Tag Archives: OSR

White Box Wednesday: What the hell is White Box?

I’m seeing this question start to pop up. I figured I’d do a post specifically on it then. So if someone asks, you can just point to here.

Basically, it’s a style of play that uses rules based on Original D&D: Three Little Brown Books that came in a White Box. Like anything, there’s debate about it. Should the first supplements be included? (Greyhawk; Blackmoor; Eldritch Wizardry; Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes; and Swords & Spells.) These introduced additional classes, races, monsters, and treasure that later would become iconic. They also introduced variable weapon damage and HD by die types. Remember folks. This is even before Basic came out.

There are many little rules oddities And here’s the low down:

  • To play the game, you only use d20’s and d6’s. The GM may use the other dice (d4, d8, d10, d12) for a random chart or table. But to actually play, you only need two dice. Your character’s Hit Dice: d6. Weapon Damage: d6. Modifiers are used generally to give them variations.
  • A character’s attribute modifier range is only -1 to +1. You’re below average, average, or above average.
  • Skills are usually handled with x in d6 chance

That’s it. If you’ve played any other edition of D&D then all of the familiar things are there; Armor Class, Hit Dice, Hit Points etc. You won’t see lots of attacks by characters or monsters. You won’t find overly detailed rules as much of the minutia is left to the GM. You won’t see a long list of skills, feats and so on.

Of course, like many of the old rules, they are nearly impossible to decipher. That means lots of folks may own copies of these but hardly use them. Yes, some still do. But thanks to the Open Gaming License, we’ve got retroclones. And there’s two main one’s that most people to go to.

First, there’s Swords & Wizardry White Box by Matt Finch. This is pretty much considered the original clone. Available on Lulu and Mythmere Games. Simple rules and everything you need in one small book. It does stick to the original three classe (Fighter, Magic-User, Cleric). Yes, there were originally only three classes plus the racial classes. While technically not supported it still has a decent fan following.

But it was eventually replaced as fan favorite by White Box Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game. These are basically the same game. WBFMAG does add the Thief and a few other rules additions. It’s available on DrivethruRPG, Amazon, and Lulu. Yes there are different covers, and no knows why there’s weird pricing across the platforms.

Yes, there are other core books out there but these two IMHO are the most common. And yes there are supplements out there. And takes for different genres. It’s whole new world of old style gaming.

If this is your first time here then just hit the White Box Tag and see other posts and rants.

White Box Wednesday: Original Edition Campaign.

Here’s a White Box supplement that doesn’t get much notice. I’d say the main reason is that it’s not on DrivethruRPG. As far as I can tell the only place that you can get it is on Amazon.

This little book is a set of house rules and tweaks from the author’s campaign that’s been going on for decades using the original little brown books. From what I can tell the author, Erik Johansson, is from Sweden. I really can’t hold that against him. Heck, my grandfather didn’t learn English until he got into the American school system. But this aint’ about that. It’s about the game.

Like other White Box supplements, we get additional takes on what’s become the standard additional classes: Barbarian, Druid, Paladin, and Ranger. Each one of these is a pretty good take on these classes and slightly different than what we’ve seen usually. And there’s good tweaks to the standard classes. I like the magic system where it’s you know a spell but the allocation tables are just how many you can cast. Sure that messes with what’s traditional but it does work and it’s similar to what I like to do.

There’s a good 2d6 vs TN task resolution system that is simple and can be easily added into your game. Roll 2d6 +up to two Attribute modifiers plus or minus any GM modifiers against a target number.

And there’s more in this 47-page booklet. All sorts of minor rules tweaks, tools, and design commentary about various aspects and changes that Erik had made to the rules. It also maintains that nostalgic charm of a simple layout and simple line art. No fancy pants layouts or art punk fonts that you can’t read.

There are a couple of downers. First, there’s a sentence or two that are just oddly worded. That’s no biggie for me and I attribute it to just being written by a non-native speaker. Hell, I’ve made worse grammar errors and have written or said things that make no sense. But I do know that it really bugs some people. The other, it’s a bit pricey. As of this writing, it’s $8.50. Despite that I still think that it’s worth it.

So go hit that link about and check it out on Amazon.

Thinking about Lamentations of the Flame Princess, again.

My brain is wandering back to LotFP again. Yes, I’m still angrily waiting for that damned Ref Book from many moons ago. But when I start think about doing something darker and weirder than normal, I just can’t help myself.

I’ve been watching Lord Matteus’s LotFP Youtube videos and dropping by his blog. I mean I hadn’t really paid much attention to the game for a couple years so I just felt that I had to get back into the swing of things and it was good place to start.

There’s been a lot of stuff that’s bounced around the old brain pan over the last couple of years. So lot’s of new ideas and thoughts have settled in there plus I’ve accumulated a lot of gaming material. One thing that’s popped into my head is that Lamentations is 95% attitude and 5% rules. Let me explain. The rules are primarily Basic D&D. Sure there are few tweaks, adjustments and additions. But at it’s core, it’s Basic D&D. That’s not a bad thing. There’s the simplicity of play and the lethality of play that fit right into the vibe. But the heart and soul of Lamentations is the attitude. The mood. Let’s face it you could go to your gaming group and say that you’re going to run Keep on the Borderlands with OSE and you get one reaction. Say you’re going to run it with Lamentations and you’d get a totally different reaction.

All this gets me to my happy Frankengame place. It’s no secret that I really like the Deathbringer rules. There’s lots of attitude and mood that comes in line with my interpretation Lamentations. In the first paragraph of Deathbringer, it plainly says, “It is not a game so much as a “kit”—a toolbox of hacks to create a fast-paced, grittier game.”

It’s a tough call on exactly what I’m going to do. But this is the kernel of an idea to start my planning for next campaign. Don’t worry. Crunchy bits will be on the way.

White Box Wednesday: Price of Rebirth

I dug into the depths and pulled this little gem from the nether hells. Let’s make death a little more interesting.

The Price of Rebirth is a cool little supplement by Stellagama Publishing. I know they are most famous for products using Cepheus/Traveler rules but they got other stuff. The subtitle pretty much says it all: Expanded Injury, Resurrection, and Lichdom Rules.

Each of these three factors revolve around Saving Throws and special effects based around the margin of success or failure. By the rules, when a character reaches 0 HP then they are dead. In this case, make a Save and maybe you’re dead. The results can end up being anything from you’re so dead that you can’t even be raised to popping back up with 1 HP. And in between, there’s all sorts of lasting injuries.

So you’re dead? Well, raise you might not be easy. This is another Saving Throw based effect. Maybe the gods just say, “Nope.” or something gores wrong with the ritual and there’s some lasting effect on the character.

And in that rare instance that somebody wants to become a Lich or the DM wants an NPC to do it. There’s a whole set of rules for doing that.

This is a handy little set of rules to add into your White Box game. Heck, you could add to other games too with little or no conversion. All in all. I now I’m adding it to may DM tool box.

You can pick up The Price of Rebirth on DrivethruRPG. Remember, one of the objects of the game is not to die.

White Box Wednesday: Adding a Little LOTFP

I’m pretty sure somebody has already thought of this. Heck, I might posted about it before on the old blog or somewhere in the archives of this one. But I think it’s cool to go back to the idea and play around with it a bit more.

So White Box uses the X in d6 mechanic for a lot things including skills. Well, so does Lamentations of the Flame Princess but with a little more detail. So why not kit bash these two ideas?

For the first point, let’s start with Attribute Checks. I like using x in d6 for these in White Box using a simple breakdown that lines up with Attribute modifiers so it come out like this:

  • 3 to 6: 1 in 6
  • 7 to 14: 2 in 6
  • 15 to 18: 3 in 6

Plus I like throwing in a bonus (increase the chance by one) based on Class. This maxes a character out at a 4 in 6 chance.

  • Fighter Types: Strength or Constitution
  • Thief Types: Dexterity or Charisma
  • Cleric Types: Wisdom or Charisma
  • Magic User Types: Intelligence or Wisdom

Now on to skills. This isn’t a complete list. You can go with as many as you want or that fit your campaign. Here’s where you can run to LOTFP and just grab that skill list.

Healing, Languages, Mariner, Skulduggery, Stealth, Survival, Thievery. Most are self explanatory except Skulduggery and Thievery. This is my own idiosyncrasy. Thievery is against the environment or objects like pick locks, and finding and disarming traps. While Skulduggery is against people like picking pockets, sleight of hand, and disguise. The exact list that you use in your campaign is up to you. And there’s nothing wrong with asking a player what they want their character to be good at.

All the Skills start of at 1 in 6. Thief types increase Skulduggery, Stealth and Thievery to 2 in 6. If you’re allowing Rangers or Druids then they would increase Survival to 2 in 6. Now use higher of the character’s Intelligence and Wisdom Modifiers. Since this is White Box, the best you’ll get is +1. So increase one skill by one.

When a character levels up then they pick a skill and roll a d6 like a normal skill check. If they FAIL then the skill goes up by one.

So go out there and hack those rules and make them do what you want for your campaign.