One of the beauties of role playing is that the hobby is full of creative people who all take the game and make it theirs. DIY is strong in the hobby and not having to rely on one large company to give us content or rules is great. Lots on people have given us their variants for the game sometimes free, and sometimes low cost and some just at a price we gotta pay. Take a look and try out some other editions and versions that are being put out by the gaming community. Most of what is here would be considered Old School Renaissance or Old School Revival (OSR) games.
BFRPG – Basic Fantasy Role Playing Game
BFRPG is a modern rule set with elements of OD&D. In my opinion it takes some popular new mechanics like ascending Armor Class and mixes them with some older mechanics to create a great take on the classic game. The books sell at cost through print on demand services making most of the anywhere from $5 to $3. Plus all the materials are free to download and print as you see fit. BFRPG is one of the OSR games I most strongly suggest starting with as it is the most accessible out there.
Beyond The Wall
Beyond the Wall has some unique approaches to the game. Where much of it might be familiar it has some really fun new approaches to character creation, running a sandbox hex crawl and is intended to start a game quick with little to no preparation.
Black hack has found a great deal of success being highly customizable and open. It is a rules light variation of the game now in it’s 2nd edition. It has been used by many as a foundation to publish their own games with their own take on it or just to run your game. It is worth having a copy in your collection. I personally have only used it to add a handful of house rules to our games. You can get it digitally from DriveThruRPG. The print copy seems to be a bit scarce at this time, let’s hope for a new print so others can get one in their hands. If not, the 1st edition is just a small zine easy to print from PDF.
This is a delightful rules-lite game that is affordable (Under $10 in print and free digital) and quick to pick up and play. There is an SRD online and more zines and other affordable easy to use supplements and variations of it coming out. You can pick up some nice prints of it at Exalted Funeral or Print on Demand copies are also available on Amazon.
Castles & Crusades
I consider Castles & Crusades to be the Rosetta Stone of Fantasy RPGs, especially the retro clones. C&C might be thought of as the third edition that could have been. It uses the OGL and 3rd edition foundation and makes a game much more in line with the earlier 20th century editions of D&D and easily converts from other editions. There is so much out for it that is high quality and is quickly reaching it’s 20th anniversary. Published by Troll Lord games the books are pretty easy to find and all the previous printings have only slight updates and are all compatible with other printings.
DCC – Dungeon Crawl Classics
While not really a clone of the game, a great variation that has become popular with a unique play style and a cult following Dungeon Crawl Classics by Goodman Games is a must play. It claims to have an old school feel and uses a lot of unique elements in gaming such as dice that are odd numbered you might have to put effort into finding and dangerous unpredictable magic. DCC has some of the best modules out there with such unique and creative elements you can’t go wrong with them. DCC uses a 0 level funnel where players start at level 0 with 4 or 5 characters and they go through the meat grinder and see what if any characters survive.
Originally released as a box set as Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, now in its third Edition shortened to just Hyperborea is what I consider to be one of the best RPG’s out there on the market today. The game takes the 1st edition AD&D rules and makes a great setting based off the works of old pulp Swords & Sorcery. If you have read Howard’s Conan stories you are familiar with the concept and setting it is going for. The game has some wonderful classes that are just different enough to really get players interested, and has some wonderful printed adventures. Check out their site at Hyperborea.tv to see how you can get a copy of the book.
OSE – Old School Essentials
This is the current hotness published by Necrotic Gnome. It is a well laid out rendition of the old B/X D&D. It is simple, modular and clean. The books are easy to use your old D&D modules with or most any current old school zines and publications from other games. It is currently one of the most popular editions of the game and has a great deal of support with many putting a lot out for it. Grab the books while you can because people are having a hard time keeping them in stock and they are getting bought up quick.
OSRIC – Old School Reference and Index Compilation
OSRIC is a retro clone of the first edition of AD&D available on many print on demand sites for a low price and in PDF for free. Could not hurt to download it for free and try it out. I suggest that everyone who plays pick up a copy of OSRIC. It is a wonderful reference for anyone who is playing old editions of D&D.
S&W – Swords & Wizardry
Swords & Wizardry has a few variations and versions, so you might want to watch which is which. The PDF is available for free from the Frog God site, and other digital distributors like DriveThruRPG. There is an online System Reference Document (SRD) you can use. There was a print on demand version posted to DriveThruRPG just recently as well.