The British Old School Revival (B-OSR)

NinjaWeasel

Active Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2019
Messages
31
Reaction score
46
Ghostwatch is another good one, maybe not intentionally aimed at kids but it did stir up a bunch of controversy for scaring the snot out them.
I never understood this claim but I have heard it many times. I know the BBC did get a number of complaints, but they were bound to, and the press made a big deal out of it but is there any evidence that kids were really scared in any significant number? I was 15 when it aired and I was really excited to watch it, thinking it was going to be real, but remember being bitterly disappointed once I tuned in. I turned it off after 30 minutes because it was so cheesy, clunkily scripted, and badly acted. It was like watching a really bad soap opera. Frankly it was utter shite.
 
Last edited:

Simlasa

Legendary Member
Joined
May 4, 2017
Messages
1,088
Reaction score
1,654
I never understood this claim but I have heard it many times. I know the BBC did get a number of complaints, but they were bound to, and the press made a big deal out of it but is there any evidence that kids were really scared in any significant number?
It's all received knowledge on my end, I'm in the U.S. and only first heard of the show and it's controversy a few years ago. There must be something to it since it wasn't re-shown for a long time, despite its notoriety.

I really enjoyed watching it though.
Somehow I was able to see a lot of British TV as a kid... Thriller, Hammer House of Horror, Journey to the Unknown, Dr. Who... so I was used to the style of those shows, lesser budgets but interesting stories.
If you only watched 30 minutes of Ghostwatch then I suspect you missed a large chunk of the good stuff... because it does start off innocuous... and a bit cheesy (intentionally I'd say). But I think that leaves the viewer with their guard down when the scary bits do come around.
I'm certainly not saying it's Stanley Kubrick level stuff, but it's fairly unique for its time and the cause of the haunting has quasi-Lovecraftian undertones. As a little kid I'm pretty sure it would have scared me, though I wouldn't have understood all of it.
 

Ladybird

TRAHR
Joined
Aug 13, 2017
Messages
1,666
Reaction score
2,738
I only saw Ghostwatch about ten years ago on DVD, so I knew it wasn't legit, but for me it totally worked. The somewhat bad presentation helped sell it as something the presenters really weren't interested in doing but that gradually got away from them as the night progressed.

It was crap in just the right way.
 

NinjaWeasel

Active Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2019
Messages
31
Reaction score
46
If you only watched 30 minutes of Ghostwatch then I suspect you missed a large chunk of the good stuff... because it does start off innocuous... and a bit cheesy (intentionally I'd say). But I think that leaves the viewer with their guard down when the scary bits do come around.
I did tune in for a few minutes later on, during one of the bits that was supposed to be scary, just to see where it went. It didn't do anything for me even then as the whole thing wasn't just a work of fiction to me but actively felt fake, with no attempt to seem realistic. I guess, like any attempt at horror, if you don't get buy-in from both parties then it just isn't going to work. I suppose it doesn't help that I don't believe in the supernatural per se. Despite that, I do remember making a documentary on haunted houses at College (British College, so thats for 16-18 year olds) back in 1994 and people on the crew getting very freaked out by some weird electro-magnetic activity that kept messing with our gear in one of the reputedly "most haunted" houses. That was far more unsettling an experience than Ghostwatch!

Anyway, getting conversation back on track...

Horror was definitely a big influenece on the UK gaming scene back in the 80s. I picked up a few issues of Warlock and White Dwarf back in the mid-80s and there seemed to be plenty of horror themed scenarios in them as well as lots of big ads for games like Call of Cthulhu. Call of Cthulhu definitely was a big influence here. Maybe as much as RuneQuest was, Maybe even more so. I remember the Fighting Fantasy book House of Hell being wildly popular and influential in the circles I moved in too. I can't say how popular it was in the UK as a whole but it felt to us like it was a very big deal. The horror influence was very noticeably there in WFRP and the original Realms of Chaos books and the atmosphere of those books seeped into all of our fantasy and sci-fi gaming. From D&D to Rifts. To me any British OSR absolutely has to have an element of that.
 

Silverlion

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 28, 2017
Messages
361
Reaction score
483
The Pellinore setting was a British created one, wasn't it? I'd like to see an entirely Pellinore RPG. However, atm my list for games in print are Shadowrun 6E, Advanced Fighting Fantasy/Stellar Adventures (because I loved AFF and the Sorcery! Books too.) Also Lone Wolf but that print is OOP, so I'll do with the PDF's. Also Fabled Lands, but that was new in the 90's.
 

Black Leaf

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Messages
999
Reaction score
2,144
The Pellinore setting was a British created one, wasn't it? I'd like to see an entirely Pellinore RPG. However, atm my list for games in print are Shadowrun 6E, Advanced Fighting Fantasy/Stellar Adventures (because I loved AFF and the Sorcery! Books too.) Also Lone Wolf but that print is OOP, so I'll do with the PDF's. Also Fabled Lands, but that was new in the 90's.
Pellinore was British created, yes. (And has some at least of the trends we've talked about in terms of cities, legal systems etc.) It was serialised in Imagine.
 

Simlasa

Legendary Member
Joined
May 4, 2017
Messages
1,088
Reaction score
1,654
There is a 'collected Pellinore' file out there if you poke around a bit.
 

Silverlion

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 28, 2017
Messages
361
Reaction score
483
There is a 'collected Pellinore' file out there if you poke around a bit.
I've got them thanks to a friend. I love that setting. It deserves its own game.
But let me be honest--my version of OSR would look way new school. Few tight attributes, skill-based, or loose classes (meaning not five-ten pages of special abilities that no one else can do.) Probably closer to AFF than much of anything else. I was watching Okumarts PC gen for Darkfast Dungeons: Fantasy Adventures and that is sort of what I'd aim for fundamentally. Maybe every class gets one special ability. Fighter: Tactics (bonus to hit, knowledge of how to set up fights.) Mage: Lore (Knowledge of weird stuff, how to use magic.) Theif: Subterfuge (Sneaky/Understanding how to get around problems, aka Traps, Climbing), Cleric: Divine Grace (Religion, Heal/protect.) I love Rangers, and Paladins, but Clerics take their spot basically in D&D. Rangers might just be: Instinct (Survival/Animal friends)
Who knows, I need to re-read Pellinore, first.
 
Last edited:

Mankcam

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 24, 2017
Messages
1,361
Reaction score
2,503
Barbarians of Lemuria is a current indie game that gets alot of love, and rightly so.
Very simple, straightforward, and easy to hang pulpy setting material off.

Regarding game mechanics structure, in many ways it kinda feels like a refined Advanced Fighting Fantasy.
Sometimes simplicity and practicality work better than lots of moving parts and meta-currencies.

So what was good in the old school is just as good in the new.

Just sayin' :smile:
 
Last edited:

Gringnr

Chief of the Boat Feels
Joined
Jan 9, 2019
Messages
856
Reaction score
864
Speaking of fanzines, I believe Simon Burley put out, or contributed to, one called Superhero UK, which was a superhero RPG fanzine.
 

sharps54

Active Member
Joined
Jul 25, 2019
Messages
52
Reaction score
78
Barbarians of Lemuria is a current indie game that gets alot of love, and rightly so. Very simple, straightforward, and easy to hang pulpy setting material off.

Regarding game mechanics structure, in many ways it kinda feels like a refined Advanced Fighting Fantasy.

Sometimes simplicity and practicality work better than lots of moving parts and meta-currencies.

So what was good in the old school is just as good in the new.

Just sayin' :smile:
BoL author Simon Washbourne is British (I think) so it is definitely appropriate for this thread.
 

Warthur

Active Member
Joined
Dec 18, 2017
Messages
44
Reaction score
83
Bit late to the conversation here but as a Brit who grew up in the 1980s I can confirm that the original blog post is definitely onto something. There was something in the air in the British scene in those days; to a large extent it's successfully continued, at least in the corners of gaming I'm primarily bouncing off. I'd say that it's pretty rare for later British-produced RPGs to not have at least a snifter of influence from those glory days.
 

NinjaWeasel

Active Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2019
Messages
31
Reaction score
46
Two OSR settings that very much capture (at least part of) the spirit of the 80s UK gaming scene are Dolmenwood (check out the fanzine Wormskin) and The Midderlands. Both are excellent and have a decent amount of material out. I highly recommend both. Also, while they are separate settings there has been canonical discusion of where Dolmenwood would fit into the geography of The Midderlands setting.
 

S'mon

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2017
Messages
263
Reaction score
353
I actually think that's a major factor in us not having gone through the Satanic Panic in the same way.
I grew up in Northern Ireland where the Satanic Panic was certainly a big thing. It also hit conservative parts of Scotland, East Anglia etc. It may not have been a thing in London but I'm guessing it wasn't that big a thing in places like New York either.

For me the biggest influences were Fighting Fantasy, White Dwarf and 2000 AD (edit: plus Moorcock & Leiber on the literary side), with Lone Wolf a minor influence (Helghast!) and Dragon Warriors more a curiousity. I think the influence of 2000 AD on the 1980s British RPG/game scene is easily underestimated; they were not litigious and Games Workshop heavily ripped off what would today be seen as their IP especially for WH40K.
 

S'mon

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2017
Messages
263
Reaction score
353
I don’t think there is ‘true’ B-OSR as there aren’t new games being produced which mimic or seek to capitalise on the design principles of the original games, and I would see that as a key feature of the OSR movement.
Yeah, what I saw in the B-OSR scene, such as it was ca 2010, was mostly Labyrinth Lord, just with a British or English aesthetic. My mate Ed Scott was a B-OSR guy; now he does comics - http://www.brokenfrontier.com/blade-arozone-j-edward-scott/
 

Edgewise

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2017
Messages
2,141
Reaction score
3,870
I grew up in Northern Ireland where the Satanic Panic was certainly a big thing. It also hit conservative parts of Scotland, East Anglia etc. It may not have been a thing in London but I'm guessing it wasn't that big a thing in places like New York either.
That's very interesting; it makes sense but I would have never guessed.

The Satanic Panic really didn't have any traction in New York, with the exception of one health teacher who told us that is led to Devil-worship; she was hardcore Catholic and had a habit of reciting straight-up urban folktales as things that she witnessed as a nurse (e.g. the old baby-roasted-in-an-oven-by-a-woman-on-LSD). So her credibility was already kind of suspect with me.

Also, my grandparents in Ohio were very wary about me playing D&D. They weren't by any means your usual Bible thumpers but I think probably all that they heard about D&D must have come from their church, and they were church-going folk. At least that's my theory. They were definitely not fans of me playing it but my world-weary coastal parents weren't moved on that front.
 

S'mon

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2017
Messages
263
Reaction score
353
Re urban vs frontier; I think it goes beyond that to how the countryside/wilderness is conceived and presented in FF - Forest of Doom - or in White Dwarf scenarios, vs how it appears in US D&D etc. In British stuff you wander down a crooked lane deep in the dark woods, and you might meet a leprechaun or come across standing stones. It feels a lot more intimate than the Big Country feel in US stuff.
 

S'mon

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2017
Messages
263
Reaction score
353
The games I remember playing a lot in the mid to late 1980s were:

Fighting Fantasy
1e AD&D with a lot of White Dwarf scenarios & material; plus a little BECMI D&D.
Call of Cthulu
PARANOIA
WEG Star Wars - I suspect this replaced Traveller for us as we never played that

My group had been playing Judge Dredd before I joined them, but I only played a teeny bit. Likewise I only ran a little Dragon Warriors, using the first book.

1e AD&D was definitely the dominant game, but not nearly so much as 5e D&D is now. And the Britishness of White Dwarf & GW meant the influences on the British RPG scene were much more homegrown than nowadays, when we play 5e D&D (or Pathfinder etc) with nearly all US-made material.
 
Last edited:

sharps54

Active Member
Joined
Jul 25, 2019
Messages
52
Reaction score
78
I grew up in Northern Ireland where the Satanic Panic was certainly a big thing. It also hit conservative parts of Scotland, East Anglia etc. It may not have been a thing in London but I'm guessing it wasn't that big a thing in places like New York either.

For me the biggest influences were Fighting Fantasy, White Dwarf and 2000 AD (edit: plus Moorcock & Leiber on the literary side), with Lone Wolf a minor influence (Helghast!) and Dragon Warriors more a curiousity. I think the influence of 2000 AD on the 1980s British RPG/game scene is easily underestimated; they were not litigious and Games Workshop heavily ripped off what would today be seen as their IP especially for WH40K.
I’ve got an interesting book called Black Magic and Bogeymen: Fear, Rumour, and Popular Belief in the North of Ireland 1972-1974 by Richard Jenkins that talks about a British propaganda campaign to scare the local population into thinking satanic activities were rampant so they could destabilize the region.
 

Mankcam

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 24, 2017
Messages
1,361
Reaction score
2,503
Sounds fascinating, I would like to read that.
However it could be dangerously close to real-world politics regarding lingering Irish-English grievances , so it might not be best to go down that rabbit-hole here...
 

sharps54

Active Member
Joined
Jul 25, 2019
Messages
52
Reaction score
78
Sounds fascinating, I would like to read that.
However it could be dangerously close to real-world politics regarding lingering Irish-English grievances , so it might not be best to go down that rabbit-hole here...
Good point, I won’t go into any further detail.

Edit to add if anyone is interested in these types of psyops you can also find studies that discuss where we (the US) did it in the Philippines, a campaign that involved local vampire legends, and in Vietnam.
 
Last edited:

Warthur

Active Member
Joined
Dec 18, 2017
Messages
44
Reaction score
83
I grew up in Northern Ireland where the Satanic Panic was certainly a big thing. It also hit conservative parts of Scotland, East Anglia etc. It may not have been a thing in London but I'm guessing it wasn't that big a thing in places like New York either.
I remember seeing a talk by Steve Jackson (the UK one, not the GURPS one) and Ian Livingstone about the early days of Games Workshop and Fighting Fantasy, and they talked about how the mild Satanic Panic we had over here was an absolute boon for sales: there was a woman who called into a radio show to rant about how Fighting Fantasy books had taught her son real magic which allowed him to fly, and apparently that made a real sales boom.

Actually, you can point here to another distinction between the US scene and the British scene in the 1980s. TSR reacted to the Satanic Panic by toning shit down, going easier on the devils and demons and Dragonlancing things up a bit. Games Workshop threw up the heavy metal horns and kept on doing what they did, and at points deliberately steered into gruesome areas, as did Fighting Fantasy. (Note how as the Fighting Fantasy line progressed you got more and more horror-tinged books coming out - because the scary shit sold!)
 

S'mon

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2017
Messages
263
Reaction score
353
That looks good - is it available electronically? I do my comic reading in iPad these days.
No! Sadly it only seems to be sold in hardcopy, across the counter, in two London comic shops! I don't know why it's not in e-form or at least orderable. Ed's art is great but I've not had the time to search it out.
 

S'mon

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2017
Messages
263
Reaction score
353
I’ve got an interesting book called Black Magic and Bogeymen: Fear, Rumour, and Popular Belief in the North of Ireland 1972-1974 by Richard Jenkins that talks about a British propaganda campaign to scare the local population into thinking satanic activities were rampant so they could destabilize the region.
Well there was an MI5 campaign to associate the IRA with Satanism, which didn't work. As the ruling power, the UK govt did not want to destabilise the region, but were trying to alienate the IRA from their support base in the Roman Catholic community.
 

3rik

invidus es nostris quoniam tu talia nescis
Joined
May 13, 2017
Messages
948
Reaction score
1,029
Evangelism on the rise


My experience, and that of people I’ve asked who are old enough, is that the Satanic Panic was generally a Fundamentalist/Evangelical Protestant thing, and when Catholic’s bought in, it was more regional and rural, where priest’s quoted the OT rather than the New.

These days, I hear that D&D is classified along by some along with Tarot cards and Ouija boards, as a an opening to the occult that can lead to demonic attachment, but most priests I’ve talked to that aren’t completely ignorant about RPGs say it’s hogwash.
What did they have to say about Tarot and Ouija?

I grew up in Northern Ireland where the Satanic Panic was certainly a big thing.
Here in the Netherlands it only made a small wave, apparently. I personally only heard about it through a classmate from an evangelical household, who probably picked it up from the States, and it wasn't tied to D&D, which IME was virtually unknown here. Same guy wasn't allowed by his parents to put up posters of pop musicians on his wall and was seriously worried about hidden occult messages in music recordings that could be heard when playing them backwards...

 

Black Leaf

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Messages
999
Reaction score
2,144
I grew up in Northern Ireland where the Satanic Panic was certainly a big thing. It also hit conservative parts of Scotland, East Anglia etc. It may not have been a thing in London but I'm guessing it wasn't that big a thing in places like New York either.
Yeah, that makes sense. I grew up in Birmingham where similar "big city" values likely apply.

In fact, I never had any issues when visiting Chicago then either. My gran actually bought me my first D&D set and was my first ever GM and she was a big cheese in the Chicago methodists.
 

NinjaWeasel

Active Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2019
Messages
31
Reaction score
46
I was born in 77 and grew up in a rural town in the north of England. I started reading Fighting Fantasy books around 6 or 7 years old and got my first RPGS (BECMI red box and GW's Judge Dredd) when I was 10. During that time I think I heard of the "Satanic Panic" only on the news. After I'd been playing RPGs for a year or two I do remember a relative asking my Mum about "those games" and whether they were really suitable for kids. My Mum's response was, basically, "they sit around telling stories and there's some rules which involve a bit of maths, there's no more to it" and whichever relative it was accepted that answer and everyone moved on. Maybe I was just lucky there, I don't know.
 

Black Leaf

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Messages
999
Reaction score
2,144
We did have one case of one of my friend's parents having heard the news reports and getting worried he was playing something "satanic". But we just invited his vicar to sit in on a game session. Don't know exactly what the vicar reported back, but we never heard of any issues from his family after that.
 

dbm

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2017
Messages
194
Reaction score
342
I went to a Catholic secondary school, and this was the time that both D&D and word of ‘the Satanic Panic’ hit the UK. Myself and some friends got into the game and one of us lost a character notebook at school. He was pulled into the head’s office (principal’s office for our colonial friends) who asked him about the game and what we did. After satisfying himself that we knew fiction from reality the head’s final comment was ‘if you took this much effort in your studies your grades would be much better!’

A couple of years later and I was in a Catholic 6th Form College (17-18 years old) and we had an approved roleplaying club, there. One of the newly-qualified teachers (who happened to teach maths and religious studies) actually joined one of our games. He was a big board game fan and cool with it all.

The UK is a much more secular society than the US, and has been for some time.
 

NinjaWeasel

Active Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2019
Messages
31
Reaction score
46
The UK is a much more secular society than the US, and has been for some time.
At my High School (yes, my school was officially a High School and not a Secondary School. The Difference between the two? Dunno!) there were no clubs of any kind unfortunately so no RPG clubs. To be honest I don't think one would have lasted very long. Not because of parent or teacher opposition but because of other kids. If you mentioned D&D, or anything comparable, to a non-player you were simply walking into a potentially violent confrontation. As a result you just didn't mention it at school.

The teachers really didn't care about anything like that though. I can remember people bringing Stephen King books in to read during English classes for example. The only teacher in the whole school who might have been bothered was the Headteacher. She was extremely religious and I can remember her dragging me in front of a class and screaming at me because she overheard me say that I don't believe in God. I imagine D&D is the kind of thing that she wouldn't approve of but it's also entirely possible that she'd never even heard of D&D in the first place though.
 

dbm

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2017
Messages
194
Reaction score
342
I agree: at secondary school we played but didn’t mention it. Neither did we hide it, mind. We were already misfits from the perspective of most of my school peers so it wouldn’t have made much difference either way. :smile:

In 6th form there was a slightly higher acceptance of geekdom in general, enough time had passed and there was a slightly higher overall standard of academic ability which tends to correlate with an acceptance of more cerebral pass-times.
 

NinjaWeasel

Active Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2019
Messages
31
Reaction score
46
At college, in 93-95, I found that there was increased tolerance for geeky stuff but RPGs were still something that people were wary of. As the college terms went by I think there was a marked increase in acceptability for fascination with pop culture (partially due to Tarantino and Kevin Smith) that led to geeking out over Star Wars and horror movies, even comics to an extent, being okay.
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
1,628
Reaction score
2,051
I grew up in Northern Ireland where the Satanic Panic was certainly a big thing. It also hit conservative parts of Scotland, East Anglia etc. It may not have been a thing in London but I'm guessing it wasn't that big a thing in places like New York either
That's interesting. In the South practically nobody knew what D&D even was. There was no Satanic panic of any form. Might have been different in Dublin, but in rural areas it definitely wasn't a thing from talking to many people.
 

Voros

Doomed Investigator
Joined
Sep 23, 2017
Messages
5,043
Reaction score
6,843
As a kid I recall adults commenting ‘isn’t that game Satanic?’ with a smirk and a wink. No one seemed to take the Panic seriously.
 

Rob Necronomicon

Legendary Member
Joined
May 26, 2018
Messages
186
Reaction score
260
Wow... What a blast form the past!

I grew up in Southern Ireland in the 80s and all our RPG/Media was all directly linked to the UK. Our households all got BBC because back in the day the aerials could pick it up from N. Ireland. :smile:

I vividly remember playing FF books day in day out.

The biggest RPGs from my childhood were (okay some are American):
D&D basic
WFRP - Still gold all editions 'cept 3rd. ;)
Dragon Warriors - played recently still love it.
Traveler
CoC
Golden Heroes
Merp
Twilight 2000
Judge Dredd
Sla

Whitedwarf mag was a huge influence until it went into War Games. :sad: We all have the same dark humour that the British have.

AFF is probably my favorite of the old stuff (apart from WFRP). I really like Troika!
 
Top