How I see the term "NSR"
I kind of stumbled into the term by accident. I was looking for a discord server that was focused on making games and not too dogmatic about it, and that was friendly to people doing this independently, on their own, without particular expectations of commercial success, and I stumbled on a style of games that call themselves "NSR". The one thing about NSR is that nobody can quite agree on what it is. This is actually something I quite like about it, and so I feel like adding to that confusion by adding another definition.
I feel like overall though most people can agree these four things are true:
- Nobody can quite agree on what the NSR is. NSR defines a sort of nebulous tendency that can't be pinned down.
- NSR takes some inspiration from early editions of D&D, but also takes the game in other directions.
- NSR rejects bigotry in all its forms.
- The creator of the publication would agree that it's NSR, or at least would say, "sure? I guess?"
There are also a number of optional but common characteristics. Here's an incomplete list:
- People who publish NSR things often also play games outside of the OSR/NSR sphere, or at least have an appreciation for some of them, and draw influence from them in their publications.
- People who publish NSR things often draw from cultural inspiration outside of what classic D&D drew from, or revisit the same cultural influences from a different angle.
- NSR games are often rules-light.
- Possibly as a result of the latter, NSR games are often solo friendly. Many people in the NSR scene are also into solo games.
- NSR games often have a sort of open source ethos. SRDs are common, game jams are common, there is some overlap with zine culture and a fondness for art and design, but with a low-budget DIY attitude, using the resources available to you rather than expecting high production values.
- The person who has published the game has debated whether or not to post it on r/OSR out of fear that someone will get mad and say that it's not OSR.
There are similar tendencies happening all over the place in communities that don't necessarily consider themselves even OSR. I think it's up to them if they see themselves as NSR or not. In much the same way that a mushroom is just a small part of what we see of what lies underground, I think the term "NSR" is just one of the fruiting bodies of a much larger interconnected tendency in the TTRPG scene. By defining "NSR", I'm just trying to sketch out what I see from where I stand of a larger and more vibrant reality. I saw someone, and I don't remember where, suggesting that the term "NSR" is maybe becoming too broad to be useful. I think that's fine. Words exist to serve us, not the other way around, and maybe we'll move past this one soon.
An incomplete list of other blog posts on this subject: