Generic OSR system

Continuing the discussion from Cool OSR Rule sets outside of Fantasy:

@Civman and I were talking about what a generic OSR ruleset would look like! I figured it deserved its own thread so we could focus on this topic in particular. The general idea is that each element should be modular–not only setting-specific elements, but the base gameplay mechanics as well. It would also have to focus largely not on written rules, but on how to foster the game experience emblematic of OSR through smart player decisions and eliminating character risks. This may also be related to the thread about standard OSR wealth/currency.


I suppose everyone has their own definition of what OSR means, but I wanted to offer possible components of what a generic OSR definition looks like from the player’s perspective.

  • Taking unambiguous actions to reduce the chance of risk, which are respected or negotiated by the GM.
  • Diegetic character development. This is mostly 1 Money = 1 XP, but I don’t think XP necessarily has to mean money. So long as XP is something striven for by the players and the characters in a one-to-one relation, so that XP defines the basic gameplay loop, it counts. On the other hand, this philosophy is totally diametric to narrative games where milestone leveling-up or narrative points are used to guide the narrative outside of the game’s diagetic interactions.
  • Rulings over rules.

Anything else y’all think?


For me, OSR often means DIY D&D for me since so many games are basically little projects designers have worked on and wanted to be shared. They all have an air of “This is something I made, take a look at it and let me know what you all think” with a community basically modding and tweaking rulings to their liking.

For developing a Generic OSR ruleset, I think part of the book basically spells out “Hey, bend me and twist me to what you want to do” and how both the Player and GM can do that. Another portion of this is that the Rules should be modular as possible for easy pick and play design with each facet of the game being tweakable and isolated from the other.

Another portion of the ruleset should focus on getting both the GM and the players into the mindset of the OSR playstyle since it’s all about reducing risk of failure and coming out on top. Very much focused on overcoming challenges set before both the PC and the player itself by the game world and the GM.


It would be really nice to see something like the OSR primer but written out of context so to speak, as if it weren’t necessary to draw comparisons to new-school RPGs to learn how to play.

I’ve always thought that party games like Mafia are a really good comparison to OSR games, in the sense that it’s all low-prep and your ‘character’ is just your means to interact with the game. Explaining mechanics in that context would also add either a tone of warm friendliness or haphazard fun, depending on how you approach it. Both tones cultivate a DIY vibe I think :slight_smile:


It seems to me like your approach would resemble something like BRP, only with more design intent written on the margins (?).

It is entirely possible that I am misreading your intentions, though.


I hope we can avoid the temptation to fall to bickering over what OSR ‘is’.

(However, for me it’s a style of gaming that encourages characters to interact with their environment to find advantages or creative solutions to a problem.)


So I made Finders Keepers which is solidly in the gonzo-fantasy aisle. I’m currently making something with the working title “Finders Keepers In Space” which is, surprise surprise, gonzo-fantasy. Thing is, is this a generic system? It’s a little bit of Into the Odd, a pinch of Knave, and several thousand items are starting abilities. The FKIS version has all of that content removed, and I’m working on new lists (sigh).

Thing is, the point of OSR is to DIY, so all you’d need to make a Generic OSR system is a badge that says “this is OSR” and an instruction which says “Do whatever you want” /s


I love how easy it is to generate a character with your website! :smiley: How is FKIS coming along? I really liked your mecha generator that you posted recently! And I totally agree, the DIYness of OSR is the best part of it.

I was drafting my own generic-modular OSResque system as well, with four ‘main stats’ (physique, intelligence, wisdom, charisma) and a bunch of mostly disconnected systems (reactions, combat, magic) that introduce their own distinct stats (morale, attack, defense, magic). The player can choose any stat to attempt to advance at the end of the day, based on their experiences that day (for example, “I got in a really rough fight, so I came out of it with better fighting experience”). Also, the referee can decide to discard those original four stats in favor of the mechanic-specific ones to reduce boilerplate and simplify character options–since those stats only really serve to introduce the broad dice mechanics. I can share if anyone’s interested :slight_smile:

I also wanted to post our thread on Twitter the other day, about literal milestone leveling! It’s such a clever idea that would be fun to base a game around, and I think would serve as a good component for a generic system.


Thanks! I’ve made quite a few generators on my old blog and I think I’ve improved the method somewhat. FKIS is still in progress, but you can check the draft here. Well, that’s really cool! Optional stats is something I’ve messed around with in Once More, but not to that extent. So “attack” is an optional stat, otherwise you just roll physique?

Oh it’s you, hi!

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I rolled an ex-dentist with six wives and Wolverine style knuckle blades, this is super fun! :laughing: How do you make generators, is that a feature on Blogspot or is it like an HTML/CSS addition to the post?

I also really dig Once More, thanks for sharing! I like how its stats are combat-based and that non-combat (but physical) tasks cost HP. A combat-heavy OSR style game sounds fun as hell! And I like how it’s d6 to roll only.

Yes! The combat page introduces ATK (and DEF) independent of the generic main stats. Outside of that page, there’s no direct references to combat or its related stats. I figure if someone wanted to discard that page but still have combat, they would either roll PHY vs PHY in a contested match, or they would import a more detailed combat mechanic from DND or the like.

What interests me (what you’ve basically done with Once More!) is the possibility that someone might instead discard the generic main stats, leaving only the mechanic-specific stats (Attack, Defense, Magic, Health, etc). This might not necessarily result in a combat-heavy game as much as one that encourages players not to look at their character sheet to solve problems.

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Thanks! I make all the generators myself because of some fine-tuning (i.e. obsessiveness) but I have a list-to-HTML translator right here that is good for simple things. The code it produces is meant to be somewhat human readable. Javascript is a cantankerous beast at the best of times, but the fact that I can just drop it straight into the post is easy. If you right click on any post and go “show page source” and then search for “” you should be able to find the generators somewhat easily.

I’m having a lot of fun with d6-only games at the moment, I don’t quite know why. And yes, Once More is quite combat-heavy, but I’m trying to encourage interesting combinations of moves, rather than number-stacking and min-maxing. It’s how I think combat should be.

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Thank you for the translator! I’m gonna see if I can add these things to my Wordpress posts. :slight_smile:

And Once More sounds like it works great for that kind of play, I hope I have the chance to sometime! The “miss” moves for monsters during combat are really creative and I haven’t seen anything like that before, did you come up with it? It seems really useful for referees to narrate combat without resorting to “They block your attack” or “They slash you with their sword”!

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Good luck, let me know how it goes. Wordpress might be slightly stricter about where you can add javascript but there should be an option for it. And as far as I know missed-attack-moves are sort of original, but it’s vaguely related to PbtA and that sort of genre

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I gave the super-modular concept a go! Players can decide which stats to play with, as general or as specific as they please. There are specific rulesets for combat, dungeons, and journeys (super sparse just to demonstrate the concept), but they can all be disregarded to use the default three stats instead: physique, intelligence, and wisdom.

And also, shout-out to this /r/OSR post for talking about how stats can be used specifically to show how good at a particular class your character is!

I really like this sort of mechanic. I’ve been dipping my toes into narrative games; currently I’m running a sci-fi campaign using Scum and Villainy, and I really like the advancement mechanics. For those unfamiliar with the game, you get xp if you:

  • Address a tough challenge through your signature style (like a mechanic addressing a problem using resourcefullness)
  • Express your beliefs, drives, heritage etc (while roleplaying or through your actions)
  • struggled with issues from your vice/trauma (this one is more specific to FiTD games)

I’m thinking you could append a system similar to this on top of gold-for-xp to have some more roleplaying incentives in an OSR game.

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