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. 

Monday, November 4, 2019


The New Class of Old School is Back!

Sorry for the delay in posting the good news, folks...busy weekend.

I'm pleased to announce that at 11:59 PM, on October 31, Night Shift: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars officially FUNDED ON KICKSTARTER!

This was a huge deal for me and I'm super excited to announce that this marks what I hope will be a prosperous new era for Elf Lair Games. We started strong back in 2010 with the release of Spellcraft & Swordplay, which was honestly rather cobbled together. I should have gone head to the ground and plowed forward at that time, but I had little ambition of becoming an actual company then, so I let it run its course. It's still selling to this day, which is a testament to the game itself.

Now, I'm taking everything I've learned over the past 22 years of game design and ten-plus years of OD&D study at places like the ODD74 Forums, and applying it to a brand new house system for Elf Lair Games. O.G.R.E.S., or the Oldschool Generic Roleplaying Engine System, is far faster playing and intuitive than was our original O.R.C.S. system, and super easy to Game Master as well as play. Night Shift marks the first game to use it as a core, but I'm thrilled to let everyone know that next up on the docket is something a lot of folks have told me they've waited for, for a long time: SPELLCRAFT & SWORDPLAY, SECOND EDITION.

The new 2e of S&S will be Powered by O.G.R.E.S. and will see a shift towards more gritty, swords-and-sorcery style play. Fantasy races such as elves, dwarves and the like will be moved to an appendix which will allow for high fantasy play in the style of D&D, but the basic idea for the game will be more along the lines of Howard, Carter, Smith, Lieber, and their ilk, with a heavy dose of Cthulhu Mythos and Classical World Mythology on top. I've been working on ideas for it, for quite some time and am excited to move forward on it. So look for the new S&S sometime next year.

Until then, I've got loads to do on the Night Shift project. Tim and I are cleaning up the manuscript, expanding the GM section, and completing our Night Worlds. If you followed the Kickstarter, you noted that our first stretch goal would've been point-buy character generation and advancement. We've decided to add that in anyway, even though we didn't get there.

Then it's on to editing and layout, after which I work with the printer to learn how to do proper print formatting, get the quote done, and get that sucker off to press. I am HOPING that we can get it out early, before the May target date, but I'm confident that it at least will ship on time. Thank goodness for the help of friends and mentors in the industry I've got backing me.

So that's that: I've promised a return for ELf Lair before and I've been diligently working towards that goal. This, my friends, is it.

The New Class of Old School is back. Hope you'll keep an eye out and support the company in the future.

To keep up with what we're doing in the future, please be sure to sign up for our mailing list!

Also, check out the Elf Lair Games blog!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

FINAL HOURS on the Night Shift Kickstarter!

Well, folks, I'm in the final hours of my Kickstarter and we're about $404 shy of funding. I'm hitting my networks in a last ditch effort to raise that final few hundred bucks. It's frustrating being so close, and knowing that it's all or nothing.

All I can say is this: if you've been a fan of my work in the past, you'll love this game. If you're a fan of Tim Brannan's work in the past, you'll love this game. Our DNA is all over it. It's a great game for the old school crowd. It's a great game for the modern design crowd. It's a great game for anyone who loves modern gaming, and it's intended to launch Elf Lair Games to the next level as a real publishing company.

The rules are lightweight, fast-playing, intuitive and fun. It supports multiple play levels and styles, from normal/realistic to over-the-top cinematic to grim and gritty. It offers a toolkit to let you build exactly the world, monsters, and game you want. And it's dead simple to run.

If you're already in at a $10 pledge level, consider bumping up to $35 to get the hardcover as well. If you're not in yet, please consider dropping $35 or so. It'd mean a lot to me. It'd be a dream come true, in fact.

Anyway, that's my final pitch. There's a ton of information about the game, how it plays, what it does, and even a free Quick Start kit over at the Kickstarter page. Please check it out.

Friday, October 4, 2019

NOW ON KICKSTARTER: Night Shift: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars

Night Shift: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars

Debuting the new Elf Lair Games house system, O.G.R.E.S., Night Shift: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars is an urban fantasy, horror, and dark modern supernatural game that uses old-school mechanics derived from the original, basic, expert, and advanced versions of the World's Most Famous Role Playing Game. It allows you to mimic all the tropes of just about any film, TV series, or novels you like.

All of the following are possible with Night Shift:
  • Cheerleaders that are chosen to slay vampires, granted with extranormal powers to accomplish their destiny;
  • Sisters imbued with the power of chosen witches;
  • Worlds where Fae of all manner battle in the politics of light and dark;
  • The great-grandniece of a famous gunslinger inherits the legacy of the demon hunter;
  • A world where two brothers armed with knowledge and weapons hunt the supernatural in their father's name;
  • And more!
Night Shift is built to handle just about any sort of urban fantasy you can dream up, using the tropes of classic horror-based television, motion pictures, comics, and novels.

 Designed by industry veterans Jason Vey and Timothy Brannan, whose names have appeared in such products as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ghosts of Albion, Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space, C.J. Carella's WitchCraft, All Flesh Must be Eaten!, Nightbane, Amazing Adventures, Castles & Crusades and more, this game brings together two noted designers with decades of combined experience. 

Within its pages, you'll find:

  • Complete character generation using familiar stats
  • Major character archetypes, including the Survivor ("I've seen something weird"), Veteran ("I hunt something weird"), Chosen One ("I am the weird thing that other weird things fear"), Theosophist ("I see weird dead things"), Psychic ("I sense and control something weird"), Sage ("I study weird things"), and Witch/Warlock ("I am something weird")
  • Complete rules for magic, psychic powers, and necromancy/spirit channeling
  • Customizable supernatural character race--play a werewolf, vampire, succubus, or fae
  • An optional skills system to expand what your character can do
  • A simple rules system comprised of three basic mechanics, designed for fast and intuitive play
  • Variant styles and levels of play that modify the system to represent gritty, realistic, and cinematic styles
  • A GM section with tips and tricks on creating a series, seasons, and more, as well as guildelines for building custom character classes
  • A full bestiary with all of the classic monsters like werewolves, vampires, demons, devils, zombies, mummies, and a few new surprises
  • Several complete mini-settings you can use to get up and running right away
  • Conversion rules to use the game with Original and B/X, and O.R.C.S (Elf Lair's Spellcraft & Swordplay) systems
  • A complete alternate combat system, which hearkens back to the very earliest days of the hobby, before the publication of the first version of the World's Most Famous RPG. 

Pledge today!

What Is O.G.R.E.S?

O.G.R.E.S. stands for "Oldschool Generic Roleplaying Engine System." It's the new house system for Elf Lair Games, which will run alongside our current O.R.C.S. and Cd8 Systems. It's another step forward in presenting a new approach to a "unified system" for running just about any kind of game, using mechanics that will be instantly familiar to players of "old school" fantasy games, specifically those that powered the Original, Basic, Expert, and Advanced versions of the World's Most Famous Role Playing Game. 

What O.G.R.E.S. does, however, is streamline and codify these mechanics, to remove what many view as arcane and confusing elements, and break the system down into a fast-playing, fun, easy-to-understand, and open presentation, adding a few modern design elements to improve the smooth play. 

This also means that the majority of products which are compatible with any of these editions of the game, are also compatible with O.G.R.E.S. 

On a Personal Note

This Kickstarter is kind of a big deal for me. It's an effort to take Elf Lair Games into the realm of a genuine small publisher who can afford to do print runs of books, assign bar codes and ISBN numbers, and eventually, hopefully, get us into distribution. Everything is kind of riding on how well this does, including the release of Spellcraft & Swordplay Second Edition. Will it ruin me if it doesn't fund? No, but it does keep Elf Lair in the bottom tier of our capabilities. So if you can support, please do. $8,000 is a reasonable goal for this puppy, but if we can hit $15,000, I'll be absolutely thrilled. 

Anyway, thanks for checking it out. Pledge if you can, and please share it around. Let's make this happen...Carpe Noctem!

Friday, May 24, 2019

NEW RELEASE: Chutzpah! A Certain Je ne Sais Quoi RPG

Chutzpah! is the bare-bones role playing game with a certain je ne sais quoi! It's a firmly tongue-in-cheek game that nevertheless can handle any kind of game you wish to run, no matter how serious. From one-shot over-the-top lunacy to long-term deadly-serious campaigns, this game has the gumption to make it happen. With stats like Cut of My Jib, Childlike Wonder and yes, a Certain Je ne Sais Quoi, you'll be able to take your character building to the next level. 

It's a simple stat and skill die pool system using d8s. Why d8s? I just decided on d8s. There's literally no other reason. You'll throw your dice and count Fist Bumps to succeed at tasks. Included in this simple, 44-page book is everything you need to play a game, including:

  • Complete character generation
  • Rules for combat, skills, vehicles, magic, psionics and more
  • Rules for building weapons, vehicles, equipment and monsters
  • Rules for fear, terror, horror, and madness
  • Benefits and Bugs to customize your character and give them that little something extra
  • Plenty of snark and insults
  • And more!

Why are you still bothering with complex rules systems that require twenty years to read and learn? Grab your copy of Chutzpah! A Certain Je ne SaisQuoi today and you'll never look back!

(print version coming soon!)

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