"OSR" stands for "Old School Roleplaying" or "Old School Renaissance" depending on who you ask. As I've explored the trend, the letters have become less of an acronym in my mind, gelling together into a single statement. For me, "OSR" has started to coalesce into a genre that evokes a specific experience – an experience I'd like to have.
For me, the OSR experience is nostalgia for a time that came before me. It is revelling in the freedom of certain death. It is a look at new things made old again, which in turn have been made new again. It feels archetypal. Strange yet so familiar.
I present to you 4 creatures and games from this milieu.
The Bone Bowyer from Mörk Borg
Tall and thin
Wear my skin
In our homes
Steal our bones”
A dark and demonic fey creature that lurks in the woods of Sarkash, the Bone Bowyer hunts children so that it may harvest their skin and bones. With the bits of the innocent, it constructs a bone bow that always hits – regardless of whether it was the intended target. It is rumoured that the Bone Bowyer may fashion a bow for a mortal in exchange for services so dark that I'd prefer not to list them here.
Monster designed by Matthew Bottiglieri
Art, stats, and story available in a free PDF
Alzabo from Troika!
An enormous and intimidating ghoul-bear with red fur, the Alzabo would be a formidable monster with its body alone. But these giant bears attack with more than just claws, teeth, and crushing size - they attack the psyche of their prey using the sounds their former victims.
An Alzabo can produce the sound of any creature it has ever eaten. Imagine hearing the frightened plea of your lost companion? A companion you watched get devoured only hours before? It reminds me of the terrifying cabin scene in Annihilation.
Monster designed by Daniel Sell
Stats available in the Troika! core book
Gorgon from Labyrinth Lord
This old-school D&D take on the Gorgon is a massive bull (over 6ft tall at the shoulder) with red scales and a petrifying breath attack. They attack aggressively, charging in with their tusks to gore their opponents.
If the tusks don't do you in, the breath attack will. Any who stand in the clouds of this Gorgon's breath are turned to stone.
Readers of Novus Bestiary will get this reference immediately. The Gorgons of greek mythology were famous for their ability to turn people to stone. But they took the shape of cruel women with snakes for hair.
So how did this Gorgon come to take the shape of a bull? That is a strange tale for another day.
The Fury from Kingdoms
The Fury is a graceful, white-plumed monster that roams the forest in a state of isolated self-assurance. Even the nastiest beasts do not hunt the Fury, because the Fury drools, sweats, and pisses white-hot fire.
Its name speaks to its attack pattern. When it strikes it quivers in hatred from head to toe, and its fury melts the corpses of your friends. At least you can harvest it's body for items such as a fire-jaw link, or a crescent skull blade – assuming you survive un-singed.
Monster designed by Sophia Tinney
Art, stats, and story available in the Kingdoms Zine