OSRIC (Old School Reference & Index Compilation), is something that I just recently found out about. A buddy of mine asked me if I wanted to play in an old-school campaign that he was going to start. I agreed, downloaded the OSRIC PDF and got to work on my character.
For those of you who are not familiar, OSRIC is a re-packaging of the 1st Ed D&D rules under the OGL. That means that anyone with a hankerin’ for some old-school goodness has free access to the rules, and can create new content for the system without any licensing fees. (I had heard that the creator of OSRIC was being sued by WotC over this, but a quick Google search didn’t turn up anything). Also, since it’s pretty much the same as 1st Ed D&D, any of the old modules you might have sitting around are fully compatible.
As an aside, this run-down of the ORSIC book assumes that you know little to nothing about 1st Edition D&D. If you’ve never given up your original books and you never will, then I encourage you to offer your comments on the review, below.
There is a lot to cover when it comes to a product like this, so I am going to start with the Races and Classes sections.
All of the old standards are here, in full force. Humans, Elves, Half-Elves, Halflings, Dwarves, Gnomes and Half-Orcs are all present and accounted for. Something that a modern gamer might find awkward is that certain races are not able to take levels of specific classes. Want to be a Dwarven Magic-User? No dice. Elven Druid? Sorry, pointy-ears. All joking aside, even though OSRIC doesn’t list any justifications for why these restrictions exist, it’s not hard to use your imagination to come up with reasons why.
As you might expect, each race has certain benefits that make it attractive to play. Dwarves, for example, have percentage chances to detect their depth underground, find secret doors in stonework, all things that have become staples of playing a dwarf as the years have gone on. One thing that is decidedly different from modern games is that all classes, except for humans, have hard level caps that they cannot exceed for certain classes. The justification for this is that the demi-humans have so many built-in advantages that they really shouldn’t be allowed to get as powerful as humans.
The races are all the old standards, as as such, seem to cover all of the necessary bases. One interesting note is that Half-Orcs in OSRIC are not the brutish, pig-like Half-Orcs we’re used to. They’re more like throwbacks to their human side, and look much like humans do. It’s the only way they could pass in human society. It’s a difference that I find unique and interesting. Of course, they hide their lineage because Orcs are looked down upon, but that is largely true for any setting in which Orcs are found. It’s a small thing, but I enjoy that twist.
Just as with the Races, you will find a lot of familiarity in the Classes section. Fighter, Cleric, Magic-User, Thief, Druid, Ranger, Paladin and… Assassin? You read that correctly, the OSRIC rules have Assassin as a core class. All of the classes have abilities similar to those we have come to know and love, but the power progression is much, much slower than in a modern RPG. If you’re leveling up in 3rd or 4th Edition D&D, you can almost expect to have something besides HP improve with each level. That is not necessarily the case here.
Take the Assassin as an example. At 1st level, the Assassin has the ability to assume a disguise, use Thief abilities (albeit at a lower level), has knowledge of poisons and their uses, and of course, to Assassinate an opponent. They get a set of saving throws (vs Aimed Magical Items (Rods, Staffs, Wands, etc), Breath Weapons, Death/Paralysis/Poison, Petrification/Polymorph, and Spells), and they get a THAC0 table.
A word on THAC0
When I have heard people decrying the older systems of D&D, one of the arguments that I have heard often is that THAC0 is one of the things that desperately needed to be replaced. For those who aren’t aware, THAC0 stands for “To Hit AC 0,” and is how you figure out if you can hit someone in combat, or not. Roll a d20, add mods, check the results on the table and tell the DM what AC you can hit. I used to hate the system, too. But OSRIC gives you a nice, neat table, and a spot for that table on your character sheet. It’s neat and clean and simpler than trying to figure out all of the pluses and minuses that come into play in 3e, for example, so I’m happy to use it here.
Back to the Assassin example. As you level, your THAC0 and your saves will go down (making it easier for you to hit, and easier to make your saving throws). The thing is, the first lowering of those numbers does not come until 4th level for the Assassin. That pace is different for all of the classes (a Fighter’s THAC0 goes up every level), but it’s vastly different from a modern RPG.
Overall, I found the classes to cover all of the bases that I felt necessary. Your mileage may vary. If you cannot conscience a game system with no Monks, Bards or Psionics, then you’ll find no succor in OSRIC.
When talking about OSRIC and old-school gaming, I feel like I sometimes feel like I should be summing up the features and end every other paragraph with “and you darn kids need to stay off my lawn!” The rules are weird sometimes, and things are most definitely not balanced, but still… there is something about them. Maybe I’m just feeling nostalgia, but I am comfortable with those quirks. I think I feel like they more accurately mirror a world where things are not fair and even, where all the classes and races are not created equal and sometimes, someone is just better than you.
What does that mean for the playing of the system? Well, you will just have to wait until I continue my write-up to find out. In my next article, I’ll be covering combat and the actual playing of the game, and I’ll be including a recap of the session in which I played. Until then, keep those dice rolling.
[tags]rpg, old-school, classic, OSRIC, geek[/tags]