This week, I figures I’d yack about Old School Essentials since they’ve got a Kickstarter going for a couple more Advanced books to add to the series. I started using/playing Old School Essentials when it was still BX Essentials. The name changed had nothing to do with the content of the game. It was to make the game more appealing to those who have no idea what BX means. And in case you are wondering it goes to the very old Basic/Expert sets of early D&D. Basic/Expert. BX. Get it?
Old School Essentials (OSE) is a clone of the old Basic/Expert sets like I said. Like most clones, it cleans up and organizes the material and fills in any gaping rules holes. The material is laid out clearly and easy to read and reference. As a bonus, it breaks down the material into separate books (Rules, Spells, Classes, Monsters, Treasure) for easy reference at the table. (Yes, it also consolidated into a Rules Tome as well.)
At first, I was really “meh” on it. Another BX clone? Yawn. I really don’t need this. I’ve got plenty of clones. Heck, I even have copies of my originals. So why in the world would I consider getting this? Well, I have to give credit where credit is due. One review changed my mind.
At that time, I was running Labyrinth Lord and decided to grab up a few of the books for reference at the table. Yes, I know there are many differences between the two. But I’m really laid back and just hand waved any differences in exchange for faster play at the table by having much of the material in an easy to reference format. I know I keep saying that but that’s real selling point on OSE, easily referenced material at the table.
If you’ve stopped by this blog more than once, you probably know that I really love house ruling and rules tweaking. Like most of the old school games, OSE isn’t any different. Any house rules that you may like or something cool from another clone, you can add to your game. Plus most of that old school material from around the web will easily work with little or no conversion. Last week, I said that Swords & Wizardry is my favorite of the old school games, OSE comes in as a close second. If you want to experience the game like it was back in the day and have it presented in clear and easily understood format and packed so it’s easy to reference at the table. Well, kids. OSE is there for you.
You can grab up Old School Essentials all over the web; DrivethruRPG, Necrotic Gnome’s site, and Exalted Funeral. Oh and I should mention that there’s an online SRD and generators available.
I’ve been thinking about these for a while. Let’s face it level drain has been debated to death. No put intended. And I’ve said before that I don’t mind it. But I will admit that it is really harsh. And then there’s magical aging. This is usually due to the old Haste Spell when the target ages a year. I always thought that it was kind of meh. And if the target was an elf, then it’s a who cares. To an elf, what’s another year. With the upcoming Labyrinth Lord game, I decided to think about these two and came up with a couple of ideas that I wanted to simple and still have that old school feel about them and that I could convert on the fly.
Level Drain: Instead of draining levels, monsters with this ability do extra damage (1d6/Level Drained). This damage is special and must tracked separately. It will not heal naturally. Potions will not work. Only a character employing healing spells who also has the Turn ability can attempt to heal the damage. For any healing spells to actually work, the caster must make a turning attempt (for each spell cast) and must successfully “turn” the creature that caused the damage.
Magical Aging: For each year that a character is magically aged, a Saving Throw versus Spells must be attempted. On a failure, the character permanently loses 1 point of Strength, Dexterity or Constitution (determined randomly).
So those are my quick thoughts on that. I’ll give the players the option on the level drain if they want to go hard core old school or something gentler. We shall see.
So I thought I had about six to prep for my upcoming Labyrinth Lord campaign (starting off with Keep on the Borderlands). Now it looks like I may be starting as early as this Thursday. So it’s time to into overdrive and get the necessities done.
First up. The campaign area/”world” map. For this whole campaign, I want everything to feel as much as possible like back in the day. So it was time break out the colored pencils. I grabbed the hex paper from incompetech. I don’t remember where I found those icons so many years ago and started filing stuff in.
I had also planned on typing out all my old notes and making the all pretty. That plan is down the drain. So we’re going really old school. Scribbled a bunch down in a composition notebook and will fill in as need be and as inspiration hits.
I was going to do a custom character sheet. And I still might. But in the mean time, I’ve made this very simple and handy spell cheat sheet so players don’t have to refer back to a book every time they cast a spell. Spell Cheat Sheet
And I was going to be do more thinking about some old house rules but I’ll throw them out here:
God Call: Characters can call on their god for aid whenever they want (even after death). The chance that the god intervenes starts a t 5%. Every time the character levels up this increases by 1%. Every time a god call is attempted the chance decreases by 1%. But there’s a downside and that Wrath. This starts at 100%. Every time a God Call is attempted this increases 1%. So first time. 100; second, 99-100; third, 97-100 and so on. Wrath is when the god is had their fill of the character’s pleas and will kill them outright or if they’re already dead; it’s no happy after life and there’s a good chance a divine heavy is going to claim all of that charcter’s gear. To be clear, it’s one percentile roll. Low good things happen. High, bad things happen.
I’m still playing around with some ideas on dealing with undead level drain but I’ll get to that later.
I constantly play around with rules and since I just rambled on about Thieves’ Guilds on the good old pod cast. I guessed I should do a little rant on skills.
The thing is that in the early editions all thieves has pretty same chance to do their trademark skills. No real specialization other than creating more specialized classes. Later editions and other games (like Dungeon Crawl Classics) came up with various ways of changing this up a bit. So I sat and thought for a minutes on a quick and easy method that just feels right with those earlier days. So here you go.
The player can choose to modify their some (or none) of the character’s skills at first level. Skills may be either raise or lowered once. You can’t do both to the same skill. Raised skills: roll 1d10 and add the percentage, Lowering skills: Roll 1d10 and lower that percentage (except Climb Walls and reduce that by 2d10 since it’s much higher). Since Hear Noise is on x in d6. That should be tougher. So to raise it by one, double reductions to another skill.
Any way just a thought for a little tweak. In case a player wants to play a pick pocket or burglar or trap specialist or whatever you want to call it.
Have fun, folks! And of course the usual disclaimer, some body may have already done this better than me.