Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Is Elf Lair Games part of the OSR?

The OSR, or Old School Renaissance (or Revolution, or Revival, or whatever your "R" word of choice may be) was once a movement created by aficionados of the original versions of D&D to recreate the experience of that game through new publications. It's arguable where it started--some cite OSRIC, while others cite Castles & Crusades as the beginning of it. Still others have their own ideas.

In the end, there was never a really organzied movement. OSR became sort of an identity, a shared language shortcut for "what this game offers."

Unfortunately, that shared identity became diluted over the years, and has even had its share of controversy--largely a case of a few bad apples ruining it for the whole class, because people on the outside seem to have a problem with the idea that one guy doesn't represent the majority.

In any case, the question often arises with companies like Elf Lair, who produce games that use mechanics which are distinctly influenced by old school games, whether we are part of the OSR.

The answer to that isn't quite as easy as one might think.

Is ElF Lair Games OSR?

There are plenty of folks out there who would readily place ELG into the OSR camp, because our games do, in fact, replicate an older style of play. They make use of old-school mechanics derived from the very earliest days of gaming, and embrace the tropes of that style of game. To that end, we're certainly an "old school" company, though we are most certainly not a retro-clone company. None of our games seek to faithfully reproduce the mechanics or experience of a prior game with any degree of exactitude.

We are more in line with what some would call "Simulacrum" games, or others would call "Nostalgia" games. Our house systems, O.R.C.S. and O.G.R.E.S., are unique unto themselves, though they certainly hearken back to the same roots shared by retroclone games.

We also apply a lot of modern game design philosophy to our play. We embrace streamlined rules systems and a rules-lite mentality. We agree with the idea of player agency as represented by the Fate Point mechanic in O.G.R.E.S. or the freeform Backgrounds in both of our house systems.

Personally, I don't consider us an OSR company, though we are certainly an old-school style company.

What's the Difference?

The difference is one of identity, and it's not an identity politics thing. I could care less about the OSR in-fighting and scandals. Those are issues between individuals which don't have any effect upon ELG or our products. Nor do I eschew the OSR for these things. Again, they are what they are, and I respect a lot of people within the OSR community, of which I personally consider myself a part. 

Elf Lair, as a company, however, is seeking to bring a tabletop experience to as many people as possible, as wide an audience as possible, and is not trying to introduce or coerce anyone into a specific mindset of gaming. Our games can be enjoyed, I think, by old school gamers and new school gamers alike. Identifying oneself as an OSR company places you into a certain box. That's, again, not a criticism of the OSR, it just is what it is. It limits your audience by placing a label on you, and that's not something I'd like to do. 

What Are You, Then?

We're a game publishing company. That's it. No more, no less. If folks want to think of us as a part of the OSR, that's fine with me. If folks want to think of us as something entirely different, that's fine, too. It's just not a label you'll hear me actually placing upon us. I like to think we operate somewhere in a gray area that shows an appreciation for the roots of our hobby, while applying modern design philosophy. 

In the end, what I do, all I can do, is make the games I'd want to play, and hope others enjoy them as well. 

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