What is your favorite convention or one-shot module is the theme for Day 15 of the #RPGaDAY2023 Challenge. And welcome to the middle of the month.
I’m going to cheat here. Currently my favorite one-shot is the one that I put together for my daughter and her 5E playing friends when I introduced them to OSR gaming. Not only did I have a blast putting together a Basic Fantasy game, I also had several people ask me if I was going to “publish” it. The answer is yes. I’d like to take the information from the first session, polish it up, and run it again. Possibly at SaltCON or another event. After this, I think I’ll have enough feedback to try to get this locked into a PDF print and ready for future game masters who need a convention scenario.
Do you have a favorite one-shot adventure or an adventure that you experienced at a convention? Tell me about it. This article is open for discussion on the TardisCaptain dot Com Discord server. You can also email me at Carl (at) TardisCaptain.com with any comments.
For Day 2 of the #RPGaDAY2023 Challenge the topic is “First RPG Gamemaster”. From what I’ve read on the message boards, this could have (this year) on it like the Day 1 entry.
So the short answer is, I haven’t gamemastered anything since January 1st. However, I did run a session of Basic Fantasy RPG in December. I was introducing an OSR style game to some 5th Edition players over a holiday break. When I had offered to run an OSR game for them, their first request was “No 4th Edition.” I had to laugh and explain that OSR was a lot earlier than that.
Instead of re-typing everything about that happened in that great gaming session, I’ll give you a link to the blog entry where you can enjoy the after-action report and see the artwork the players came up with while we were playing. 5E players trying OSR for the first time.
Do you remember your first game that you GMed this year (or in the past year)? This article is open for discussion on the TardisCaptain dot Com Discord server. You can also email me at Carl (at) TardisCaptain.com with any comments.
So if PDFs of this game is free on the Basic Fantasy website, why did I purchase a physical book? Well, I wanted to support the community efforts into creating the 4th edition. After the OGL fiasco that Wizards of the Coast had created earlier this year the Basic Fantasy community elected to remove all System Reference Document (SRD) references in the game and place the system under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. At the time they were doing this, I was unable to jump in and help lightened the load. It took a lot of volunteers to help out in getting Basic Fantasy moved over. The primary concern was to remove all terminology that could be construed as SRD. These “limits” only fueled the creativity of the Basic Fantasy community that is now seen in the new 4th edition book. Some of these I’ll mention below.
As you can see from the photos above, the covers of the 3rd edition and 4th edition look very similar. The biggest change is the “castle border” now wraps around to the back of the book. Chris Gonnerman mentioned in one of his videos that this was a creative decision in order to give an “at a glance” look that differentiated the 3rd edition books from the 4th edition books. Plus he really likes the dragon art that was used on the cover that he had commissioned. (Side note: pay the artists for their work. Chris did for this cover and I thank him for that.) The 3rd edition book has 166 pages where as the 4th edition has 202 pages. The ISBN is 9798398957679 for the hardbound (I’m not certain if the softbound has a different ISBN number) and it ran me a little over $18 after taxes. Because I have an Amazon Prime membership, shipping was free. Not a bad price for a hardbound book considering some of the other prices I’ve seen lately.
The system itself is basically the same. With the SRD text, mostly, removed. As I was thumbing through the books side by side, I noticed that the 4th edition had page numbers when they referenced another section (i,e “See How to Attack on page 53…”). I could see this being very helpful when you are quickly flipping through the book trying to find a rule. It was also visible that some descriptions of various items (spells, races, classes, etc.) had been slightly altered.
The monster section has been greatly expanded from 183 entries in 3rd edition to 213 entries in the 4th edition book. Some of the new art can be found here. I think the art for the Rot Grub is going to give me nightmares. When the volunteers working on the update thought that they couldn’t use Kobolds any more (until WotC backed off of the OGL mess), they came up with their own variation that was still used in the book, The Barklings.
I think this shows some of the creativity that went into this update. Another change was with the Dragons. Instead of being just a red dragon or a white dragon, now they are based off of their environment. The red dragon is now a mountain dragon, white represents the ice dragon, etc. They list the old terminology next to each type so it is easily connected. However the cloud dragon is not listed with a color in my copy of the book. I also like that they listed the similar monsters together, such as all of the puddings are listed under pudding.
The back part of the book deals with magic items, various rules and optional rules that the gamemaster can use, stocking dungeons, setting up strongholds, etc. As with the other sections, there has been some polishing here and there, but it basically looked like it covered the same subjects as before. I will say it was a little different not seeing the OGL statements at the back of the book that I’ve been seeing for over twenty years. But I think that’s a good thing.
So my complements to the army of volunteers at the Basic Fantasy forums for coming together and getting this project done. I could easily have seen a lot of project creep work it’s way in which they were able to avoid. Players of the Basic Fantasy RPG will easily recognize the high quality that this line has been known for. If you are looking for an old school feel with some modern tweaks, I’d recommend picking up this book. At the least, it just costs you some download time to get the books and supplements. But if you are like me, a person who loves to feel the weight of a book in his hands, then I would strongly urge you to pick up a physical copy.
Have you played Basic Fantasy RPG? Do you enjoy the games that have that OSR feel? This article is open for discussion on the TardisCaptain dot Com Discord server. You can also email me at Carl (at) TardisCaptain.com with any comments.
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.
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.
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.
As you can see from the photo above, I elected to go with the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game. I had the books in my possession, I really liked what I was reading. I had the option to allow certain supplements if I wanted (I’m going to allow cantrips and other add-ons) and the players could easily get a PDF of the rules from the Basic Fantasy RPG website.
Just as there were several suggestions for the rule-set, there were also several suggestions for which adventure to run. I was pouring through my library (both dead tree and PDF) to see which one stood out to me the most. In the end, I was lead by inspiration. I just happened to be looking at one of the many online freebie maps (I won’t say which one just yet just in case one of the victims… err… players might be reading this blog post.) and a lightbulb went off when I opened up one. One thing lead to another and I ended up with a little adventure in my head. I pulled out my OneNote and started writing things down. Since this only a one-shot adventure, I made it flexible with a clear goal in mind. Kind of like the type of adventure you could end up in if you went to a gaming convention.
I’m going to hold an online session zero next week. There I’m planning to set some expectations for the game. Allow the players to roll up their characters (which may be the first case of culture shock for them) and introduce myself to them. We have an in-person date set for when we will get together to actually roll some dice.
Thanks again for all of the suggestions and feedback. I plan to have a follow up post to let everyone know how it goes.