OSR Interested in dipping my toe into OSR but don’t know where to start. Any recommendations?


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Aldarc

Legend
They don’t come across as unintuitive to me - shrinking dice to represent dwindling resources is something I’ve seen before and know can work well. It’s just not something I expected to see in an OSR game. Again, maybe that’s a misapprehension based in outsider bias. At any rate, it’s certainly not unwelcome, just unexpected.
The thing is that OSR tends to be split between Retroclone OSR and Philosophical OSR. OSR started out as people who wanted to keep playing D&D as they were used to from the TSR era. They realized that they could reprint their own versions, which became "OSR as retroclone." Somehow in the OSR community, B/X (almost overwhelmingly) became the prevailing edition of choice, over against OD&D, 1e D&D, and 2e D&D. OSE is straight-up B/X retroclone, even going as far as converting AD&D to B/X.

However, in the process of articulating and advocating for why people would want to play the older versions of D&D, "OSR as game principles" emerged. I think that Black Hack falls more into the "OSR as game principles" camp. Ben Milton (aka Questing Beast) tends to also fall more into this camp as well. This camp tends to make more radical changes to the base game: e.g., Electric Bastionland, Maze Rats, Black Hack, Mörk Borg, etc. This means you more likely to see things like Black Hack's Usage Die here.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Somehow in the OSR community, B/X (almost overwhelmingly) became the prevailing edition of choice, over against OD&D, 1e D&D, and 2e D&D. OSE is straight-up B/X retroclone, even going as far as converting AD&D to B/X.
I think it's mostly just ease of use and simplicity. OSRIC/ 1E AD&D was a or the original retroclone & 1E was definitely one of the leading games of the movement, but I think in the process of examining it and its intricacies a ton of folks realized that they had glossed over much of it when they were younger, skipping details and more complex sub-systems, and really playing it closer to Basic/Expert. If you're going to skip most of the arcane stuff in AD&D, why not just play the cleaner B/X, and import monsters, magic items and additional spells from AD&D if you feel like it?

OD&D does seem to still be pretty popular too, but because it's a bit of a looser game, it's less useful as a standard baseline system if, say, I'm publishing an adventure. But Swords & Wizardry definitely still seems to be pretty prominent in the OSR as well.
 

Retreater

Legend
If you're going to skip most of the arcane stuff in AD&D, why not just play the cleaner B/X, and import monsters, magic items and additional spells from AD&D if you feel like it?
Many people don't like race as class, and it's an immediate turnoff. Then AD&D gives you more HP and different weapon damage. And then clerics that can cast spells at 1st level - which is probably the main reason I dislike B/X.
B/X has the built-in assumption (at least at 1st level), if you get into combat you're going to get hit. And when you get hit you're going to take damage. Then you're probably going to die in one hit - but in case you don't, you won't be able to heal and you'll die in your second hit.
And this isn't set up like a quick character funnel or modern games where you level-up after a single adventure of fleeing from monsters, sneaking through a dungeon avoiding every combat, etc. No - in some cases you need 2000 or more XP to level up. You'll be scraping XP in the single digits session after session.
And you don't even get a single healing spell in the process!
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Many people don't like race as class, and it's an immediate turnoff. Then AD&D gives you more HP and different weapon damage. And then clerics that can cast spells at 1st level - which is probably the main reason I dislike B/X.
Race as class is indeed a thing many people get hung up on. Of course, this is why Advanced Labyrinth Lord and OSE Advanced both give the option to decouple them. Although B/X is also an excellent simple system within which to design new classes; as shown in Paul Crabaugh's classic article from Dragon 109, or the dozens of them from James V. West's Black Pudding, or the Against the Wicked City or Goatman's Goblet blogs.

I hear you on the no spell at 1st level thing, but variable weapon damage was always in Basic as an optional rule, and IME it's almost universally used. Max HP at 1st level is also a very common B/X house rule, though TBF AD&D 1E uses the exact same HP as B/X, except Fighters get upgraded to d10 HG instead of D8.

B/X has the built-in assumption (at least at 1st level), if you get into combat you're going to get hit. And when you get hit you're going to take damage. Then you're probably going to die in one hit - but in case you don't, you won't be able to heal and you'll die in your second hit.
And this isn't set up like a quick character funnel or modern games where you level-up after a single adventure of fleeing from monsters, sneaking through a dungeon avoiding every combat, etc. No - in some cases you need 2000 or more XP to level up. You'll be scraping XP in the single digits session after session.
And you don't even get a single healing spell in the process!
This is all either untrue or equally true of every other TSR version of D&D. 1st level characters are fragile, yes. Reasonably likely to die in a single hit. But in B/X as in OD&D, plate mail is cheap and the classes which can wear it (everyone but M-Us and Thieves) are likely to be able to afford it when first generated. An orc, goblin, or skeleton needs to roll a 17 or better to hit a character with plate & shield, assuming no Dex bonus or penalty. Characters so equipped are normally your frontliners.

Reaction Rolls, Morale checks, and rules for fleeing encounters are there to reduce the number of times you're forced into a bad fight or stuck in one for long. Sleep spells and Turning Undead massively help at mitigating tough encounters where the party is outnumbered. And treasure is the bulk of XP, and sometimes found unguarded. The guideline Moldvay recommends is leveling roughly every 3-4 sessions. IME xp tends to follow an intermittent reward pattern- some sessions are really lean, others you make a big score.
 
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Retreater

Legend
I hear you on the no spell at 1st level thing, but variable weapon damage was always in Basic as an optional rule, and IME it's almost universally used. Max HP at 1st level is also a very common B/X house rule.
Optional rules are fine, but house rules to make a system survivable that's supposed to be "streamlined and elegant" (as I've seen it described) shows the limitations of the system.
This is all either untrue or equally true of every other TSR version of D&D. 1st level characters are fragile, yes. Reasonably likely to die in a single hit.
Yes, they're all essentially impossible as written. I don't remember how we played them back in the day to any level of survivability - I remember fudging things a lot. I remember in AD&D 2e I had a list of everyone's AC and hp behind the DM screen, rolled everything behind the screen, and then missed or did only a minimum amount of damage to give them a chance.
But at least in AD&D you had a little bit more HP, you had a "death at -10 hp rule" (I remember seeing it in Return to the Keep on the Borderlands), and access to healing magic at 1st level.

An orc, goblin, or skeleton needs to roll a 17 or better to hit a character with plate & shield, assuming no Dex bonus or penalty.
Yes, under the most ideal of circumstances, fighting the weakest enemies in the game, you have merely a 20% chance to die in a single hit.
 

In actual play, both the armor rules and ammo die for the Black Hack are more intuitive than they read. The ammo rules reduce bookkeeping while also adding a certain degree of tension about running out of ammo, though this is resolved at the end of encounters rather than in battle.
Usage dice are great and feature a bit in Black Hack ( I really like them and use them even more in my @Hack games I produce).

LOTFP was super hyped and everyone thought it was the kewl thing to have. It offers nothing clever except on spell which has a very long description.
 

payn

Legend
The race as class doesnt really bother me at all unless you are limited by stat rolls to play one. I figure old school play is quirky like that and dont expect race and class complexity to be the standard. YMMV.
 

Voadam

Legend
LOTFP was super hyped and everyone thought it was the kewl thing to have. It offers nothing clever except on spell which has a very long description.
System and mechanic wise I never really paid attention to a lot of the specifics.

The settings and modules though varied wildly from "eww, never going to use" to "really cool and interesting dark fantasy." The dividing lines there are going to vary substantially by individual tastes.
 

Retreater

Legend
The race as class doesnt really bother me at all unless you are limited by stat rolls to play one. I figure old school play is quirky like that and dont expect race and class complexity to be the standard. YMMV.
What I dislike about it is the assumption about the cultures of non-humans. Like ... if you visit a dwarven citadel, there aren't dwarf clerics? Or if there are, why couldn't they adventure?
I realize DM fiat can change the rules on NPCs, but it seems an odd rule, coming from my background in AD&D. It's not as strange in a game like HeroQuest where the world outside the dungeon doesn't matter. But now that we have options for other styles of RPG play, why not use those?
 

payn

Legend
What I dislike about it is the assumption about the cultures of non-humans. Like ... if you visit a dwarven citadel, there aren't dwarf clerics? Or if there are, why couldn't they adventure?
I realize DM fiat can change the rules on NPCs, but it seems an odd rule, coming from my background in AD&D. It's not as strange in a game like HeroQuest where the world outside the dungeon doesn't matter. But now that we have options for other styles of RPG play, why not use those?
I guess its a matter of perspective. If I want a cultural setting that is nuanced, I'll play a modern RPG. If I just want a simple black and white game world to run skill play, I dont need that level of detail. I get that some people want both in old school play, but for me that is crossing the streams. YMMV.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
The race as class doesnt really bother me at all unless you are limited by stat rolls to play one. I figure old school play is quirky like that and dont expect race and class complexity to be the standard. YMMV.
It makes sense to me for that to have been one of the first design approaches. But it also feels inevitable that someone would say “what if I want to play an elf who’s a thief?” or whatever. And for me, race as class is just not one of the features of old-school D&D that interests me. There’s a lot that I find intriguing about old-school, most especially the different style of play from what has come to be the standard. But there are also things that I don’t think need to be there to produce that kind of experience, and I think race as class is one of them.
 

Yora

Legend
Dwarves, elves, and halflings as a class really only make some amount of sense in the context of an introductory beginners game. It's easier to get new people actually playing quickly.
When BECMI became its own game line, continuing with that really did get weird.

But I think the race as class is actually really neat for making custom playable monsters.
 

Voadam

Legend
The race as class doesnt really bother me at all unless you are limited by stat rolls to play one. I figure old school play is quirky like that and dont expect race and class complexity to be the standard. YMMV.
In B/X only demihumans have stat requirements, and those are only 9s. 9 con for dwarves, 9 int for elves, and 9 dex and con for halflings.

So you will never be forced to play a demihuman because of your stats, though you might be forced to play a human if you have an 8 or less in con, dex, and int.

A 3 int wizard by the rules is feasible, they just won't get the 10% bonus xp for having a 13+ int.
 

payn

Legend
In B/X only demihumans have stat requirements, and those are only 9s. 9 con for dwarves, 9 int for elves, and 9 dex and con for halflings.

So you will never be forced to play a demihuman because of your stats, though you might be forced to play a human if you have an 8 or less in con, dex, and int.

A 3 int wizard by the rules is feasible, they just won't get the 10% bonus xp for having a 13+ int.
Yeah thats exactly the stuff im talking about. I dont want stat limitations. If it makes things seem more balanced I would even be fine if human became a class. Not far off from HeroQuest.
 


payn

Legend
It makes sense to me for that to have been one of the first design approaches. But it also feels inevitable that someone would say “what if I want to play an elf who’s a thief?” or whatever. And for me, race as class is just not one of the features of old-school D&D that interests me. There’s a lot that I find intriguing about old-school, most especially the different style of play from what has come to be the standard. But there are also things that I don’t think need to be there to produce that kind of experience, and I think race as class is one of them.
That makes sense. I wouldnt write off games completely because of it. DCC is a blast to play. I dont think it promotes long term campaign style that modern D&D does though. So, if its important for you to have that long term campaign style play, it makes a lot of sense to care about being an elf thief option.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
What I dislike about it is the assumption about the cultures of non-humans. Like ... if you visit a dwarven citadel, there aren't dwarf clerics? Or if there are, why couldn't they adventure?
I realize DM fiat can change the rules on NPCs, but it seems an odd rule, coming from my background in AD&D. It's not as strange in a game like HeroQuest where the world outside the dungeon doesn't matter. But now that we have options for other styles of RPG play, why not use those?
I assume it stemmed from the intended milieu. The assumed setting was one focused primarily on humans, living in human lands, interacting with other humans. Most people would never meet a demihuman, but maybe you’d have a cousin who swears he saw an elf in the woods once, or a grandpa who everyone loves to hear tell the story of the time a company of dwarves passed through the village when he was a young boy. In that context, the demihumans a PC is likely to encounter are disproportionately likely to be adventurers, and there’s not a whole lot of need to model much variety in their culture.

Of course, naturally this isn’t going to be the sort of milieu every group wants to play in (and with the benefit of hindsight we can see that more cosmopolitan milieus tend to be more popular), so it seems only natural that demand for a race/class divide would emerge before long.
 

Voadam

Legend
Demihumans in pre-2nd Edition D&D always stuck me as a passive agressive way of saying "we give you this option because you're whining, but you're stupid for taking it and really should play human".
If you are doing one shot low level D&D or a low level campaign then they are fairly fantastic from a power perspective. An elven fighter magic-user or a BX elf is pretty much mechanically superior in every way to a level 1 magic user for a one shot adventure.

If you are doing a high level one shot game or a game that expects to get to high levels beyond the level caps they become poor choices in a power sense. a 4th or 6th level cap puts you really far behind the expected power curve in a 15th level module with your fellow PCs at 15th level and monsters tuned for that level of challenge and threat.
 

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