Friday, August 5, 2016

Is Story Hyphen Games Dot Com hostile to the OSR? Part 2

Thank you for the comments and feedback on my first post.

this is one of the google image search results for
"painting of an editor"
flawless selection, google
One quick correction: Google results when you search the site for "OSR" shows 350 results. I called this "350 threads" in my first post. This is not the case.  If you page through the results you'll quickly find that Google is also finding some archived duplicates of threads.  In other words, by the time you get to post 100 or so, you start to see pages of threads you've already seen.  That's the bad news. The good news is that this means my first methodology actually sampled more of the relevant pages that Google found than I thought at the time.  In other words, there are actually fewer than 350 pages for me to draw my sample from, so it is a more comprehensive look at those pages.

And a clarification. People asked a lot about the second entry in the results for each year, where I said "If someone offered an opinion or judgment about the OSR, there was an X% chance it was a positive opinion."  This could have been clarified more. Basically what I did was strip out all the neutral comments and all the tangential comments, leaving only Glowingly Positive, Positive, Negative, and Hostile comments, then measured the relative size of these comment pools. The goal was to identify whether the neutral/tangential comments were being made in an atmosphere of negativity or positivity.  As I mentioned, overwhelmingly, on, when a poster expressed an opinion about the OSR or "OSR ideas" (as they identified them) between 2012 and 2015 it was overwhelmingly likely that opinion was a positive one.

Some sent me some critiques and these are welcome.  Here are a few responses (not all the critiques were posted publicly so I won't link to them.) Yes, I am still not putting scare quotes around stuff like "story games" and "community", you Inaccurate Basterds.

  • My post should only be seen as partly a response to the Magpie Games blog posts. If they are moving in (say) Google+ circles where they see hostility towards OSR people or ideas, my analysis of what happened on story hyphen games dot com over the years previous doesn't invalidate their observations.  However, it does suggest that to the extent story-gamers exist as a continuous community from the Forge through to Google+, that community is, by and large, quite positive about the OSR and something else is at work in what the blog post observes.   
  • I did not analyze individual posters or their post histories. For one thing that's creepy and stupid, for another, it wouldn't tell us much about how the "community" (I can't help myself!) interacted. I mean, if it came right down to it and someone analyzed my post history (don't do this, I normally post dumb nonsense), I find most OSR stuff borrr-rriiiing (the exceptions I've posted about at rpgnow),  but I am not an influential story hyphen games dot com figure. I didn't ever post at the Forge, didn't agree with any of the theoretical work that went on there or at story-games, have never designed a game, have no interest in doing so, etc. etc. I am just some rando whose opinion doesn't matter, and the posts I found bear this position out magnificently.
  • Nothing in the posts I saw indicate that story hyphen games dot com posters associated OSR games or ideas with sexism, racism, or anything like that between 2012-2015. I bring that up because the overwhelming accusation I saw against "the story gamers" in the aftermath of the Magpie Games posts was that they were absolutely obsessed with proving that OSR gamers were sexist and racist.  To put it gently, this does not appear to be borne out by the data and the (somewhat obsessive) defensiveness on this subject (from some) seems misplaced.  If that accusation is coming from someone, it is not "story gamers."  ( occasionally has long arguments about these subjects and never resolves anything, but it's never in connection with OSR stuff.)
  • I don't know where you could go to do a similar analysis of "the OSR community" and have no interest in doing a reciprocal analysis of how OSR people talk about story games people. I'd love to read it but this project is boring enough without even recognizing people's handles and going "oh, I remember that guy!"
  • If you want to know what "story gamers" think about any subject, there's a huge, publicly searchable database to tell you. You don't have to rely on what non-story-gamers tell you story gamers think. You don't have to take my word for it either! Click through on any of the threads I linked to and see if you think I didn't scour them closely enough for negative opinions, if you want.  But you don't have to do what I saw one forlorn person doing, which was going to "therpgsite" and asking "What's a story game?" and getting nine pages about Poison'd. 
So, as I mentioned, we can now look at's archives through an entirely different methodology to try to pull a different facet of "OSR" stuff out. Let's see!

Methodology 2 - Comments In Non-OSR Threads

Fortunately for us, the broken search engine actually is great at pulling things out. It seems to actually prefer posts that contain the text string as a throwaway instead of searching titles.

So for this methodology I'm going to search "OSR" and "old school" in the search engine, and discard any results that are in threads that I already analyzed in my first post.

One interesting result is that the search feature is actually much better at catching recent comments instead of earlier comments.  (The search feature arose during a forum upgrade and so post-upgrade posts are, I suspect, archived differently.)  This is great, we get to look at a different, more recent time frame and combining the two methodologies should give us a varied look across a significant period.  However, you should note that we are not talking about the exact same timeframes as in the first post.

I'm going to discard false positives in this search (like, someone says "OSR" in a list of other items without expressing an opinion on it one way or another, or it's in a URL or something.) Or if I really can't puzzle out what they're saying. (There was more than one like this - is absolutely full of non-English-first-language-speakers, sometimes I get myself tangled up in analysis.)

I'm going to be a lot more aggressive in sorting opinions expressed into positive and negative bins. (And not going to sort further amongst positive or negative judgments.)  In my first post, if someone asked a question and someone gave an answer, that could just be talking about the subject without really expressing a judgment. But in a non-OSR thread, if someone says "I'm having trouble with this thing" and someone says "Try this OSR technique", then that's a positive opinion on the OSR even if we would just classify it as Neutral in the context of the question-and-answer of a thread.  I'm only going to classify an opinion as neutral if I really can't suss out an opinion on it one way or another.

I'm going to disregard any posts made after the Magpie Games blogpost so as to avoid any appearance that people might be "on their best behavior" there.

Oh, and I'm doing the search while logged in so the search engine will return results in the "members only" forum on (although I actually don't expect it to since actual discussion doesn't take place there, it's more or less software updates and boring shit like that).  I'm going to try to analyze at least 50 comments for each search term.

I also anonymize comments that use their full name. (Others like Paul_T seem anonymous enough to me already.) Of course you can just click through if you want to see the comment yourself but it seemed apropos.


  1. 7/29/16 comment from jangler: "I think we do have a fair share of OSR/5e/other D&D players here" - positive
  2. 7/27/16 comment from jangler: "I remember Eero wrote something about 'stunting' in his OSR campaigns" - positive
  3. 7/27/16 comment from Bedrockbrendan, defending OSR/old school play against a perceived insult - positive
  4. 7/21/16 comment from jangler about his new LOFTP game. - Had a tough time with this one. Neutral
  5. 7/21/16 comment from Potemkin (and a previous commenter) saying something isn't a problem in OSR play. Positive
  6. 7/19/16 comment from jangler. A thing isn't a problem with the OSR. Positive.
  7. 7/8/16 comment from Paul_T. The OSR has tools to deal with a thing.  Positive.
  8. 7/8/16 comment from Paul_T. The OSR handles a thing pretty well. Positive.
  9. 7/5/16 comment from Paul_T. The OSR shares a bunch of stuff.  Positive.
  10. 7/5/16 comment from Glowie.  An OSR approach "should work" for a thing.  Positive.
  11. 7/5/16 comment from 2097. An OSR thing makes them want to do "everything!"  Positive.
  12. 7/6/16 comment from Glowie. They will do an OSR thing next time.  Positive.
  13. 7/2/16 comment from komradebob.  His first design touchstone to solve a problem would be an OSR thing.  Neutral. (He says he would 'change it significantly.)
  14. 7/1/16 comment from 2097. They don't like the way random harlot tables in OSR things are handled. Negative.
  15. 6/29/16 comment from 2097. They are baffled by a seeming omission in OSR principles.  Negative.
  16. 6/27/16 comment from komradebob.  They like a cool OSR thing.  Positive.
  17. 6/27/16 comment from 2097. They have an issue with different OSR/D&D/Dungeon World things collectively and need to make a decision about it.  Neutral (OSR is listed as orthogonal to main point.)
  18. 6/24/16 comment from 2097. They do an OSR thing and it works.  Positive.
  19. 6/22/16 comment from AnonAdderlan. They like OSR products that do a thing.  Positive.
  20. 6/22/16 comment from Paul_T. An OSR experience is a on-the-one-hand example.  Neutral (there is another hand).
  21. 6/22/16 comment from 2097.  They loved but were suspicious of an OSR experience. Neutral.
  22. 6/21/16 comment from AnonAdderlan. The OSR "markets a set of values."  Neutral.
  23. 6/16/16 comment from 2097. They think the OSR's approach is part of "the best of times".  Positive.
  24. 6/15/16 comment from 2097.  They are struggling with an OSR principle. Negative.
  25. 5/25/16 comment from S_P. The OSR is "on the other hand."  Neutral.
  26. 5/24/16 comment from ME!!!!!!! The OSR is part of a big D&D surge. Neutral.
  27. 5/9/16 comment from Potemkin.  The OSR is on a list of "favorites".  Positive.
  28. 5/6/16 comment from omnifray. OSR-style play can be immersive.  Neutral.
  29. 4/20/16 comment from E_T. OSR play is satisfactory to D&D players.  Neutral. (In a list of other things; almost didn't include this one but it was analytical.)
  30. 4/19/16 comment from Paul_T. Traditional RPG play is good for OSR style games.  Positive.
  31. 4/19/16 comment from Paul_T. OSR mechanics suit the agenda of those that play them. Positive.
  32. 4/17/16 comment from WarriorMonk. OSR products are creatively dense.  Positive.
  33. 4/15/16 comment from AnonAdderlan. OSR products are creatively dense. Positive.
  34. 4/12/16 comment from D_B.  OSR products produce an "intensely emotional experience". Positive.
  35. 3/27/16 comment from CarpeGuitarrem. An OSR technique has clarity.  Positive.
  36. 3/16/16 comment from Paul_T. The OSR is exploring rewarding performance.  Positive.
  37. 3/16/16 comment from Paul_T. He is down for running an OSR style game.  Positive.
  38. 1/25/16 comment from S_P. In the OSR, rewards are clear.  Positive.
  39. 1/18/16 comment from Rickard. The OSR's principles are contradictory.  Negative.
  40. 1/17/16 comment from S_P. In the OSR, improvisation is encouraged. Positive.
  41. 1/17/16 comment from Coalhada. An OSR scenario is fun. Positive.
  42. 1/17/16 comment from Paul_T. This sounds like an OSR scenario.  Positive.
  43. December 2015 comment from Thanuir. Use an OSR scenario to do what you're trying to do.  Positive.
  44. November 2015 comment from Asif. His product addresses OSR questions.  Positive.
  45. November 2015 comment from Paul_T. OSR products approach persuasion in an interesting way. Positive.
  46. October 2015 comment from quozl. Tell me about your OSR stuff! Positive.
  47. October 2015 comment from gloomhound.  I wrote some OSR stuff.  Positive.
  48. October 2015 comment from B_W.  Use an OSR product.  Positive.
  49. October 2015 comment from Airk.  Use an OSR product.  Positive.
  50. October 2015 comment from Paul_T.  Use an OSR product. Positive.

"OSR" Results:

Positive: 36 (72%)
Neutral: 10 (20%)
Negative: 4 (8%)

Just from looking at the distribution of the comments, it's clear that interest in OSR ideas has come and gone on several times over the last year, but (somewhat ironically given the timing of my analysis) expanded greatly in July 2016.

"Old School"

For this one I am discarding anything not clearly related to the OSR or those that play in its style.  Also any comments I already tracked above, I don't track again.  (Howeve,r some are in the same threads.)

  1. 7/18/16 comment from jangler. He likes an old-school assumption.  Positive.
  2. 7/18/16 comment from Rickard. He quotes an old-school approach to GMs. Positive.
  3. 7/9/16 comment from snej. Just do it the old school way! Positive.
  4. 7/8/16 comment from Paul_T. Here are some old-school assumptions. Positive.
  5. 7/5/16 comment from Paul_T. A big old-school dilemma. Negative.
  6. 7/5/16 comment from Paul_T. His model is old-school. Positive.
  7. 7/2/16 comment from Paul_T. He loves old school D&D.  Positive.
  8. 7/1/16 comment from D_B. The old-school "referee DM" is welcoming.  Positive.
  9. 6/29/16 comment from AnonAdderlan. The "old school" term is a cultural one. Negative. (Says it's awkward.)
  10. 6/29/16 comment from Johnstone. On the one hand, old school.  Neutral. (There's another hand.)
  11. 6/29/16 comment from 2097. The "old school" term itself isn't important. Positive. 
  12. 6/29/16 comment from Airk. "Old school" is against the OSR. Stop using it. Negative.
  13. 6/29/16 comment from 2097. I want to play old school style.  Positive.
  14. 6/29/16 comment from CW. In our old school game we played this way.  Positive.
  15. 6/27/16 comment from Paul_T. Old school hit dice make sense. Positive.
  16. 6/22/16 comment from WarriorMonk. Old school approach should be established at the start of the game. Positive.
  17. 6/21/16 comment from komradebob. Old school approach suggests guidelines. Positive.
  18. 6/16/16 comment from Jeph. Here's an old school map and how I used it. Positive.
  19. 6/10/16 comment from D_B. Old school guidelines.  Positive.
  20. 5/31/16 comment from S_P. Older D&D is more immersive. Positive.
  21. 5/21/16 comment from E_T.  Old-school D&D handled space and time this way. Positive.
  22. 5/18/16 comment from D_B. In old school play you take turns. Neutral. (Different options listed.)
  23. 5/9/16 comment from E_T. Going to play some old school style! Positive.
  24. 5/4/16 comment from Paul_T.  Old school D&D is one of my favorite games. Positive.
  25. 5/4/16 comment from E_T. Old school D&D has long-term reward mechanisms. Positive.
  26. 5/3/16 comment from Paul_T. Old school approaches are just a different philosophy. Neutral (part of larger analysis)
  27. 4/26/16 comment from WarriorMonk. A GM is old school in the bad sense. Negative.
  28. 4/25/16 comment from Jeph. I ran an old school session. Positive.
  29. 4/21/16 comment from E_T. Played some old school style. Positive
  30. 4/20/16 comment from D_B. Contrasting "old school" and "trad". Neutral.
  31. 3/26/16 comment from D_B. Old school technique is fast to learn. Positive.
  32. 3/20/16 comment from Paul_T. Old school spells for player creativity. Positive.
  33. 3/19/16 comment from E_T. Old school GM roles described.  Positive.
  34. 3/18/16 comment from CarpeGuitarrem. A Torchbearer rule comes from old school D&D. Positive.
  35. 3/18/16 comment from Hasimir. The Old School Primer has huge problems. Negative.  (Interestingly he contrasts a lot of OSR games to OSP-described play!) 
  36. 3/16/16 comment from Paul_T. Old school approach can support freeform. Positive.
  37. 3/16/16 comment from D_B. Old school approach "rather fragile". Negative.
  38. 3/16/16 comment from E_T. Old school approach rewards problem solving. Positive.
  39. 2/25/16 comment from Hasimir. Old school dungeons. Positive.
  40. 2/24/16 comment from WarriorMonk. Old school approach is "looking good."  Positive.
  41. 1/26/16 comment from WarriorMonk. Old school GM produces a bad experience. Negative.
  42. 1/25/16 comment from E_T. Old school XP approach avoids a problem. Positive.
  43. 1/25/16 comment from E_T. Old school XP approach rewards satisfaction.  Neutral. (This is part of a survey of approaches.)
  44. 1/22/16 comment from Abstract_Machine. Old school enthusiasts came to my meetup and it was good. Positive.
  45. 1/15/16 comment from Paul_T. Description in old school games is a matter of survival.  Neutral. (Part of survey.)
  46. 1/8/16 comment from WarriorMonk. Description in old school games is a successful technique. Positive.
  47. 1/7/16 comment from Paul_T. I'm gonna use an old school approach for this campaign.  Positive.
  48. 1/5/16 comment from WarriorMonk. Old school approach a valid, enjoyable practice. Positive.
  49. December 2015 comment from Asif. The party is the real character in old school games. Neutral.
  50. November 2015 comment from Paul_T. Dungeon crawling old school play is not at odds with dramatic approach.  Neutral. (Compare/contrast post.)

"Old School" Results

Positive: 35 (70%)
Negative: 9 (18%)
Neutral: 6 (12%)

Methodology 2 - Results

There is a surprising (to me) consistency between the two results. I actually thought that "old school" would pick up more people bitching about historical D&D experiences that might not hit "OSR" since those games didn't exist back then. 

From 2015 on, if you saw "OSR" or "old school" in a post on, there is a 70% chance that it was being described in a positive way.  There is a 20% chance the reference was negative.

I have a few more thoughts on this (and I'll respond to feedback again). I might expand this methodology to look back at earlier times, or perhaps phrasing like "rulings" or maybe a few specific products (although story-games doesn't discuss singular products as such very much.)  But this is all for now.