Wednesday 9 March 2022

On The OSR And My Relationship With It

Following that last post, I want to make some things clear.
I am not going to name any names. Frankly, I'm scared of the people I'm talking about, and how they might respond to anything I say if it names them directly. Posting this is scary enough as it is. Besides, if you're plugged in, you know who I'm talking about.
Here are some things that have happened due to my involvement with the OSR.

  • I've been doxxed twice.
  • After I left an abusive relationship, I had people saying that I deserved it, and should be held responsible like my abuser was.
  • I've been called lots of slurs. A lot.
  • I've been accused of being a racist/antisemite based on... I'm not sure what. Whatever their reasoning is, it's a mystery to me.
  • I've had a lot of people try to out me as trans. Some who knew already, some who suspected.
  • I've had the fact I was stealth used as leverage against me by somebody who knew I was trans and unwilling to out myself.
  • I've seen a well-connected and well-respected writers and designers drag my name through the mud.
  • I've seen actual factual fascists given a seat at the table.
  • A friend of mine (who I'm keeping anonymous) had internet weirdos post pictures of their parents' house online because of some stupid vendetta.
  • I've seen people - a lot of people, close friends, designers I respect, people I look up to, partners - driven away from the OSR or from ttrpgs in general by the constant toxicity.
  • I've been stalked persistently.
And this is not to mention the never ending drip-drip-drip of vitriol and bitterness and spite that tinges interactions. The general unpleasantness of being around certain people, who are - for whatever reason - big players in the scene.
Here are some ways I've responded to everything above.
  • I don't play OSR games anymore. In part, that's because my tastes have shifted, but in part its because the negative associations.
  • I've locked down most of my social media fairly tightly.
  • The exception is twitter, which I basically just use for advertising and activism these days. Even there, my blocklist is fucking massive.
  • Talking about my old work is unpleasant. Stressful. Putting on a facade of positivity about something that's irrevocably tainted is stressful.
  • I've stopped generally trusting people involved with RPGs.
Is this level of toxicity unique to the OSR? No, I've seen 40k fans. But the OSR is absolutely one of the worst scenes I've been involved with (and I like black metal!). 
There comes a point where you need to stop making excuses for something that's hurting you and cut it out of your life. I hit that point about 18 months ago, and have been trying to distance myself from the OSR and my past with it since then.

That doesn't mean I don't like my old work. I'm still proud of a lot of what I made, but that's in the past and I'm not sure I'll ever be going back to that design space. I've left that shit behind now.

There's still good people in that niche, making good stuff, but that toxicity is basically like entropy at this point. It's only a matter of time before it hits their threshold too, and they leave as well. 

Finally, as a message to any of the people responsible for that shit who might be reading this:
Fuck You.


  1. I'm pretty new to the OSR scene and don't follow people's politics in the elf-game space, but I will continue to support you in all you future endeavors because I am a fan of your work. I hope you continue to be prolific and successful!

  2. Hi there. I just wanted to write that I really admire your work. I'm a trans writer trying to figure out a way into the game space. Your work really inspires me. I'm sorry you've been treated so abominably. Fuck those people and that scene. I'm glad you're out and appreciate your honesty. Hope your next projects bring you some joy.

  3. So whaddya playing now?

    Love lots of what I've seen from you, especially Ynn. :)

  4. Its super unfair that you were treated this way and didn't get the respect you deserve. Your content has always been a great inspiration to me, I'm looking forward to new projects from you. I know they will be really good.

  5. You do not need to justify anything to anyone. Some people may have had different experiences in the OSR, sure, but this is not about their experience- it is about yours.

    Go wherever you need to go, do whatever you need to do. Your fans will support you and I hope your audience continues to grow!

  6. A while ago I wrote the words "the aggressiveness of the OSR" on the Facebook forum for the old British RPG Dragon Warriors as a response to a question I don't remember. I wrote other things too and also made a point of this being things from the top of my mind. Oh boy, did that wake people up! I've been a member of that group for years but I deleted my membership immediately. Compared to what you've been through it's nothing but I do understand that there are huge problems in the OSR community and I'm sorry to hear how you're being treated.

    Another thing striking me today, while communting to work: it was years ago I had any sexual encounter in RPGs! I know you write a lot about that Cavegirl, and first I thought "what do I care? I'm not there for that kind of stuff", but today I realized how asexual the games I participate in are. There's a lot of violence, some social encounter (mostly to convince people) and exploring mysteries. Nice things indeed but oh so very asexual. So thanks for bringing that up!

    Last but not the least: I'll buy, read and play whatever you produce. I do love your OSR stuff but that's not the only game I play and as a Swede, that's not even what I played as a kid so there's no nostalgia for me to there.

  7. Really enjoyed Esoteric Enterprises. Looking forward to whatever non-OSR stuff you produce.

  8. Hey there! Just wanted to say that I purchased Ynn and the Stygian Library, and found them to be very exciting projects. The best advice that I can give you (if you wanted any) would be to remember what you've accomplished. You pioneered a new form of RPG experience, and pushed the boundaries of adventure design in ways that a vast majority of those "creators" never can.

    Do not allow them to get to you. True creativity is rare in any field, even in RPGs, and you have shown an incredible amount of talent. That can never be taken away from you, no matter what anyone else says.

    I look forward to seeing your future creations. Best of luck.

  9. I'm really sorry that you've had to put up with so much shit. No one deserves that, especially someone who is only trying to add more fun in the world.

    For me, the beauty of your work is the concepts, the details they inspire, and the elegance of your random tables. 5e is the current lingua franca of rpgs, so there is a strong motivation to go with it. If someone wants to play a different system, they can adapt it. Personally, I've been using your stuff in 5e, anyway. I'm old enough to have played every version of D&D and many other games and I find much of the OSR propaganda internally incoherent; I've never really been in that space enough to know those involved.

  10. Hello ma'am. I just wanted to say that 1) I'm really sorry you've had to deal with so many deep and personal violations of your space, and 2) I'm really glad you're moving to the 5E space. I hope that you find it is refreshingly lacking in jerks, profitable, and creatively fulfilling.

    I think the 5E space has gotten a little stale over the last year or so, and I'm really looking forward to your contributions to help spice it back up. I've really enjoyed Stygian Library, and I can't wait to see what you're bringing to the table!

    Thank you so much for all that you do, and I wish you the best of luck!

  11. I have said this before but I will again Ynn and stygian Library have become staples of my 5e game. A couple of my players are hard to keep out of the library. We are about to start a new campaign and I know that they will try everything to find a way to get there with new characters. Also I use the mechanics system to run random encounters for special locations in my game world, The demiplane of dragons for example. Best of luck and keep innovating.

  12. I've been a big admirer of all your work. FWIW I've always got bad vibes from the online OSR communities I've stumbled on and stayed away, although I realise that some of the people involved are decent.

    No doubt the 5e project will be awesome, it certainly sounds like it.

  13. Dungeon Bitches was a revelation, wish you'd do more PbtA shit (or even more deeply storygamey shit) instead of 5e, but hey, gotta survive in the capitalist hellscape, right? anyway, moderately curious how you feel about shit like Troika, ItO, and Mothership that folds itself into "the OSR scene" without taking any real mechanical basis from oldschool D&D (just bc that's my personal jam, but yeet) but hey, the OSR as a whole doesn't fucking deserve you, you're too good for that shit lmao

    1. Into the Odd is a really elegant game that I always enjoy playing and which comes with some absolutely top-notch referee advice, and Chris McDowell is a lovely dude.

  14. I don't think you remember, but when I was in High School I found out about the OSR through discords and you were one of the first people to ever get in contact with me. You personally welcomed me in, gauged my experience with tabletop (fuck all), and gave me some pointers and a nice little talk about running edgy/primitive-setting games. That colored my whole perception of the tabletop community in a very positive light, and it was such a nice thing to experience. From nothing you gave me a lot.

    It's infuriating to know you haven't been afforded that same kindness. I'm looking forward to seeing what you make, always.

  15. Ugh. All that sucks. Understandable that you'd want to distance yourself.

    I wish you well on your endeavor to make money artistically through game design. If you can find the way to pay rent with your revenues you are far and away a better biz-person than Yours Truly. Hopes and prayers for your success!

    [by the way, it's not selling out to make a living as an artist. You're entitled to earn coin for your work. No doubt you will IMPROVE the 5E scene with your offerings]

  16. Your work is amazing; no matter what community you find yourself in it won't deserve you :) If 5e gets you paid, more power to you. I'll just do what I always do with any content I like...consume it voraciously and then convert it to whatever system I happen to be playing at the time!