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Monday, 29 April 2019

Classic Rant: There's no "4th Wave" OSR, Yet

So I've been meaning to get around to responding to this here, but other posts had taken up my attention until now. In response to my recent repost of a classic blog entry on the 3rd Wave of the OSR, maverick RPG-designer and Priest of Cthulhu (yes, that's a thing, somehow) Venger Satanis posted his own blog entry claiming that there is now a "4th Wave" in the OSR.

What does Venger think this 4th Wave consists of? Basically, products that in some way have some vague sense of 'old school feel' but do not have to actually follow any of the design rules of the OSR. That is, the systems they use are new-school rather than being derivations of the original D&D rule-sets.

Now, maybe someday there will be some kind of 4th wave of the OSR, one that no one has envisioned yet that injects some new kind of creativity into the OSR framework; but sorry, Venger's definition is not it.

What Venger is describing is neither a movement nor a part of the OSR at all. It's just a way for people to try to shoehorn non-OSR products into the OSR.
It fails as a classification because all you're claiming is that it's "stuff that seems old-schoolish but with totally unrelated systems". That means that those products that could fall under this don't have anything in common even with each other. Aside, that is, from a desire to benefit from the current popularity of OSR products. You can almost claim that as a category, its commonality would be in trying to trick people into thinking they're getting an OSR product when they're not.

Take, for example, Dungeon World and Alpha Blue: two totally different systems. Two totally different settings. One is a storygame, the other a rules-light regular game. The only thing they have in common is that they're trying to worm their way into the OSR without being actual OSR games.

That doesn't make for a classification.

In what way can Alpha Blue claim to be OSR that Maid the RPG or My Life With Master or the latest Star Wars FFG boardgame/rpg could not claim to be so?
Because Venger said so? What would stop Luke Crane from claiming his latest Storygame about homosexual victorian-era latin professors discussing their mortality is OSR because he said so?
Venger might claim that the difference is that Alpha Blue tries to make claim to an old-school feel, but really the main way Alpha Blue has an 'old school feel' is that it is appealing to old-school sci-fi, being based as it is on a (smuttier) version of 1970s sci-fi. But again, by that logic something like Starblazer Adventures would be "OSR" in spite of being based on FATE. 
Maid and My Life With Master obviously don't try to appeal to some kind of Old-School feel, but games like Dungeonworld or Torchbearer were made by the Storygame crowd to try to look as much as possible like OSR games while actually (deceptively, I would argue) fooling purchasers into getting a game that is almost the exact opposite of Old-school in terms of mechanics.
Alpha Blue's system is not as such Anti-OSR the way those storygamer-products are, but it is still not an old-school system.

The fundamental design framework of the OSR, system-wise, is starting with an old-school system and then heavily modifying it. That's a bit different than just making up a rules-system and calling it OSR.
One of the things that defines the OSR is that it is a Design Movement. It says you have to play within a framework, of certain rules, of the old-school mechanics. And then playing around with that to create totally new and different stuff. That's what's interesting and exciting about the OSR, and with 2nd and 3rd wave OSR products it results in games that, rather than being less creative somehow, are in fact challenged to produce something more creative yet highly playable, by testing it's designers to make something new and awesome while still painting within certain broad lines.
The point of the OSR is that it's all about innovation and creativity while following certain parameters.

That's why it's so interesting and so successful, because the restrictions on the design system oblige you not to go the lazy route of just making something up, but rather you have to figure out really creative ways of doing new things with old mechanics. When you do that purely with system, that's 2nd wave. When you do it with setting, that's 3rd wave. When you just don't do it at all, it's not OSR.

Otherwise, if you get to just say that your thing is OSR, you get to the point where you're just diluting the definition into non-existence so that everyone can cash in on the bandwagon whether they have anything to do with it or not.

It's like claiming Blink 182 are Punk Rock.
Hell, it's like claiming One Direction are Punk Rock.


Currently Smoking: Mastro De Paja Bent Apple + Gawith's Commonwealth

(Originally Posted July 11, 2017)

1 comment:

  1. No comments? Goodie! It all comes down to post-modernist gobble-de-gook where there are no longer "standards". It's all subjective BS, IOW. "If I say it is what I claim it is thus it is what I say it is." PM thought has given us concrete blocks for cut stone, opinion for once meaningful discourse and facts, essentially tin-plated substitutions for the once substantial in everything. It's also the pride and joy lingo of Cultural Marxists. Go figure. Tear down the past to make it their own in the present.