Old-School Essentials and Basic D&D Campaign Building

In 1981, Basic Dungeons & Dragons by Tom Moldvay released, quickly followed by Expert D&D by David Cook. The Old-School Essentials Rules Tome by Gavin Norman combines both sets of rules along with errata together into one book. Combined with adventures penned by Moldvay and Cook themselves, an entire 1981 D&D campaign can easily be built and run.

OSE3.png

Old-School Essentials combines the 1981 Basic and Expert D&D rules together with not only errata but also using a modern layout. For example, spells of a similar level are all displayed together when possible. Also, all the rules for combat are combined into a two page spread when the rules are opened to those pages.
OSE2.png
Old-School Essentials is also filled with beautiful art including several one and two page full color spreads by various artists in various styles that together create a unique OSE style all its own. The numerous black and white art pieces are also amazing. Two pieces depict the same set of adventurers first setting off on adventure and then in a fight in a dungeon while adventuring.

OSE4.png

The wonderful thing about Old-School Essentials is that the Basic and Expert D&D rules have not been modified or house ruled (although a couple of optional rules are included). It has an advantage over the D&D Rules Cyclopedia in that OSE runs up to level fourteen not thirty-six. Since high level D&D is played much less often, those extra levels won’t be needed by many groups. OSE is also less complex than the Cyclopedia.

Because the rules are 1981’s Basic and Expert rules, they can be used to run modules from that time directly. Moldvay and Cook wrote a variety of adventures and together they form a nice symmetry of five adventures. Moldvay rewrote the Palace of the Silver Princess by Jean Wells and penned Castle Amber. He and Cook co-wrote The Isle of Dread. And Cook wrote Master of the Desert Nomads and Temple of Death. While both authors wrote other adventures, these five work together well. Two by Moldvay, one by both, and the last two Expert modules by Cook.

OSE5.png

All of the Expert adventures have wilderness maps and the original Palace of the Silver Princess (green cover) also has an overland map. While I could use Mystara, a world co-created by Moldvay, directly, I like the idea of combining all these kingdom maps together to create a smaller setting of fairy tale land, storm wracked sea, and burning desert. While AD&D to me will always be swords and sorcery rubbing shoulders with science fantasy, Basic D&D is fairy tale stories of princesses and dragons juxtaposed with fantasy pulp adventure in wild lands and other dimensions.

I ran The Lost City, also by Moldvay, adventure at Gen Con and I know the body count for Basic D&D can be high. I will likely encourage my players to create three characters and as a group decide which party of adventurers they want to start with by picking one of the three to start playing. I like the idea of going back to different experience tables that will vary the character levels, treasure for XP, and the real thrill of danger the game offers. I also like the idea of only having to track hit points and spells cast in combat. While I love modern games like Forbidden Lands there is a bit more track in many newer games.

Old-School Essentials is worth checking out whether you want to create your own world, play some old school adventures especially those written by the authors of 1981’s Basic and Expert D&D, use it with Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures, or if you simply want to read it to inspire and inform your current RPG of choice. I highly recommend the Old-School Essentials Rules Tome as a one complete book of quintessential D&D rules. It has a smaller page count, less complexity, and fewer levels than the D&D Rules Cyclopedia and so offers a different take on a one rulebook complete D&D system.
 
Charles Dunwoody

Comments

volanin

Explorer
While I find Old School Essentials a great product, I was really disappointed to click this article only to find a huge advertisement to the system. I guess I was expecting much less Old School Essentials and much more Basic D&D Campaign Building.

The penultimate paragraph was the meat of this article for me, and I'd love an entire article expanding it. An article about building and running old style D&D Campaigns nowadays, what went well and what burned to ashes, what was both yours and the players' experience, and things like that.
 

SMHWorlds

Explorer
It looks like a good product and the production values are certainly high. I admit to being a huge fan of that style of art. Especially when its weird. And I have always been a fan of B/X over BECMI, though that is likely because I played B/X first.

It has an advantage over the D&D Rules Cyclopedia in that OSE runs up to level fourteen not thirty-six. Since high level D&D is played much less often, those extra levels won’t be needed by many groups. OSE is also less complex than the Cyclopedia.
I never made it all the way to level 36, but I always wanted to do so. It seems like such a slog. One would either take forever to get to the end (years in a literal sense) or spend so little time at each level as to be meaningless. I have a few design ideas on how to make that happen, but I need to work them out.
 

Scottius

Explorer
I picked this up in a recent sale on drivethrurpg and thoroughly enjoyed my read thru. I'm planning on grabbing a physical copy of the all in one hardback when it's available on their web store once more.
 
While I find Old School Essentials a great product, I was really disappointed to click this article only to find a huge advertisement to the system. I guess I was expecting much less Old School Essentials and much more Basic D&D Campaign Building.

The penultimate paragraph was the meat of this article for me, and I'd love an entire article expanding it. An article about building and running old style D&D Campaigns nowadays, what went well and what burned to ashes, what was both yours and the players' experience, and things like that.
Good idea.

I have a review of running The Lost City on the way. It is a review of OSE, however, since I used that, but it covers the first three levels of running Basic D&D (8 hours of play with a group of 9 and then 11 players)..

Once I run a long-term Basic D&D campaign I will write it up. I grew up with AD&D and I'm just starting to experiment with Basic.
 
If you want the old Basic & Expert experience you could just get the originals from DTRPG instead, along with those old B/X adventures.
You can. However, I don't like wading through paragraphs to grab out the rules anymore which is why I like OSE. Same rules but lay out for running a game and not just for reading. My review of running OSE with The Lost City really demonstates how helpful lay out is.

In addition, Basic and Expert don't always have exactly the same rules. OSE notes this, notes which version the author went with, but leaves open your choice as GM to use the other option if you wish. A couple of missing bits, like a referenced monster that doesn't appear in Basic or Expert, are added in from later D&D rules. Also noted by the author.

And the art in OSE is amazing. And you get hardcover. And one book. And book ribbons.
 
Pretty excited to pick this up at some point. Necrotic Gnomes' Wormskin zines for the Dolmenwood setting are super-creative and fun to read. Highly recommended for people that want more Lord Dunsany/weird faerie tales in their gaming.
Another bonus is that OSE is getting a lot of upcoming support in rules and campaigns: Necrotic Gnome

Rules Tome reprint
OSE Player's Rules Tome
GM Screen

Dolmenwood Campaign Setting
Dolmenwood Player's Book
 

Will Briggs

Villager
Another bonus is that OSE is getting a lot of upcoming support in rules and campaigns: Necrotic Gnome

Rules Tome reprint
OSE Player's Rules Tome
GM Screen

Dolmenwood Campaign Setting
Dolmenwood Player's Book
Don't forget the already-extant Advanced Fantasy rules, which give you AD&D classes / races expertly converted to maintain B/X power levels. I can't stress enough how well Gavin handled that.
 

Ath-kethin

Adventurer
I just decided to switch from Basic Fantasy RPG to Rules Cyclopedia for the game I play with my 6yo. Someone suggested OSE as an easier-to-parse alternative, and looking at their free version I can see why.

Though my 6yo is SUPER excited about the possibility of someday hitting 36th level and the weapons mastery rules, so I don't know how good a fit this would ultimately be.
 

EthanSental

Adventurer
Looking at their site, necrotic gnome looks to have high production quality. Thanks for sharing as I had heard about the Kickstarter a year or so ago but lost track of it.
 

Barantor

Explorer
I just decided to switch from Basic Fantasy RPG to Rules Cyclopedia for the game I play with my 6yo. Someone suggested OSE as an easier-to-parse alternative, and looking at their free version I can see why.

Though my 6yo is SUPER excited about the possibility of someday hitting 36th level and the weapons mastery rules, so I don't know how good a fit this would ultimately be.
I've been contemplating adding weapon mastery rules and the old 'simple cantrip' rules for Magic Users to the OSE rules. I love Basic Fantasy RPG too and some of their stuff could easily be added in since it is pretty similar.
 
I just decided to switch from Basic Fantasy RPG to Rules Cyclopedia for the game I play with my 6yo. Someone suggested OSE as an easier-to-parse alternative, and looking at their free version I can see why.

Though my 6yo is SUPER excited about the possibility of someday hitting 36th level and the weapons mastery rules, so I don't know how good a fit this would ultimately be.
OSE has optional rules to go to 20th level, but not spells to support it. If you wants skills and robust weapon rules you will want RC instead.
 

Ath-kethin

Adventurer
OSE has optional rules to go to 20th level, but not spells to support it. If you wants skills and robust weapon rules you will want RC instead.
There are a zillion retroclones out there, and many of them are excellent. Dark Dungeons is a more or less straight RC clone with modern touches (ascending AC, etc). I like it too, but the graphic presentation of the original RC is hard to top.

The thing is, I love how the OSE books look. I'm just not sure how actually useful it would be in context.
 
There are a zillion retroclones out there, and many of them are excellent. Dark Dungeons is a more or less straight RC clone with modern touches (ascending AC, etc). I like it too, but the graphic presentation of the original RC is hard to top.

The thing is, I love how the OSE books look. I'm just not sure how actually useful it would be in context.
In context to what? If you want weapon mastery and 36 levels RC has them.

OSE has what I see as an advantage of actually being Basic and Expert, not a retroclone. I want to play 1981 D&D, the actual rules, but with a modern layout which is another advantage to me. I also don't want skills or complicated weapon rules or 36 levels. It has everything I want. But it certainly won't work for everyone of course.
 

In Our Store!

Advertisement

Latest threads

Advertisement

Top