So on July 3rd my hardcover copy of Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game 4th Edition arrived at my house. This is the latest version of the OSR inspired game that I had ran for my college aged daughter and her friends. I’ve also used this game as one of the entries in the #CharacterCreationChallenge.
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.