Category Archives: Random musings

Stargazer’s thoughts on the OSR

What is the OSR? If you ask several gamers you’ll likely get different answers. The acronym usually stands for old-school revolution or old-school renaissance. For some people the OSR is celebrating games and gaming styles from the “good old days”. For others the OSR stands for everything which is wrong in the RPG community. The truth is – as always – much more complex.

It’s also not sure if the OSR is just about Dungeons & Dragons and its retro-clones, or about all games from the 1970s and 1980s. Can a game from the 1990s still be considered old-school? TSR’s D&D Rules Cyclopedia is from 1991 and most people would consider it quite old-school. What about Vampire – The Masquerade which was released in the same year?

I have to admit I don’t know who actually coined the term OSR. If I am not mistaken the OSR was started or at least became more well-known in the RPG community around the same time the RPG Bloggers Network got born. This was in 2008. But the idea is of course much older. Since the beginning of the hobby, people stuck to the game they first played and preferred it over the new-fangled stuff being released. For others it’s all about discovering the hobby’s past or celebrating the DIY nature of the early years of the hobby.

Back in the day the DM was supposed to be not just the person running the game, but also a game designer in their own right. Most DMs ran games in their homebrew world using house rules. No two games of D&D were alike. Part of the OSR has always been the idea to create your own stuff and share it with others. Eventually people noticed that there was a market for old-school gaming and the rest is – as they say – history.

Ok, what is the OSR now? A community within the RPG community? A gaming style? A group of game designers and publishers releasing D&D retro-clones? A hive of scum and villainy? Again, it’s not easily answered. The way I see it, the OSR is an idea. The idea is to preserve beloved games from a bygone era and create new material for those games. It’s also a group of people who adopted that idea. But it’s not a group lead by someone. You can state that you’re part of the OSR and then you are. No one can throw you out. There’s no secret handshake.

So why am I talking about all this? The OSR attracts many people and some of them are just not the nicest human beings to put it mildly. People associated with the OSR have been bullies, misogynists, transphobes, gatekeepers, and generally assholes. Some of them even go out of their way to offend people. As a reaction on a case of severe asshattery Stuart Robertson, who created a very popular logo for the OSR (see above), stated that you are not allowed to use that logo if it’s used to promote hate speech.

I applaud his decision. But of course not everyone was happy about that and accused Stuart of gatekeeping the community. This is of course bullshit. He’s merely using his rights to restrict the usage of something he created. But can he throw someone out of the OSR? Of course not. As I said before, there’s no membership card, no application form. If you state you’re OSR, you are OSR.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t stand up against  some vicious hacks who try to take over the OSR. If we want it or not, the OSR is a community of people. Its members may not share much aside from their love of old-school gaming, but that doesn’t mean the OSR is defenseless against bullies. Since the OSR has no leaders and is no formal organization, everyone who feels part of the OSR should speak out against people trying to use the OSR for their nefarious means! The OSR can be welcoming to everyone, an idea fueled by nostalgia and love for gaming, or it can be a much darker place where everyone who is not a cis-gendered white man is not welcome. The latter is not a community I want to be part of.

A Message From White Wolf

Three days ago the interim manager at White Wolf Publishing posted the following on their official website:

Hello everyone,

My name is Shams Jorjani, VP of Business Development at Paradox Interactive and interim manager at White Wolf Publishing. I wanted to inform you of some changes that will be implemented at White Wolf, starting immediately.

Sales and printing of the V5 Camarilla and Anarch books will be temporarily suspended. The section on Chechnya will be removed in both the print and PDF versions of the Camarilla book. We anticipate that this will require about three weeks. This means shipping will be delayed; if you have pre-ordered a copy of Camarilla or Anarchs, further information will follow via e-mail.

In practical terms, White Wolf will no longer function as a separate entity. The White Wolf team will be restructured and integrated directly into Paradox Interactive, and I will be temporarily managing things during this process. We are recruiting new leadership to guide White Wolf both creatively and commercially into the future, a process that has been ongoing since September.

Going forward, White Wolf will focus on brand management. This means White Wolf will develop the guiding principles for its vision of the World of Darkness, and give licensees the tools they need to create new, excellent products in this story world. White Wolf will no longer develop and publish these products internally. This has always been the intended goal for White Wolf as a company, and it is now time to enact it.

The World of Darkness has always been about horror, and horror is about exploring the darkest parts of our society, our culture, and ourselves. Horror should not be afraid to explore difficult or sensitive topics, but it should never do so without understanding who those topics are about and what it means to them. Real evil does exist in the world, and we can’t ever excuse its real perpetrators or cheapen the suffering of its real victims.

In the Chechnya chapter of the V5 Camarilla book, we lost sight of this. The result was a chapter that dealt with a real-world, ongoing tragedy in a crude and disrespectful way. We should have identified this either during the creative process or in editing. This did not happen, and for this we apologize.

We ask for your patience while we implement these changes. In the meantime, let’s keep talking. I’m available for any and all thoughts, comments and feedback, on shams.jorjani@paradoxinteractive.com.

This is huge. This effectively means that Paradox Interactive, the company who bought WW a while ago, is fed up with fixing the mess the people at White Wolf have been causing. Even before its release Vampire 5th Edition and other products released under the purview of the new White Wolf were surrounded by controversy.

Claims were made that the people running the show were trying to cater to Nazis, that they tried to be edgy for edginess’ sake and that they were openly discriminating against minorities. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the latest Camarilla sourcebook for V5 which trivialized terrible real world events in Chechnya.

Again and again the new White Wolf has shown to be at least extremely tone-deaf. There are sections in recent books which are misogynic, transphobic and homophobic, real life events are trivialized, people being murdered is basically turned into a bad joke. One could say that they are merely describing the World of Darkness, which is a dark place after all, but that’s IMHO just a cop-out.

Vampire and the other World of Darkness games have been quite revolutionary back in the 90s. In a time when roleplaying games were mostly dominated by D&D, it became a highly successful alternative which also opened gaming to a lot of groups who felt marginalized in the roleplaying community and in society. But now the same people who were attracted to WW games in the past felt let down by the company they supported for so long, and under attack by some of WW’s newfound fans from GamerGate and Alt-right communities.

Paradox’ decision to basically close down WW as a publishing and design company and to focus on licensing out the properties is probably for the best. Of course a lot depends on who these licensees will be, but I guess Onyx Path will be among them, and they have a much better track record when it comes to WW products than the new WW themselves.

Confessions of a terrible GM

Ok, I am probably not that bad, but sometimes I feel that way. I’ve run games that were terribly boring, extremely formulaic, and I made every mistake at least twice. I remember game sessions were I actively tried to piss off my players, there were times I railroaded adventures that hard you could almost smell the smoke from a steam engine. I have been a bad game master many, many times.

In some cases I was bad because of lack of experience, but more often because of fear: the fear of getting the rules wrong, the fear of being boring, the fear of not entertaining my players, the fear of making a fool of myself. In my case fear either leaves me so paralyzed that I can’t even bear the idea to actually run a game, or it leads me to drop all of my good ideas and replace it with formulaic crap. I have asked players for dice rolls just in order to stall time. At times I was terrible.

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