Blank slates

As someone who lives in the OSR community, but keeps an eye on a couple of “modern” RPG communities as well I’m frequently confronted with an appreciation for subtle things in the OSR mindset that make games better. Things that aren’t talked about much. The unsung heroes if you will.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve seen multiple GM’s in another community lamenting that their players just aren’t getting involved enough in their world lore and it was bumming them out. A feeling that many GM’s can relate to, but also one that has a solution in an older school approach.

Characters as blank slates. Many OSR GM’s view early character levels as the backstory for a character, and conventional “Old School” Wisdom is that you shouldn’t write a backstory for your character because it might die immediately.

It is sometimes lamented as a dispassionate disconnect. A sadness that characters don’t have connections. The reality is this is the most freeing thing in the world. As a GM you know that your players aren’t going to walk in having read a 300 page lore document you put together. You don’t want them to have read that. You want the characters to be blank slates. Their political views, and interactions with the world lore are things that you will discover together.

The reality of this is amazingly freeing, for both parties. Players rejoice: Don’t stress about your character. Time and interaction will sort out their backstories. GM’s Rejoice: you don’t have to feel like your players aren’t taking your campaign seriously because them having no backstory is a feature not a bug.

There is no real zinger of a conclusion to this. This is just a happy observation I felt like jotting down.






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