Thursday, February 27, 2014

Basic Fantasy: Too Weird to Live, Too Rare To Die

For RPG nerds in general and Old School clone enthusiasts in particular, the question of "which system to use?" is about as close to a spiritual dilemma as they come.  Thousands of forum posts and millions of words have been devoted to defenses of System A vs. System B for use in different settings, needs, styles and formats.  As much as I've said that this new campaign is as "back to basics" as possible, I do have a handful of requirements:
  1. Ascending AC: Honestly, the only real sticking point.  I know it's "totally easy to figure out" and "not as big a deal as it's made out to be," but descending AC has straight-up never made sense to me. 
  2. Single Book Game: At this point, I'd rather start out with a smaller game that I can bolt stuff onto than a larger one that would need rules taken out.  I want a rules set that's closer to the Basic philosophy than the Advanced one.
  3. Simple Enough To Wing It: Tying into the single book game aspect. I want to be able to put together stats for a vampire coffin mausoleum golem in under two minutes, or create a magical artifact with a limited amount of bookkeeping and balancing
  4. Race and Class Separate: I really love Race As Class as a concept, but it seems to be a much bigger sticking point for other people.  People love to play their Dwarven Clerics, Elven Thieves and the like.
  5. Cheap Or Free: If my players want a copy of the rules, I don't want them to have to throw $30 down for one.  That money would be better spent on cardboard minis, Chessex maps and beer.
So with all those things in mind, one game stood out.

I feel like there are two different types of "old-school games" on the internet these days: your retro-clones that try to exactly mimic the rules of existing out of print games (your Labyrinth Lords and OSRICs) and the games that take an old-school approach or rules framework in order to create something wholly original (your Stars Without Numbers and Crypts and Things).  Basic Fantasy is sort of an odd duck in that Old School Renaissance/retro-clone marketplace.  It makes enough changes to the original Basic D&D rules set that it can't really be considered a retro-clone, but it is still closer in rules and tone to that framework than any other RPG.  For me, it hits that sweet spot with simple, streamlined mechanics that are nonetheless compatible with anything labeled B/X, BECMI, LL, etc.

Like all campaigns, there will be house rules, notably to get rid of the Medicine Cabinet saving throws that Basic Fantasy inherited from Mentzer and Moldvay.  I'll probably replace them with Swords & Wizardry's single save with class bonuses (when did Swords & Wizardry turn into AD&D?) but I don't want to do too much tinkering.  Basic Fantasy gives me a system that I am fairly comfortable following RAW and I want to do that as much as possible.

(now can I retroactively add this to Tenkar's Basic Fantasy Role Playing Blog Appreciation Day?)




  2. Basic Fantasy emerged around the same time as Castles & Crusades, I think? Back before there was an "OSR" and people were just tinkering around with writing old school emulation systems, is probably how I'd put it. If C&C was "1e AD&D with modernized mechanics," BFRPG struck me as being somewhat analogous likewise in comparison to B/X.