As I said before I’m not doing these in any particular order. I’m just looking at my bookshelf and grabbing the one that catches my interest at the time. So this week, I’m going to talk about Basic Fantasy.
Basic fantasy doesn’t try to emulate and specific older edition of D&D but the foundations of the game mechanics are strongly rooted in those older editions. The game does use Ascending AC and race is separate from class. The main book has the four basic classes (Fighter, Magic-User, Cleric and Thief) along with the four basic races (Human, Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling). It uses the 5 Saving Throws for the older editions and Thieves use the old percentile skill system. The core book (3rd Edition) clocks in at 166 pages and has all the material you need to run a game as well as some very good optional rules and guidance for DM’s and players. All in all, it’s great game for beginners and experienced players alike.
Yes, I know that first paragraph sounded really boring but here’s what’s really cool about Basic Fantasy, the price. Many old-school games have their core books as PDF’s for free. The entire Basic Fantasy line is available for free in PDF. That’s right the adventures and supplements are free. Plus there is an active community putting together even more material. But wait. There’s more. The hard copies of all that are for sale at cost. That’s right at cost. So on Amazon the core Basic Fantasy book is only $5. There are PDF’s out there of core books that cost way more than that. And since most of the old-school games are largely cross compatible with little or no work, all those supplements and adventures are useful no matter what game you happen to be running. Basic Fantasy is a solid game and a great choice if you want to dip your toe into the old school style without investing a lot of cash.
Check out the Basic Fantasy website for all those PDF’s. And here’s the link to the core book on Amazon and Lulu.
Ok, I was going to post this one much later but word has gone out that Lamentations is having some financial troubles. They may be on their way to making their goal to stay afloat but we’ll see for how long.
There’s a lot that can be said about Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Way more than I’m going to rant about here. But there are still some good points and bad points that I’m going to mention. For the TLDR version: A solid core game that’s been outweighed by its own controversies and shock just for shock value.
First off, the game itself is solid. Basically, your standard classes and races with a few tweaks here and there like the Fighter is the only class whose Attack Bonus improves and the Specialist (Thief replacement) is the only one who gets better at skills. And speaking of skills it uses a simple x in d6 system. There’s even a pretty easy encumbrance system. Plus some new spells and variations of ideas on existing spells. So that’s the good part. The core game is fully usable and takes a few of the tropes into new and interesting directions.
A lot of people are put off by the graphic art. I mean really graphic. I’m not but I can understand the “Ew!” reaction that many folks have. But there are some free art-free PDF’s legally available over on Drivethru here and here.
I thought some of the early adventures; A Single Small Cut, Scenic Dunnsmouth, and Weird New World; were pretty good. But as time wore on the adventures became more and more one-way death traps or shock just for shock value. You know sort of like Spinal Tap, “The shock goes to 11.”
Now, you can’t think about Lamentations of the Flame Princess without bringing up controversy. In hindsight, it seems that controversy and shock value were the marketing plan. There’s always been some sort drama surrounding the game. It was the art. It was personalities. Or something. Back in the days of G+, it seems like there was one every month or so. IMHO, all the drama and the “Shock Factor 11” adventures just wore out a lot of the fan base. I know it did me. So I pretty much stopped paying attention to it.
And there’s one more 800 pound gorilla out there. The now infamous Ref Book Indiegogo Campaign. Yes, I backed it. That was like 7 years ago. The last update on the campaign was in February and with the recent financial problems, it might be another 7 years if at all. Of course, a lot of folks are a bit pissed considering all the other stuff that’s been published. Crap, he had the money to make promotional buckets. Yes, buckets… You might be able still get one. No Ref Book but you can have bucket.
I’m not doing this any particular order but I think Labyrinth Lord is the next best place to go on these rants. So what can I say about Labyrinth Lord? Like most of the retroclones, it’s so similar that adventures, monsters and characters really need no or very little conversion. I’ve had the PDF’s (which you can get at Goblinoid Games for free.)for a very long time. I did back the Kickstarter that gave us Advanced Labyrinth Lord with is the “basic” and Advanced Companion combined into one book. And like I said it’s damned good game and it follows closely to what classic D&D is like. I do have one major complaint about the book and that’s the organization of the spell section. It’s alphabetical but by class. So you turn to a page in the spell section and unless you have the spell lists memorized pretty much then you might not know if you’re in the Druid or the Cleric section. I know it’s a relatively minor complaint but it still annoyed me. And if you want a little more detail about its legacy check out the Wikipedia article.
Now I have ran a campaign using Labyrinth Lord. I called it my classics campaign. The party started with Keep on the Borderlands and went thru several classic TSR Modules (including Curse of Xanathon, The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, and The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth) and ending with the Tomb of Horrors (which the party gave up on). Overall the players loved it. Yes, there were a few complaints about how it wasn’t like more modern editions but folks got over it and enjoyed the game.
And here’s Part 1
Roll Dice. Kill Monsters. Take Their Stuff. And Have Fun!
It’s a perfect time to sit back and do a little reflection considering all the crap that is going on. So for me, I want to go back and look at some of the old OSR stuff that’s been influential with me and throw in some extra notes and thoughts since so much time has passed. It seems so long ago and so much has changed.
I know I’ve told this story before but it’s the best place to start. How exactly did I catch the OSR bug? At the time, the gaming group was playing 3.5 and along came the train wreck of 4th Edition and we switched to Pathfinder. And we played Pathfinder a lot. As time progressed, I got more frustrated with it. We’d spend so much time plotting out movement, spell effects, and figuring all sorts of rules minutia rather than actually playing the game. It really hit home with me when I literally was using a spread sheet to keep up with all the various bonuses for my character. It was just too much and started searching the Internet and that’s when came across all those wonderful retroclones and other goodies. I was amazed at just how much was out there and while so much of it was different, it was largely still cross compatible.
IMHO, you can’t really talk about the OSR without looking back OSRIC. OSRIC really opened the doors for all of the games that followed. While it was intended as sort of an old-school SRD, it’s still playable. Sure I’ve got the PDF but it’s something that I rarely if ever use in a game. It’s handy for reference or even a little research. Remember, I did say that it was playable and there’s folks out there who still play it and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. And to put bluntly, even if you’re playing something with a different label, chances are it still might be pretty close to OSRIC.
With all that being said, OSRIC does deserve a very special place. It really was the game that started a renewed interest in old-school gaming.