- OSR stands for "Old School Renaissance"--a resurgence in interest in pre-90s RPGs that began around the time blogging became a thing online and influences products to this day by people who want to do something new and creative with RPGs but don't think D&D makes people into Nazis or want to hang out with people who do. A small community, perhaps, but one still capable of running a Kickstarter
- While some products or creators or commenters that might be considered "OSR" existed before this, the most important person in the early OSR was Jeff Rients of the venerable Jeff's Gameblog. It goes all the way back to 2004. If you read it, you can see OSR ideas clarify themselves one by one in real time.
- I--much influenced by Jeff--showed up gameblogging years later, in 2009.
- Patrick Stuart--of the False Machine blog and Veins of the Earth etc.--showed up after me, saying explicitly that he was--in turn--much influenced by me, especially by Vornheim.
- Since they were both really influential OSR creators with lots of ideas (and ones I liked and got along with), it always seemed odd to me that the two of them didn't talk much.
I have two points to make here:
1. I think of all OSR game products as existing on a continuum from Jeff-ish to Patrick-y.
2. By what is honestly coincidence, it could be fairly claimed that Jeff Rients created the OSR community and Patrick Stuart destroyed it.
The Jeff Rients' End
Jeff is an incredibly experienced DM (example) whose style reflects having run games for strangers and friends at home, in game stores, and at conventions for longer than many of us have been alive.
His blog, GM style, and game products reflect that experience: how to make sure people have fun.
On the other hand, his game products are few in number and relatively modest. His major thing out is Broodmother Sky Fortress, which is half awesome-adventure-with-tips-for-first-time-GMs and half best-of-Jeff's-Gameblog. The adventure's great but it's pretty short and compact.
Though both I and other people have spent lots of time asking Jeff to put out more product he hasn't--and he once told me his very Jeff reason for this: most of the dungeons he runs are composed a lot of old dungeons mashed together. It's the way he runs them that makes them work.
Jeff has lots of really good ideas for weird things to put in a game, but that's not the center of his aesthetic. The center is: make sure it's playable and fun.
I think a good example of the Jeff Rients aesthetic is the random hireling table in Broodmother Skyfortress: it's a d6 table.
Obviously, if this was a Zak table it would have 100 entries and if it only had 20 then I'd make some excuse like I was trying to fit it on the page with 9 other tables. And every entry would tell you like 4 things minimum about the hireling.
...but I also know what Jeff would say when you ask why it only has 6 entries (including pack-apes, which is cool): Jeff has run dungeons over and over and over and over and over and has found that 6 is enough--after that you get diminishing returns.
So that's Jeff's thing: doing a lot with a little to make sure you have fun.
The Patrick Stuart End
Patrick was not only capable of writing magnificent sentences, he really liked to show you that he was. When I created Maze of the Blue Medusa and wanted to save some time by not writing it all myself, I asked him to collaborate. He's good and has lots of esoteric ideas and the things he writes are brimming with exciting concepts.
On the other hand:
He never rolls.
Last I knew: he lived alone in the middle of nowhere, UK, he's painfully isolated, his best friend is someone he's never met in real life, he's never had--as an adult--a regular RPG group he met with and doesn't even run his own stuff.
He once told me his favorite-ever session of D&D was one he played online. That's fucked up--and it shows in his work.
Patrick Stuart has not a clue how to make a functional game without help from a collaborator.
So that's Patrick's thing: Doing a whole lot with a lot but without a lot of clear ideas about how to make it fun.
Creating on the Continuum
Unsurprisingly, considering the timeline, I've generally tried to make things that are in the middle, or which have the strengths of both:
Esoteric and well-written enough to be interesting and new, but concise and considered enough to be playable. Whether I've succeeded isn't really the point--that's not up to me--it's just often a real thought I have in my head: "This needs more out-the-box playability--this needs a little more inspiring verbiage".
That idea's in my head.
And It's Weird Because...
...the OSR kinda did begin and then end with these two guys.
Jeff showed up, wrote about playable things, handled shit right, and--to the degree he took responsibility for people or talked about other peoples' business--had a moral compass.
Patrick started out that way, but was fucking terrible at it because he had no real-life experience with real people. Around 2017 or 18 he started lashing out at basic 101-level rules of healthy human interaction like "Talk to people before assuming crazy shit about them" and "Don't lie".
Unfortunately a lot of creators followed his lead--the people he influenced took Patricks repudiation of things like facts and evidence as a cue that standards for how to treat each other were now lower--and they ran with it.
And now the OSR is not really a thing--creators and moneymaking entities are still here but the community is gone, because in a world run by Patrick rules, nobody is ever accountable for their actions and interacting with other creators is fucking dangerous.
The OSR reddit would, for example, rather just take down a critical post than figure out how to constructively criticize a game...