Are you an adult like me? If so, then you’re probably on a budget and it sucks. Do you also happen to like old school RPGs? In that case you’re awesome, but there’s that damn budget so it also probably sucks. But thankfully I’m here for you, because trolling through DriveThruRpg I’ve come across some fantastic stuff that I just had to tell you guys about. If you were here last week I went over exactly what I look for when it comes to my games these days, that being a concise rules system that’s presented in an easy to follow manner, along with a page count that won’t break my back by having to lug around the book. Not only do I like slender, well written volumes, but I also said they have to be affordable, with about twenty bucks being the max that I’m looking to spend. Well, to follow up on that, I decided to put this little list together, because every now and again we all need a new game to play. Everything here falls into the category of what we discussed last time, that being under two-hundred pages, rules light and super easy to understand, and most of all cheap. So, with that said, let’s take a gander at some the best deals I’ve recently come across on DriveThruRpg, so you can decide for yourself if one of these gems sounds right for you.
Swords & Wizardry
Way back when I did an article on a game called White Box: Fantastic Medieval Adventures and how much I liked how it captured the feeling of original D&D. Well, Swords & Wizardry is what happens when White Box grows up, and it might be the best retro clone that I’ve come across so far. If you know any version of D&D then you should be familiar with this one, but Swords & Wizardry keeps it most in common with the original rules set from the 70s, cleaning it up quite a bit and making it run more than smooth. It’s very trimmed down with only a handful of classes and races to choose from, but there’s still more than enough here to satisfy anyone’s itch, and there’s also a blissful absence of fluff that can often weigh modern games down. Its streamlined and easily presented in its organization and throwback style, and the way it handles the rules, and sometimes doesn’t, is nice to see. And did I mention that it’s totally free, because if I didn’t, I certainly meant to. That’s right, gang, a 146 page complete RPG that can be all yours for the low price of nothing. I will say there are two versions available on the site, a complete rulebook and core rulebook. Aside from a few extra classes in the complete rulebook both work the same and cost nothing to download, but I went with the core rulebook as my choice, which was purely personal preference based solely on the retro artwork and nothing else.
This one is a little bit different than some of you might be use to, especially if you’re not familiar with any old-style British tabletop titles. It’s HEAVILY influenced by first edition Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, which happens to be one of my all-time favorite systems, but thankfully this one has gone through an extensive refurbish to make it loads more playable. There’s only two statistics for characters in the game, those being stamina and luck, with everything else being handled by a trimmed down and easy to use set of skills. The part of character classes is represented here by careers, but unlike classes, characters can opt out of an old one and into something new by spending experience. The magic and overall theme of the game is very low and darkage style fantasy, so if you’re looking for something that’s visceral and gritty, here it is. The base game has everything you should need for quite a while, including a basic setting and a good number of spells and monsters to get you by, which is a steal for a little less than seven bucks. All but one of the supplements are available for free, too, with the one carrying a price tag being the full world and background information. It’s a great little buy and fantastic jumping on point for anyone wanting to explore old school British games, and a heck of a lot of fun in how it handles things.
Barbarians of Lemuria
This one was a completely out of the blue find for me, as I was looking for something akin to Conan but without having to pay Conan prices. While admittedly not an old school system, Barbarians of Lemuria still ticks enough boxes for me to put it on this list, mostly because it’s just a damn fine offering. It uses a simple stat and skill + 2D6 roll over mechanic, and with only four stats and handful of skills, it’s a breeze to get the hang of and pick up. It reminds me a lot of Savage Worlds in its feel and execution if you’ve ever played that one before, but with a solid sword & sorcery background that echoes Conon’s Hyboria. The magic, combat, and entire setting all carry a low and very untamed vibe about them, which is perfect for folks like me who like raw adventure with very little shininess to it. If you’re not into old school at all but still want something new to try with your friends then I highly recommend Barbarians of Lemuria, it’s something completely different than what you might be playing right now and it’s lack of fiddly bits amake it well worth it. And at a nine-dollar price tag it’s a great buy, and for an independent release the artwork is great and second to none. Go get this one.
Barbarians of the Ruined Earth
Yes, we’re still on a barbarian kick, but unlike above we’ve returned to a familiar system inspired by the original D&D. But that’s where the similarities end, as this one has a sword & sorcery, apocalyptic sci-fi take that’s pure awesomeness. The background of this game is what really hooked me and drew me in, making it a must buy the moment I stumbled across it and read the premise. The author expressly states that he drew his main inspiration from Mad Max and Thundarr the Barbarian, and while both influences are readily apparent, it’s the similarities to Thundarr that got my attention most, cause I friggin love Thundarr. You can play humans, mutants, robots, beastmen, and all sorts of other funky stuff here, and throw in a good dose of magic and super science, and it’s like a Saturday morning cartoon on acid, but in a good way. The nice thing is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously in its execution, which is great, because if it did it would totally kill the fun in what it was trying to accomplish. Barbarians of the Ruined Earth is the most expensive entry on out list, but at still only fifteen bucks, it comes in under our twenty-dollar price limit and is an absolute bargain at that. The art and background material are both a homerun, too, making this an all-around winner in my book.
Well, that’s it for this week, gang, and with luck one of these great systems has jumped out at you and managed to catch your eye. They’re all well worth looking into further considering that one of them is totally free, and with the rest coming in below that twenty mark, why not give them all a glance. So, hop on over to DriveThruRpg and dig a little deeper into them for yourselves, and who knows, you might find something totally different that piques your interest that I didn’t even mention. Either way, enjoy! Happy gaming, all.