One of the great things about the whole old-school gaming scene is the volume of supplement that are available. It really doesn’t matter which set of rules you may be using there’s plenty of “generic” supplements to help you out. Plus some of these are totally system neutral that you could use no matter what game you happen to be using.
Let me start with one that’s original. That is the best damned City supplement you’ll find and it doesn’t come from the modern era. That’s the 3rd Edition City Supplement from Chaosium.
Far as I know this isn’t available any more. So you’ll have to do some searching if you want to drum up a copy. It’s got random city encounters, building cities, and the infamous “Catch Up” tables. That’s for when the player is out but still wants some XP and stuff. Roll on the charts to see what you were doing. Of course, your character could die but that’s a risk you take. This book is standard in my GM bag when I’m running game.
The Tome of Adventure Design: This is pretty damned big book and isn’t meant to be used at the table. This is filled with inspirational charts and tables to design dungeons, villains and all sorts of things to throw into your campaign. Heck, just sitting back and reading it will start the ideas flowing.
Engineer Dungeons: This one is another aid with tables for creating dungeons. Like the Tome of Adventure design, you may not want to use it at the table but is filled with inspirational material. Sitting down with these two will let you design an adventure in an afternoon without lots of headaches.
New Big Dragon Games Unlimited Supplements: All of their stuff is pretty damned good but there’s three of them are a must haves. The d30 Sandbox Companion, d30 DM Companion, and the Creature Codex. These are great to have the table. The d30 Companions give you a wide range of random tables at your finger tips and who can’t use even more monsters to throw at the party.
Yes, I know that there are many, many more out there. Heck, I have even more on bookshelf. But I wanted to showcase what I consider the best of the best and those books that I end up using most often.
Back when I first got interested in the OSR, I stumbled upon MicroLite. Like games that I’ve written about it doesn’t emulate a specific old edition but has such a strong connection to the play style and overall philosophy that it deserves some attention.
The Microlite20 system breaks down the game mechanics to the bare minimum but no such much that everything is abstract. It’s still that standard 3 to 18 spread for attribute scores and uses the score modifiers more along the lines of 3.x. And yes, it’s got all the usual classes and races and then some. With it’s simple but familiar d20+modifier system, it’s easy for anyone used to d20 game to pick up quickly. Not only the simple system is a breeze for a GM to run and convert stuff into since it aligns well with most d20 based games.
Not only is Mircolite a simple system (only two pages of basic rules), it’s got a ton of supplements for various editions and genres. This is the gem of Microlite. Pretty much, no matter what you are thinking of running, there’s already a Mircolite version of it. And if you don’t like it then like I said, it’s so easy to convert stuff. It’s great for a con game, a one-shot, or even the “Oh crap, the regular GM can’t show up” situation. And yet despite the simplicity of the system. it can still stand up to a regular campaign. Personally, I should have included it on my list of possible online games in my New Year, New Game post.
So what about the price? That’s where it shines too. It’s PWYW on DrivethruRPG but only as a tip to the creators. That may sound sweet but it’s even sweeter. Like I said the basic rules are two pages, the Microlite RPG Complete Collection clocks in at around 2700 pages. Yes, that’s right. 2700 pages of various setting and genre rules. I don’t think that you can do better than that.
You get more info on Mircolite Nexus or on the RetroRoleplaying Site. You can pick up all these goodies on DrivethruRPG.
Back when I was first getting into the OSR, Dark Dungeons was one of the early retroclones that I stumbled upon. Back in those days, I was grabbing up every free or PWYW PDF that I could. I was on a search for a set of rules that spoke to my inner youthful grognard.
Dark Dungeons is a stand alone game and has the usual classes and race-as-class. It draws it’s inspiration from the Rules Cyclopedia and BECMI. Heck the character levels go up to 36. That’s right 36. I don’t know anybody who normally plays at such levels but you can do what you want.
Because there’s so many retroclones, nobody really has the time to play them all. So like some of the others, Dark Dungeons is one of those that sits on hard drive as a reference work. As I said, it’s a complete game. So not only does it have all the rules and stuff that you would expect, it also has rules for some that are missing from other games. like strongholds and domains, aerial combat (including sky ships), naval combat, mass combat (War!), extra-planar adventuring, and having PC’s become “Immortals”. While you may not use all of these components in your game, it is nice to have them readily at hand when you’re designing your campaign and don’t want just another cookie cutter setting that doesn’t have anything odd in it.
You can grab the original edition of Dark Dungeons or the 10th Anniversary Edition on DrivethruRPG for PWYW. You can also find out more about the Dark Dungeons and other of their games at the Gurbintroll Games website.
What can I say about Fantastic Heroes & Witchery? It’s one of those games that’s all over the place but in a good way.
The rules are mixture of inspirations from many editions but still largely compatible with other school games. So from the rules stand point, it stand along side so many others. Where it really proves interesting and valuable IMHO is all the classes, races, and cross genre inspiration.
Fantastic Heroes & Witchery isn’t just a plain old game with elves and dwarves and the usual array of classes. For fantasy, there’ are LOTS of classes and many races that didn’t come out until later editions. So there’s plenty of material there.
But wait there’s more! It even goes into it’s own version of Weird Fantasy. This sticks more to the pulp and Sword & Planet type classes and races rather than the edge lord definition of Weird Fantasy. This is the part that is really inspirational and usable for whatever old-school rules you happen to prefer. As I have said many times, don’t be afraid to color outside the lines and Fantastic Heroes & Witchery is good place to begin.
It’s well worth checking out over on DrivethruRPG or on DOM Publishing’s site.
Most of the games that I’ve written about before were clones of Original, Basic, or Advanced Editions. This makes For Gold & Glory a little different.
For Gold & Glory is clone of the the so-called “2nd Edition”. I know it’s that common and some folks have a love-hate relationship with 2nd Edition. Since it’s (as I would call it) the last of the old-school editions, it has all the races and classes that you would expect. It also has the 2nd Edition skill system which I personally thought was really weird. Since this is a core book, it doesn’t have what I really enjoyed in 2nd Ed, the class kits. In case you don’t know, the kits were sort of like the Prestige Classes in 3.x. The main difference was that for the kits, you started at 1st level as the kit class. You were a specialized version of that class.
Well, what have I done with it? Not really anything. I’m being honest here. I have much more fun messing around with something based on White Box or Basic. That doesn’t mean I haven’t sat back and read For Gold & Glory. It is a good trip down memory lane.
So should you grab it up? Well, sure. Like said, it’s a good trip down memory lane. If you want to play a game based on the 2nd Edition rules? Then here’s chance because the PDF is free on DrivethruRPG.