Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Looking for RPG System Recommendations

Last week, I made over at Google+, wherein I asked for some recommendations and advice regarding what system to use for an upcoming game. Erik over at Tenkar's Tavern gave me some good advice to use Labyrinth Lord, which was much appreciated. 

I'd like to open up the commentary a bit more, so for those of you who don't use Google Plus, here's the post I left (slightly edited for this blog post):

Going to be running old-school AD&D Module [name/title redacted since my players read my blog] for my Friday night "beer and pretzels" RPG group, and I'm looking for suggestions from you guys as to what system to use.

Some systems we're considering, and the background:

1) PATHFINDER: Everyone in the group is familiar with Pathfinder and all but one of them are currently playing in at least one other Pathfinder game. They liked it from a player's perspective due to the amount of customization, but agree that it's a bit of a pain for a DM to run. I'm comfortable running it and at this point, it's probably the rules system I'm the most familiar with. However, it would mean a lot of conversions of the module, which I'm not looking forward to.

2) OSRIC: They've all played in an OSRIC game that I ran before for Module S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. Two of them really don't care what system we use, and thought it was fun. One guy is more of a "storyteller" type of player who rarely gets into the rules and how they work. Another guy is not a long-time RPG player like the rest of us, and he frankly got very confused after having tried to figure out Pathfinder, and then saw everything was different in OSRIC (Descending AC, saving throws, sometimes wanting to roll high versus sometimes rolling low, using attack table matrices rather than Base Attack Bonus vs. AC, etc.).  He was very confused.  Another guy pretty much disliked the system and favored many of the changes made to the game in the 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder vein. On the plus side for using OSRIC, it means almost no converting for me.

3) Labyrinth Lord: The guy above who disliked 1E/OSRIC is curious to try Labyrinth Lord given its more open-ended, free-wheeling nature. He's heard good things about the system. I've never played LL but I did play B/X back in the day and still have my Moldvay box set I could use. On the downside, it means yet another ruleset these guys have to try to learn, although from what I remember it's not all THAT different from OSRIC, but from the DM standpoint I seem to remember it's more "anything goes" and making decisions on the fly versus looking them up in a rulebook.  On the positive side, it means a lot less conversion work versus converting to something like Pathfinder.
4) Dungeon World. The same player as above (the one who doesn't like OSRIC but it curious about Labyrinth Lord) has also mentioned Dungeon World to me, and after reading a review on RPG.net, I'm really interested in this one.  The cons are that it's a completely new system, whereas at least the systems above us the standard D&D names and abilities and stuff. So, for the few less-than-hardcore gamers in the group, I'm not sure how they'd feel about having to learn yet a new system. It also means needing to buy a new game and try to get the rules into the hands of the players. On the pro side, I love learning and playing new systems, and some of the mechanics sound really neat to me. I'm also intrigued by the idea that the GM doesn't roll dice - he just decides what happens based on what the players roll.  Anyone have experience with this game?

5) Savage Worlds. We've played a Weird War 2 game and a few Realms of Cthulhu games with this system, so the players are comfortable with it (the guy who got confused with OSRIC really liked it, due to its simplicity and limited numbers tracking).  On the con side, this would take a HUGE amount of conversion work.

6) D&D Next. I haven't downloaded the playtest yet, but then thought this might be a good way for us to test out how the rules work with a truly old-school adventure.

Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments on which system you think I should use.

Thanks for your comments and suggestions!

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Listening: "I Get Along Without You Very Well" by Chet Baker
Drinking: NOTHING (my water has been turned off while our sprinklers get repaired)


  1. I have great affection for S&W Whitebox. http://www.swordsandwizardry.com/whiteboxpdf.pdf Microlite20 is also a lot of fun and super easy. http://www.retroroleplaying.com/content/microlite20-rpg-collection IIRC, the Players Handbook is one page, front and back. :)

  2. Since it is a one shot, I would recommend running it with the rule system closest to the module which you indicate is OSRIC. Perhaps you can convince the gang that you are playing the game in the spirit of the rules of the time the module was published. I would even try to use the pregenerated characters if any are available in the module. I would think the other players could help out the one who does not know the rules well.

    If, however, you were going to run a campaign with recurring characters, I think i would recommend Pathfinder, since your player's enjoy tweaking and customizing their characters.

    I would even give the nod to Pathfinder over OSRIC if you are more comfortable winging the stats.

    1. Just thought of something else. The D&D Next play test material does not include rules for generating characters. You would have to use the pregenerated characters included in the play test, and they only have rules for going up to level 3 if memory serves me correctly.

  3. Labyrinth Lord and D&D5 are both very light games, so should be easy enough to learn for the players. If they're used to Pathfinder, then D&D5 may be less of a shock to the system for them, but LL is good fun and is worth any initial bumps in understanding.

    One thing to keep in mind with D&D5 is that there are no character generation rules yet, so you'd be stuck with the initial party of five. Also, you might have to build some monsters yourself, as we only have the monsters from the included adventure so far.

    (The included adventure is an old-school classic; wouldn't it be weird if the one you've chosen is the same one? It would save on conversion!)

    As far as conversions go, I've found in the past that most D&D stuff is easy enough to convert between editions. OSRIC and LL are going to be the best fits for the adventure, but both Pathfinder and D&D5 will work well enough.

    I have no experience of Dungeon World, but I love Savage Worlds to bits, and you may find that it's easier to convert than you think. If you get hold of the Fantasy Companion, you should be able to cover most of your bases as far as monsters go.

  4. One thing you might want to consider is that:

    LL = B/X
    LL + AEC = AD&D

    AEC has a lot of optional rules where you can take LL and move it closer and closer to AD&D - as much as you want. I think it is pretty nifty.

    Now one game I'd suggest looking at is Swords & Wizardry Complete - which is a lot like LL + AEC - but it doesn't really use B/X as a base - it's more like it used oD&D as a base, but adds options for ascending AC and the like - for those who are more comfortable with that. In some ways, SWComp feels 'slicker' that LL + AEC.

    With either set, there is not much to translate at all from S3.

    Boy, that's a lot of acronyms. :)

    - Ark

  5. My group is running LL right now, so my initial reaction is to run them on that. It's simple, even though it can still be clunky in ways similar to old B/X. I guess I see LL as clunky when compared to Castles & Crusades, which has more of a unified mechanic. But if you want that old fashioned D&D feel, LL is the way! HOWEVER, speaking of C&C, it's pretty easy to run/learn as well! It's my preferred version of "AD&D" actually, so I would never again even bother with actual AD&D or OSRIC. AD&D and OSRIC are games I also consider to be clunky in that adorable old D&D way, with all the different mechanics/dice rolls for different situations, whereas C&C has the elegant SIEGE Engine for things.

    Oh, also, it depends on whether or not you want to do the Basic or Advanced thing. Do you want race as class and all that jazz for the group? The LL is the way to go. BUT, Goblinoid offers the AEC if you want to split race from class. And they have a good product, let's face it.

    Hey, if you want to go really nuts, there's always DCC RPG! ;-) Heh heh...

    Have I helped at all? Bottom line: Labyrinth Lord looks like the way to go.

  6. OSRIC, its a good system and like you mentioned no conversion for you. If something lightens the load of the GM I am for it. Then you can focus on decapitating your...I mean having more fun developing the adventure.

  7. I would just use your Moldvay boxed set. Download LL and print the chargen, equipment, and spell pages for player reference.

    If you decide to brave Dungeon World, you don't have to buy it just yet. Play it for free while you wait for the Kickstarter to bring us a new edition... the game is licensed under Creative Commons 3.0. All of the files are here.

  8. With Savage Worlds Deluxe and the Fantasy Companion (or even just the free Wizards and Warriors bundle at peg.com) and you're set. There's no conversion to do. Just take the story you want to use and run it in Savage Worlds. Good to go!


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