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OSR A Pathfinder Group Tries Old-School Essentials


Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Moldvay Basic was probably the best for quickest D&D character generation in my experience. Particularly if you did not use the explicitly optional encumbrance rules.

I often found buying equipment a particularly fiddly part of character creation in every edition of D&D that could be a bigger time investment than generating stats and writing down class/race stuff (even though it usually came down to armor, weapons, various fiddly other equipment).

True. And that's why Moldvay came up with Ye Old Fastpacks in B4, The Lost City. So smart. Then Greg Gillespie revived the concept for Barrowmaze.

The entire character creation process, not just the ability score generation. ;)
1E AD&D? With all the fiddly little benchmark minimums for various races and classes in the ability score charts?

I'm not saying you CAN'T make a character (especially a basic Fighter or M-U) in 5 minutes, but if you want to assess your options, the PH certainly doesn't make it easy or quick. :D

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The EN World kitten
It always seemed to me a design error, and that if they really wanted to move away from Gary's higher-powered intent for AD&D, they should have gone with the Moldbay or Mentzer ability score charts for bonuses.
Or at least allowed for some limited stat-trading (i.e. lower one score by 2 to raise another by 1, etc.) the way they did back in Original Edition Dungeons & Dragons (affiliate link). As it is, the standard method for generating ability scores in AD&D 2E ended up being the most stringent in all of D&D history!


Moldvay Basic was probably the best for quickest D&D character generation in my experience. Particularly if you did not use the explicitly optional encumbrance rules.

I often found buying equipment a particularly fiddly part of character creation in every edition of D&D that could be a bigger time investment than generating stats and writing down class/race stuff (even though it usually came down to armor, weapons, various fiddly other equipment).
Buying gear was the slowest part of character creation for us. The Alexandrian recently posted an article on speeding this up in OD&D, which should be adaptable to any edition.

I think one can set something up in Foundry with the compendium, so it’s just drag and drop. I’d wanted to do something like the Alexandrian’s approach, but I forgot before the first session of our one-shot. 😅


I like the default class and background equipment option of 5e, appropriate and quick with just a few simple choices.

Although I prefer Moldvay's B/X prices where fighters can start with plate mail and not have to switch armor mid campaign.

Re: Ability Scores

The Mentzer Basic set DM Book says that the DM can allow a player to switch scores in order to play a preferred class. If, for example, the ability scores are better for a thief (high DEX), but the player wants to play a cleric, then the DM can allow the player to exchange the DEX and WIS scores.

The Mentzer Player Book has a list of premade characters, and they all use an array, apparently. Even the fighter that is in the "choose your own adventure" introduction.

For humans, it is 17, 16, 14, 11, 9, 8

For demihumans, it is 16, 14, 11, 9, 9, 7

If your players still want to roll for random scores, but dont want the hassle of adjusting them, or rerolling dozens of times, use 2d6+6. You can still get random numbers, getting an 18 is still possible, but the lowest score will be an 8.

One other option is to have items and elements (magic pools and the like) that give permanent boosts to stats. That way, the characters "earn" their 18 strength through adventuring.

Moldvay is up front in saying to change or add rules as you like. That means houseruling in Basic D&D is part of the core rules.

My favorite rule change, after ability score shenanigans, is to keep the "d6 damage for all weapons", but with 2 handed melee weapons and crossbows, roll 2d6, and use the higher number.

For thieves, you could advance the table they use for skills by the DEX modifier. A thief with 13 DEX uses the table for a 2nd level thief, etc.

One last thing: in my opinion, the first adventure should yield enough treasure to advance the characters to 2nd level. Then slow advancement to the pace expected by the rules.
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"Diegetics", by L. Ron Gygax
My favorite take assuming B/X style ability mods is Stars Without Number. 3d6 down the middle, but once that's done you can replace any score with a 14. That way you are still surprised by character creation, but can be at least above average in what you want to specialize in.
Worlds Without Number keeps that system, which I think is simple and elegant. I like that the stat bonuses are so flat. 14-17 is a +1, and 18 is a +2. Makes rolling an 18 memorable without being too strong.


Update! We did the second session of the one-shot today and wrapped things up. We’re going to continue with OSE with the understanding that we can try something else if it doesn’t work out in campaign play.

The session itself was pretty good. We did get to do a few combats. One was completely trivialized because the PCs realized they didn’t have to fight the monster head-on, so they used their advantage to pelt it with rocks until it died. The other was pretty short, with the cleric’s turning the ghoul, and party’s killing it before it had a chance to flee. There was some confusion in the combat procedure (not realizing you had to declare a retreat), but I think that was just our getting used to something new. None of us have played Basic D&D before, so we’re not used to how it does initiative. I did like how the phases flowed though.

The post mortem was good. We talked for about forty minutes. There were a couple of concerns about having more mechanical options, but everyone also liked being free to try stuff. I think this is something that we’ll have to see how it goes over a campaign to really get a feel for whether it’s a problem in practice. I was a bit surprised when one of the players said he liked percentile skills. He’s usually not very opinionated on systems. I prefer them too (or rather, I prefer not setting and rolling against DCs), so that was nice. Another did say he preferred 5e or PF2, but he was also fine with continuing with OSE (especially since he didn’t want the work I’d put into getting this ready to go to waste).

The thing that told me we were probably going to make the switch is that as soon as they got back from the dungeon, everyone was discussing how they were going to spend their money to hire retainers to help them out against the ghouls. I had to interrupt the discussion to have the post mortem. If I hadn’t done that, I have a feeling we would have just kept going. 😁

The plan is to reroll stats using the card method, and people can either keep their current set or replace them. If they want to switch, they can retcon their existing character to something else. We’ll be picking up where the one-shot left off except as a continuation of the previous campaign. The old characters will step back into leadership roles, which makes sense based on where things were going anyway. I have some work to do to get things ready, but the fact that they’re interested in going back into the one-shot dungeon is really helpful from a prep standpoint.


That sounds awesome. Glad it went so well. How did the “advanced” classes feel compared to the “basic” classes?
They seem pretty similar in power and scope to the classic classes. We have a mix of both types (cleric, thief, barbarian, acrobat). Gavin did a good job of preserving niche protection, so no one is clearly better than the other or able to do everything the other classes do.

Our last session had our first actually difficult combat. The party managed to escape with minimal losses (one retainer died), but there was some grousing at the start of our Scum & Villainy game yesterday.

I thought they’d grokked that combat was dangerous, but getting lucky against one ghoul seemed to have convinced them that they could take on more. That went badly, and they ended up retreating.

They had actually devised a good plan to lure the ghouls into a trap, but they abandoned it when they encountered fewer than expected. They had planned to douse the hall with oil and light it on fire after baiting the ghouls.

There is also some “the answer is not on your character sheet” we need to get over. Someone observed that OSE is a heist game, which seems like a pretty fair take. You’re there to explore the dungeon and find treasure (not just fighting for its own sake).

We’re still learning and getting used to the system, so I expect there to be a few bumps along the way. There are assumptions coming from “modern” games that don’t hold, and we need to unlearn those. I felt the retreat was a good lesson even though I think the players would have preferred killing all the ghouls. 😅


Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Ghouls are absolutely the toughest monster among the low level stuff (Carrion Crawlers honorable mention) in B/X. They're super nasty and punch well above their weight class with three attacks causing paralysis. I usually only require a given victim to have to save a maximum once per round against the paralysis, even if hit multiple times, to make them a little less absurd.

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