Thursday, January 31, 2013

Basic Fantasy Appreciation Day!

Today, January 31st, a number of bloggers, myself included, have decided to follow  the suggestion from Tenkar's Tavern to spend at least one post showing some love for one of the neglected children of the "OSR" gaming scene, Basic Fantasy Role-Playing (BFRPG). Follow the link for an obscene amount of free gaming goodness.

I'll start by noting that had I managed to find Basic Fantasy before I purchased LL + LL AEC, I'd probably be playing my current crawl in The Ever Expanding Dungeon with BFRPG. The game is a beautiful labor of open source love - the font and layout choices strike me as very b/x, while much of the art makes me think of AD&D, especially that cover.

And that, it seems to me, is exactly what BFRPG does as a game.

I've put together a little comparison of b/x, Labyrinth Lord, Labyrinth Lord AEC, OSRIC 2.2 and BFRPG, which you can get from my Dropbox Account. Some of it has to do with pricing and page counts and such, but some of it looks at some system specifics.

What I think it shows fairly clearly, is that Basic Fantasy straddles a  line between b/x (and Labyrinth Lord) and 1e (represented here most closely by OSRIC 2.2. I gave my AD&D books away a few years ago so I don' t have them for reference) in a way that differs from the approach taken by the LL AEC, and at a fraction of the cost for the print edition.

It is an approach, which, personally, suits my tastes better as it favors the b/x side of the equation. In terms of classes in the core book, it's everything you're familiar with from b/x but with a separation of race and class and the elimination of arbitrary level limits.

Now, those who prefer 1e classes, please don't fret.

BFRPG has a strong community of developers and you can pretty much find any class you can think of, classic 1e and classes frankly I'd never heard of, represented in the many free downloads on the BFRPG site. So, if paladin or heaven forbid, bard, are more your cup of tea, you're covered. I'm not aware of any similar magnitude of support, for free, for any other "clone."

What I think I like most about this system, besides the strong community support, is that it isn't slavish in its simulation of the past. Instead it accommodates more modern gaming concepts enshrined in the SRD from which it comes. Three areas that jump out at me are ascending AC,  ability rolls which take a "target number" approach that accounts for character level as well as ability bonuses, and its take on XP for gold.

The latter, to me, is astounding.

Basic Fantasy, in a clear break with tradition (at least for the world's most popular role-playing game), suggests that XP be tied to encounters, whether combat or not, with the latter in amounts at the GM's discretion. This is perhaps almost as monumental as the use of ascending AC (although some other clones also use ascending AC). Whether or not a given GM ran their game with XP for gold, it was the method documented in b/x and the 1e DM Guide. As someone who has been only relatively recently convinced that XP for gold is a bit superfluous, I like that BFRPG goes down the road less traveled for "retro-clones"

Enough fawning, you can make up your own mind.

If you don't want to take the plunge and grab the whole rulebook (it's free though and there's a lo-fi version that takes up about 1/4 of the disk space), at least check out the Beginner's Essentials. You'll get a decent sense of the game from that and it can probably serve as a player's handbook for new players.


  1. Thank you for your comments on this. I was not familiar with it but I've now downloaded a lot of material for it and I will read it at my leisure.

    -- Jeff

    1. Jeff,

      Glad to hear my effort wasn't in vain!

      I'm sure among the piles of files they have available, something will prove useful to you - at the very least as inspirational resources.

      Would love to hear any thoughts you have on the material after you've had a chance to read it.


  2. I like your table of comparisons. That is very useful to be honest.

  3. Hi Timothy,

    Thank you for your comment!

    I'm glad you found the table useful. If I ever feel motivated enough, I think I'd like move it over to a spreadsheet and include some other OSR systems.


  4. I have thoroughly enjoyed my Lulu copy of Basic Fantasy. Should have bought the spiral bound! Discussed my impressions on my blog here