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!

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