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

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
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".

Funny…but, the B/X halfling and (fighter magic user) elf were actually pretty good options. And the dwarf had things the (human) fighter didn’t.
 

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Retreater

Legend
There is a game that cleaned up many of AD&Ds oddities, while keeping race and class separate, made low levels more survivable, and (eventually) had a lot of character options.

Second Edition AD&D. You may have heard of it.
That was what I started with, so that is my baseline.
And really, just the changing of the names of demons and devils, and removing half-orcs and a couple classes, it's basically a cleaned-up version of 1e (from what I can tell). I don't understand the dislike of it.
 

There is a game that cleaned up many of AD&Ds oddities, while keeping race and class separate, made low levels more survivable, and (eventually) had a lot of character options.

Second Edition AD&D. You may have heard of it.
OP doesn't want a lot of fiddly mechanics, and, well...

 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
That was what I started with, so that is my baseline.
And really, just the changing of the names of demons and devils, and removing half-orcs and a couple classes, it's basically a cleaned-up version of 1e (from what I can tell). I don't understand the dislike of it.

2e plus some of the complete stuff plus older adventures worked well for us, though the issues implied 1 post up were there.

I think because it’s in between. It’s not minimalist B/X, it doesn’t have the style of 1e, it lacks the unified mechanics and other advances of latter games.

But it clearly has its advantages.
 


Yora

Legend
I don't actually recall people disliking 2nd edition for a anything related to the rules. Surely there are some changes that aren't popular, but that rarely comes up in discussions. Though actually, 2nd edition is rarelt mentioned at all by AD&D fans in the last 10 years.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I don't actually recall people disliking 2nd edition for a anything related to the rules. Surely there are some changes that aren't popular, but that rarely comes up in discussions. Though actually, 2nd edition is rarelt mentioned at all by AD&D fans in the last 10 years.
IMHO, it's less dislike and more a result of other games getting more admiration:
  • 1e AD&D is regarded as closer to "the Source" of D&D (aka Gary Gygax) before he was kicked out by TSR.
  • B/X is regarded as a tighter dungeon-crawler game by the more design philosophy "system matters" enthusiasts and designers. It's not just the minimalism but also the proceduralism.
  • However, 2E D&D also moves the game more towards GM as storyteller, which the "OSR as game principles" crowd generally dislikes for reasons.*

* Insert usual discussions with buzzwords here: Emergent Story > Railroads, Player Agency, Open World, etc.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
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.
I really like the adventure creation tools. It’s worth downloading the free PDF just for that. I feel mixed on the rest. I had to pull in quite a bit of B/X stuff to fill in the gaps on exploration, and what WWN did provide was pretty toothless.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Funny…but, the B/X halfling and (fighter magic user) elf were actually pretty good options. And the dwarf had things the (human) fighter didn’t.
Oh yes, all the demihuman classes are quite good in B/X.

Dwarves are arguably a bit overpowered; they get significant benefits over a regular Fighter for only a mild upcharge in XP. The inability to use longbows and two handed swords (which stink) is trivial, the infravision and abilities, especially the saving throws, are excellent. Elves are almost ubermenschen, but pay out the nose in XP for it. They are usually a level behind the rest of the party, and they feel that in HP, especially. Still, being able to wear plate and cast spells with the same progression as an M-U is amazing. Halflings are the "secret Ranger" class and quite good. Their level cap of 8th is only a real detriment in particularly long-running games.

I don't actually recall people disliking 2nd edition for a anything related to the rules. Surely there are some changes that aren't popular, but that rarely comes up in discussions. Though actually, 2nd edition is rarelt mentioned at all by AD&D fans in the last 10 years.
2nd edition has some virtues, but is where TSR lost their way in some regards. TSR was trying to transition to a more story and quest-oriented game a la the "Hickman Revolution", compared to 1E and OD&D, but the re-write didn't actually tackle this, other than telling the DM to use story/achievement awards for xp, with close to zero guidance. They had an editorial mandate to try to maintain maximum compatibility with existing published modules and materials, and were trying to be all things to all gamers, in terms of supporting story-oriented D&D ("Trad") and dungeon-oriented ("Classic"), and wound up serving neither group well.

There was little guidance for Trad gamers on how to award xp and design adventures, and characters were about the weakest and most fragile that they've been in any edition. The inexplicable decision to default to 3d6 in order for ability score generation while retaining (somewhat rationalized and simplified) AD&D ability score charts that generally required high scores for any appreciable bonuses left characters pretty feeble unless you house ruled that. Death remained at zero, though the simplified optional rule for Death's Door (death at -10) was near-universally adopted. Still, the restrictive recovery rules meant that if you got knocked into negatives your character was incapacitated for a length of time inconsistent with action movie/high fantasy pacing. Which meant most people playing Trad ignored that restriction too.

Ill-serving the Classic/dungeon-crawly gamers, we see the first edition of D&D with no proper dungeon-crawling procedures. This should have been the edition to explain those really well, with more detail and examples than Basic had space for. But nope. Dragonlance and epic quests were not about wandering monsters and random encounters and dungeon time management. Reading the 2nd ed DMG is really frustrating for a new DM in a different way than 1E. The 1E DMG is terribly organized but full of inspiration. The 2nd ed one is wishy-washy and full of "you could do it this way or that way" without much by way of guidance or direction.

All that being said, the 2nd ed rules ARE much cleaner in many ways. Initiative, especially, is massively easier to understand, though I don't think the system is actually better than just cleaning up and simplifying the 1E system would have been. The cleaning up of spell descriptions and entries is VERY welcome.
 
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bulletmeat

Adventurer
I'm sure I will get thrown under the bus for this but you could look at Castles & Crusades. PHB is a free PDF, rules are pretty straight forward (B/X style attributes, class level + mod for class related proficiencies, EASILY modded w/Basic to 2e adventures). Rule have been primarily the same since 2004. I've used the C&C PHB, 1e DMG, & 2e monster manual w/practically no work converting.
And while some don't like the siege engine it's based on, that engine is very easily modded.
 

Voadam

Legend
I'm sure I will get thrown under the bus for this but you could look at Castles & Crusades. PHB is a free PDF, rules are pretty straight forward (B/X style attributes, class level + mod for class related proficiencies, EASILY modded w/Basic to 2e adventures). Rule have been primarily the same since 2004. I've used the C&C PHB, 1e DMG, & 2e monster manual w/practically no work converting.
And while some don't like the siege engine it's based on, that engine is very easily modded.
I agree, its a good suggestion.

It is an OSR style d20 based off of basic/AD&D with a unified mechanic for ability checks and saves very similar to 5e but with a static DC.

It separates race from class.

The classes are not particularly complex.

It has a strong classic D&D feel.

A lot of great sourcebooks and a ton of modules from Troll Lord Games and third party sources.
 

deganawida

Adventurer
I'm sure I will get thrown under the bus for this but you could look at Castles & Crusades. PHB is a free PDF, rules are pretty straight forward (B/X style attributes, class level + mod for class related proficiencies, EASILY modded w/Basic to 2e adventures). Rule have been primarily the same since 2004. I've used the C&C PHB, 1e DMG, & 2e monster manual w/practically no work converting.
And while some don't like the siege engine it's based on, that engine is very easily modded.

One thing that stuck out to me is how few of the class abilities are based on combat. The barbarian's signature ability from 1-12, Deer Stalker, is all about feats of athleticism. The knight can eventually knight NPCs. The paladin creates grace-filled items that help people heal.

These abilities help differentiate it from modern D&D, which utilizes abilities for mostly combat. I like seeing things which fit the class fantasy and don't deal with combat. Exploration and role-playing are every bit as important as combat.

(Please note that I only took the dive into C&C late last week, and only have the PHB. That said, I was up all night Friday reading the PHB and was blown away.)
 

bulletmeat

Adventurer
One thing that stuck out to me is how few of the class abilities are based on combat. The barbarian's signature ability from 1-12, Deer Stalker, is all about feats of athleticism. The knight can eventually knight NPCs. The paladin creates grace-filled items that help people heal.

These abilities help differentiate it from modern D&D, which utilizes abilities for mostly combat. I like seeing things which fit the class fantasy and don't deal with combat. Exploration and role-playing are every bit as important as combat.

(Please note that I only took the dive into C&C late last week, and only have the PHB. That said, I was up all night Friday reading the PHB and was blown away.)
Honestly it's been my favorite version of D&D since 2006. Even w/5+ years of playing/running 5e I steered back to it (& Basic Fantasy RPG) as my rpg backbone. It was easy to move from level+mod on rolls vs 12 or 18 base to 1/2 level+mod vs 15 base (w/advantage on class abilities) for a few sessions to try it out.
 

Retreater

Legend
I never got a group to try C&C - my players were all too stuck on 3.x/PF when I was wanting something closer to an AD&D 2e experience. Now it's largely been superseded by 5e and the rest of the OSR movement in my mind. Admittedly, I never really liked the SIEGE engine - which is a pretty core component to the game (having different target numbers, having to roll under, etc.). Which is a shame because I like a lot of the art and the Trolls seem like cool guys.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I agree, its a good suggestion.

It is an OSR style d20 based off of basic/AD&D with a unified mechanic for ability checks and saves very similar to 5e but with a static DC.

It separates race from class.

The classes are not particularly complex.

It has a strong classic D&D feel.

A lot of great sourcebooks and a ton of modules from Troll Lord Games and third party sources.
Sounds promising!
 

deganawida

Adventurer
Honestly it's been my favorite version of D&D since 2006. Even w/5+ years of playing/running 5e I steered back to it (& Basic Fantasy RPG) as my rpg backbone. It was easy to move from level+mod on rolls vs 12 or 18 base to 1/2 level+mod vs 15 base (w/advantage on class abilities) for a few sessions to try it out.
I love the spellless bard, ranger, and paladin. I especially love that the bard is explicitly a warrior-poet. Removing spells freed up a lot of design space for making the classes more unique IMO. What really impressed me was the illusionist. For perhaps the first time ever in my life, I found a magic class I’d want to play.

I haven’t played anything yet, but I like that SEIGE checks for skill -like things are only for when there’s a risk. I much prefer player description for general skill-type use both as a player and a DM.
 

bulletmeat

Adventurer
I never got a group to try C&C - my players were all too stuck on 3.x/PF when I was wanting something closer to an AD&D 2e experience. Now it's largely been superseded by 5e and the rest of the OSR movement in my mind. Admittedly, I never really liked the SIEGE engine - which is a pretty core component to the game (having different target numbers, having to roll under, etc.). Which is a shame because I like a lot of the art and the Trolls seem like cool guys.
They are very good guys. I like watching their twitch because there is a fair amount of universal rpg advice.
Not sure where you are getting the roll under idea though. You might be thinking about 1 or 2e. Normal Siege Engine (saves & skill checks) is Mod+Level vs 12+adversary HD (If your proficient) or 18+adversary HD (if your not proficient). Super simple.
I prefer the variant Mod+level+3 (proficient) or Mod+level-3 (non-proficient) vs 15+1/2 adversary HD or spell level for saves. Keeps saves closer to the 1e/2e range.
But, again, it's easy enough to replace Mod+level w/Mod+proficiency and advantage (proficient) or not (non-proficient).

I love the spellless bard, ranger, and paladin. I especially love that the bard is explicitly a warrior-poet. Removing spells freed up a lot of design space for making the classes more unique IMO. What really impressed me was the illusionist. For perhaps the first time ever in my life, I found a magic class I’d want to play.

I haven’t played anything yet, but I like that SEIGE checks for skill -like things are only for when there’s a risk. I much prefer player description for general skill-type use both as a player and a DM.
I like the fact that magic classes are relatively minimal. Gives me more of the rare magic feeling.

But, I've said my part and the check from the Trolls cleared so I'll shut up. :p
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I love the spellless bard, ranger, and paladin. I especially love that the bard is explicitly a warrior-poet. Removing spells freed up a lot of design space for making the classes more unique IMO. What really impressed me was the illusionist. For perhaps the first time ever in my life, I found a magic class I’d want to play.

I haven’t played anything yet, but I like that SEIGE checks for skill -like things are only for when there’s a risk. I much prefer player description for general skill-type use both as a player and a DM.
That all sounds right up my alley!
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Not sure where you are getting the roll under idea though. You might be thinking about 1 or 2e. Normal Siege Engine (saves & skill checks) is Mod+Level vs 12+adversary HD (If your proficient) or 18+adversary HD (if your not proficient). Super simple.
I prefer the variant Mod+level+3 (proficient) or Mod+level-3 (non-proficient) vs 15+1/2 adversary HD or spell level for saves. Keeps saves closer to the 1e/2e range.
But, again, it's easy enough to replace Mod+level w/Mod+proficiency and advantage (proficient) or not (non-proficient).
I’m not sure I could go back to unbounded accuracy after 5e. But removing level and adversary HD from that equation seems simple enough.
 

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