Mankcam

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I couldn't find a pre-existing thread to park this in, so I started a new thread - Mods feel free to move and park it elsewhere if needed (no sense cluttering things up with a new thread)
However if this thread stays, then it's intention is that it's a
general grab-bag for OSR releases and banter - D&D OSR, B-OSR, OSR-Adjacent, whatever...
Everyone feel free to throw anything topic-related in here if you don't want to start a specific new thread:


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Kicking things off with this great little number I recently stumbled across

Through Sunken Lands

I don't mind the simple D&D B/X mainframe this game is built from - however the deal breakers for me will be that I think it still uses the TSR-era Saving Rolls, for me they need to be ditched. If it's like the rest of TSR-era D&D then the Skills will likely use percentile dice - they really should just be a D20 bonus.

So I guess when it comes to D&D, a more cut back bare-bones version of D&D 5E probably would suit me better for running at the table, rather than a D&D B/X variant that adheres too closely to the original B/X mechanics. I love the flavour of D&D B/X, but I do feel a few changes around the edges work better for me.

However it's everything else in this game that really captures my attention with Through Sunken Lands.
It's absolutely dripping with classic fantasy and sword & sorcery flavour, it's something I would love to read and run.
What I would give to see a BRP game get this treatment, this is the kind of thing Chaosium should of done with Magic World or something like that.

I am pretty tempted to grab this at some stage, I love this classic feel, it's so much better than the vibe I'm getting from the most recent WotC D&D books:

Questing Beast reviews 'Through Sunken Lands (Bronze Edition)'

Looks great :shade:
 
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Stan

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The optional rules ditch the old fashioned saves and change skills to be +2, + ability score on a D20.

I think Beyond the Wall has a thread somewhere, which is the same chassis but made mostly for juvenile fantasy. Both have a magic breakdown which I like: tiny cantrip, spells that would be 1st level spells in D&D, and rituals which take hours plus a fair amount of money in components. Both have playbooks for chargen where you roll or choose to build your character history and stats.
 

Mankcam

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The optional rules ditch the old fashioned saves and change skills to be +2, + ability score on a D20.

I think Beyond the Wall has a thread somewhere, which is the same chassis but made mostly for juvenile fantasy. Both have a magic breakdown which I like: tiny cantrip, spells that would be 1st level spells in D&D, and rituals which take hours plus a fair amount of money in components. Both have playbooks for chargen where you roll or choose to build your character history and stats.
I'm really liking what you wrote here regarding Skills having a +2 bonus instead of a percentile dice, that sounds pretty good to me.
(It may have been covered in the review, I'm not sure, but in any case that's a much better way to do Skills)

If the Saving Rolls are also ditched in the optional rules, I don't think there is an official character sheet that reflects that.
I guess I could always make my own character sheets without them, that would be an easy fix...

I also like the idea of only a few character classes, yet having a wide range of character packages/playbooks to build a variety of characters

Both Beyond The Wall and Through Sunken Lands both look great, I could end up grabbing them just out of the pure joy of reading them...
 
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Mankcam

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BtW is my favourite version of D&D and I just got the POD hardcover of it from Drivethru. Through Sunken Lands I have on pdf and it is just as good.
Yeah I'm thinking my next purchase will likely be Beyond The Wall and Through Sunken Lands...

(I might as well park a vid of Beyond The Wall here as well:
Review of 'Beyond The Wall')
 
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Torque2100

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I feel like I'm weird because I'm the only person I know who actually prefers the old TSR Saving throws and Descending Armor Class/THAC0. I prefer it because I can see the logic underpinning these systems. They are very abstract but they don't try to pretend to be simulationist.
 

SJB

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I feel like I'm weird because I'm the only person I know who actually prefers the old TSR Saving throws and Descending Armor Class/THAC0. I prefer it because I can see the logic underpinning these systems. They are very abstract but they don't try to pretend to be simulationist.
They plainly came out of real games rather than design by corporate committee. Although sometimes maligned - not least because Gygax demonstrated his historical ignorance in AD&D - AC is an idea of brilliance. It’s the best system for combining evocative armour descriptions with one-line stat blocks. I seem to recall that THAC0 was a 2E innovation, so not strictly Old Skool.
 

Torque2100

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2nd edition AD&D is not Old School? News to me. :shade:

I jest, but the more I read OSR games especially B/X based games, the more playable I find them. B/X's design is very abstract but it's very elegant in its simplicity. Most NPCs don't have ability scores. All you really need to know about them is how many Hit Dice they have, and THAC0 means not having to do math for NPC and monster attacks. Only certain exceptional NPCs get attack bonuses, for the most part what you see on the die is what you get.
 

DeadBob

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2nd edition AD&D is not Old School? News to me. :shade:

I jest, but the more I read OSR games especially B/X based games, the more playable I find them. B/X's design is very abstract but it's very elegant in its simplicity. Most NPCs don't have ability scores. All you really need to know about them is how many Hit Dice they have, and THAC0 means not having to do math for NPC and monster attacks. Only certain exceptional NPCs get attack bonuses, for the most part what you see on the die is what you get.
What now? I'm pretty sure THACO exactly means doing math ( beyond roll-and-compare anyway :grin:)

J/K. I grew up with the cross-ref to hit charts and they just seem really natural at this point in a way that THACO never really did.
 

Torque2100

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The simplicity also makes it easy to mod. For example, every time I start considering basic, I think it needs a simple skill system. Well, there are a dozen out there; choose one and bolt it on - the game won't break.
I really feel like this is where AD&D started losing the plot. The transition from B/X to AD&D is where D&D lost a lot of the simplicity, accessibility and modularity that make the early editions so good.
 
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Black Leaf

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Mentioned this elsewhere, but Ghastly Affair is "OSR does Edgar Allen Poe crossed with Jane Austen". Which sounds ridiculous. And it kinda is but in a glorious way. The supplement Highdark Hall is really good as well; fully populated gothic mansion full of secrets and scandal.
 

SJB

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I really feel like this is where AD&D started losing the plot. The transition from B/X to AD&D is where D&D lost a lot of the simplicity, accessibility and modularity that make the early editions so good.
IIRC B/X post-dates AD&D by some years. The Holmes rules were technically an introduction to AD&D. Michael Thomas did a fantastic retroclone job with Blueholme but it seems it’s the degenerate B/X of the 1980s that has caught on. I’m more than willing to admit that my judgement on B/X might be a form of anti-nostalgia.
 

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They plainly came out of real games rather than design by corporate committee. Although sometimes maligned - not least because Gygax demonstrated his historical ignorance in AD&D - AC is an idea of brilliance. It’s the best system for combining evocative armour descriptions with one-line stat blocks. I seem to recall that THAC0 was a 2E innovation, so not strictly Old Skool.
Thaco is in the back of 1stnedition DmG I believe in the monster tables but I think it's called HAC0. I think it's a column in the long list of one line monster descriptions.
 

Moonglum

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My favorite elaboration on B/X is the stat based roll to resolve anything not contained in other rules sub systems. It is present in B/X (and Holmes), though it isn't explicated any serious way and so I think most people don't really use it. But if you apply the concept liberally, stats become hugely more important during play, and players feel much more empowered to come up with things they can try. The main trick is working out how you want to use this concept with the core rules for Thief skills and surprise, as there is a lot of potential for overlap. e.g., when my fighter tip toes across a room to sneak past a nearby guard, is that a DX role, or do I have to make the thief do it instead at their chance to Move Silent, and/or is it relevant whether or not the guard is 'surprised' as per the standard d6 roll? Everyone probably has an opinion, but anything you say is just an arbitrary ruling and not really defined by anything clearly worked out and illustrated in the rules. It is quite a botched mess, really, how the core rules muddle up this kind of issue, which comes up in many diverse forms during play.
 

Stan

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I like roll under ability to do things. A simple way to handle skills it add 4 (or 2) to the ability if you have the right skill/background/class.

I remember seeing reworks of thieves that are not percentile so everyone does things the same way with the thieves better at it. One of my few gripes of B/X is thieves start really crappy everything, so I give thing extra points to drop where they want along the lines of 2e.
 

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Roll under stat was the core mechanic in other early 80s games I played and thought it was weird that D&D didn’t go with it.
 

ffilz

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IIRC B/X post-dates AD&D by some years. The Holmes rules were technically an introduction to AD&D. Michael Thomas did a fantastic retroclone job with Blueholme but it seems it’s the degenerate B/X of the 1980s that has caught on. I’m more than willing to admit that my judgement on B/X might be a form of anti-nostalgia.
Holmes Basic was introduced as an introduction to AD&D, but that's a marketing statement not any direction of the rules. AD&D independently derived from OD&D.
Thaco is in the back of 1stnedition DmG I believe in the monster tables but I think it's called HAC0. I think it's a column in the long list of one line monster descriptions.
The column in the table is labeled "To Hit A.C. 0" (just looked at my DMG). The actual term THAC0 was definitely introduced before 2.0 because I used it and I stopped playing D&D when 2.0 came out. I don't recall where it was introduced, could have been Dragon or a module. It could even have been in one of the articles introducing 2.0. But yea, I think HAC0 was used before THAC0.
 

Ben Adams

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The older and more senile I get the more I like unified mechanics. I just started playing in a SWN game and the more we play the more I feel I would like either d20+ roll skills or Traveller combat.

Roll under stat was the core mechanic in other early 80s games I played and thought it was weird that D&D didn’t go with it.
That's one of the things I loved about Alternity; roll under stat for success, half stat for good success, & quarter stat for great success. If the rules were a little more simplified it would be my go to general rpg.
 

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Holmes Basic was introduced as an introduction to AD&D, but that's a marketing statement not any direction of the rules. AD&D independently derived from OD&D.

The column in the table is labeled "To Hit A.C. 0" (just looked at my DMG). The actual term THAC0 was definitely introduced before 2.0 because I used it and I stopped playing D&D when 2.0 came out. I don't recall where it was introduced, could have been Dragon or a module. It could even have been in one of the articles introducing 2.0. But yea, I think HAC0 was used before THAC0.
Might have been in Judges Guilds stuff as well pre AD&D.
 

Mankcam

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As far as D&D core ability mechanics go, I prefer D20 roll over DC/AC for all abilities, if possible using them both for actions and saving rolls.

TSR Saving Rolls just seemed weird to me. I totally get that they are not simulationist - they are more to do with the scene itself, and it's up to the player-character to describe what actions they are doing or what is happening in the scene to warrant a Save - but the list of Saving Roll options is just so random and bizarre. At least Swords & Wizardry reduced it down to a single Saving Roll with no specific title - I'm fine with how it is in S&W, although I'm also fine with abilities being used as well.

I also cannot understand why Skills used percentile dice, it just seems odd to me. I really prefer Skills adding a bonus to the D20 ability roll, it just feels much more consistent for me when playing D&D. I also prefer not to have big skill lists with D&D, just a few trademark skills, that's all that the characters need.
So in some ways those mechanics are more aligned with more recent WotC D&D rather than TSR D&D, but they do capture the zeitgeist of early D&D to some extent.

The classic fantasy flavour of the TSR D&D era is what I really miss, it's a vibe thing that comes from the artwork and the content.
Things just seem a little homogenised since WotC took over, and many of these OSR products really grab all that classic flavour back.
 
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Lofgeornost

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I also cannot understand why Skills used percentile dice, it just seems odd to me. I really prefer Skills adding a bonus to the D20 ability roll, it just feels much more consistent for me.
I doubt if there was a great deal of thought about it, back when % rolls for skills were introduced for thieves in Greyhawk. Since the stated %s always are multiples of 5, it wasn't to allow more variation than you find on a D20. Empire of the Petal Throne had already introduced % rolls for statistics by then, but I can't recall if it used them for its skill system, which was (I think) the first from TSR.

On the other hand, the 1990s and later penchant for consistency for its own sake was not a strong feature of early design. The games were still quite simple and so remembering that you roll X type of dice, rather than Y type, when your character is engaged in action Z, was not a big cognitive load.

I've always found that rolling different types of dice (or whatever) for different activities can help distinguish them for me as a player, whereas absolutely standard mechanics (e.g. always roll X and compare it to Y) make everything my characters do feel a bit samey. Maybe I'm a tactile person.
 

Tulpa Girl

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.I've always found that rolling different types of dice (or whatever) for different activities can help distinguish them for me as a player, whereas absolutely standard mechanics (e.g. always roll X and compare it to Y) make everything my characters do feel a bit samey. Maybe I'm a tactile person.
I sometimes wonder if that was deliberate. Once you get past Fighters rolling high on a d20 to hit someone (which all other classes can do, if not as.well), you get Clerics rolling 2d6 to turn undead (IIRC), Thieves rolling percentile dice for most of their special abilities, and of course spellcasting is an entire laundry list of exception-based design.

Whether that was a deliberate design choice or not, I do think Gygax though fighters were the 'intro' class that you started with, because they were mechanically the simplest to play, before trying other classes that had more bells and whistles to deal with.
 

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I would assume it was all very experimental. Each contributor liked a certain style of roll that stuck w/the rules.
I also wonder if the penchant for varied mechanics really game from the audience that TSR AD&D tended to lean towards first; more 'smart nerd' style people & wargamers who normally could remember the roll variations a little more easily. (pulls up pants and realigns dentures) Even w/TV & movies in the 70s you did not have nearly as much as the quick & constant flash of media that we have today. With so much crap thrown at people all the time its probably easier to rely on single mechanic to remember.
 

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Or he assumed fighters were going to get involved leading the troops while the specialists did their Thing.

You know, the ones none of us ever actually bothered with, except for the guy who got the idea to use them as human trap detectors and the GM nixed the whole thing from there on.
 

Lofgeornost

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I sometimes wonder if that was deliberate. Once you get past Fighters rolling high on a d20 to hit someone (which all other classes can do, if not as.well), you get Clerics rolling 2d6 to turn undead (IIRC), Thieves rolling percentile dice for most of their special abilities, and of course spellcasting is an entire laundry list of exception-based design.

Whether that was a deliberate design choice or not, I do think Gygax though fighters were the 'intro' class that you started with, because they were mechanically the simplest to play, before trying other classes that had more bells and whistles to deal with.
That's an interesting idea and may well have had a lot to do with it. Another factor, I think, is that from Greyhawk on the variety of dice that players use really expands. In the LBBs, players are basically rolling a D20 or a D6 or two, and that's about it. The referee will have tables set out for D12 or %s, but things which later would be associated with other sizes of dice, like hit points and damage, are all D6 based. Then in Greyhawk different classes have different dice types for hit points and various weapons use different dice for damage. And this is the point that % rolls for skills come in, too.

I know this probably sounds weird, today, but in 1975-76 it was new and cool to roll different types of dice. I had never even seen 4, 8, or 20-siders until I began with D&D. In that context, the proliferation of dice mechanics is not so surprising.

I would assume it was all very experimental. Each contributor liked a certain style of roll that stuck w/the rules.
I also wonder if the penchant for varied mechanics really game from the audience that TSR AD&D tended to lean towards first; more 'smart nerd' style people & wargamers who normally could remember the roll variations a little more easily. (pulls up pants and realigns dentures)
Yeah, compared with the S.P.I. wargames we were playing at that time, D&D was a fairly simple and straightforward game--even though those wargames had more consistent approaches to dice.
 

Brock Savage

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Even though I enjoy elegance in game design I have grown to embrace B/X and its quirks.

Even the thief abilities aren't bad if they are treated as extraordinary abilities e.g. anyone can hide behind cover but the thief can hide in shadows like Batman, anyone can move silently but the thief can move like a ninja over dry leaves and creaky floorboards on a quiet night. I prefer resolving with a d6 to put it in line with other checks like surprise, hear nose, bend bars, etc

The wacky saving throws work best as an "oh shit" last resort roll in the face of catastrophe instead of something that is rolled on the regular as in later editions. I prefer the clear and succinct save names from Hyperborea (Death, Transformation, Devices, Avoidance, Sorcery)

Unpopular option. I don't like using a d20 roll low for stat checks in B/X because you frequently get weird swingy results like a wizard beating a fighter in arm wrestling. When the need comes up (fairly rare) I use the same mechanics as the Monster Reaction Chart and Retainer Hiring Reactions; frankly I am disappointed Moldvay didn't double down on the idea and run with it.

Roll 2d6 and modify by the ability score adjustment (-3 to +3); apply an additional ±1 for easy or difficult circumstances:

RollResult
2 or lessFailure + Consequences
3-5Failure
6-8Success + Complications
9-11Success
12 or moreSuccess + Benefits
 

lgm

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TSR Saving Rolls just seemed weird to me. I totally get that they are not simulationist - they are more to do with the scene itself, snd it's up to the player-character to describe what actions they are doing or what is happening in the scene to warrant a Save - but the list of Saving Roll options is just so random and bizarre.

If you dive into the explanation of TSR saving throws, that they're listed in a specific order, and such, it does make good sense. I did a long winded explanation of them long ago on a forgotten forum to why I actually preferred them over the change to 3e. A short explanation of one reason was how it further differentiated classes for specific reasons.
 

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Even the thief abilities aren't bad if they are treated as extraordinary abilities e.g. anyone can hide behind cover but the thief can hide in shadows like Batman, anyone can move silently but the thief can move like a ninja over dry leaves and creaky floorboards on a quiet night. I prefer resolving with a d6 to put it in line with other checks like surprise, hear nose, bend bars, etc

This very thing seems to be forgotten or overlooked by so many players. For me, it was crucial to run thieves this way.
 

Baulderstone

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Unpopular option. I don't like using a d20 roll low for stat checks in B/X because you frequently get weird swingy results like a wizard beating a fighter in arm wrestling.
That's a fair criticism and good solution.

When I was running B/X, I settled on reading ability rolls as a blackjack mechanic, so you want to roll as high as you can without going over your Ability Score. If you succeed, the number on the die is your degree of success. In the case of arm wresting, I would make it an extended contest with the first to get 30 points winning. It's not impossible for the wizard to win, but it isn't going to happen with one fluky roll.
 

Baulderstone

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As B/X comes down so much to GM fiat, you can even mix and match resolution systems. One check might be done by the method from my previous post. The next check, I could use Brock's method depending on what suited the check being made. The next can do checks with a 3d6 to get a bell curve, and you could 2d6 or 4d6 checks to vary the difficulty.

In old school D&D, you can swap your core mechanic out on-the-fly, and the game still runs.
 

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I love the feel of TSR era games, but prefer unified mechanics. The games I’m aware of that have both are Castles & Crusades, Blood & Treasure, and Into the Unknown. Also, ACKS has more unified mechanics than B/X, having just two different kinds of rolls, but still uses TSR style saving throw categories. If anyone is aware of OSR games with unified mechanics, I’d love to hear about them!
 

Mankcam

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I doubt if there was a great deal of thought about it, back when % rolls for skills were introduced for thieves in Greyhawk. Since the stated %s always are multiples of 5, it wasn't to allow more variation than you find on a D20. Empire of the Petal Throne had already introduced % rolls for statistics by then, but I can't recall if it used them for its skill system, which was (I think) the first from TSR.

On the other hand, the 1990s and later penchant for consistency for its own sake was not a strong feature of early design. The games were still quite simple and so remembering that you roll X type of dice, rather than Y type, when your character is engaged in action Z, was not a big cognitive load.

I've always found that rolling different types of dice (or whatever) for different activities can help distinguish them for me as a player, whereas absolutely standard mechanics (e.g. always roll X and compare it to Y) make everything my characters do feel a bit samey. Maybe I'm a tactile person.
While it doesn’t ultimately float the boat for me, I must admit you gave a good explanation here and helped me see it from a different perspective
 

Mankcam

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I love the feel of TSR era games, but prefer unified mechanics. The games I’m aware of that have both are Castles & Crusades, Blood & Treasure, and Into the Unknown. Also, ACKS has more unified mechanics than B/X, having just two different kinds of rolls, but still uses TSR style saving throw categories. If anyone is aware of OSR games with unified mechanics, I’d love to hear about them!
‘Into The Unknown’ certainly does a pretty decent job of this, and I guess it’s more D&D 5E in OD&D trappings.

This is not a bad thing, and the game really needs a little higher quality in production standards so it isn’t constantly overlooked.
 

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‘Into The Unknown’ certainly does a pretty decent job of this, and I guess it’s more D&D 5E in OD&D trappings.

This is not a bad thing, and the game really needs a little higher quality in production standards so it isn’t constantly overlooked.
This is my suggestion as well.
 

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Thaco is in the back of 1stnedition DmG I believe in the monster tables but I think it's called HAC0. I think it's a column in the long list of one line monster descriptions.

THACO was a very common houserule long before 2e as the math is pretty straightfoward.
 

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I’m really looking forward to OpenQuest for Dungeons. I’m hoping it will a good fit for B/X style games for d100 fans.
I am also really looking forward to OpenQuest Dungeons. Converting 5e adventures to OpenQuest looks to be a snap and I really prefer d100 based magic systems over DnD Vancian Casting as is the having HP be a fixed value rather than escalating per level.

The only thing really holding me back from jumping feet first onto OpenQuest is the lack of VTT support.
 
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RandallS

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I’m really looking forward to OpenQuest for Dungeons. I’m hoping it will a good fit for B/X style games for d100 fans.
I'm not familiar with the new OpenQuest 3e, but I'm familiar with the 2e version and I'm fairly sure that I could run B/X adventures using the OpenQuest 2e rules on the fly. I know I ran material written for D&D with the original WoW/Magic World version of the rules back in the mid-1980s with much trouble. Formally writing a B/X style rules set with OpenQuest 2e style rules would probably not be super difficult either, given that 2e is entirely open game content as are many B/X clones.
 
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