Wednesday, October 22, 2014

OSR: Does the OSR philosophy stifle innovation?

Disclaimer: This is not a "bash the OSR" article, but a truly curious query about OSR systems.

Courtesy of Jason Paul McCartan
I was having a Blogger / G+ conversation a few weeks back with some people about the OSR and the tangent of "innovation" in RPGs came up. This lead me to think:

Does the old school philosophy stifle innovation in RPGs?  (specifically in OSR rule sets)

I ask this because in the recent articles around the net attempting to define the OSR, a few common themes came out.

  • It's about rulings, not rules.
  • Role-playing is encouraged by emergent play, not explicit game mechanics.
  • The mechanics are defined to follow the style of xD&D, while attempting to strip away complex or contradicting rules of the old editions. ** 
** Some call this "rules light", but I believe this is an over simplification since many OSR rule sets attempt to clone the complex systems that existed in AD&D (while still attempting to clean them up a bit). I'd call this "rules clarity" rather than rules light.

If you follow the trends in those statements, the OSR philosophy appears to discourage the development of new game mechanics. By definition, anything "new" and "innovative" in games is "new school", not "old school" regardless of the play style.

Which begs the question -- is there room for mechanical innovation in a rule set and it still be considered OSR by the community?

I'm also interested in hearing if anyone believes innovation is still possible in RPGs at all. Has it all been done before? Has any game come out in the last few years or so that adds something truly new or unique to RPG game mechanics?

Perhaps the second question is the more important one... Thoughts?

Update: I posted a follow-up article for people to share their favorite mechanics whether innovative, or just creative...

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