Favorite OSR Systems?

Alright BSers, what are your favorite old-school systems, and why? I’m personally not a fan of retroclones that just rehash and reorganize B/X or AD&D, but I love games that treat the classic material and tropes in a more modern or innovative way. Dig The Black Hack, Beyond the Wall, Knave!, Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells & the like. About to grab Into the Odd and Troika

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Honestly, I have a ton of love for HackMaster 4th edition. That was our house game for 15 years and I personally consider it OSR, as in my mind it’s a houseruled iteration of AD&D 2e.

It’s no secret that I adore Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG - I describe it to new players as ‘A modern game with an old school D&D vibe’ or just ‘D&D done different’

It’s very much it’s own game without being a retroclone. Class wise it has what I call the ‘classic’ 7 classes (demi humans are race as class) but each class has a distinct ‘feel’ and unique abilities.

It uses a dice chain from a D3 through to a D30 in normal play which for the most part replaces clunky strings of modifiers. It has a unique magic system which makes even low level magic users quite lethal (though sometimes to their own party!) and a fun ‘Luck’ mechanic.

If I want something more ‘traditional’ OSR/ old school D&D I tend go lean towards either Labyrinth Lord (B/X retroclone) or more recently Whitebox Fantastic Medieval Adventures (a reworking of Swords and Wizardry Whitebox which is based on Original D&D)

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Totally agree. I love DCC!

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DCC/MCC for the win!

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I like parts of DCC a lot, but I don’t love the funky dice and the probabilities that go along with them – I’m sure I’m in the minority here, but I don’t like d20s and linear distribution in general. Much more of a bell curve guy. Overall, I really like about 75% of what most OSR games focus on (rulings not rules, dungeon delving, classic classes and such) but 25% represents that which I ran screaming from when I dropped AD&D in like 1987 or 1988 – seriously gonzo themes, hirelings, having to explore a dungeon one ten foot pole tap at a time, etc.

I do like DCC modules – at least the ones that are a little less gonzo. Anyone have recommendations?

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Doom Of the Savage Kings is a classic, The 13th Skull is a lot of fun and not too gonzo. Check out some of the 3rd party DCC/MCC/Umerica stuff too.

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I have — and love — Doom of the Savage Kings. In fact, I ran it (or at least a good chunk of it) as a play-by-post game using The Black Hack. Incredibly fun NPCs in that adventure, and that’s just the style and tone I’m after, generally. Will check out your other recommendations…

I’ve played DCC (Umerica, specifically) at a con, and had a blast. I’ve read some of the other games mentioned so far, and they’ve got some interesting ideas - Beyond the Wall in particular I’d be interested in running. For sci-fi, I really like what I’ve read so far in Stars Without Number, but I haven’t had a chance to play or run it yet either. It’s on my bucket list.

But my top two OSR systems are Swords & Wizardry (OD&D) and Old-School Essentials (B/X). Yes, they just rehash and reorganize old editions of D&D, warts and all. But they do it so well! For what it’s worth, I didn’t play either of the systems they’re based on back in the day. I went from Mentzer’s Basic set to AD&D 2e, and missed out on what came before. Without retroclones, I don’t think it would have even occurred to me to check those editions out.

Swords & Wizardry makes OD&D accessible and understandable to modern audiences, and was my go-to system for several years. I introduced a lot of new players to old-school gaming using it. I’m not currently running any S&W games, but I play in a weekly game. As for OSE, its organization and layout are great for use at the table, and its modular design makes it easy to extend B/X in new ways. It’s also had one of the most transparent and well run Kickstarters I’ve ever seen.

So anyway, yeah, I agree there’s some great new systems out there worth checking out. But personally, a lot of the time, I just want to play old D&D with new books.

Edit: I’m always happy to play a different system at least once. S&W and OSE are just my go-tos for when I’m running a game.

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I’m a big fan of OSRIC.

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Yeah, Beyond the Wall and SWN are both really great, IMHO… but I haven’t played either of them either. Might try to get BtW to a con, or to a local pick-up group I just recently found. Interestingly, I never played B/X as a kid either – I dove straight into AD&D and felt (clearly wrongly, in retrospect) like the red box game was lesser, somehow. OSE does look beautiful, but there are elements of those old games that bug me too much these days. Ah well.

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Brett sighting!
Er, Fafhrd, I mean. (Always thought that name needed another vowel.)
Question, sir: you’ve mentioned on the cast a number of times that your regular group loves the tactics, the maps, the minis. But that if you had your druthers, you wouldn’t necessarily use them. I think I recall that it’s Pathfinder you’re often running… if you had your druthers, what would you run?

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Thanks, Jim, for some love for S&W.

I run Swords & Wizardry Complete with house rules. For a moment last year I had an affair with White Box, but, when it comes down to old fashioned D&D, I think players appreciate the greater range of options in Complete. (I hear there is a permanent sign next to these manuals at The Source in Minneapolis—“Yes, this is 1e!)

My house rules might be proliferate enough, now, that it might not even be, specifically, S&W that I’m running, but that, of course, is specifically stated in the rules: make it your own!

That’s what I love about S&W: it’s the essential chassis, just enough to run, utterly malleable, and Complete provides enough options for the seasoned player to still be satisfied.

Footnote: As a GM I preferred the three classes in WhiteBox with even more room for customization (and—at least in the original articulation with the Peter Mullen cover) no darkvision for demi-humans, but, as I already said, players appreciate options.

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I bought the “Dungeon and Dragons Rules Cyclopedia” from DriveThru just for nostalgia sake. Now I’m itching to play some real old school using the original rules (warts and all). I’m sure finding anyone willing to give this a go will be a challenge!

I own S&W, as well as Labyrinth Lord, DCC, Zweihander, BX, Red Box, OSRIC and Black Hack. I don’t think I played any of them in the last 10 years except DCC. Unless you count a bx game at GaryCon by @Hobbs

I’ve been wanting to play some OSR but find my usual players are rather scared of it. I have DCC, MCC, LotFP, Neo-Classical Geek Revival, and Swords and Wizardry. Never played any of them.

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I was there, I was a witness! I even tried to advocate for making sure the character’s body got a proper burial.

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Basic Fantasy RPG for me. Great Basic D&D vibe at unbeatable price. Free PDFs and at cost print books.

DELVING DEEPER is the real deal. I love it so much. It’s a Oe retroclone focused on the first three books only (pre-Greyhawk). The author, Simon Bull, did his research and even takes pains to use period-appropriate nomenclature, all while reorganizing and fleshing out the text into a readable, playable, easily grokable system. And it’s hella fun to play. You have to get over your presumptions that all the shit added to the game from 77 forward made it automatically a better game (e.g. variable weapon damage) and just try this thing out. Also, you can get it for free. I did a two-part podcast about it with my buddy Cody. Links to the podcasts and to rules downloads are to be found here:

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I think I’ve looked at this before, and you’ve convinced me to look again. You interest me in the same way that I crushed on WhiteBox, but ultimately I thought I liked WhiteBox only because of its elegance (upon which I might have to digress later) and because it was so Ref-friendly, giving the Ref all the power. As I’ve said, I went back to Complete (S&W) because, after all, gaming is communal and my players seem to prefer the extra agency that arises from more options.

I must admit, the single damage die is off-putting even to me, the Ref! Very interesting. I would love to give it a try sometime, for the experience.

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