Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"O" is for...

Old School RPGs

Yes, the old school thing again. I love them. 3.5 and Pathfinder and newer RPGs are cool and all and i do enjoy them, bust sometimes I just want to throw something together and play and the old school games are less bogged down in the sub-systems and heavy rules that make that difficult with the newer systems. For me, the old school thing isn't just about playing the old versions and their retro clones. It's also about playing new games with old school sensibilities.

These are games that have been built from scratch or partially from scratch but that maintain the basic tenants of the old school RPGs. They are not as heavy on specific details and systems as the new games allowing the detail to come out in the unfettered playability that their compact and elegant rules allow for. You may not find massive lists of skills and modifiers, but are they needed for the style of play you are going for?

Take, for example, Barbarians of Lemuria. This is Simon Washborne's imaginative brain child that combines elements of Conan, Tekumel, John Carter, and other staples of pulp fantasy and science fiction. The system is very smooth and intuitive, allowing the players and the GM to do much of the leg work within the most subtle of guidance from the rules. At it's core, you character has careers. If he encounters a situation that would draw from his skills, knowledge and/or experience in one of these careers, he gets a bonus or at least the ability to make a skilled check. That's it. No laborious catalogs of skills to pour over just do it. BOL is but one example, but still others exist.

While i have not purchased or played all the newer, old school style systems out there, I do have some of and I find that there is pretty much a game for anyone out there. Whether it is X-plorers, Rogue Space, or Stars Without Number, if you are looking for science fiction role-play you will find it. If it's a pulpy romp, try Dicey Tails, the pulp rewrite of Barbarians of Lemuria, a system that works well for the loose and cinematic conventions of the Pulp genre. I wish I could name  more, but I only have so much time and money to spend on exploring systems.

One last system worth mentioning is a favorite of mine that is still alive and well. It faded from mainstream but never went away and continued to be developed by the creators. I speak of the West End D6 System. Revived as a trio of core systems all using the same rules framework, D6 Adventure, D6 Fantasy, and D6 Space really offer you just about anything you could wish for and FOR FREE. Not only are three core genres well represented in these tittles but each is completely cross compatible on a cellular level with one another. What's more, the system has been made open source and so there are numerous third party publications tapping into the system covering a number of different topics, even super heroes.


  1. I long sometimes for old school and easier to play!

  2. Hey! May I invite you to Really loved your blog posts there :)And we could could talk some business... contact me...

  3. i like 2nd ed D&D, just a notebook sheet and a couple dices to start the fun!

  4. I hadn't realized that the West End D6 system was available for free. Thanks for pointing that out!


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