Basic Fantasy remains my favorite of the OSR games. For one thing, it hews to the Basic version of D&D, rather than OD&D or AD&D. As someone who came to the OSR without experience of any edition prior to 3e, I had no dog in the edition wars; but as a matter of style and game design, BD&D seems to strike the best balance.

But while Basic Fantasy looks to Moldvay et al. for inspiration, it is not as slavish as many other OSR games (they’re called retroclones for a reason). Armor Class ascends, as God intended. Race and class are largely divorced (to my players’ eternal relief) but not entirely.

This is mostly good, but occasionally Basic Fantasy pitches a feature from BD&D I liked. So it is with GP-as-XP.

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The Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG (at least the preview PDF I’ve read) never quite gelled for me, somehow. Full props to Goodman for trying to take the OSR in new directions, but many of the directions they chose—odd dice, fiddly spellcasting mechanics, and so on—feel too much like being different for different’s sake. Meanwhile they kept some of the most annoying bits of OSR games, like race as class. Your mileage may vary.

But one bit of DCCRPG really captured my imagination: The character funnel, which turns four sad-sack level-0 characters into one level 1 PC by the power of dice and almost-certain death.

The character funnel brings a very OSR approach to a very OSR problem. The problem is that most retro-styled games have very swingy character creation. The beloved Iron Man stat generation system (roll 3d6 in order for each ability) is particularly bad in this regard.

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For me, the hardest thing about running a sandbox game is making interesting decisions on the fly. What’s over that hill? What’s this plant do if I eat it? What’s that ugly orc thinking?

I can make something up, of course. But my made-up answers tend to be same-y, or simply not believable. It’s a tricky nut to crack.

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Infinite Dragons Games is Austin Schaefer. I’m a tech writer currently living in Portland, Oregon. I’ve loved games since Pokemon Red, loved role-playing games since a much-loved but little-played GURPS 3e manual, and loved old RPGs since I first picked up a dusty Monstrous Compendium at a Lincoln City bookshop.

On this site, I’ll chronicle my gaming projects, which are mostly small rules tweaks for OSR games. I’m currently working on Proper Motion, an OSR-inspired game I’m calling a “science fantasy of Ptolemaic space”.

Find me on Google+, or email me at austin@{this site}. Cheers, and happy gaming.