The OSR and My Horrifying Lack of Products

"The OSR is less about the rules and more about the products you use those rules with."--Tenkar's Tavern post, ENWorld Article - Is the OSR Dead?

Given the empty space on my single gaming shelf and my almost complete lack of use of purchased gaming products when I am GMing, it appears that I am somehow aberrant. Does this lack on my part exclude me from the OSR? If one takes Tenkar's ad hoc definition of the OSR to an illogical extreme, then yes. It is a good thing that stuff like this causes no loss of sleep on my part.

I am not going to quibble with Tenkar's definition because I think it is captures where the OSR is today. It is interesting that the focus of the self-identified OSR has shifted not-so-subtly from "process" to "product." It seems we have gone from rulings, not rules to products, not rules. Certainly there has been a desire from the beginning by many to create OGL-based rule sets that would, in turn, serve as platforms for other published products. 

I have good friends who are avid producers and consumers of gaming products. I am happy for them and excited to watch them benefit from their creativity and hard work. Technology has provided marketing and distribution solutions for both producers and consumers. Oddly enough, instead of jumping in myself, I find myself becoming almost Amish in my approach to gaming. No fancy cars or electricity for me.The more there is out there, the less I want it. I have purchased only those items (mainly rule sets) that I knew I would have to use for gaming sessions. But that has been it during this past year. No Kickstarters. No Patreon. No adventures or supplements. 

The funny thing is that I buy far too many books. I have thousands of them. Despite this, I am always buying more of them (mostly cheap used ones through Amazon). With music, I am both a consumer and a producer. I make money playing music but it just results in more musical instruments in our house. But when it comes to gaming, I just need my dice and a pencil. 


  1. I think you are right. What is missing in the argument (in my opinion) is that a huge part of the content produced in the OSR is still free and people keep making that stuff. So the decision of companies to present a compatible product isn't as much about the OSR being "right" about their approach, but the fact that free stuff gets lots of people listening. There is power in that. Oddly enough that EN article actually explains the reasons without drawing the correct conclusions: it's mostly gamers who played rpgs for a very long time now and that's the kind of experience that make good quality possible which, in turn, creates an environment where sharing that experience is worth more than getting money for it (which, incidentally, is the reason why the OSR won't die for a long time). Products are merely a side effect of this, I think. You blog, you play, so yeah, you are OSR. DIY is the very reason why this worked and will keep working ...

  2. Your point, in my opinion, is the most accurate. While the OSR is a nifty little term to bat around, it's just a generic term that is defined countless ways. OSR isn't defined by its production of products. I put out my stuff because I like doing it, it gives me a creative outlet and provides me extra money to buy another gaming book or a real life bill. I don't produce to expand the OSR. I hope in my DIY production that others have fun with it, take a chance to share their work. But should I meet someone who is chugging along with just the basic books and nothing more, I'd say let's grab some dice and game.

  3. Of course Tenkar would say it's about products; he's the self appointed product reviewer general of OSR and has the traffic to back it up. Making it about products helps him get that sweet sweet affiliate link cash. OSR being product focused makes him more relevant and makes him more money.

  4. What Tim said. Many people define the "OSR" completely differently from each other. Is it a style of play, or is it the set of products (free or profit) that support that style of play? Or even, is it the nebulous core around the actual, older rulesets? One thing I can say confidently: any definition of it that leaves out communication - blogs, forums, and social media groups -- has missed the point. It's about communication, community, sharing, and, yes, selling stuff, all modes of communication between GAMERS. It's the give and take of shared ideas, not the give and take of customer service with customers. To my mind products are part of it, but they're merely the most-visible tip of a much larger iceberg.

  5. I've been shifting lately toward being more "spartan" in my gaming product purchasing/collecting. I started out buying tons of stuff, but then realized how little of it I actually use. So now, like you, I've cut it down pretty much to rules, and even then to rules I think there's a decent chance I'll actually use.

  6. I dont see it. You have monster art and stats. That should be good for a creature catalogue. Time to pdf up or die on a dwarf's pointy battle boots.