Posted in: Dungeons and Dragons, Role Playing Games

Introducing OSR to 5E players

Which rule-set should I use?

One of the proud geek-dad moments that I have is knowing that my oldest daughter has been playing 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons with her friends for many years now. Even when all of the friends went to different colleges, they found a way to continue the campaign online (when schedules allow). My daughter mentioned that they wanted to get together over winter break and try to have a game. I mentioned that, if they were interested, I’d be willing to run a one-shot game introducing them to one of the old school rules. To my surprise, they accepted.

Oh boy, now what?

The first question I have to tackle is, which rule-set should I use? The only stipulation from the group was “we don’t want to play fourth edition“. I quickly explained that the OSR style are usually something before Dungeons and Dragons 3.0 or 3.5. So I started looking at all of the original and clone books (and PDFs) that I have available to choose from.

Dungeons and Dragons Holmes Basic– One of the earliest games that I’ve got in my library. But I don’t know if the players could find a copy of the rules. I have many memories of looking through this book.

Dungeons and Dragons B/X- This is the game that I cut my teeth on. The rules are available on DriveThruRPG if the players wanted. It is one of the most popular old-school rules.

Dungeons and Dragons Rules Cyclopedia- BECMI was the first set that I owned. Both the Basic red book and the Rules Cyclopedia are available on DTRPG. I would love to introduce this edition to my daughter’s group.

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons- The first edition of the AD&D rules. As I’ve mentioned previously in my blog, my early gaming group would rotate between B/X, BECMI and AD&D depending upon who is running. AD&D does give more options for players and this is an experienced group. But would it be good for a one-shot?

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition- I still have the original player’s handbook for this game from 1989. It is available on DTRPG. It is slightly different from first edition. I’d have to think about this one.

Basic Fantasy Roleplaying Game- A big advantage for this retro-clone is that the rules are available for free on their website. It combines some old-school feel with some modernization in the rules that have impressed me. I also like the modular setup so if I wanted to add some additional rules (classes, races, special rules, etc.) I just announce which add-ons the players should look at. This option is very tempting.

White Box: Fantasy Medieval Adventure Game- This is a clone of the original Dungeons and Dragons white box. I picked up a POD copy of this game earlier this year. But it is also available on DTRPG for free. This would be a learning experience for both of us if this game is selected.

Castles and Crusades- I had a chance to make a character for this system in the Character Creation Challenge and it impressed me. I’m not certain about a one shot, but I’d love to play this game in a campaign.

There are also quite a few other retro-clones that I haven’t mentioned. I didn’t want to go through my entire collection, but there are a several other options as well.

The next question I need to decide is: do I want to have the players experience the character creation of the selected OSR? We are playing in person and will only have 4-7 hours of gaming time. I could easily create several characters for them to choose from. But I remember rolling up characters all of the time in my early years. If I have the players create their own characters, I want to be available to answer questions. I may set up an online session zero to create the characters so we can spend most of the in-person time actually playing.

And finally, what scenario should I select? With this being a one-shot I could easily run one of the many modules that are out there. I have memories of The Keep on the Borderland, but could I fit it into the time allotted? I modified the adventure, The Jade Hare, when my nephew wanted an introduction session to Dungeons and Dragons. I’m really leaning towards a published module. If this was an actual campaign, I might consider more of a homebewed world.

So what system and one-shot module would you use to introduce some experienced 5E players to OSR? Pre-make the characters or have the players experience OSR character creation styles? While I’m leaning in the direction of a few options, I’m still open to suggestions. Feel free to shoot me ideas to Carl (at)

Yes, there will be several follow up posts on this event. I would like to keep you informed. Stay tuned.

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