What We Talk About When We Talk About The OSR

Regardless of the wishes of the OSR's prominent proponents, whatever they might be, the term OSR has become irrevocably applicable to a plethora of interrelated but distinct concepts. Necropraxis held a survey in 2018 where respondents rated how much they felt "OSR" referred to eight separate meanings. But eight is (necessarily for the purposes of a survey that folks will actually complete) reductive, compared to what I think the term encompasses, or rather, is applied to by individuals.

As they say, "ask a hundred people what "(the) OSR" is and you'll get a hundred different answers". So here's my stab at putting those hundred answers in one place. Though, this list sprang from my own mind, so I'm just one of those hundred. I'd love to know if anyone's done a similar analysis that identified aspects that I missed here.

Kircher's Tree of Life

I'm aiming to take a mostly-objective stance here; this is meant to be a resource for disambiguation and a reference point for other discussions. Any strong opinions I have I will be put forward in a separate post. This isn't particularly well-polished, barely more than my initial thoughts as I was formulating them (else this would never see the light of day as I tweaked it into oblivion). Likewise I'm not putting much effort into researching historical accuracy, so let me know in a comment if I have details wrong or have more context to share.

The only tidbit of opinion I'll express here, in the chance that I never feel comfortable participating more deeply in the discourse, is that in talking about changes in the RPG space, please, PLEASE try to use more precise language around what exact aspects of the OSR you're discussing. You don't have to use these terms, but I expect many disagreements and confusions to dissolve once all participants actually know what each other is talking about. Because it's not an atomic thing. It's a vast, amorphous concept, whether or not we want it to be.