29 October, 2018

Old School Regressive?

I've posted in a few locations about the concept that the "Old School" in the OSR is actually a dog whistle for conservative and regressive gamers to rally under.

There are a lot of reasons for this, and it seems to be gaining traction in a few different parts of the web, but one of the biggest problems here is the definition of the OSR. Different parts of the community have different definitions for it, and whenever there is an element that is problematic, other parts of the group say "oh no, that's them... we're the good part", it's the 'Not All Men' argument all over again. Or it could even be likened to the symbolism of the White Supremacists...

Is it or isn't it?

When I think of some of the big name games in OSR, I think of Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess (Wikipedia tends to agree with me on this). One of the common ideas across the communal identifier is that people will know it when they see it... these three are commonly pointed as being big players in the niche market, so it's curious when one of the staff of Lamentations says...


Is that akin to saying, "yes, I'm holding my fingers in an unnatural way for the camera to display an OK symbol, but I'm not like those other people holding their fingers in OK gestures, and it doesn't even mean anything offensive anyway!!?"

Lots of people have seen through this...
(I am enjoying the RPG Opinions group on Facebook for it's stimulating conversation on a variety of roleplaying topics covering various parts of the hobby... but that's another topic) 

Lamentations is also known for it's penchant for art that should be on the side of a mid 1970s Sandman...
...and titles like "Vaginas are Magic" or "Eldritch Cock" that are clearly designed to appeal to males who are struggling to make meaning of their lives beyond adolescent jokes. It doesn't do a whole lot to bring progress to the hobby. An abundance of tentacles and allusions to hentai don't do a lot to counter this argument.

But this isn't just a post about how a single game is regressive, it's about a whole movement.  Besides, whether it's OSR or not, Lamentations of the Flame Princess does exactly the regressive thing that I think places it squarely in the OSR camp.

Race as Class

Humans can be fighters, rogues, clerics or magic users, but elves can only be elves, dwarves can only be dwarves, and halflings can only be halflings. It's an exoticisation of "the other", a blatant stereotyping for anything that is a bit different.

This has been pointed out now in a few different forums, and in each case, the expected responses were obtained.

From women who game, I tended to get responses that agreed with my assessment.


From progressive and rational thinking males, I got responses that either agreed, or accepted that it was a valid way to consider the situation.

From more regressive types, I recieved backlash.


There were also the responses that you can always change the games because the OSR is more about rulings than rules...

...but I've already had a couple of rants over the years about how I don't like ad-hoc and piecemeal systems. There is also an underlying social reinforcement here, where "the rules apply to everyone else in the world, but not to me... I'm a unique and beautiful snowflake", which is hardly socially or psychologically healthy.

This inspires either a gatekeeping mentality, where the person who has all the books is a stronger arbiter of what is or isn't possible, or adds work to a game that many people consider a pastime of leisure and escape. I'm probably not picking the right words here, some people enjoy that extra work, and that's the very reason why they game. I guess that I'm trying to say that this mentality feeds into a barrier against inclusivity in the hobby.

Progress in the hobby forms a positive feedback loop with inclusivity. A conservative attitude says we've already got enough gamers, keep everything the same. A regressive attitude says that gaming has already progressed too far, and that "those RPGs over there aren't real games"...and I've seen that come from various members of the OSR when they refer to Story-based games. 

I could probably rant a whole heap more on this, but that will do for the moment.

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