Well, the time has come. We must put down our plowshares and take up the sword, the dagger, and the staff. It is time to don the helm, the coif, and the robe. Yes, it is time, once again, to play Dungeons and Dragons. And this time, we’re going Advanced!
We’ve been playing Minecraft for several months now, and we’ve had a blast. In that time, we tried out three separate instances of the game (Vanilla, The Crack Pack, Resonant Rise) across three different servers. Kiokri even built a dedicated server box so that we can keep those crops growing and quarries running even while we’re not around. If anything, it almost got too easy, as resources were definitely not a problem anymore.
Therefore, it came as a surprise to no one that a couple of us were getting a bit restless, myself included. So, I started to take a look at our pen-and-paper options while trying to find the best way to ask everyone if we could pick it up again. As it turned out, all I had to do was mention it, and everyone was willing, if not eager, to start up again. I volunteered to be the Game Master (or Dungeon Master, if you prefer) and we set a date to begin: May 19.
Now, as you may have read in a previous post, we tried our hand at EABA for a while. Honestly, we gave it a real chance, and played it for months. However, it just didn’t click with our group. The core system seems simple enough: roll a bunch of dice and take the best three. Easy. However, once we attempted to go even a single step further in complexity, the system became a quagmire of little rules and numbers. Now, this may be mostly the fault of the writer/editor of the system, which is usually to blame due to poor organization and vague explanations. EABA is mathematically beautiful, but it’s a tough nut to crack for a group used to more traditional d20 systems. We really tried, but it just wasn’t for us.
I also thought about trying out D&D Next, but quickly realized that it is prohibitively expensive. At 50 dollars per book, our group would need a bare minimum of 150 dollars for the primary three core rulebooks. Ideally, everyone should have a Player’s Handbook, so that’s another 250 dollars. Since there’s no guarantee we’d even play it for more than a couple weeks, and our foolhardy days of pirating being well behind us, I decided that it just wasn’t going to fly.
So, we need a d20 system that’s as cheap as possible. Well, how about free? OSRIC!
OSRIC is an acronym for Old School Reference and Index Compilation. What is it? Well, in its essentials, it is an open-source reprinting of 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, though there are some fairly important deviations. OSRIC was thus a doubly-obvious choice for me because I’m in possession of a set of the AD&D rulebooks, a relic which I inherited from my parents, who played during their time in the Marine Corps. Oh yeah, that’s some good, strong lineage right there.
For our readers who don’t know, AD&D is the beginning of the system which eventually evolved into 3rd edition, 3.5, 4th, and D&D Next. In effect, the modern incarnation of the d20 system started with 1st edition AD&D. OSRIC, for all intents and purposes, is the same system as the original AD&D, which is great for a couple reasons. First, it means that it’s using a tried-and-true system that has been alive and well for nearly forty years. Second, there are unbelievable amounts of resources out on the internet for it.
OSRIC is not, however, a 100% reprint of the system. It does have some important differences:
- Simplicity – Many of the tables and explanations have been cut down and simplified. This is a good thing, because Gygax was often very wordy when he didn’t need to be, and the explanations were sometimes so labyrinthine they were nigh unintelligible.
- Simplicity – This also has a downside. Sometimes the rules in OSRIC are mentioned, but never explained. For example, Magic Users have a “minimum spells per level understood” which is clearly enumerated. What is less clear is how this impacts the game, or even what it really means. Fortunately, I have the AD&D books for reference in these situations.
- Incorporated Supplements – The standard OSRIC rules also incorporate some of the rules found in the supplements to the original AD&D. The most specific example of this is the Fighter’s weapon specialization option, which was originally in the Unearthed Arcana supplement. I would not be surprised to learn that they also included errata from some of the Dragon Magazine rule columns.
- Houserules – Some of the rules in OSRIC seem to be houserules which the creators used for so long that they included them, maybe even without realizing. For example, whether Druids receive the bonus spells for Wisdom that are described under the Cleric rules is never explicitly stated one way or the other in AD&D, and many many many arguments rage over it to this day. OSRIC simply gives the Druid bonus spells (an interpretation with which I disagree, but whatever).
- Omissions – OSRIC has also made some interesting omissions from the original rules. The most obvious example of this is the absence of the Monk and Bard classes. Now, the Bard was always kind of a wonky class, even in AD&D, but the removal of the Monk is surprising as it was a primary class (not that I ever cared for it, personally). They also chose not to reprint the psionics rules. Frankly, I’m glad, because psionics always felt contrived, but I’m sure there are some people who see it as a vital tool.
I have decided, for the sake of simplicity and clarity, that I will be enforcing the OSRIC rules as they’re written with only the occasional reference to AD&D for clarification, but not as a superseding source of rules. I want to keep houserules to a bare minimum, because that’s where confusion is bred. So far, I have only issued my standard houserule: each player character receives a full hit die of HP at level 1. Otherwise, the rules stand as-is, including things like level limits and money encumbrance.
I know our group has had trouble getting any set of characters past level 5, but I have a good feeling about this one. I think this might be the campaign that goes the distance.
I plan to keep writing posts as we play and interesting tidbits come up. Hopefully, I can convince some others in my group to give us their take on things. After we finally kick off, I plan to write one about the campaign itself and its setup, so stay tuned for that.