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

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Yeah, I’m at an interesting crossroads, because the principles are what I’m interested in more than the specific mechanics and design quirks… But also I really like the aesthetic of D&D, and I feel like that often gets lost when focusing on principles over specific mechanics.
The OSR provides a bewildering array of aesthetic takes: DCC and OSE hire a lot of the early TSR artists, like Erol Otis, and goes for thst sort of vibe, but the scene is very diverse.

On Race as Class, a little off-putting with Dwarves and Halflings, but itnreally shows it's strength when they introduce Classes like Treant or Centaur, and don't need to worry about them interacting with other moving parts. Let's weird Races be really weird.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
5 Torches Deep does this. If you're human it has you roll 3d6 in order, but you can swap two. Demi-humans get a fixed above-average value for their main ability scores, and roll others on 2d6+3.
5TD definitely looks interesting, and has the benefit of being built on the 5e scaffolding, which could help ease my players, most of whom have only played (or only seriously played) 5e, into the wider world of OSR.
 

Voadam

Legend
If you're doing a one-shot with characters starting above 1st level in pre-WotC editions, you always want to specify the number of xp rather than the level for characters to be generated. If you specify 20,000, for example, your Magic Users will be 5th level, but your Elves will still be 4th.
But all modules (including competition ones) say things like for levels 4-7 and none give an xp range. System mastery from the beginning. ;)
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
5TD definitely looks interesting, and has the benefit of being built on the 5e scaffolding, which could help ease my players, most of whom have only played (or only seriously played) 5e, into the wider world of OSR.
That's definitely one thing I like about it. Frustratingly, though, it's a bit more of a toolkit than a full system. No bestiary or magic items, for example. The game I've been running for the past two years mashes it up with a lot of B/X rules on the DM side, especially dungeon procedural stuff.
 
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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
But all modules (including competition ones) say things like for levels 4-7 and none give an xp range. System mastery from the beginning. ;)
Sure. But that guideline was aimed more at folks using existing characters. Part of system mastery for DMs was, of course, being aware of the xp charts, so if you WERE doing a one-shot, you'd tell the PCs how many xp they had, not what level to be. :) Or if designing pre-gens, you'd do the same thing. So your B/X elf in a one-shot would always be lower level than the Magic-User, to keep things more fair.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
That's definitely one thing I like about it. Frustratingly, though, it's a bit more of a toolkit than a full system. The game I've been running for the past two years mashes it up with a lot of B/X rules on the DM side, especially dungeon procedural stuff.
I take it this is a homebrew mashup rather than a system you can pick up a PDF for?
 

payn

Legend
5TD definitely looks interesting, and has the benefit of being built on the 5e scaffolding, which could help ease my players, most of whom have only played (or only seriously played) 5e, into the wider world of OSR.
I've had some luck doing intro one shots. I try and build an adventure that highlights all the prominent mechanics of a system. So, like a three room dungeon and a little exploration to go with it. Usually toss in pre-gens and go for it. See if the players bite and are interested. Thats system agnostic advice for getting players to try something new on for size.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I take it this is a homebrew mashup rather than a system you can pick up a PDF for?
Correct. On the player side it's basically straight up 5TD with a few house rules. On my side of the screen/VTT it's a bit of a Frankenstein's monster. :)

But yes, 5TD does give 5E players a more accessible starting point. Still using the core d20 mechanic with ability and Prof modifiers for most things, for example. It also gives them some interesting advancement options as they level, basically making all the 5E classes except Monk into archetypes you pick up at 3rd level, on one of the 4 base classes.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I've had some luck doing intro one shots. I try and build an adventure that highlights all the prominent mechanics of a system. So, like a three room dungeon and a little exploration to go with it. Usually toss in pre-gens and go for it. See if the players bite and are interested. Thats system agnostic advice for getting players to try something new on for size.
That’s a good approach, for sure.
 

Greg K

Legend
And that’s a fine assumption. The whole “my grandpa says he saw dwarves come through town once 50 years ago” thing I mentioned certainly has its appeal. But it isn’t the aspect of old-school play that intrigues me, personally. And it would make trying a more old-school system a much harder sell to my players.
In this case, I would recommend a couple of third party suppements designed for both Old School Essentials and B/X that I came across in my research:
1. B/X Options: Class Builder (Welsh Piper): It provides a balanced system for building your own classes. So, if you want non-human priests, you should be able to build them. It might even have some among the sample classes (but I am speculating and, maybe, someone else can confirm whether it does). If I recall, it also includes an optional d6 based skill resolution system.

2. Class Compendium by James Spahn (Gallant Knight Games/ Barrel Rider Games): Among the new classes provided are a few for dwarves, elves, and halflings. I don't recall if any were priests

Both are currently on sale at Drivethrurpg
 

payn

Legend
That’s a good approach, for sure.
Yeah I got burned bad in Traveller. That's a corner case because its chargen is such a beast. It's fun, one of my favorites, but a large time sink for a game folks are not sure about. Since, I have a pregen package and a one shot adventure. I make sure the players want to run with it before sinking time into chargen.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Correct. On the player side it's basically straight up 5TD with a few house rules. On my side of the screen/VTT it's a bit of a Frankenstein's monster. :)

But yes, 5TD does give 5E players a more accessible starting point. Still using the core d20 mechanic with ability and Prof modifiers for most things, for example. It also gives them some interesting advancement options as they level, basically making all the 5E classes except Monk into archetypes you pick up at 3rd level, on one of the 4 base classes.
This kind of approach might actually be exactly what I need.

For some additional context, I have a situation where I have more interested players than I can fit in my house, and more than I would care to DM for even if I had the space. An open-table game seems like a great solution to this problem, allowing everyone a chance to play, without having to accommodate them all at the table at once. I had been trying to hack the tools I need to run such a game into 5e and getting frustrated when I came across Questing Beast, and found the premise of OSR very intriguing, as it seems to actively embrace the kinds of things I’ve been having to fight 5e to try and make it do. That, coupled with the fact that I’ve known for a while that my gameplay tastes align in many ways with the OSR “culture of play,” brought me here asking for recommendations.

It may be that using 5TD for the player-facing rules and using my own homebrew systems under the hood is exactly the compromise my situation demands.
 

Voadam

Legend
In this case, I would recommend a couple of third party suppements designed for both Old School Essentials and B/X that I came across in my research:
1. B/X Options: Class Builder (Welsh Piper): It provides a balanced system for building your own classes. So, if you want non-human priests, you should be able to build them. If I recall, it also includes an optional d6 based skill resolution system.

2. Class Compendium by James Spahn (Gallant Knight Games/ Barrel Rider Games): Among the new classes provided are a few for dwarves, elves, and halflings. I don't recall if any were priests

Both are currently on sale at Drivethrurpg
I concur on the Class Compendium, it is Labyrinth Lord compatible so B/X and OSE compatible as well. 230 pages, over 50 classes and includes:

1653066338959.png

The dwarven Rune-Smith is not a priest but gets some cleric spells and the Elven Greensinger is a partially cleric like caster class as well.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Yeah, I’m at an interesting crossroads, because the principles are what I’m interested in more than the specific mechanics and design quirks… But also I really like the aesthetic of D&D, and I feel like that often gets lost when focusing on principles over specific mechanics.
I may be repeating myself, but maybe I can clarify a bit on how the games I mentioned fall in line with these things.

OSE is straight-up B/X D&D. It retains all the mechanics and quirks of B/X, including race-as-class, but it also has optional rules for making race and class separate in the advanced rules. B/X is pretty tightly oriented around dungeon crawl procedures.

Black Hack is more about OSR principles rather than being a faithful D&D clone. It still uses the six attributes and a d20, with a roll-under-attribute mechanic. It orients those principles more towards streamlining the game with four classes (Warrior, Thief, Cleric, Wizard), rules for Backgrounds (which would be a good place to include Race), and simple dungeon-crawling rules.

WWN is a bit of a hybrid beast. There is a lot of D&D in there (Six Attributes plus d20 rolls for combat), but also some Traveller (2d6+ability skill checks) and 3e/True 20 (skills, builds, warrior/adept/expert/adventurer classes, feat-talents, etc.), but it's good for running open world sandbox campaigns that also include evolving factions. Characters are still fragile, but there are also rules for more heroic characters should the group prefer that.

Index Card RPG is classless, but it has races (usually simple stat bonuses). It's pretty focused on light, simple, quick gameplay that's about acquiring loot for improving your character (think video games). For example, ICRPG uses a room DC, which makes everything in the room use the same DC, which can be adjusted for Easy (-3 DC) or Hard (+3 DC).

There is also @Sacrosanct's Chromatic Dungeons (there is also an 0.90 basic rules version) that updates old school D&D for more inclusive sensibilities. Honestly, I feel like a fool for not mentioning this game before. Do yourself a favor and check this game out!
 


Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Can you tell me more about heritages? Unfortunately, I can't find any explanation in the previews.
I can answer that :)

Instead of having each "race" having a bucket of traits where every elf is like every other elf, they only have a few traits, and you choose 2 heritages from a list (most of them below) and gain those traits from each heritage. Also, there are several issues of the Gnoll Sage (zine) for Chromatic Dungeons that are compatible with most OSR games. Each zine has a topic (the ecology of the mushropod, the commander (warlord) class, etc).

1653069970947.png
 

This kind of approach might actually be exactly what I need.

For some additional context, I have a situation where I have more interested players than I can fit in my house, and more than I would care to DM for even if I had the space. An open-table game seems like a great solution to this problem, allowing everyone a chance to play, without having to accommodate them all at the table at once. I had been trying to hack the tools I need to run such a game into 5e and getting frustrated when I came across Questing Beast, and found the premise of OSR very intriguing, as it seems to actively embrace the kinds of things I’ve been having to fight 5e to try and make it do. That, coupled with the fact that I’ve known for a while that my gameplay tastes align in many ways with the OSR “culture of play,” brought me here asking for recommendations.

It may be that using 5TD for the player-facing rules and using my own homebrew systems under the hood is exactly the compromise my situation demands.

So honestly, I think any of these systems will work for what you are going for. Any of them will involve hacking and adapting as you play, and your game grows; and they are all amenable to that being rules lite. One of the goals of OSR play is for players to stop looking at the character sheets as a prompt for what they should do next or as a locus of the game. I think that's also true for the dm--the ruleset you are using is less important that the world you are building and the principles you have in mind when running the game. (you probably already have this, but this document is helpful).

Runehammer (who created Index Card RPG) has been doing recaps of his OSE games that I find interesting/entertaining, if you have (a lot) of time: they are on youtube
 

Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
I've seen 5 Torches Deep mentioned, has someone brought up Into the Unknown? Like 5TD, its a OSR-ification of 5e. In it, you'll find a huge emphasis on exploration rules and the character progression part is quite restrained.
 


Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
I don’t think so, but it sounds worth a look!
Its a little more developed than 5TD, but pretty close to the 5e experience. More like a reskin of 5e rather a completely original system.

I just cant remember if they went with race-as-classes or not, or if they removed the skill system for a roll-under or a x-in-6 system. I'll try to get back to you when Drivethru/Dmsguild will be back online after their maintenance and I'll have a chance to look at the pdf again.
 

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