Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A flexible standard for OSR Compatible

In my last post I discussed creating an open standard for "OSR Compatible" in RPG products so that supplements and modules could be released independent of the various clone games out there. I think the stat block I presented doesn't give the degree of freedom that such a standard needs, but I think there's a solution.

At the start of any book with the OSR Compatible logo (we still need one), there should be a box with a description of the stat block. For D&D type games, I see this looking something like what follows:
This module is OSR Compatible, and will work with most old school fantasy RPGs and their modern clones. It was designed with the classic game in mind but can be adapted for your game of choice.

Encounters are listed in the following format:
Orcs (4) - AC 6 (13), HD 1, #AT 1, D 1d6

Armor Class is given both descending and ascending values. An unarmored character is AC 9 (10) and chainmail gives AC 5 (14).

Unless specified, all encountered creatures and men are assumed to have the same movement rates as normal men and to use the same saving throws as a fighter of the same level as their hit dice.
The important notes to hit will be:
  • The boilerplate indicating compatibility. I think talking about "original," "advanced" and "classic" games will let us indicate compatibility in a broad and understandable way without stepping on any toes.
  • Encounter format. A basic stat block for illustrative purposes.
  • Armor class. This should always be described and an unarmored character's AC given, along with an example of one armor type (typically leather, chain or plate).
  • If you choose not to include movement rates, armor class, hit dice, or damage, give a brief description of your default values. For instance, if all creatures are assumed to attack once per round for 1d6 damage, say so.
  • If you use any stats other than the basics, present a brief description and what value is better. For instance, Moldvay-style morale would be described as: "Morale is given as a number between 2 and 12. Creatures with a high morale are less likely to flee from combat."
Ultimately what I'd like is to have an official "OSR Compatible" logo, and a website ( is available) describing what the designation means for a product, giving instructions for publishers, and having links to publishers of OSR Compatible products.

To be clear - this is a self-designation, not a license, and I'd want to have the logo be licensed via Creative Commons CC-BY (by attribution, allowing it to be used in derivative works without requiring that the larger work be released as a CC license).

How does this strike people? I think it's going to be easier to build consensus around a flexible standard than to come down with a list of things that someone has to use, and it's best to be up front about exactly what parameters we're using so that it's as easy as possible to convert.



    But seriously, this sounds good. I think chainmail is a good armor type to use because it's in the middle and it tends to be the same value across editions (even when unarmored AC changes).

    Would it be too close to the quick to say the module is "1974 compatible" or "1977 Advanced compatible"?

  2. "If you choose not to include movement rates, armor class, hit dice, or damage, give a brief description of your default values. For instance, if all creatures are assumed to attack once per round for 1d6 damage, say so."

    I would prefer that authors just include those stats in the block--it's less work for the author to include it once, than for me to remember (or possibly flip to the front of the module) every time.

    I also still think the AC is somewhat ambiguous for the same reasons--you need to know the base values for ascending/descending to make a conversion, but I can understand the compromise. I would prefer the author pick a method, and add the offset in parenthesis, so instead of

    "Orcs (4) - AC 6 (13), HD 1, #AT 1, D 1d6"

    if would be

    "Orcs (4) - AC 6 (±3), HD 1, #AT 1, D 1d6"

    and then the author just specifies which system she is using for the full AC up front, but the ±3 is always easily convertable as you only have to remember the /to/ system instead (which any user should be familiar with) of the /from/ system (which isn't as likely). +Joe Naylor had a great comment on this in your previous articles Google+ comments (towards the end, directed at +Matthew Wyant).

    I can donate registration and web space for if that works. I figured a wiki-style site would be best as this starts up.

    I also have some graphic design experience, and can work on the logo tonight. I was thinking some mashup of the standard OSR logo with puzzle pieces.

  3. I love it and think this is a great idea. I think it all looks pretty good so far. Clean and simple.

    Matthew, I was thinking (it needs to be a .org to sound 'official' lol)

  4. I'm worried that will sound too much like we are trying to standardize the entire OSR space, I like OSRCompatible as it conveys an addition to, not replacement of, the OSR.

    .org for sure, but also the .com, 'cause that's what everyone types :)

  5. Speaking of, does anyone know what the license is on the current OSR logo? Sauce?

  6. The OSR Logo, as featured on this blog is Stuart Robertson's and was originally released under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

    1. I was gonna mention that... So yeah, what James said. :p

  7. I'm a fan of this idea. I've been struggling for a while now trying to come up with a monster/npc format that I can use that'll be most useful for everyone.

  8. I love Mathew Wyant's idea of using the descending AC first, followed by the relative AC:
    "Orcs (4) - AC 6 (±3), HD 1, #AT 1, D 1d6"

    I think that would be more useful than including the ascending AC (since the ascending number seems to vary more among the systems that use it than the descending number does).

  9. Why not just list the bonus to base AC? For example, an unarmored human would have a +0 while one wearing chainmail would have a +5. Dexterity and size modifiers would be an issue, as not all games use those, but that would be the same if you're listing AC unless descending didn't include those factors

  10. That sounds like a fantastic idea Professor ;P


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