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OSR Low Fantasy Gaming Offers A Delicious Blend of Different D&D Editions

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Between retroclones, OSR-inspired games, used copies, PDF copies of earlier D&D editions and the wildly successful 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons, there are a lot of options for players who want to kick down some doors and slay some monsters. There is one option that brings together some of the best ideas in this class for a game that feels well-executed and has a taste of its own despite having elements recognizable from various editions of D&D. Low Fantasy Gaming from Pickpocket Press sent along some books in the line to me and they won me over to this positive review.

Making a character starts out in a familiar space by choosing a class and filling out the usual paperwork. The classes offer an old school sensibility; neither the bard or the ranger have spells and the magic-user is broadly named to allow players to choose how and where they get their magic.

Looking through the class features reveals the first interesting choice by designer Stephen J. Grodzicki. Each class offers a unique feature at 3rd, 6th, 9th and 12th level. The game explicitly calls out the idea that players should be allowed to create their own class features in these slots while also offering choices at the end of the chapter for those players who don’t want to unleash their inner Gygax. It puts the game in an interesting space between the set and forget it of Fifth Edition classes after 3rd edition and the customizable space that Pathfinder claims.

In play, the game hews to an OSR take of ability checks rolling low and attack checks rolling high. This is one of the few elements I found jarring, but my preferences lean toward unified dice mechanics in design. Skills and combat abilities come from a Reroll pool. Rather than worry about bonuses and penalties to rolls from luck, the game offers a small amount of rerolls (one per level) that players can spend to make sure they do something. I like this as a slightly different take on inspiration from Fifth Edition. It flows from character choices and offers the same feeling of a character being better at something that they should be without it being a sure thing.

Luck as an attribute plays into the game as well. Players who want to pull off flashy stunts in game, like aim for the dragon’s eye or jump in front of a poisoned arrow trap for a friend, can roll under their Luck score to do so. Success means they’ve pulled it off, but their Luck ticks down by one. This variation on the Deeds die from Dungeon Crawl Classics is a fast way to handle all the crazy actions players try to pull in a combat beyond just grinding down hit points.

Low Fantasy Gaming’s slogan is “Less Magic, More Grit” and while that is true, this game isn’t set up to be an old school slog where magic users hang onto their spells like railings in a rainstorm. Spell casters have the opportunity to regain spell slots during short rests, but without the reliable cantrips of 5th edition that never go away. But they also accrue Dark & Dangerous Magic points which, if triggered, can cause all sorts of problems. Yep, the magic users in this game are all chaos mages who might blow up on their next spell. Cultists, the game’s answer to clerics and warlocks, have their own issues to worry about. They gain favour by following the tenets of their god and can spend those points to cast their miracles. If they don’t have the points, they can still roll, but run the risk of a Divine Rebuke and a roll on a different chaos effect table. Psions, available in the Companion book, have their own bad mojo table. This process gives magic a dangerous feel that’s not quite as bad as “eventually you will be corrupt and evil” but still should make the party tense up when the mage says “I cast…”

Once the players have collected the scrapes and knocks of a day’s adventuring, it’s time to rest. It’s here that Low Fantasy Gaming makes things a bit more challenging and interesting as well. There’s the normal division into short rests and long rests. Short rests, however, are not a sure thing. It can be difficult to get comfortable taking a knee in a dungeon. Will checks allow the player to recover hit points, class abilities and rerolls.

Long rests clear everything up, of course, but they live up to the name. They can last anywhere from a day to a week depending on the circumstances and the GM’s read on a situation. The length of the rests should give players pause on whether it's worth it to push forward into the dungeon or pack it up and head back to town to resupply and rest up. Luckily, the game encourages those long rests to take place while players are doing all the stuff not about snooping around in a dungeon like hitting taverns for rumors or training up to the next level. The Low Fantasy Gaming Companion has a lot of examples of downtime. Not every GM will care about tracking the days until players are at 100% again, but the activities included in this books should give them plenty of ideas on how to keep players involved in storylines even if they aren’t ready to jump back into the dungeon.

Low Fantasy Gaming offers a flexible rules system for fans of d20 fantasy with space for customization both on and off the table. You don’t have to just take my word for it; they have a free edition that offers much of the game to sample.
 
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Rob Wieland

Rob Wieland

Stacie GmrGrl

Adventurer
ASSH is one of.ky favorite RPGs ever, and systems that use "subclasses" can learn a lot from its design.

But it bears not semblance to AD&D2e whatsoever beyond the same very basic mechanics that allow all retroclones to exist.

I wasn't sure about it since I never played any pre 3e D&D edition.
 

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So, I'm prepared to concede that this is just a difference in playstyles, so please don't take this as any kind of slight on what other people like, but ... can someone explain to me why this is fun for you?

Personally, I absolutely hate games that have mechanics where the moment you use them, you're automatically weaker, and there's no way to get them back. All it does is stress me out. I don't enjoy it.

But this kind of mechanic is common enough that there must be people for whom it actually enhances the game, so could someone who does enjoy it as a player explain to me what you get out of that experience? Assume I'm clueless, because when it comes to this, I really am.

The designer's goals make no sense to me. First, limiting the amount of luck already forces players to make choices about when to use it, without adding the part about how it becomes weaker as you go. Second, why do you want to make the adventure artificially more dangerous as you go along? Do you not trust the DM to be able to escalate the tension? Is it a goal to have adventurers fail? Does the designer think people won't enjoy their victories unless they feel like the deck was stacked against them? As for the third reason, I once again don't see how reducing the effectiveness of luck works better for that than simply limiting the total quantity.
I'm not the designer, but I am very familiar with the game.

The fun of this mechanic, to me, is in the decisions I need to make when utilizing it.

I may decide to blow through Luck early in the adventure. This may allow me to more easily defeat creatures, but then I have the consequence of having less Luck later on. This might be a good choice because it may prevent the loss of other resources (hit points, spells) and allow the character to be stronger later on.

I may instead choose to marshal my Luck and save it for the greater threat. Not using it earlier might have a consequence of having a harder time of things and losing other resources. But I would have a greater supply of Luck to use to combo devastating maneuvers against a more dangerous threat.

In this way, I get to have a decision in the challenge I wish to face. I may want to reduce the challenge of one encounter by spending Luck, or I may want to accept a greater challenge now to possibly have an easier challenge later.
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
The fun of this mechanic, to me, is in the decisions I need to make when utilizing it.
Thanks for taking the time to respond, but I'm afraid I'm still confused.

I understand the value of a limited resource. But it seems to me that everything you just mentioned applies equally well to a situation where you simply have a limited number of luck points, without the added aspect of the luck getting weaker every time you use it. (In your post, you even talk about luck in terms of supply, not strength.) How does that part enhance the experience for you? In other words, why is this way better than simply saying "You have three luck points--use them wisely"?
 

Perhaps because it's less predictable? If you have three "luck points" you know exactly "how long your luck will hold out". If you have a larger Luck score which you test against, your Luck may hold out longer than expected- if you are lucky. :)
 

Thanks for taking the time to respond, but I'm afraid I'm still confused.

I understand the value of a limited resource. But it seems to me that everything you just mentioned applies equally well to a situation where you simply have a limited number of luck points, without the added aspect of the luck getting weaker every time you use it. (In your post, you even talk about luck in terms of supply, not strength.) How does that part enhance the experience for you? In other words, why is this way better than simply saying "You have three luck points--use them wisely"?
@Mannahnin made the point.

It is a fun implementation of the idea of "Pushing your luck" and "Your luck running out".

The decrementing Luck score is kind of 'self-referential'. You can still keep getting lucky, but most times, when you succeed at a Luck roll, it decreases. Every time you need to make a Luck roll, you are pushing your luck further. You don't get the same uncertainty if you just have 3 Luck Points to spend.

Also, note that Luck is only actively spent on Major Exploits. These are maneuvers that can significantly disable or interfere with a creature. You get a big payoff for using it.

I also like how it more accurately simulates reality, in that you can never really know if you will succeed or fail. You do know it is a resource that is depleting and you will more likely fail, but you can always roll a '1' and pull something off.

With just Luck points, it is too much of a 'narrative control'; spend a point to succeed, for my tastes.

A third thing I like about it is that a lot of monsters will drain Luck on their attacks. It is a way to implement concepts like Level Drain and Ability Drain in ways that don't cause your character to become negated or useless.
 


DnD Warlord

Adventurer
This sounds interesting, I might have to check it out, it sounds kind of like a 1E/5E hybrid with some DCC thrown in. That mix intrigues me.

As a sidenote, can we please get a 2E retroclone, I would love a properly done new coat of paint on 2E and its feel. The only one that came close was the ill fated Myth & Magic.
I backed that 😭
 



jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
It is a fun implementation of the idea of "Pushing your luck" and "Your luck running out".

The decrementing Luck score is kind of 'self-referential'. You can still keep getting lucky, but most times, when you succeed at a Luck roll, it decreases. Every time you need to make a Luck roll, you are pushing your luck further. You don't get the same uncertainty if you just have 3 Luck Points to spend.
Okay, I guess I can sort of wrap my mind around that. I'm just the sort of person who finds that stressful, rather than fun. (Limited luck I can deal with, but limited ever-weakening luck is just a step too far for me.)

Thanks for having the patience to explain it and answer my follow-up questions.
 




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