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1970s Roleplaying OSR D&D 1E


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I took it upon myself to run an introductory RPG session with some old friends who play a lot of Warhammer. I eventually, after much research, decided to go old school after a recommendation from a Games Master I know. 

I’ve played D&D 5E and whilst I enjoyed it, I found it fairly limiting, or certainly in the games I played. Everything was played on a grid with figures, and combat was quite methodical, often with little threat.


Enter OSR, or Old School Renaissance/Revival. A bunch of systems that have taken D&D 1E and reinterpreted them. But they are brutal, and simpler. The combat is so stacked against you that you are forced to be creative, targeting certain body parts, blinding, knocking over, all through the descriptions of your actions. If you just slug each other, then you will probably die. An example being, if a demon enters through a portal, then a character can attempt to push the demon back through, if he succeeds then bye bye demon. 

I have looked at 3 OSR systems, Basic Fantasy Roleplaying (The books are so cheap on Amazon, about £3 each), Whitebox, and Dungeon Crawl Classics. DCC is certainly a meatier book at 500 pages, but it has so many tables you can consult for random effects.


The adventure I have decided to run for my friends in a ‘funnel’ adventure, where each player gets 3-4 peasants, level 0 characters. The funnel adventure is designed to kill off the weak ones, due to randomly assigned stats, 3D6 for each attribute, and random occupations (enter the beekeeper with his smoke stick weapon (staff), and jar of honey). At the end you are typically left with the stronger characters, who then reach level 1 and choose classes. 

The adventures are typically dungeons full of traps and unfair situations where critical thinking is imperative, something I found generally lacking in 5E.


Does anyone else have experience with these systems?

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I've not actually played them but thanks to my fascination with RPG systems in general and specifically early D&D I've got a few OSR and "OSR adjacent" systems that I've been reading through.


First is Black Hack which is an ultra stripped back version of D&D. It's basically aiming to recreate the spirit of D&D and keep enough of the crunchy combat tactics and mechanics, but removing a lot of the book keeping. To level up players have to earn enough experience and then roleplay drunkenly recounting their adventures in taverns - which probably gives you a good idea of the general tone.


Then I've got Into The Odd which is sort of like Black Hack but stripped down even further. No to-hit rolls, you just roll for damage. No magic system - magic is entirely equipment based concerning artefacts the players find in dungeons. No experience points - players just automatically level up after each "expedition". The big thing it adds, after all the stuff is taken away is that hit points are a buffer before you start taking damage off your actual ability stats, and hit points recover completely after a short rest. So this cleverly strips out the need to micromanage healing, but also the players start to get worn down as an adventure goes on.


And finally I'm waiting on my kickstarter copies of Old School Essentials and Advanced Old School Essentials. OSE is the entire late 70s era D&D ruleset, rewritten but not mechanically changed in any way. Then Advanced OSE is a possibly misguided attempt to convert selected 1st edition Advanced D&D content into the original D&D system.


Dungeon Crawl Classics is one I do want to take a look at because the idea of the funnel appeals to me, as well as all those reams of random tables and their potential for catastrophic misfortune.

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38 minutes ago, phresh said:

The only OSR game i've played is Mork Borg, which i've absolutely loved. It does fall into the rules light Black Hack style though so it depends what sort of system you want.


I will also wave MÖRK BORG around - definitely OSR (so the emphasis is challenging the players rather than the characters, who are fundamentally disposable), but pretty modern and neat in it's design with an absolutely, outrageously gorgeous rulebook - but if you want to have a quick look you can find the Bare Bones Edition HERE (and this is legitimately free, I've just pulled the link off of their own website for it).


I'm a pretty big fan of Death in Space if you're interested in a beautifully dismal science fiction setting where manufacturing new things is next to impossible so everyone is reliant on "finding" replacements parts for their stuff on "abandoned ships".

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