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Free Engines & Empires: OSR Gaslamp/Steampunk!

Jack Daniel

Engines & Empires
So here's a thing: Engines & Empires has been around for about as long as the whole OSR. It was one of the early ones, and probably one of the first to try twisting the B/X rules to a non-medieval genre. It's a free download, so go ahead and check it out if a little OSR steampunk sounds like it might be up your alley!

And if you want the tl;dr version, here's what the game is like:

• The dungeon crawling rules hew as close as possible to the pink box/red box D&D rules, except that all the "1 in 6" and "2 in 6" mechanics have been folded into a d6-based skill system (one that predates the system from LotFP!).

• Characters have four attribute scores, called Valor, Fortune, Wits, and Presence. Instead of representing your strength or brains or charm, your stats represent your "fighteryness, rogueyness, nerdiness, and mageyness" — the attributes are there to be prime requisites, not to get checked with d20 rolls all the bleeding time.

• Five basic character classes: the fighter, the rogue, the mage, the scholar, and the tech. Fighters fight, rogues gamble, mages make with the hocus-pocus, scholars are bookish occultists who fight pretty good too (Dr. Van Helsing types, basically), and techs are the stars of the show—they build the gizmos!

• Thanks to the wonders of the OGL, the magic system is borrowed from another popular OSR game—you'll recognize it when you see it—because "Le Guinian" magic fits the genre better than Vancian magic ever could. Everything has a Victorian fairy-tale vibe on the magic side, and the technology rules have been created specifically to be balanced against the magic rules. While the magic-users are tossing spells and working elaborate rituals, the technologists can outfit their whole party with gadgets, chemicals, bombs, guns, and inventions.

• Demihumans are there, but they're totally optional. Not every campaign will include them. Those that do will find the power scale very down-to-earth: human characters cannot advance above 10th level under any circumstances, which means that the demihuman classes have been limited to (very nearly) the level limits from the white box. Elves, for example, are both fighters and mages, but the elf class only goes up to 7th level.

• Monsters, monsters, monsters. I love monsters—half the book is monsters. They're classics, steeped in fairy-tale and folklore, but I just couldn't not include a crazy lotta monsters.

• The game is deadly. Hit points are fixed (fighters get 4/lv, rogues and scholars 3/lv, mages and techs 2/lv) and attribute mods to hit points apply only once, not once per level or hit die. 0 hp means dead-dead, though there are some spells and items kicking around that can help a lucky PC catch a break (my favorite being a magical item called "dem bones").

• Historically reasonable weapons and armor. Longswords are longer than bastard swords, which are longer than arming swords! Gambesons and plate harness! (And descending AC, naturally.) Spears and pole-arms kick ass—and that's not even getting into the guns!

• A unique encumbrance system that hybridizes slot- and weight-based systems.

So… yeah. This is basically just all of my house rules blended into a "thing that I like" type deal. It's free, take a look, have fun, roll some dice!




And now there's also the World of Gaia, E&E's official campaign setting!
 
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