Friday, May 10, 2024

When did the OSR begin? 2008.

I was looking through a box of some of my old gaming stuff, and I ran across a bunch of old OSR zines and DIY supplements from 15+ years ago. I thought, wow, this stuff is pretty old now. And some of it's probably pretty rare too. I wonder if there's any collector interest in early OSR material?
Then I started to wonder... when did the OSR actually began? As a popular renaissance?

I'm honestly surprised the term "OSR" continues to resonate with so many people. The OSR has become synonymous with a major, thriving niche of the roleplaying ecosystem. Kickstarters for clearly OSR-inspired games like Shadowdark bring in over a million bucks. Many creators of new OSR material look pretty young to me - they were probably kids back when all this began. Amazing. Back in the early days I thought the OSR would never be more than be a fun discussion topic that would fade out after a while. I never predicted it would evolve into a long-lived, influential subculture of tabletop gaming.

Like a lot of people, I first became exposed to OSR concepts from reading James Maliszewski's Grognardia blog. The year for me was 2008 - the year Grognardia first appeared. I would argue that one of Grognardia's opening posts, "What's a Grognard", was one of the key events in the history of the OSR. Why? Because it provided a label for old school gamers to self-identify.

Of course, before Grognardia there had always been a community of gamers that refused to accept new editions of D&D. Especially 3rd and 4th edition D&D. This community was centered around online forums like the Knights and Knaves Alehouse and Dragonsfoot. So while the seeds of the OSR existed in venues like this, I don't think they really marked the beginning of an actual popular renaissance - they were fairly insular communities of true old timers. Not new recruits. Grognardia and similar blogging outlets like Jeff's Gameblog and ChicagoWiz's RPG Blog reached a far wider audience, I think. An audience that included lapsed gamers like myself. I stopped playing D&D when 2nd edition was released and Magic: The Gathering shook up the scene. I then got back into RPGs with the OSR. I saw in the OSR blogosphere others like me that missed playing the original TSR flavors of D&D, and related games. I did not find this community by stumbling on Knights and Knaves Alehouse - I found it by browsing blog lists. And the blog explosion started in 2008. The year I started this blog too, haha.

Another important thing that happened in 2008 was that Matt Finch released a document: "Quick Primer for Old School Gaming", which I feel was an important manifesto that concisely described the appeal of the OSR flavor of gaming. I'm not sure how widely read this document is now, because the concepts are taken for granted (which is good), but at the time it was widely shared and discussed. This document coincided with Finch's 2008 release of his excellent OD&D retro-clone Swords & Wizardry. Dan Proctor's B/X retro-clone Labyrinth Lord was also released around 2007 or 2008. I scooped up both these games and played the heck out of them, especially Labyrinth Lord. The first OSR zine Fight On! was published in 2008 as well. Looking back, it's amazing to think how much important stuff happened in that one single year 2008. I didn't really realize the creative density of that year until writing this post.

So, yeah... 2008. 

The OSR began in 2008.

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