New School Revolution

NSR games have

  • A GM
  • A Weird Setting
  • A Living World


  • Rules Light
  • Deadly

and focus on

  • Emergent Narrative
  • External Interaction
  • Exploration

And thats basically it! Inclusive. No purity tests, no rules requirements, no us vs them, just a brief list of stuff to help find games that match your taste. Think of this(with maybe the exception of the GM requirement) as a series of Venn Diagrams. The more you hit the more people will agree with your categorization.

So what’s the point of this? Games like Mothership, World of Dungeons, Troika, and Into the Odd have almost nothing in common if you just look at the mechanics. But drop someone who enjoys any one of those into a game of the other and they’ll probably have a good time. The games all share a perspective. The term NSR is useful in that it describes a style of play. “If I like game X I will probably like game Y.” or “I don’t love game X as written but I can run it in an NSR style.”

I have no interest in introducing yet another term for internecine warfare. But I see a descriptive gap for this style of play. OSR is heavily tied to old school D&D. Artpunk hasn’t really caught on. Sword Dream is mostly an phenomena. It feels like we need something else. Please use the term NSR if you find it useful. I certainly do.

Addendum: I’ve gotten questions over the years about some of the bullet points and I finally put all my answers in one place.

Join the Conversation


  1. New to your writings but curious why ‘deadly’ has to be such a part of this (and OSR).
    Working on some ideas that borrow some ideas from modern animation like Adventure Time and how it uses light continuity with a basically unbalanced (skewed towards the main character) environment to grow the characters. Is OSR/NSR not into long term characters and growth?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. (Sorry if this is a bit long, not sure what your background is and want to cover the bases) I think there’s 2 schools of thought. The first is that long term characters and growth are definitely a part of the game. Combat isn’t deadly because the game wants players to die, but because it doesn’t want the game to be all about fighting. The game is deadly to dis-incentivize violence as the first choice and emphasize exploration, interaction, and discovery. In a lot of these types of games xp or other types of advancement are also delinked from killing things. You see a lot of people talking about gold for xp or other methods. Compare that to something like the average 5e adventurer league games where characters have a lot of hp and healing magic, and then gain xp from winning combat. Most of them end up being a series of fights.

      I’ll give a personal example. I ran the adventure Winter’s Daughter several times with 5e and Black Hack. In the BH game, several players had less than 5 hp. They were careful. They scouted. They talked to creatures they met. They made difficult choices and had to be smart. Of all the BH games I ran, I think I had a max of 1 combat per session, sometimes none, and no deaths. When I ran the game with 5e I had at least 3 fights. The players knew they were tough enough to handle anything and they were willing to deal with things in what they considered the easy way.

      The second school of thought basically says unlike heavier games like Pathfinder or Eclipse Phase or similar, character creation takes less than 5 minutes, so who cares if you have to make another. Characters are less individuals who grow and change and more vehicles for world exploration. They are avatars for the player rather than entities of their own. It’s more like losing a life in a video game than getting a game over screen.

      All that said, these are guideposts, not hard fast rules. If you don’t want your game to be deadly, but like the rest? Cool! Either way, do link your game when it comes out. Would love to see what you come up with! Sorry if this got a bit long, but hope it answers your question.

      Liked by 3 people

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