I've done several blogs recently regarding what our games bring to the table, what sets them apart from other games, and what makes them unique. The problem, and, I think, a mistake I made, was focusing on their roots in old school gaming. The truth is, there aren't any games out there in the old school community that really bring anything new to the table on their face. Old school gaming is about looking backwards, and while some folks may find that statement insulting, it's true.
It's also, however, not what Night Shift: VSW or O.G.R.E.S. is about.
I've been doing some self-reflection lately and reflecting on our game, what Tim's and my goal was when we started out, and just felt the need to ramble a bit about what the O.G.R.E.S. system is about, where it's going, where it came from, and what "Powered by O.G.R.E.S.™" Actually means. It's going to affect the way we present ourselves in the future, so I thought I'd put the thoughts out there.
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We Are Not Denigrating the Old School Community
This is an important point to make: I am not looking to speak ill of the old school community. I play old school games (so does Tim). I love old school games. AD&D first edition is my favorite version of (official) D&D to date, followed closely by both OD&D and AD&D 2nd edition. I have enjoyed many retroclones and nostalgia games. I am a staff writer for Troll Lord Games, arguably the company that launched the OSR (though they had no intention or pretense of launching any movement whatsoever with the dawn of C&C back in the day, and to this day TLG does not consider itself part of any movement).
When I say that old school gaming looks backwards, it's not an insult. It just is. The old school community is built on rebuilding, revisiting, and tributing a style of gaming that goes back to its earliest roots. Is it nostalgia? On some level, sure. Is it a reaction to modern gaming tropes? Sure, on some level it is. In the end, it's just folks playing the games they liked to play, the way they liked to play them...and those games happen to inhabit the past, but are being given new life.
If Night Shift: VSW isn't that, then what is it?
The "Rosetta Stone" Comment
I wrote a blog awhile back on O.G.R.E.S. as a "Rosetta Stone" for old school gaming. I borrowed that term from TLG, but used it in a different way. The problem with that blog is that it was incomplete. The further I get into developing and designing games that are Powered by O.G.R.E.S., the more I realize that our games are a Rosetta Stone for gaming in general.
What does this mean? It means that when you add the Night Companion to the Night Shift: VSW core rulebook, you can design exactly the game you want to play, from the level of grit all the way down to the core system mechanics you want to use. Many games have described themselves as a toolkit. Our games truly look to the future and change what the nature of "toolkit" means.
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A Multiverse of Systems™
We're adopting the phrase "A Multiverse of Systems" to describe the O.G.R.E.S. system from here on out. While the core book for Night Shift: VSW certainly uses familiar mechanics that anyone familiar with pretty much any edition of the World's Most Famous RPG will recognize, and that was by design, when you add the Night Companion into the mix, you can truly create almost any type of game you want. If you prefer a truly unified mechanic, that book gives you the opportunity to choose between a straight-up, d20 roll high mechanic, and a roll-under percentile system. If you don't like class-and-level systems, that book allows you to eschew that aspect of the game and go entirely point buy with your character generation and advancement.
Best of all, every character will still share the same stats and basic assumptions. Any two characters from any two tables should theoretically be compatible, and any adventure written for a game that is Powered by O.G.R.E.S. should be usable at any table, regardless of which options you choose for your game. Point-buy characters may not be strictly balanced with class-and-level characters, but by and large, they should all work together, side-by-side, and the GM of one table can easily offset balance issues with additional Fate Points for characters that are percieved to have lower power levels.
That's what a Multivese of Systems means, and that's what makes O.G.R.E.S. a Rosetta Stone of gaming. No matter what your preferences are in terms of character generation, options, mechanics, or style, this is a system that can handle it. Best of all, it does it without high levels of complication or advanced mathematical computations. Converting from one approach to another is very simple.
That, in the end, is the innovation of O.G.R.E.S. and what we bring to the table. We let you play your game, your way.
Are We an Old-School Company, Then?
We've identified with the old school community by default. It was important to create an identity when the company formally launched, and since Tim and I have been active in that community, and since the base rules in NSVSW use those mechanics, it seemed to make sense. While we have no desire to alienate the old school community, the truth is, Tim and I have very progressive (mechanics and system-wise) design views and we embrance new-school ideas like player agency and custom character development.
If folks in the old school community choose to embrace our old school aspects, we can't deny that the influence is there, and we happily embrace those folks. In truth, however, Elf Lair Games is neither an old school nor a new school company. We are a company that makes the kinds of games we like to play, and we hope other people enjoy them as well. The Multiverse of Systems description is ideal for us, because Tim and I embrace a wide range of systems and play styles, and we've built a single game that can embrace all of those in one.
Granted, O.G.R.E.S. doesn't have an option for dice pool systems...but watch out for the Cd8 system down the road apiece for that one. You can catch a glimpse of the Cd8 system in our Chutzpah! A Certain Je ne Sais Quoi! RPG (also available in PDF), which is tongue-in-cheek, but uses Cd8 and has proven quite robust.
So in the end, that's what The New Class of Old School™ means. We started off influenced by old school styling, but we're taking it in a whole new direction. We're a bridge, and we offer the DNA of two successful game designers with decades of experience doing this. Night Shift: VSW began as an effort to create a game that would fill a gap in Tim's and my gaming life, a game that isn't currently in production anywhere that would let us do the styles of play we like.
What about Other Genres?
Bear with us: two years in and we're still just getting started! NSVSW is now established as a game line unto itself. Next up will be Wasted Lands: the Dreaming Age, our core fantasy RPG which will take the system to the next level with a core swords-and-sorcery RPG and appendices allowing for high fantasy and the custom character and custom system options from the Night Companion.
Following that, a bit further down the road, we will create 12 Parsecs: Adventures Beyond the Solar Federation, a science fiction role playing game covering every genre and subgenre of that style of play. That, then, will cover the three main styles of play for just about any table: Night Shift will be our modern, urban fantasy, and pulp RPG. Wasted Lands will cover all types of traditional fantasy. 12 Parsecs will allow for everything from cyberpunk to hard sci-fi to space opera and beyond. So stay tuned; great things are in the works!
That's really about all I can say about it. If you're curious, check us out. To get started playing your game, your way, grab your copy of the Night Shift: VSW core rulebook and the Night Companion sourcebook, and experience a Multiverse of Systems today!
Copyright and Trademark Disclaiimer: Elf Lair Games, O.G.R.E.S., Oldschool Generic Roleplaying Engine System, Powered by O.G.R.E.S., A Multiverse of Systems, Night Shift: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars, 12 Parsecs: Adventures Beyond the Solar Federation, Wasted Lands: The Dreaming Age, Chuztpah! A Certain Je ne Sais Quoi!, The New Class of Old School, Night Companion, and other proper names and titles are trademark ™ 2022 by Elf Lair, LLC. All Rights Reserved.