Basic Fantasy

Listening to the interview with Chris Gonnerman on The Redcaps Podcast yesterday was a catalyst for me to dig out my copy of the Basic Fantasy Roleplaying Game. Hearing the designer of the game talk about it was enough to remind me that it’s a great way into the hobby and might be very accessible for students at the school club.

Originating from the very beginning of the so-called Old-School Renaissance, Basic Fantasy was first published in 2006. Based on the d20 SRD v3.5, it’s a game designed to emulate the old-style games back around the late 1970s and early 1980s. This is a stripped-down restatement of how many of us played back at the beginning of our hobby.

My intention at the club, given about an hour for each session, it to complement my colleague’s game using D&D 5e with a fast-moving old-school dungeon-based adventure for newbies. I’ll be taking the inspiration of Eisen’s Vow to ensure that the rules are behind the screen and encouraging players to imagine themselves in-role.

Given these parameters, games like Basic Fantasy are ideal for play. Given that this game is also open-source and available freely in electronic form from the web, I believe it’s a nice route to offer neophyte players a way into the hobby that’s an alternative to modern D&D. I don’t have a problem with either route, but I do believe it’s worthwhile to share alternatives.

Of course, it might be argued that using B/X D&D will add more brand-recognition and possibly some credibility to playing with the older methodology, but I am not really sure it’ll matter too much once we are enjoying the game. Cheap and cheerful Basic Fantasy has the advantage of being closer to the core rules of 5e than older versions of the original game.

For my part, I am enjoying flipping the pages of this open-source Old-School game that has stood the test of time. Yes, it’s low budget and the art is hit-and-miss but the spirit is there. Although I will need to grit my teeth with the mechanisms, I think we’ll have a good time once we get it to the table. Sometimes the right thing to do is to put your own prejudices aside and focus on giving the new players a great first experience with roleplaying.

Game on!


  1. I do love Basic RPG. I have been somewhat a loner player myself. Since high school, I have always had an interest in RPGs. My biggest issue was that back then, I did not have the critical thinking skills that I have now in order to understand the core mechanics. I had a few friends back then that I could talk about RPG and fantasy topics and what not, but I never got to the point where I was able to play RPGs with other people. Now that I am older, my mind is more focused, and I can easily understand the basic fundamentals of the RPG game itself. I am in the process of teaching my 16-year-old nephew RPGs and told him about Basic RPG. In my point of view, this is the perfect introduction in a vast sea of RPGs to start with. This one is on the top of my list. Very retro.

    Liked by 1 person

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