Exploring the Possibility of Running an OSR Campaign with a Non-OSR System

In the world of tabletop role-playing games, there is a wide variety of game systems and playstyles to choose from. One such playstyle is the Old School Revival (OSR), which harkens back to the early days of role-playing games. Recently, a question was posed on the OSR subreddit that sparked a lively discussion among the community: “Is there anything preventing someone from running an OSR campaign with a non-OSR system?”

The original poster (OP) was interested in exploring the possibility of running an OSR-style campaign using a system like Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition (D&D 5e). The OSR playstyle is known for its emphasis on player skill over character abilities, and its “rulings, not rules” philosophy. The OP wondered if the mechanics of a non-OSR system like D&D 5e would interfere with this playstyle.
The Challenges of Merging Different Systems

One user responded by stating that while it’s possible to run an OSR-style game with a non-OSR system, it might require some adjustments. They pointed out that systems like D&D 5e have mechanics that are inherently non-OSR. For instance, D&D 5e places a significant emphasis on balanced encounters and the extensive use of character abilities. To run an OSR-style game with such a system, the Dungeon Master (DM) might need to ignore or modify these mechanics.

The Role of the Dungeon Master

Another user agreed with this sentiment, adding that the DM’s approach to the game is more important than the system itself. They argued that an experienced DM could run an OSR-style game with any system, as long as they embraced the OSR principles of player agency, emergent gameplay, and a lethal, uncaring world. This perspective suggests that the success of an OSR campaign run with a non-OSR system largely depends on the DM’s ability to adapt and their understanding of the core principles of OSR.

The Counter Argument

However, not all users agreed with this perspective. One user argued that while it’s technically possible to run an OSR-style game with a non-OSR system, it’s not ideal. They claimed that non-OSR systems often have mechanics that actively work against the OSR playstyle. These mechanics can make it harder for the DM to run the game they want, even if they are willing to make adjustments.

Conclusion: A Matter of Adaptability

In conclusion, the consensus among the OSR subreddit community seems to be that while it’s possible to run an OSR-style game with a non-OSR system, it might require some adjustments. The DM’s approach to the game and their willingness to modify or ignore certain mechanics will play a crucial role in whether or not they can successfully run an OSR campaign with a non-OSR system. This discussion highlights the adaptability of tabletop role-playing games and the importance of understanding the nuances of different game systems and playstyles.

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