Saturday, January 11, 2020

Old School Essentials

Ben at Questing Beast did a nice little video on the new Old School Essentials box set. In his typical fashion, Ben covers the game succinctly and gives you a clear view of what the books look like.

OSE is the best damn thing ever.

When I discovered Labyrinth Lord back in 2012 or so I was blown away that such a thing existed. Here was a delicious re-statement of my favorite D&D of all, and it was open source! I loved the classic, quirky Steve Zieser art (R.I.P., Steve) and I loved that Daniel Proctor chose to use the term "Labyrinth Lord" not just for the game but for the game master as well. It had pinache! It was and is great.

Now comes Gavin Norman with Old School Essentials and he just blows everything away. We're stuck here with the generic game master label, but that's a tiny tiny gripe. This re-statement of B/X is more precise and clear than anything that has ever been produced. Not only that, but it's organization is top-notch and makes using it at the gaming table far easier. Not only that, but it's loaded with exquisitely cool art. Not only that, but the new hardcover format and sturdy box set are deliciously high-quality.

This is the good shit right here. If you are on the fence about picking this up all I can say is do it. If you love old school D&D and you have any interest at all in a more usable version then you cannot fail here. I promise you that.

NOTES: I did the cover and interior illustrations for The Hole in the Oak, Gavin's first adventure module for OSE. But that is not my reason for singing the game's praises. Also, my love for Labyrinth Lord is not diminished. Daniel's version of B/X stands as the best iteration of the game other than OSE and the best iteration that goes to level 20 for sure. In some ways I feel like Gavin is pushing his game into areas that we all wish Daniel had explored. I did some art for the Advanced LL book Kickstarter and I'm proud to have been part of that, but I'd be lying to you if I said I wasn't just a little bit disappointed by the final product.


  1. Agree 100%. I absolutely love the OSE books (I still have issues with the advancement progression plateau in BX) but I can live with it.

    1. Hey Matt, can you elaborate a little bit? Do you mean the level 14 range or do you mean the XP requirements? Or something else?

    2. Compare how a fighter progresses as they advance through the levels and compare it to something like white box. You will see that in OSE the classes go from first, to second, to third level, in some cases 4th level and never get better to hit or saves. So essentially, your character may gain 10,000 experience points, complete
      countless adventures, and all you get is some more hit points. I call this the "Advancement Plateau".

      I never noticed this when I was DM but once I became a player I realized this. My current character, a halfling, made fourth level with 8000 experience and looking at his progression table on page 31 you will see he does not get better at fighting or it saves until I get 64,000 experience points. I might get some additional hit points, but other than that my only 'progression' will be if I gain magic items.

    3. Oh, ok. Yeah, that's the B/X progression. I always wondered why they did it that way. It might have been to save room on the page where the attack matrix lives? I'm not sure. Labyrinth Lord smoothed that out quite a bit. In OSE you progress in combat and saves in fits. You'll go from THAC0 17 to 14, for example, in one level.

  2. My boxed set is currently traveling to me and I can't waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaait