12 Days of the UK OSR : Introduction

Ok so if you are going from day 1 of the 12 days of XMAS being Christmas Day, I’m one day late but hey according to Wikipedia some traditions start it on Boxing Day and besides I was busy on XMAS day 😛

So onto business. Seems like some folk still need an education about what us UK gamers consider Old School, I’m looking at you narrow minded Yanks here with your love of an Original D&D that never was.  One US OSR fanzine editor noted that in his recent trips over to Dragonmeet & UK Games Expo he hadn’t seen any evidence of OSR publishers….he obviously hadn’t looked at the Cubicle 7 stand , who publish a fine selection of UK OSR games. If you think the UK OSR is just about D&D clones, read on.

For us Brits the Old School is anything that we could have picked up from Games Workshop from the late 70s to late 80s. Sure there may have been other games shops lurking in backstreets of our cities but Games Workshop was the important one, it had a big high street presence in all major cities, and that’s were everyone got their games. They published White Dwarf that was sold in mainstream newsagents, like WH Smiths. The end point of the UK Old school can be very neatly when GW, who had merged with Citadel Miniatures a couple of years previous, dumped RPG support in 1988, quite literally overnight. There’s a reason why RuneQuest is so big in the UK, its because you could pick up GW’s RQ3 hard covers dirt cheap from the bargain bin when they decided to concentrate on miniatures games.  Others took up the retail side of RPGs, notably the games sections of Virgin megastores (where a young Lawrence Whitaker was employed in the Leeds branch), and over time the network of games shops we have today grew up; but it was never on the scale of the halcyon days of 80s Games Workshop.

But in a sense these games never really left us, mainly because of geographical proximity of gamers in this country its easy to find someone playing old school games, and because its a shared gaming heritage amongst UK gamers of playing : D&D*, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying 1st Edition, Games Workshop’s Judge Dredd Roleplaying game, Golden Heroes,  Dragon Warriors, RuneQuest*, Stormbringer*, Traveller* and Call of Cthulhu*  (* all these games although not developed by GW had GW editions at some point in the UK).

So its no surprise that with the resurgence of RPG publishing that has occurred over the last decade, that some of these games have re-emerged in new editions or games that have directly been influenced by the fine standards set by those 80s games.

Over the next twelve days I will be quickly reviewing what I consider the highlights of the UK Old School Renaissance 🙂

About Newt

Games Designer, Publisher, Web Developer, Dad.
This entry was posted in General and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to 12 Days of the UK OSR : Introduction

  1. This will be an interesting series of posts Newt, I look forward to reading them.

  2. Yeah. I still love my 3rd ed. CoC book. That’s the best looking edition yet. GW used to be great.

  3. Ben Monroe says:

    FUnny, but even for me in many ways “OSR” is synonymous with British fantasy. Even though I’m a California boy through and through, I was reading White Dwarf voraciously when I was in my ‘prime’ gaming phase. I was playing RQ, CoC, Traveller, and stuff like that, and none of that was covered much in Dragon. Different Worlds was okay, but didn’t print all that regularly.

    So, White Dwarf became my games magazine of choice. Because of that, when I look back in nostalgia at the games I was running through most of the mid-late 80s, they’ve got a very british slant to them.

  4. Good introductory post Newt. Also very accurate, British old skool is very different to USA old school in many ways, and the preponderance of BRP games like CoC and RQ is key, as is the degree of support that GW gave Traveller.

    It’s also worth noting the huge following that Fighting Fantasy had in the UK, authored by the very British jackson and livingstone.

Leave a Reply