I didn't get the joke and still don't). His games are awesome, and are the real mark that for all of his gonzo-ness he is fundamentally correct.

    1. You're welcome. Like I said, I think you're doing a lot more than just ranting...I think I get the point / joke.

      But it doesn't make it less enjoyable!

      And your games are good, so there's that.

  10. I have never found his ranting weird, I have always found it charming and refreshing. The over-the-top-ness of it was a lampoon of the deadly seriousness many of the loudest voices from the forge were stating about ten or fifteen years ago.

    I have been following this blog since its inception back on Xanga (I remember being able to read the backlog in an evening because it was maybe 30 days old). I have a pretty good grasp of what he was doing then, and what he is doing now.

    I also own (and have reviewed on my show) every game he has written except Gnomemurdered (I didn't get the joke and still don't). His games are awesome, and are the real mark that for all of his gonzo-ness he is fundamentally correct.

  11. What I'd like to see is a sort of info piece on what is The Forge, how it contrasts with OSR, and how it failed in comparison to OSR. I have to ask for this explanation because some of us are late to this game and don't know all of the details.

    My mindset is similar to why I made Æthercoil a 5E compatible campaign setting. OSR doesn't need to re-invent any wheels that still works, so let's build something on top of this 'good enough for work' foundation. The Forge actually thinks about re-inventing the wheel and sees to improving it. But from the likes of which, they failed in doing so.

    Do I have this mindset right, or am I way off?

  12. I love it when Kasimir Punditsky gets all worked into a lather over this stuff and equates it with Pol Pot and Idi Amin. Much better than his reruns.

  13. Having been there from the "beginning", The Forge was about game design, but only games that fit into what the moderators believed RPGs should be. D&D and all the old school games were held up as examples of what not to do. You could not discuss things with these folks, if you used their theory and were making headway they changed definitions mid-argument. If you gave specific counter examples of how D&D was fun or did work, and were too good at it, you got your thread locked or outright banned. To counter reality, and let the theoretical speculation about what D&D must be like, The Forge even came up with the idea that those who played too much of these D&D games were "brain damaged" (I kid you not) therefore any input about actual play in the day could be safely ignored.

    The Forge was all about how the old school sucked and only their version of the new could save RPGs. The Forge had One True Way and it was only Narrativist/Storytelling Games.

    The site that should get the credit, if there is any, for being the ancestor for the OSR is Dragonsfoot. Believe me I have many issues with the One True Way of about half the OSR's I've met there (that OD&D or AD&D was near perfect as created and anything that came out of any orifice of Gygax was sacred) but they did start the revival and there were many there that believed more in the spirit of old school, such as OD&D, TFT, etc. and made new games in those images.

    Images that bear no relation to what The Forge proposed.