Old School Revival

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The Old School Revival, Old School Renaissance,[1] or simply OSR, is a movement among players of tabletop role-playing games (especially Dungeons & Dragons) that draws inspiration from the earliest days of tabletop RPGs in the 1970s.[2]

As of February 2018, according to the ENWorld Hot Games tracker, the OSR made up 0.55% of D&D discussion on the internet.[3]


The OSR was made possible by Wizards of the Coasts' release of their Open Gaming License in 2000, which allowed the free and unapproved use of large amounts of creative and rules mechanic material related to the Dungeons & Dragons game.[4]

Broadly, OSR games encourage a tonal fidelity to Dungeons & Dragons as it was played in the first decade of the game's existence—less emphasis on linear adventure plots and overarching metaplots and a greater emphasis on player agency. Frequently they are built around older rules systems made available by the OGL. As such, the OSR label includes most Dungeons & Dragons retro-clones;[5] most OSR games are variants of either the 1974 original Dungeons & Dragons rules (OD&D)—such as Swords & Wizardry—or the 1981 Basic and Expert sets of Dungeons and Dragons (known as B/X, or Moldvay/Cook, after those sets' primary authors)—such as Labyrinth Lord, Basic Fantasy RPG, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Either 2004's Castles & Crusades,[2] or 2006's Old School Reference and Index Compilation (better known as OSRIC)[2][4][5] along with Basic Fantasy RPG [6] are considered to be the first OSR games.

Early in 2002, the establishment of Dragonsfoot,[7] a website with a lively forum discussion and free creator content, heralded the resurgence of interest in "OSR" gaming. This was followed by the advent of more specific forums, such as ODD74[8] and numerous weblogs focused on discussing aspects of the roleplaying games of the 1970s and early 80s and providing ideas and new content for gamers, such as Delta's D&D Hotspot (March 2007),[9] Sham's Grog-N-Blog (February 2008),[10] Grognardia (March 2008),[11] Tenkars Tavern (June 2008),[12] DMDavid (September 2012),[13] and Goblin Punch (November 2012).[14] Numerous weblogs followed suite and continue to appear, including 'blogs focused primarily on historical or archaeogaming content such as Hidden in Shadows (July 2011),[15] Zenopus Archives (September 2011),[16] and Playing at the world (May 2012).[17]

In addition to the development of internet platforms and printed rule books, other printed OSR products became widely available. In 2008, Matthew Finch (creator of OSRIC) released his free and influential "Quick Primer for Old School Gaming", which attempted to sum up the OSR aesthetic.[18] [19] Print-on-demand sites such as Lulu and RPGNow allowed authors to market periodicals, such as Fight On and many new adventure scenarios and game settings. These continue to be created and marketed, along with older, formerly out of print gaming products, via print-on-demand services.[20]

Style of play[edit]

The general ethic of OSR-style play emphasizes spontaneous rulings from the referee, or Game Master, over set rules found in a book. The idea is for the players to engage with the fantasy as much as possible, and have the referee arbitrate the outcomes of their specific actions in real time.[21] The idea of game balance is also de-emphasized in favor of a system which tests players skill and ingenuity in often strange or unfair situations. The players should expect to lose if they merely pit their numbers against the monsters, and should instead attempt to outwit or outmaneuver challenges placed in their way. Keeping maps comes highly recommended.[22]


  1. ^ Geek Preacher
  2. ^ a b c Full Circle - A History of the Old School Revival - The Escapist, 20 August 2009
  3. ^ ENWorld Hot Games tracker, 28 February 2018
  4. ^ a b Old School Dungeons & Dragons: Wizards of the Coast’s Problem Child - BoingBoing - O6 May 2013]
  5. ^ a b Roll Perception Plus Awareness - Monsters and Magic and the Old School Renaissance - SF Signal 17 June 2013
  6. ^ Chris Gonnerman (2006-01-01). "Basic Fantasy Project News". Basic Fantasy Roleplaying Game. Retrieved 2018-02-13.
  7. ^ https://www.dragonsfoot.org/
  8. ^ http://odd74.proboards.com/
  9. ^ http://deltasdnd.blogspot.com/2007/03/first-post.html
  10. ^ http://shamsgrog.blogspot.com/
  11. ^ Maliszewski, James (2008-03-30). "What's a Grognard?". Grognardia. Retrieved 2018-02-13.
  12. ^ http://www.tenkarstavern.com/2008/
  13. ^ http://dmdavid.com/
  14. ^ "Ten RPG Blogs Everyone Should be Reading". www.enworld.org. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  15. ^ boggswood.blogspot.com/
  16. ^ http://zenopusarchives.blogspot.com/
  17. ^ http://playingattheworld.blogspot.com/
  18. ^ Robert Conley (2008-10-08). "A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming". Bat in the Attic Blog. Retrieved 2018-02-13.
  19. ^ Wired Staff (2009-07-22). "A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming". Wired. Retrieved 2018-02-13.
  20. ^ http://www.enworld.org/forum/content.php?3736-The-Power-Of-Print-On-Demand
  21. ^ Finch, Matthew (2008). A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming. Swords & Wizardry. pp. 2–5.
  22. ^ Finch, Matthew (2008). A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming. Swords & Wizardry. pp. 5–8.