Saturday, December 7, 2019

Story and Games

I've been listening to the most excellent podcast Fear of a Black Dragon. Kind of on a bender with it. I started with the first one I could find in the feed and just let it autoplay over the last week when I'm driving or whatever.

Great show. I love the hosts' enthusiasm and their non-OSR approach to OSR adventures. They clearly appreciate a good old fashioned dungeon romp, but they are not locked into the bog standard, quasi-cultish devotion to a rose-colored-glasses version of 1970s-style gaming. They are quick to dismiss things they don't find useful at the table and introduce ideas that are often treated as anathema to OSR. Y'know... very very bad things that come from nasty story games circles.

I love it. Fuck gaming purity. Gimme the good stuff. I'm the guy who does Black Pudding, which is just about as OSR a thing as I'm capable of producing. It's got motherfuckin' descending armor class for pete's sake. Don't question my street cred.

But I'm also a guy who created a proto-story game before that term was coined. And it had legs and it is still played and talked about today, god damn 20 years later (holy shit). So clearly I have a soft spot for styles of play that aren't purely about exploration, combat, and acquisition of treasure.

And yet... and yet I still approach story game elements at arm's reach. There is a reason that after 20 years I still never play or even think about The Pool, unless someone brings it up. I clearly have play style preferences that aren't in alignment with the meta-fiction elements that are the hallmarks of story games. For example, I still cringe when I think about GM-less games. I think it's because I almost invariably approach gaming as exploration and for the exploration to be meaningful I feel like the fiction world needs to be grounded in one place or one person's imagination - modified by the choices of others, of course. But not driven by an equally shared creation of the fiction.

Or so.


  1. I find myself in the same camp: I love me my OSR stuff but I’m interested in all sorts of extras: fronts from Dungeon World? Yes please! Timers from Blades in the Dark (I’m guessing?) – I’m interested. Duel of Wits from Burning Wheel? I certainly did try it! Resource rolls? Yes! Life path, either random like in Traveller or planned out like in Burning Wheel? Yeehaaawww! Upping the ante on duels liie in Mountain Witch? This is great! im totally going to look at cool ideas even if they don’t make into my games in the end. About 98% of the AD&D DMG didn’t make it into my games, either. 😆

    1. Well-said, my friend. I'm with ya. I'm casually working on a couple of games in the background (Dead Wizards and Rabbits & Rangers) and I'm definitely bringing non-OSR ideas into the mix.

    2. That's a good way of putting it, Alex. There are a lot of really interesting mechanics that can be borrowed from story games, even if you don't want to run a story game yourself, per say.