Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Open Letter to OSR & Storygamers


First off, this blog post is an open letter to both RPG communities - the OSR and Storygamers.  It's in response to the +Mark Diaz Truman post here.  And this is the (now closed) g+ comment stream that followed.

There are a number of things that jumped out at me.  The most important being that feuding between gaming communities is a waste of time and energy.

I'm an active and outspoken gamer within the OSR community.  Months ago, you might have heard about my sleazy sci-fi RPG Alpha Blue being pulled from OneBookShelf for about 48 hours.  I write, I publish, I play games, and chat with other gamers.  Regardless of your feelings about one or more individuals, I'm not your enemy... and I'm not the enemy.

To read that these two factions are at war seemed ridiculous to me.  I don't know, like, 90% of Storygamers (come to think of it... I probably only know about 75% of the OSR).  For the most part, I feel like the OSR sees the Storygame community as Canada.  We're vaguely aware that you exist, but we just never really think of you.  You guys are the good neighbors who don't cause us much grief, but on the other hand, you don't go out of your way to interact with us.  Has the US been secretly at war with Canada all these years?  I doubt it.  And if that's true, it's not a productive use of our energies.

Awhile back, I said something online publicly about +Erik Tenkar.  Then he said something about me.  It went back and forth a bit.  At some point during the exchange, Erik mentioned "getting his Irish up," or something to that effect.  I'm Irish.  My mother's maiden name is Murphy.  And I said nothing - at least, I don't recall saying anything.  Thankfully, we eventually got shit off our chests (proverbially, thank Dread Cthulhu), and now I consider him a friend.

I know both +Zak Sabbath and +Kasimir Urbanski (RPGpundit), but I can't speak for them.  Also, they are not in charge.  We don't have leaders or officials or badges of authenticity.  The OSR is filled with a lot of different personalities.  We're not all one thing or another.  I think all gamers are relatively eclectic, actually.  Our one commonality - we enjoy roleplaying games.

If you're going to communicate with the OSR, and I hope Storygamers will, there are some things I should mention.  Though, I personally consider myself progressive and liberal (most of the time), the following are words and phrases that won't mean much to us.  We don't use them.  At least, I can't remember the last time I've seen them used on an OSR blog, forum thread, g+ post, etc. (except for +Kiel Chenier)


  • People have been hurt by this or that - you can talk about your hurt feelings, but that's not going to garner much sympathy.  Life is a contact sport.  If you haven't been badly hurt physically, rub dirt into it and walk it off.
  • Harassment and abuse - similar to the above... if it's not bad enough that you've gotten the authorities involved, then chances are that it's more hurt feelings by people who strongly disagree with you on the internet.  Not worth crying about.
  • We're not being inclusive enough - I don't give a damn what color, gender, sexual preference, religion, or anything else you are.  If we have common interests, let's chat.  If we have a good chemistry, then hopefully we can be friends.  No one in the OSR feels bad because the guy writing his own Labyrinth Lord modules doesn't have enough ethnic diversity on his cover or collaborating on its design.  Focus on the work, what individuals bring to the table.  Don't whine about being this or that... or this or that isn't being represented as well as it should be.
  • Privilege and power - similar to inclusion, I'm not interested in reading words about how straight white males have it easy or that the powerless are cowering in a little dark corner.  Do something you're proud of that a few other people like, too, and then make use of it.  That's what it's all about.  The more power you have, the more your hands are tied.  So, sometimes the least powerful can become the most powerful.
  • Politics - we're not here to talk about Trump versus Hillary, Hillary versus Bernie, or the 2nd amendment versus pro-choice.  Sure, you can mention whatever you want, but don't expect gaming talk to follow suit.  That would be like combining oil and water and assuming it will mix well.
  • Lumping people into stereotypical groups - oh, well, those people have over there have beards (!) or frequent the Dragonsfoot forum, theRPGsite, Tenkar's Tavern, or the Story-Game boards.  So, that means those people are all like X, Y, and Z.  
  • Continually reminding us that we have a problem in the gaming community - the RPG hobby doesn't have a problem - certain individuals have problems (or are problems).  By and large, everything is fine.  Sure, some bad apples exist.  But constantly trying to shame large groups into behaving a certain way is only going to piss people off.  A gaming community is not the place to advocate for social justice or whatever cause you might have.
  • Playing certain RPGs causes brain damage - Fuck off!  That's all I'm going to say about that one.

Obviously, people from both communities have experienced things way before reading this blog post.  I propose we try to move past all that, turn the page, and start anew.  Let's open up a dialog.  But I'd rather not open up old wounds.  They won't heal by re-examining them.  This, here and now, is about moving forward.

If there's a problem, talk about it openly.  Not getting anywhere?  Maybe you need arbitration.  Tag people you know and trust if you are looking for clarification, reassurance, or witnesses.  Perhaps I can be one of those people.  I'm fairly reasonable and unbiased about a lot of things.  I have a lot of friends and tons of acquaintances, but I try not to play favorites.

Of course, first you'd have to get to know me.  Without that first step of communication, there will always be a wall between individuals and communities.  Personally, I could do without that wall because it prevents me from interacting with people I might enjoy getting to know and game with.

Finally, yes, there are ideological differences between the Old School Renaissance and Story Games.  Storygamers go towards the story, while the OSR lets the story come to us.

When it comes down to it, on a fundamental level, I don't really give a shit about that either.  We all love RPGs, and there's a variety of them for a reason.  If you like one type of gaming, that's not going to prevent me from talking with you, appreciating your work ethic, critiquing a piece of artwork, examining a rule/ruling, or even sitting down at a table together in order to try something new out.

Thanks for reading.  Feel free to comment below!

Venger As'Nas Satanis
High Priest of Kort'thalis Publishing

p.s.  I'm tagging a bunch of people who already responded to Mark's post so they'll see this and maybe a dialog will open:  +Sage LaTorra +Avonelle Wing +Jessica Hammer +Brendan S +Elizabeth Chaipraditkul +Fraser Simons +Michael McMullan +Hilary McNaughton +Dan Maruschak +Christian Griffen +Mark Delsing +Lukas Myhan +Nicole Winchester +Andy Hauge +Mick Bradley +Jason Pitre +Ramanan S +Renee Knipe +Angela Craft +James Smith +Jessica Price +Jeffry Crews