So, you want to start playing Dungeons & Dragons? Fantasy Role Playing has a lot of options out there after almost 50 years of history. I am going to suggest a game for you that is a great one to start with. Role Playing Games (RPG) can be cheap and easy to get into, or they can cost an arm and a leg to start. One affordable and beginner friendly option is Basic Fantasy RPG (BFRPG).
BFRPG is made with the intention to be accessible for all who want to play. All the books are free online through the site. They literally have “Do not Buy this book” printed on them. Physical books can be bought through print on demand services such as lulu.com or Amazon. All the physical books are sold at cost, so there is no profit from these. This means a core book comes in about $5 when most systems are $50 and you have to buy two or three of these books to play. BFRPG is a game where the entire game comes in the one book. For this reason, I see it as a perfect example of a more community-oriented system of gaming. Accessibility is wonderful. The main book holds all the information to roll up characters, run the game and enough monsters to play for years. The Basic Fantasy Field Guide of Creatures Malevolent and Benign works as a Monster Manual it sells around 3 or 4 dollars for the physical copy, or you can download the PDF from the site like the other books.
BFRPG uses ascending armor class as opposed to descending armor class (AC). This point is important to some. Despite the system using descending AC until the release of 3rd edition in 2000, many prefer the ascending AC. Descending AC means that the better harder to hit AC is a lower number, and in order to hit you need to either check a chart for the target number, or do a quick math problem. While many who play like this see it as a non-issue, some become intimidated by it and prefer the ascending AC where the higher number of AC is better and a roll on a twenty sided die (D20) over the AC number is all that is needed to hit. For many this makes a simpler system. For those who are intimidated by THAC0, no worries, it’s not here in this game.
BFRPG takes a great deal of it’s play style, mechanics and philosophy after earlier editions of the game. Not the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, but the OD&D or Basic D&D. This leads to an older style play that is not as rules heavy or convoluted like some games can get. Many of those elements of rules are on the Dungeon Master’s (DM) or Game Master’s side (GM). This means that a lot of the complicated stuff is not something a player needs to worry much about. The DM can just worry about those issues behind the screen and it can be easy for a player to pick up.
Character creation is much less complex compared to modern versions of the game, so getting a new group started can take much less time and can be far less intimidating. The number of pages covering character creation is not very much, so it was easy for me to print just those pages, put them in little folders and pass out homemade player guides for character creation without much effort. With a streamlined simpler style of game more similar to older basic D&D styles this game is far less complex with it’s mechanics which means more of your character creation should be coming from your imagination than from numbers on a page. The transition to a streamlined system like this from more complex systems I have noticed can have a few stumbles for players. Those who are used to more complex systems expect their options to be listed among many skills, feats, advantages etc. Here the philosophy lies more in your imagination and choosing to act based on what you come up with and not looking for a specific rule. It is the DM’s job to worry about rules. Here you are not expected to read a sheet for an option to act, you are expected to use your own imagination and creativity to act.
With reprints of earlier D&D versions available through DrivethruRPG you could easily pick up a copy of the old Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia to flip through to help add to a game like this, or you could easily run old modules with a quick simple conversion of AC by inverting it. I will cover conversions between editions at a later point. But a game like this takes little or no conversion to work with many of the modules that came before it. This lets you have endless opportunities to play using this system.
The BFRPG site itself has a great deal of community contributed additions to the ruleset. You can find more classes, more optional rules, and more adventures to download. We all tend to have house rules and adjustments we like to make to a game. I am going to suggest trying the game out the way it is written as much as possible. Now, for new players this should not be too much of an issue, but for those of you who may have been playing modern editions there may be a tendency to fall back into some of the newer styles. BFRPG often has the DM make rolls instead of players. I suggest trying it all out. Now, I am big on house rules for my games. I suggest trying out some of the older style stuff from this game before bringing in house rules to adjust. You might see how some of it might work better for your game, or why it was done that way. You just might like it.
Have fun preparing this game. I had a lot of fun printing lots of stuff out from the site that was not available for print or official. I got a three-ring binder filled with goodies for me as the DM to run this game. I find getting the game together is often half the fun for me. The nature of the modules and system also gives the DM a lot more creative power over the game. Many modern modules from Paizo or Hasbro tend to take a great deal of the burden of that. For some, who like to have more creative liberty in their games or play style this can be an advantage over lots of modern style fantasy role playing games.
At least download the book as PDF and read through it. If you like it try it out, do a one-shot at the very least, or go ahead and run a little mini adventure arc over a couple sessions to see how it goes. You just might find that you really love this game, as I do.