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Old School Essentials reprints classic D&D-inspired TRPG books in two deluxe box sets

Old rules rule.

Nostalgic for the days when tabletop sessions meant dungeoneering, low hit points and damage matrices? Should magic users both cause destruction and be disastrously vulnerable? Does fantasy artwork from the ‘70s and ‘80s evoke a warm comfort? If so, Old School Essentials is crowdfunding reprints of several books collected into two deluxe boxed sets.

Old School Essentials is the creation of Necrotic Gnome in partnership with publisher Exalted Funeral, and it purposefully hearkens back to some of the earliest days of formalised tabletop roleplaying by designing a ruleset meant to focus sessions on perilous action, big heroics and gnarly monsters. The two deluxe boxed sets will collect reprinted books alongside newer material and is meant to be an introduction for new players while providing an aesthetically pleasing option for old hats.

The Classic Set - the main thrust of the Kickstarter campaign - will contain five A5-sized hardcover volumes that provide everything a group needs to play at the table - character options, treasure, monsters, magic and adventures (inside the dungeon and beyond) each have their own dedicated book. The Advanced Expansion box expands the kinds of foes the party can encounter and what loot can be found in their hoard, along with more character, class and magical options to explore.

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Designed to mimic the sword and sorcery themes of Dungeons & Dragons' younger days, Old School Essentials will feel familiar to most players, even as it trims the fat and streamlines the facets of roleplay it feels are most important - and fun. You still use a 20-sided die and modifiers to attack, and armour class is still a thing (though, groups can choose to use the more traditional descending score model. All six ability scores are present, and the ancestry options include gnomes, dwarves, half-elves and more. It’s like listening to the original version of a popular song you never knew was a cover.

One of the major draws of a system such as OSE is the express purpose of playing all those old dungeon modules and adventure booklets collecting dust in attic boxes or on the shelves of used book stores. With little or no adaptation, a group can use OSE’s rules to crack open a copy of Dungeon Magazine from four decades ago and see what all the fuss was about.

A digital copy of OSE’s basic rules can be downloaded on the Kickstarter campaign’s description page. It provides access to four classes for human characters - fighter, cleric, thief and a magic-user, along with the core rules for creating and running adventures. Necrotic Gnome has also created a third-party licence to facilitate even more adventures made with OSE in mind.

Backers of the Old School Essentials Kickstarter campaign can choose between the classic and advanced boxed sets for $60 (£46), while the bundle containing both will cost $100 (£77). The boxes will be illustrated by Erol Otis, the artist who created the original covers on the Basic and expert rule sets, which later became known as the B/X rulesbooks. Fulfilment is currently estimated to begin in October of this year.

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