Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Grognard is French for "grumbler". It is not necessarily pejorative and is sometimes used as a compliment. Historically it meant a soldier of the Old Guard in Napoleon's army.

Grognard is slang for someone who likes playing wargames.

According to Jim Dunnigan, former editor of Strategy and Tactics magazine "The term 'grognard,' as applied to veteran wargamers, was first coined back in the early 1970's by John Young. He was, at that time, an employee for [the board] wargame publisher SPI, and the use of the term around the office (and among the local play testers) soon led to 'grognards' being mentioned in one of SPI's magazines (Strategy & Tactics). Several hundred thousand board wargamers picked up the term from that publication and it spread to computer wargamers, as the the board wargamers (the ones with PCs, of course) were the first people to snap up computer wargames when they appeared. "

The OSR has picked up the term to mean old school gamers, or a version of D&D that was more wargame than the storytelling style of RPG that arose in the 90's, or the analog MMO that seems to be where the game is now.

If grognard meant wargamer, maybe it still does in some quarters, today it means someone who subscribes to a style of gaming that doesn't require metaplots or railroad adventures. It's a little more flying by the seat of your pants. Doesn't require the 400 page detailed world encyclopedia of some else's imaginary world. Is relatively rules lite, or as detailed with home brewed and borrowed rules the participants want to make it. In other words, it is how we played D&D when I was in high school just before Dragonlance came out. And to be clear it doesn't mean any other kind of gaming style is wrong or bad, inferior or superior, it is merely a category defining a person who enjoys a certain "old school" way of playing RPG's.

This actually came up at work yesterday as a serious discussion informing product development. I thought it was incredibly interesting.


  1. Thanks for the etymology and recent history of the term. I was a little confused last year when I discovered the OSR movement (or at least its blog side) and saw the term being applied to old-school D&D players. It seemed very strange to me, since I was only familiar with its usage in reference to soldiers and war-gamers. I wasn't aware it had been co-opted by the OSR movement, where it almost seems as though it's being applied self-referentially.

    It will likely always seem odd to me to see the term applied to role-players...

  2. I won't use the term in this context unless it's talking about roleplayers that were wargamers first.

    (and Warhammer doesn't count :P)

  3. I will only use it when talking about Napoleon's old guard.