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Voros

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Don't think we have a thread dedicated to the Basic and Expert sets by Cook/Moldvay, Mentzer and company's Basic to Inmortal expansion of the B/X core and Old School Essentials, the current darling (rightly) of the OSR that compiles the original B/X rules in one book AND the Advanced OSE which cleverly imports AD&D classes and expands a number of races-as-class in B/X.

Woof that is a long sentence.

This thread is inspired by this post by James V. West in praise of the supercool Creature Catalogue. A sorta Fiend Folio for Basic D&D. Still worth seeking out


20220828_104104.jpg

Available on pdf here.

The later version of the CC is available here. Oddly it was available POD but that seems to have been taken down, perhaps to upload a superior scan? I have the POD in softcover and while some of the interior B&W artwork is a bit inky I'm happy with what I got.
 

Lord Dynel

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Those are fantastic resources for any OSR game. I used them for LL and C&C in the past. There's some overlap between them, but a lot of difference, too. AC9 was one of my early purchases...I remember purchasing it and GAZ1 in summer of 88 from the Mail Order Hobby Shop catalog. I spent most of the rest of summer pouring over those books.
 

bleys21

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I actually sold a ton of my old D&D stuff on Ebay the last few years. But one thing I kept (and no, you can't have it, its mine! The precious!) is the D&D Rules Cyclopedia that I originally bought from Waldenbooks when it first was released. Love that book, all the stuff from the BECMI boxes in one fancy hardcover.
 

Stan

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Mystara was pretty cool, how each area was it's own weird thing. I know it was technically made for 2e, but I always wanted to run a Red Steel campaign. That part of the world had drifted pretty far from Tolkien, with cities of cats and lizards, powerful dust that could cause mutations, and cool magic. I really liked the fencing rules and the maneuvers you could learn.
 

Brock Savage

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B/X is the best
  • Lost World bestiary with dinosaurs, Neanderthals, and "wild animals on steroids" to quote Jeff Reints.
  • Excellent procedures for encounters, dungeon crawling and wilderness exploration that are still good today.
  • Simple but impactful encumbrance rules
  • Light is a big deal.
  • Retainers.
  • More grounded. Lower magic, lower power.
  • XP for gold.
  • Alignment languages. Not as stupid as I thought when I was a child. Law could be the language of civilization's highest functions such as academia, law, science and medicine. Neutral is an ever-evolving melange of slang, weights & measures, and technical terms that facilitates trade across different cultures. Chaos is the irrational language of sorcery, madmen, and monsters.
  • 2d6 morale
  • Side initiative
  • 4 basic classes + character background cover all the major archetypes
 
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gruagach

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I especially like the lower magic, lower power curve of B/X. It really scratches that "intrepid explorers of the mythic otherworld" vibe that made my early D&D play so fun. I also like how easy it is to extend and modify B/X (and OSE is my favorite expression of B/X these days).
 

Atelerix

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I always liked the BE of BECMI, the rest just felt too high-powered for me. Still have my originals, but got the Rules Encyclopedia a few years back as they're in rough shape.

The dungeoneering system works well, the 2d6 morale rules make for sensible encounters. I like that monsters have an attitude to you, not just automatically hostile.

My heart is in Karameikos though. Threshold always felt alive to me, right on the edge of the wilderness but bustling with activity and with just the right amount of fantastical weirdness. And Night's Dark Terror was always great fun, gave just a hint of a world that was more than Tolkien or medieval fantasy.
 

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Mystara was pretty cool, how each area was it's own weird thing. I know it was technically made for 2e, but I always wanted to run a Red Steel campaign. That part of the world had drifted pretty far from Tolkien, with cities of cats and lizards, powerful dust that could cause mutations, and cool magic. I really liked the fencing rules and the maneuvers you could learn.

For as much as people talk about 5E having so many races and character options, Mystara had a huge number of them too, once all of the supplements were taken into consideration.
 

Gabriel

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BECMI obviously had the CMI part making it different from B/X.

The only other difference I know of between BECMI and B/X is that saving throws target numbers are higher in BECMI. I think all the saves were bumped up one notch.

What other differences are there between the BE of BECMI and B/X?
 

Brock Savage

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What other differences are there between the BE of BECMI and B/X?
I own it but feel confident in saying you won't miss much if you skip BECMI unless you have a desire to play a level 36 character. Rather than adding to rules as written, Mentzer changed things up and added fiddly bits that deviate from the succinct elegance of B/X. I would not be surprised at all to learn it was not playtested before publication. I was hoping to mine it for useful rules to add to B/X but got a lot more mileage out of other material.

I realized it's bad form for me to shit on BECMI in a thread titled B/X, BECMI and OSE Love Thread.

 
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ffilz

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BECMI obviously had the CMI part making it different from B/X.

The only other difference I know of between BECMI and B/X is that saving throws target numbers are higher in BECMI. I think all the saves were bumped up one notch.

What other differences are there between the BE of BECMI and B/X?
I can't call them out, but I know there are differences because BECMI was stretched from 14 to 36 levels, maybe mostly in the thief skills, but maybe other areas.
 

Voros

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I own it but feel confident in saying you won't miss much if you skip BECMI unless you have a desire to play a level 36 character. Rather than adding to rules as written, Mentzer changed things up and added fiddly bits that deviate from the succinct elegance of B/X. I would not be surprised at all to learn it was not playtested before publication. I was hoping to mine it for useful rules to add to B/X but got a lot more mileage out of other material.

I realized it's bad form for me to shit on BECMI in a thread titled B/X, BECMI and OSE Love Thread.


There are some great things in CM, the domain and mass combats rules, the cosmology and high level monsters are distinct from AD&D and cool imo.

I like the introduction of the Druid into a Basic framework as well.

The Weapon Mastery system is too fiddly for me but it has some cool ideas in it for making fighters more fun and dynamic. May be worth a revisit to see if it has anything that could be nicked and streamlined.

Other than that most of the changes are pretty minor, involving saves, etc. Odd that BECMI didn't find a better way to address the thief skill issue.

I really dig the idea of the Immortals set but the implementation is lacking. I think that is the only ruleset that wasn't playtested.
 

Sloth_in_a_bowl

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The Weapon Mastery system is too fiddly for me but it has some cool ideas in it for making fighters more fun and dynamic. May be worth a revisit to see if it has anything that could be nicked and streamlined
I reduced weapon mastery to the following.
Basic, base damage, no to hit modifier
Skilled, roll 2 dice keep the best, +1 to hit
Expert, roll 2 keep 2, +2 to hit
Master, roll 3, keep 2, +3 to hit
Grandmaster, roll 3 keep 3, +4 to hit.

Simple and yet it works well in play.
 

Baulderstone

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For as much as people talk about 5E having so many races and character options, Mystara had a huge number of them too, once all of the supplements were taken into consideration.
Here is a list of BECMI classes

Base Classes

Rules Cyclopedia
Cleric
Fighter
Magic-User
Thief
Druid
Mystic
Dwarf
Elf
Halfling

PC1 Tall Tales of the Wee Folk
Brownie/Redcap
Centaur
Dryad
Faun
Hsiao
Leprechaun
Pixie
Pooka
Sidhe
Sprite
Treant
Wood Imp
Wooddrake

PC2 Top Ballista
Faenare
Faenare Windsinger
Gnome, Sky
Gnome, Earth
Gremlin
Harpy
Nagpa
Pegataur
Sphinx
Tabi

PC3 The Sea Peoples
Nixie
Merrow
Aquatic Elf
Shark-kin
Triton Mage
Triton Cleric
Triton Cleric/Mage
Kna
Kopru
Sea Giant

Dragon Magazine
Elf Cleric
Elf Druid
Bard
N'djatwa
Shazak
Gurrash
Cayma
Chameleon Man
Aranea
Phanaton
E'eaar
Enduk

Dawn of the Emperors/Arena of Thyatis
Rake
Forester

GAZ2: Emirates of Ylaruam
Dervish

GAZ6: Dwarves of Rockhome
Dwarf Cleric

GAZ7: Northern Reaches
Wise Woman
Godi (Clerics of Thor, Odin, Loki and Hel)

GAZ10: Orcs of Thar
Goblin
Kobold
Hogboblin
Bugbear
Troll
Gnoll
Orc
Ogre

GAZ12: Golden Khan of Ethengar
Horse Warrior
Bratak
Hakomon
Ethengar Shaman

GAZ13: Shadow Elves
Shadow Elf Shaman

GAZ14: Atruaghin Clans
Atruaghin Shamani

Hollow World
Warrior Elf
Beastman
Brute-Man
Hutaakan
Krugel Orc
Kubbit
Malpheggi Lizard Man

HWR2: Kingdom of Nithia
Cleric of Horon
Cleric of Pflarr
Cleric of Ptahr
Cleric of Ranivorus
Cleric of Rathanos
Cleric of Thanatos
Cleric of Isiris
Fighter: Archer
Fighter: Charioteer
Fighter: Heavyman
Fighter: Spearman
Fighter: Runner
Fighter: Khopesh
Cleric: War Cleric
M-U: Mage-Scribe
M-U: Montoth
M-U: Templar
Thief: Royal Seal-Bearer
Thief: Lockmaster
Thief: Guardian

HWR3: Milenian Empire
Redhair (Cleric of Halav)
Midwife (Cleric of Vanya)
Mariner (Cleric of Protius)
Holy Defender (Cleric of Petra)
Griffon Rider

HWA3: Nightstorm
Kirtana Assassin

Wrath of the Immortals
Specialty Priest (for the following Immortals: Al-Kalim Alphaks, Alphatia, Asterius, Atruaghin, Atzanteotl, Benekander, Calitha, Diamond the Star Dragon, Diulanna, Djaea, Eiryndul, Faunus, Frey, Freyja, The Great One, Halav, Hel, Ilsundal, Ixion, Ka, Kagyar, Karaash, Khoronous, Korotiku, Koryis, Loki, Masauwu, Mealiden, Noumena, Nyx, Odin, Opal the Sun Dragon, Orcus, Ordana, Pearl the Moon Dragon, Petra, Pflarr, Protius, Rad, Rafiel, Rathanos, Razud, Talitha, Tarastia, Terra, Thanatos, Thor, Valerias, Vanya, Zirchev)

Champions of Mystara
Elf Shaman
Gruugraakh Gnoll

Rage of the Rakasta
Rakasta (only up to level 5)

Ral Partha D&D Basic Heroes Set
Rakasta (only up to level 5)



Races (can use any human class)

Dragon Magazine
Half-Elf
Lupin
Rakasta



Additional classes (can only be added to existing class or dual-classed into)

Rules Cyclopedia
Paladin
Avenger
Knight
Druid


PC1 Tall Tales of the Wee Folk
PC2 Top Ballista

Creature Wicca
Creature Shaman

PC3 The Sea People
Sea Wicca
Sea Shaman

PC4: The Night Howlers
Werebat
Werebear
Wereboar
Werefox
Wererat
Wereseal
Wereshark
Weretiger
Werewolf
Devil Swine

Dragon Magazine
Druidic Knight
Elf Paladin
Elf Druidic Knight

GAZ3: Principalities of Glantri
Elementalist
Alchemist
Illusionist
Necromancer
Cryptomancer
Witch/Warlock
Dracologist

GAZ5: Elves of Alfheim
Elf Wizard
Elf Treekeeper

GAZ8: The Five Shires
Hin Master

GAZ9: Minrothad Guilds
Sea Prince

GAZ10: Orcs of Thar
Goblinoid Wicca
Goblinoid Shaman

GAZ11: Republic of Darokin
Merchant

Hollow World
Shaman
Wokani


Human Classes

Cleric
Druid
Dervish
Godi (Clerics of Thor, Odin, Loki and Hel)
Ethengar Shaman
Atruaghin Shamani
Redhair (Cleric of Halav)
Midwife (Cleric of Vanya)
Mariner (Cleric of Protius)
Holy Defender (Cleric of Petra)
Specialty Priest (for many Immortals)
Fighter
Avenger
Druidic Knight
Griffon Rider
Horse Warrior
Paladin
Magic-User
Hakomon
Wise Woman
Thief
Bard
Bratak
Rake
Mystic
Forester


That's one thing that BECMI has over B/X. I prefer race-as-class, but it works better when you have a larger selection of classes, and B/X wasn't around long enough to develop the idea. However, the OSR has done a great deal of work in correcting that.
 

Atelerix

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I can't call them out, but I know there are differences because BECMI was stretched from 14 to 36 levels, maybe mostly in the thief skills, but maybe other areas.

The Expert set topped thief skills off at level 14, and is another reason I like playing only the first two sets.

The later sets rejigged thief-skill progression IIRC, and the Rules Cyclopedia provided a final set of tables that gave a smooth progression from level 1 to level 36.

Similar things happened with cleric Turning IIRC, not so sure about spells.

Alrhough I played the hell out of Companion-level games back in the day, older me sees the Basic and Expert sets as a complete game together. I never liked the way that thief progression got streeeeeeetched out over so many levels.
 

Vargold

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42 years I've played, and I have yet to get a D&D character beyond 5th level. (My DMs always crap out around there.) So I definitely do not need more than 14 total levels of game—B/X is more than enough.
 

Dammit Victor

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Man, the only D&D game that could be better than Rules Cyclopedia or Player's Option would be Rules Cyclopedia and Player's Option.

I bought my first copy of the Rules Cyclopedia in 1994 and even though I learned to play AD&D and all of my friends at school were playing AD&D... I just always appreciated how much of a game TSR packed into that single volume.
 

Toadmaster

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42 years I've played, and I have yet to get a D&D character beyond 5th level. (My DMs always crap out around there.) So I definitely do not need more than 14 total levels of game—B/X is more than enough.

I had a handful reach 9-12, but those were in games where we were probably playing 10+ hours a week, they stand out because they were unusual. 5-7 was far more common. I can understand leaving some room for growth, but 36 levels seems excessive, I'd be curious to know what fraction of the player base ever needed anything beyond the mid to high teen levels

Did people start off with PCs in the 20th level range for demi-god level adventuring? I'm sure there were groups who started at higher than 1st, but I never personally ran across that until the 3E era.
 

Brock Savage

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I had a handful reach 9-12, but those were in games where we were probably playing 10+ hours a week, they stand out because they were unusual. 5-7 was far more common. I can understand leaving some room for growth, but 36 levels seems excessive, I'd be curious to know what fraction of the player base ever needed anything beyond the mid to high teen levels
I get the impression that a lot of the OG 70s crowd played like maniacs and got in as many games as they could.
 

Gabriel

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I didn't play B/X specifically that much. I more or less set it aside when I got AD&D1. There was a tremendous stigma against "Basic" during the era. Plus, even with all the cruft that AD&D1e came with, it had many extras which were generally welcome.

I did play a fair bit of AD&D1 and AD&D2, and that play was heavily influenced by B/X. I don't think it's controversial to say that many people claimed to play AD&D1e, but actually played a variant of B/X with AD&D1e rules they liked tacked on.

The games I played and ran with the classic systems from first level always tended to sputter out around 6th to 8th level. Getting to that point would take somewhere between 1 and 2 years of regular play, so just natural burnout and boredom with the game would be a factor. But there's also the matter that the game structure just feels played out by that point and it's where the game starts breaking down and changing to lots of save or die and monsters that thumb their noses at anything and everything (lots of built in assumptions in the system that players will start retiring or permanently losing characters).
 

Moonglum

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I love B/X and OSE so much that when my group recently decided to start a fresh D&D campaign and the players settled on 2E as their preferred edition, I was like 'cool; you guys go ahead and pretend you are playing 2E - I will be running OSE'. One thing I like about D&D is that all pre 3-E editions and their imitators are the similar enough that you can kind of blur your eyes to make them merge.
 

Luca

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I own it but feel confident in saying you won't miss much if you skip BECMI unless you have a desire to play a level 36 character. Rather than adding to rules as written, Mentzer changed things up and added fiddly bits that deviate from the succinct elegance of B/X. I would not be surprised at all to learn it was not playtested before publication. I was hoping to mine it for useful rules to add to B/X but got a lot more mileage out of other material.

I realized it's bad form for me to shit on BECMI in a thread titled B/X, BECMI and OSE Love Thread.

I absolutely love BECMI and I think the RC is one of the best RPG books ever printed, but I think I can speak for most here that reading motivated critiques won't be seen as a personal attack to everything we consider holy.

My take on BECM (the "I" part was always a completely different game, more an experiment than a real product): the brilliant idea (probably more a function of the way it was produced and marketed) was to create a sort of implicit multi-year campaign structure:

  • levels 1-3: dungeon crawling
  • levels 4-14: hex crawling
  • levels 15-25: domain game
  • levels 26-36: multidimensional fantasy superheroes

Obviously, if you're not interested in this structure, it's not going to work for you. But if you are, or if you don't even know and are looking for an idea, it's simply great.
 

Dyrnwyn

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My take on BECM (the "I" part was always a completely different game, more an experiment than a real product): the brilliant idea (probably more a function of the way it was produced and marketed) was to create a sort of implicit multi-year campaign structure:

  • levels 1-3: dungeon crawling
  • levels 4-14: hex crawling
  • levels 15-25: domain game
  • levels 26-36: multidimensional fantasy superheroes

Obviously, if you're not interested in this structure, it's not going to work for you. But if you are, or if you don't even know and are looking for an idea, it's simply great.

Yeah, the overall structure is what makes BECMI/RC so appealing to me. I would probably use a different ruleset if I intended to keep things at the lower levels.

The newer Immortals rules were a bit more integrated into the rest of the game than the original boxed set ones, which I agree were quite different from the rest of BECMI. After they were changed, they were more like an even higher-powered version of the Master rules.
 

Baulderstone

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I absolutely love BECMI and I think the RC is one of the best RPG books ever printed, but I think I can speak for most here that reading motivated critiques won't be seen as a personal attack to everything we consider holy.

My take on BECM (the "I" part was always a completely different game, more an experiment than a real product): the brilliant idea (probably more a function of the way it was produced and marketed) was to create a sort of implicit multi-year campaign structure:

  • levels 1-3: dungeon crawling
  • levels 4-14: hex crawling
  • levels 15-25: domain game
  • levels 26-36: multidimensional fantasy superheroes

Obviously, if you're not interested in this structure, it's not going to work for you. But if you are, or if you don't even know and are looking for an idea, it's simply great.
It's an interesting approach, and it makes sense for a perspective of rolling out rule-sets as well as introducing new GMs to the game, but I think it works better to have domains a part of the game from the beginning. If you are doing the typical set-up of a small town with with various adventure sites nearby, PC are probably going to be movers and shakers in that community by 5th or even 3rd level. Even if they aren't actually running the town, they are already in a position to interact with the domain level of the game. It just makes more sense to me that if you are using domain mechanics, you should have already existing NPC domains around, even if you aren't tracking them with the same mechanical detail that you would for players. It also allows domain play to come into play more naturally based on events, rather than being something everyone suddenly starts doing because they leveled up.

Part of the problem with the I in BECMI is that it doesn't make a lot of sense to retire to run your domain for ten levels, then suddenly revert back to being an adventurer even if it is on the multiversal level.
 

Lord Dynel

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There are some great things in CM, the domain and mass combats rules, the cosmology and high level monsters are distinct from AD&D and cool imo.

I like the introduction of the Druid into a Basic framework as well.

The Weapon Mastery system is too fiddly for me but it has some cool ideas in it for making fighters more fun and dynamic. May be worth a revisit to see if it has anything that could be nicked and streamlined.

Other than that most of the changes are pretty minor, involving saves, etc. Odd that BECMI didn't find a better way to address the thief skill issue.

I really dig the idea of the Immortals set but the implementation is lacking. I think that is the only ruleset that wasn't playtested.
Yep...War Machine is still my favorite mass combat rules. I was using it to up into the 3rd edition era. I remember using it in 2e when me and a buddy were co-creating a new world's history. Dang cool.

Immortals was just a different game, in my opinion. Master's was, too, but still a little grounded in the setting. Once you got into Immortals, It was like leaving the world behind. Funnily enough, the first time I watched the Watchmen movie (but not when I read the comic some time before) I really got the idea in my head that Dr. Manhattan was playing with the Immortals Set. He interacted with the Prime Material, but was very aloof and not terribly concerned about what was going on.
 

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They should be doing a Dolmenwood Kickstarter early next year. I bet you'll be able to get OSE hardcopy as an add-on from that.
Cheers, that’s a good idea.

Luckily the PDFs are a pleasure to use in the meantime (a rare thing for me to say).
 

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I started with the Holmes Basic Set, but the Moldvay rules helped me to understand the game better as a wee lad, and I loved the otherworldly B/X Otus art (especially those covers). During the 1980s my groups mainly played ADnD (when we were playing any version of "DnD") but we borrowed freely from B/X material (mainly modules).

I think the RC was the only TSR hardcover book that I purchased during the 1990s. Even though I didn't play DnD much at all during that time, I loved the book, as the idea of an "all-in-one" volume appealed to me greatly ("for whenever I got a new group together..."). I also picked up a number of RC/BECM Gazetteers and got into Mystara before it started to feel overwhelming.

These days I prefer B/X (Moldvay/Cook version, or I guess OSE), as levels 1-14 suffice for whatever I would want to do now.
If I wanted a more complex old school game I'd go with 1e AD&D (rather than RC).
 

Voros

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I really want a hard copy of OSE. But no stores in Canada have them. I might just order from Necrotic Gnome and weep at the shipping/Custom charges...

I think Four Rogues and The Sentry Box will be getting it in eventually. I think The Sentry Box will also take orders.
 

Stan

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Maybe it's a fever dream but I thought I remembered an OSE product with more race/class combos as classes. I can't find it on my hard drive or Drivethru library. I have the Advanced Fantasy Genre Rules with things like Acrobat and Assassin but I thought there was something with things like Dwarf Cleric. It might be OSE compatible by another publisher or for another retroclone.

Anyone know what I might have seen?
 

Necrozius

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Maybe it's a fever dream but I thought I remembered an OSE product with more race/class combos as classes. I can't find it on my hard drive or Drivethru library. I have the Advanced Fantasy Genre Rules with things like Acrobat and Assassin but I thought there was something with things like Dwarf Cleric. It might be OSE compatible by another publisher or for another retroclone.

Anyone know what I might have seen?
Could it be Carcass Crawler issues? They had those…
 

3rik

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Maybe it's a fever dream but I thought I remembered an OSE product with more race/class combos as classes.
Only thing I can think of that has some of that IIRC would be Fantastic Heroes & Witchery.
 

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I'm pretty sure the upcoming edition of OSE fully supports both race options (race as class and diverse race/class combinations).
 

3rik

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IIUC What Stan Stan means is race + class as a separate class and IIRC there's no classes like that in OSE Advanced Fantasy.
 

Stan

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IIUC What Stan Stan means is race + class as a separate class and IIRC there's no classes like that in OSE Advanced Fantasy.
Thanks, I must have seen it somewhere else.
 

Necrozius

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I'm pretty sure the upcoming edition of OSE fully supports both race options (race as class and diverse race/class combinations).
OSE Advanced supports that right now though? There’s a separate chapter on race and class combos. It even points out how this makes Humans less special because what made them unique was that they had ultimate flexibility on choice and a monopoly on certain classes. So they provide bonus racial rules.

edit: maybe I’m misunderstanding. Right now you can either be The Elf, or you can use the optional rules to be a Elf Fighter or Elf Thief or Elf Cleric etc…
 

Necrozius

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Yeah both issues of Carcass Crawler have additional race as class options. Changeling, myconoid, phase elf, mutoid, and wood elf.
Yeah I just double-checked: it has both options: race as class or race AND class combos. Nice! Very flexible system.
 
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