Posted in: Dungeons and Dragons, Role Playing Games

5E players trying OSR for the first time

The calm before the storm

So as I have mentioned in previous blog posts (Here and Here) that I had volunteered to put together and OSR one-shot in-person game for my college aged daughter and her friends. This group had been playing (mostly) together since junior high school and had only played 5th Edition. I elected to run with the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game using the core rulebook. I added on the 0 Level Spells and Magic User options supplements. During our online session zero, I had the players roll percentages and used the chart found the Background Skills supplement to give them a life before they started their apprenticeship with the Union of Adventurers and Explorers (aka The Adventurers Guild). I sent the players the BFRPG Character Sheet designed by James D. Jarvis (it had the page numbers on the sheet for the different sections, something that I thought was very helpful). For the game masters screen, I printed out the works of Scott Abraham and attached it to a Star Trek RPG Narrator’s screen from Decipher that I had in my collection. The map that inspired me was drawn by Tim Hardin and made available on his website.

In my preparation for the adventure, I decided to purchase a larger battle mat. The one I had used previously to help teach my nieces and nephews Dungeons and Dragons session was too small for the online map I had elected to use. When I read that the mat would only take marks from wet-erase markers, I purchased some of those as well. I also borrowed a case of figures from my friend, Jeff Sullivan, who was my Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 DM for years. This was also the first time I had an opportunity to play with the North to South dice that I had received earlier this year. In the same room was a TV that I had connected to the internet. Bringing up YouTube, I had it run the Diablo dungeon music (it was the only one that I could quickly find that was long enough for our session). I did have one of the players tell me that it added to the spookiness of the adventure.

I also wasn’t the only person preparing. Since this is the first time my daughter’s friends had gotten together in person for quite some time, my daughter wanted to make two recipes from Heroes’ Feast, the Official Dungeons and Dragons cookbook. She made the Mithral Hall Potato Leek Soup and Bytopian Shepherd’s Bread. While making the food, she discovered that the book was very well made as it survived her spilling a little bit of water on the page she was reading from. She wanted me to add that to my review. The players loved the soup and bread when we stopped to eat.

The view from behind the DMs screen

Overall the adventure went really well. I warned the players in session zero that, since this was a one-shot, I was going to railroad the party to the meat and potatoes of the session. I had named this adventure “The Ruined Temple of Glimri Orehaul.” The characters had to go into the catacombs below a destroyed dwarven temple to rescue the son of a dwarven noble and get him out before the orcs guarding the place discovered them (causing a diplomatic incident between the two kingdoms). I’ve had some readers ask me if I’ll “publish” the adventure. I’ve got my notes and some feedback from the players, but I think I may want to re-draw the map. The online one that I used was very good (and gave lots of options for the characters to get lost in) but is very, very large. The number of squares across the map was larger than the new mat I had purchased just for this session. As much as I tired to stay true to the map, I started cutting off sections just to make it fit. I had also written the adventure with some flexibility in mind. The clues (including some handouts) and where the son they needed to rescue could be placed in any number of rooms. This way I could allow the party to explore, but also keep within our limited time frame. I think this helped as I read some of the feedback from the players (see below). I had more plot items that never got fully explored but were hinted at during play. This caused one of the players to ask me at the end of the session to tell us what they missed (and they had missed a few things wandering to and fro). I took this as a good sign that they were interested in the adventure. There were a couple of items I would have loved to seen their reaction to while playing. I may have to run a second play-test when I complete a second draft of the adventure.

The Players:
Note, all players are identified by their character name.

Chad McBuffman is a human fighter. The player has been enjoying RPGs for 4 years. The only other game she has previously played is D&D 5th edition. As the DM, I had to remind myself not to start blurting out MST3K “Big McLargeHuge” names from the riffing of Space Mutiny. But I loved the humor this player had.

Irisk Vannfu is a dwarven thief. The player has been enjoying RPGs for 7 years. Besides 5th edition she had also played D&D 3.5 and her first game was with the Decipher Star Trek RPG. She loved the fact that her character had been a cook before the adventure.

Sillari is an elf magic-user. The player has been enjoying RPGs for 9 years. She has previously played 3.5, 5th edition and something called Pokemon D&D. She had typed up her spell list with her cantrips and 1st level spells. She also made a sketch of her character.

Tryx Smolfollow is a halfling thief. The player has been enjoying RPGs for 4 years and has only played 5th edition prior to the Basic Fantasy one-shot we just played. The player had a ton of notes (before and during the game) for her one-shot character and drew several drawings of party members.

Zephyr Silversong is an elf cleric. The player has been enjoying RPGs for 6 years. She has also played 3.5 and 5th edition D&D. The player also came up with the name of the god her character worshiped, Azalea (uh-zay-lee-uh). She even provided an image of the holy symbol.

Player Questions:

I had asked the players in session zero if they would be willing to fill out a questionnaire after the game. I wanted to use the answers on this blog. Thankfully they agreed. They answered these questions without conferring with each other.

–Question: What did you think of the Basic Fantasy character creation system?

Chad: It felt limiting, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But one of my favorite parts of RPG’s is making all these fun fantasy characters, so I wasn’t a fan of that.

Irisk: I didn’t mind it! It made me choose something I might not have on my own. I really grow to like the guy I got.

Sillari: It was good! It was fairly straight forward and easy to understand. Thought I was confused on some mechanics just because I’m so used to 5e at this point.

Tryx: It was very interesting. It’s interesting what race and class you could play was limited by your dice rolls. Also interesting that you had to roll them in order rather than picking and choosing what stat goes where. Normally I think of a character idea and have my stats, class and race match that. For this one, I dreaded to roll my character first and then figure out what I wanted to play. Also interesting that there wasn’t backgrounds or personality stuff so you could play a wide variety of characters.

Zephyr: It was simplified which made it easier to understand. Rolling for stats in order was a fun challenge. I do wish there was more for backgrounds since that helps me flesh out a character’s story.

–Question: What did you think of the Basic Fantasy game?

Chad: It was fun. Definitely different than 5e, but similar enough that the learning curve was pretty easy.

Irisk: I loved how simple and simplified it was. I think it’s more approachable than 5e is. I especially loved initiative rolling and as a lazy player I liked that the DM helped handle many traits and tasks. I love percentages. (DM note: I rolled all spot, search, find type rolls behind the DMs screen so they didn’t know if they failed the roll or not)

Sillari: It was fun, and while it felt very different from what I’m used to, I definitely appreciate the simplicity and use of playability. It was definitely different from what I was expecting, but it was very enjoyable.

Tryx: Again, very interesting. It’s interesting that there wasn’t skill stats, though that makes sense because you can still just use the overall ability stats. Also interesting that the GM rolled a lot of things for you rather than the character rolling. I think I’m most intrigued by initiative. Rolling it each round means you’re not always at the beginning or end of initiative – you get to move around more. But having it change also, I think, adds more complexity to combat, which I already struggle to keep track of.

Zephyr: It was very fun! It ran similarly enough to 5e that it was familiar, but new enough that I had a bit to learn. Rolling imitative every round was a fun change, but overall it provided a good roleplaying experience for me.

–Question: What feedback would you give the DM on the adventure?

Chad: It was fun! I liked the improv and humor. Though sometimes I felt like I was misheard, but we were always able to clear things up.

Irisk: It was fun (smiley face). I wish we had more time to explore, because I wanted more colorful dialogue and world building, but that wasn’t really possible with our time limit.

Sillari: I really had a great time with it! I’m not use to just doing dungeon crawls, but they’re always really fun and I had a lot of fun. It had a good balance of encounters.

Tryx: It was a lot of fun! This was the first time I’d used a mat and figures and I really enjoyed that. I also enjoyed the maze and getting to uncover it. I’m a little sad we didn’t get to discover the whole thing, but that’s okay. There was a lot of interesting depth I didn’t expect in a one-shot. Not just an abandoned dwarf temple with dead orcs and dwarves, but also kobolds, rats serving/reporting to rat man, and Sheeka the spider and her children. Also removing the helmet resulting in the undead. Very curious if we could have removed that differently, if it wouldn’t have triggered the undead… Anyways, all of this to say I really enjoyed it. Thanks for putting so much thought in!

Zephyr: I really enjoyed it ! It was a well rounded adventure with puzzles, traps, encounters, roleplay, treasure, etc. The party worked well together and I enjoyed the ambiance and suspense added by the DM’s descriptions throughout the game. there were also several ways to accomplish our goal which made it fun to figure out for ourselves.

–Question: What advice would you give other D&D 5e players who try OSR for the first time?

Chad: Let loose and have fun and have a good party! The best part of RPGs is, well, the role playing. So as long as you have fun characters and don’t get caught up on the differences, you’ll have fun.

Irisk: Don’t get attached to your character too early.

Sillari: Familiarize yourself with the rules, but don’t get overwhelmed by the reading! It’s more simple than you probably think. Have fun, loosen up, do what ever you enjoy, whether that’s roleplaying, min/maxing, stat crunching!

Tryx: Don’t go in with an existing idea of what you want your character to be. Let the dice determine it. After the dice tell you your race and class, figure out a personality that is fun for you to play and goes along with it. I think a lot of the game is kind of like simplified D&D (may be pretty similar to earlier editions, I dunno), so just have fun and don’t worry so much about all of the complexities you’re use to in 5e.

Zephyr: Read the rules. It’s very similar in concept, but uses different dice and different methods. Overall though, just have fun! Be open to the new methods and use them to your advantage.

Final thoughts from the DM:

Overall, I’m very pleased with how this one-shot went. The players were very interested in the game and I’m glad that they had fun. They were more worried about the encumbrance rules than I was. As they were wandering through the dungeon, I kept thinking “yes they are about to reach one of the kewl areas of the map” only to turn at the last minute and go in a different direction. But they bumped into enough of the planned events that I was able to present the clues. They didn’t know it, but they had figured out one of the puzzles even before I had all of the clues put into place. I think this was more of a testament of the players ingenuity than the puzzle itself. I’m also grateful that they let me throw notepads at them with notes for them so they could roleplay off of the knowledge only they knew (such as if they spotted something everyone else missed)

I have had some of the fans of Basic Fantasy ask if I would submit the adventure to them for possible “publication”. I have all of my notes and sending a party through the game was a good way to see where the rough spots were at. I think I want to re-draw the map as it is about 10-25% to big for the adventure (as well as the battle mat itself). I think once I have this done I’ll round up another set of victims…. errr… players and run it again.

Thank you to the players (you know who you are), Tim Hardin for his map that started the creative juices flowing, Chris Gonnerman (I watched some of your BFRPG videos prior to running the game) and to all of the blog readers out there who gave me feedback in preparation for the session.

And finally, here is a gallery of the characters drawn by the players during or just after the game. They gave me permission to share them on this blog post.

Back to Top