Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Is Clout an OSR Game?

Short Answer

Maybe.

A lot of it depends on how you define "OSR." The problem is that everyone seems to have their own definition of what makes an OSR game.

Long Answer

Let's quote the current Wikipedia article, and address it bit by bit.

The Old School Revival, Old School Renaissance, or simply OSR...

No one even agrees on what the acronym even stands for! I prefer "Old School Renaissance."

Inspiration

...is a movement among players of tabletop role-playing games (especially Dungeons & Dragons) that draws inspiration from the earliest days of tabletop RPGs in the 1970s.

Clout undoubtedly "draws inspiration from the earliest days of tabletop RPGs," so that's a point in favor. But Clout also rejects a lot of concepts from those days and draws upon more modern styles of play, so that's a point against.

Current score:

OutcomeScore
Clout is OSR1
Clout is not OSR1

Things are looking murky. Let's keep going.

OGL

The OSR was made possible by Wizards of the Coasts' release of their Open Gaming License in 2000, which allowed the free and unapproved use of large amounts of creative and rules mechanic material related to the Dungeons & Dragons game.

Clout does not use any Open Gaming License material at all. I'm writing all the text 100% from scratch. So that's a point against.

Current score:

OutcomeScore
Clout is OSR1
Clout is not OSR2

Player Agency

Broadly, OSR games encourage a tonal fidelity to Dungeons & Dragons as it was played in the first decade of the game's existence--less emphasis on linear adventure plots and overarching metaplots and a greater emphasis on player agency.

Yes! This is exactly the style of play that I envision people using with Clout. One way that Clout emphasizes player agency is by focusing on the players exclusively. The judge never rolls dice to determine the success or failure of NPC or monster actions. If the monster is going to attack Gronko, it's going to succeed unless Gronko does something to prevent it.

On the other hand, there's nothing in Clout that prevents judges from emphasizing "linear adventure plots and overarching metaplots." If that's the way the table wants to play, Clout will let you.

I'm calling this a point for.

Current score:

OutcomeScore
Clout is OSR2
Clout is not OSR2

Cloning the Past

Frequently they are built around older rules systems made available by the OGL. As such, the OSR label includes most Dungeons & Dragons retro-clones; most OSR games are variants of ... Dungeons & Dragons rules

In fact, almost every OSR branded game that I've seen have been D&D clones, or D&D rules in different time periods. The exceptions are Legends of the Ancient World (a game clearly inspired by The Fantasy Trip) and TunnelQuest. Like the latter, Clout is not a clone of anything; it's not even trying to recreate the feeling of any previous game.

Point against. Current score:

OutcomeScore
Clout is OSR2
Clout is not OSR3

Ethic of Play

The general ethic of OSR-style play emphasizes spontaneous rulings from the referee, or Game Master, over set rules found in a book. The idea is for the players to engage with the fantasy as much as possible, and have the referee arbitrate the outcomes of their specific actions in real time.

This is exactly the play-style that Clout demands. The 7/10 rule is pretty much everything you need to know to play. There are no rules for surprise, falling damage, morale, nor any other special situation that might arise; it assumes that the judge will be quick on his feet with fair rulings.

Point for. Current score:

OutcomeScore
Clout is OSR3
Clout is not OSR3

Game Balance

The idea of game balance is also de-emphasized in favor of a system which tests players skill and ingenuity in often strange or unfair situations. The players should expect to lose if they merely pit their numbers against the monsters, and should instead attempt to outwit or outmaneuver challenges placed in their way. Keeping maps comes highly recommended.

While I fully support that style of play, Clout does nothing to either encourage nor discourage it. No points either way.

Final Score

OutcomeScore
Clout is OSR3
Clout is not OSR3

So is Clout an OSR game? Maybe. Everyone will need to answer that for themselves.

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