The OSR, indie games, and chaff-of-use

So I read a couple posts lately: https://www.indiegamereadingclub.com/indie-game-reading-club/the-tyranny-of-excellence/ and https://alexschroeder.ch/wiki/2019-05-24_Tyranny_of_Excellence They made me immediately think of this section at the end of Patrick Stuart’s Veins of the Earth:

 

Veins-HowToUse.png

There’s a lot going on there in that mechanical analogy – I haven’t played a ton of indie games, but from what I’ve seen of them “in tight configuration” is an appropriate descriptor: all the rules are there for a reason, and they generally intend to have a much more focused arena of play. I’m thinking of how Fiasco is often described as a “Coen Brothers simulator” or Monsterhearts as a “Baz Lurmann/Jennifer’s Body simulator.”

There’s been a lot of words in the OSR about “how the domain game works” when this was clear to the original players of D&D – “Now it’s turned into a series of large-scale battles! We’re all wargamers: agree to rules, bust out the minis, and proceed.” Similarly, it feels like there’s a real sense in the indie space of “why houserule that? We’re all game-makers here- pick the exact rules you want to set the mood you’re looking for!” I’d even note that “does it do what the designer set out to do?” isn’t included in Paul’s list of How Indie Games Are Judged: “Is this tight? Is it novel? Does it break new design ground? Does it advance the state of the art? Does it answer interesting questions?” (Apocalypse World/Dungeon World are an obvious exception here, there are tons of variants.)

There’s a trend in OSR materials to go system-free – it’s easy enough to translate a generic description like this into your system of choice:

http://theystalktheunderworld.blogspot.com/2015/01/echolaliacs.html

 

 

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