Old-School Essentials

Necrotic Gnome's critically acclaimed modular retro-clone.

  • This game is a highly polished, 100% accurate restatement of the beloved 1981 Basic / Expert rules.
  • The text is edited and laid out with an unrelenting focus on ease of use during play.
  • The rules of the game are divided into a set of slim, digest-size books for convenient use at the table.
  • An all-in-one book is also available!—see below.
  • Old-School Essentials was previously called B/X Essentials. Same rules, same usability, new name.

Product mock-ups. Final products may vary. Some covers will feature new artsee below.

Coming to Kickstarter in April 2019!

We're geared up to produce a super-deluxe edition of Old-School Essentials, and need your help to raise the necessary funds! We'll be launching the Old-School Essentials Deluxe Edition Kickstarter in April 2019.

Read on for a preview of what we're going to produce.

The Red Box

A box full of adventure to fire up your nostalgia glands to the max! This box is the culmination of 2+ years of work on this game, and represents creator Gavin Norman's vision of his personal dream RPG.

The box contains the following books:

  • Core Rules: The basic rules of the game, including procedures for: creating characters; exploring dungeons, the wilderness, and the high seas; combat, hazards, and challenges; retainers, hirelings, and vehicles; adventure design; magic, monsters, and treasures. The Core Rules are carefully designed to be applicable to a multitude of fantastic campaign settings and genre conventions, from classic fantasy to post-apocalyptic to sword and planet. Just add a book of genre rules and you're ready for adventure!
  • Classic Fantasy: Genre Rules: The classic character classes, equipment, vehicles, hirelings, and strongholds from the 1981 Basic / Expert set. Play as a devout cleric or a sagacious magic-user, a doughty fighter or a cunning thief, a surly dwarf, a noble elf, or a homesick halfling. Full rules for character advancement to 14th level.
  • Classic Fantasy: Cleric and Magic-User Spells: All 106 magic spells that can be used be clerics, magic-users, and elves, ranging from 1st to 6th level. Only players with a spell-casting character need access to this book.
  • Classic Fantasy: Monsters: A timeless collection of over 200 fearsome beasts! Includes full encounter tables by dungeon level and wilderness terrain type. Only the referee needs access to this book.
  • Classic Fantasy: Treasures: A hoard of classic magic items, encompassing enchanted weapons and armour; magic wands, staves and rods; magical scrolls, rings, and potions; and the plethora of weird and wondrous items that don't fit into any of those categories! Includes full rules for sentient swords. Only the referee needs access to this book.

    The Rules Cyclopedia

    For those people who prefer all of their RPG rules in one book, rather than divided into content modules—this is what you've been waiting for! Everything that's in the Red Box, combined into a single tome.

    The Old-School Essentials Core Rules plus all of the classic fantasy content, all in one sturdy hardback book. This book is a complete restatement of the Basic / Expert rules, meticulously edited and laid out for maximum usability and ease of reference.

    Production Quality

    All books in these deluxe editions will be high quality hardcovers with sewn bindings. In addition to their high durability, a great thing about books with a sewn binding is that they can lay open flat!

    Cover Art by Peter Mullen and Andrew Walter

    We're delighted to be working with these two auteur's of quirky fantasy. Here's what they're cooking up:

    • Andrew Walter's flights of imaginative fantasy will feature on the covers of the five books in the Red Box. Four of these are complete (as shown in the product mock-up above). Andrew is now working on a completely new cover for the Core Rules book in the Red Box.
    • Peter Mullen is working on a brand new piece that will grace the cover of the Red Box and the Rules Cyclopedia.
    • Peter may also be working on another very special piece of art for the game, if a sufficient level of Kickstarter funding is reached. More on that below.

    Stretch Goals (More TBA)

    At this juncture, we don't have all of the stretch goal planning finalised yet, so can't reveal everything right now. However, here's a selection of the most concrete and exciting stretch goals to whet your appetite.

    • Physical upgrades to the books: The basic funding goal will result in books of a very high quality, as described above. However, there are always little extras that can push the quality just that bit higher. Two examples of the kind of upgrades we have planned are to add printed end-papers to the books (compiling commonly used tables at the front/back of the books for easy access) and to add one (or more!) ribbon markers to the Rules Cyclopedia.
    • Four panel referee screen: If this stretch goal is reached, Gavin Norman—creator of Old-School Essentialswill design a full, 4-panel referee's screen for the game. The aim here would be to present all of the core adventuring rules and combat tables on the back of the screen.
    • Referee screen art by Peter Mullen: As was already mentioned, Peter Mullen is working on the covers for the Rules Cyclopedia and the Red Box. He is also primed, if this stretch goal is reached, to create a full-colour 4-panel painting for the front of the referee screen. This promises to be something really special!
    • Advanced Characters and Druid and Illusionist Spells: If this stretch goal is reached, we'll have raised enough funds to publish two additional (and hotly anticipated!) books in the Old-School Essentials line: Advanced Characters—which adds 15 new AD&D-inspired classes to the game—and Druid and Illusionist Spells—which contains 106 new spells for the druid and illusionist classes. Stefan Poag is primed to create the cover illustrations for both these books. These books will be available to all backers as add-ons, at an extra charge.

    Why Play Old-School Essentials?

    There are a zillion and one retro-clones and B/X-inspired games out there, all with their own quirks, pros, and cons. The following points make Old-School Essentials stand out from the crowd:

    • Clarified rules: The original Basic / Expert rules form a wondrously solid rules set, but they are not without areas of ambiguity and contradiction. All known omissions, contradictions, and areas of confusion have been carefully ironed out in Old-School Essentials.
    • 100% accurate clone: Unlike the majority of retro-clones, Old-School Essentials is a 100% accurate restatement of the original Basic / Expert rules. This is, of course, with the exception of the fixes that were made to the rules, as described above. (There'd be no point in slavishly reproducing errors!)
    • Designed for ease of reference: The Old-School Essentials books have been meticulously edited and laid out with the aim of maximising usability during play. No more searching through references scattered across multiple pages. No more scanning dense paragraphs of text to pick out details. Everything in Old-School Essentials is logically organised and collated, and presented in a quick-to-read format. (See page examples below.)
    • Digest-size books: For convenience at the table, all books are produced in handy digest size.
    • Modular approach: The rules of Old-School Essentials are divided into "modules"—chunks of related content that can be cleanly separated from the rest of the rules. This makes it simple to swap out (say) the classic fantasy classes and replace them with a book of alternate classes.
    • Ascending Armour Class: For those more familiar or comfortable with Ascending Armour Class (i.e. AC values that start at 10 and go up), this optional rule has been fully integrated into Old-School Essentials.

    The Old-School Essentials Product Line

    The products produced via this Kickstarter only represent the beginning of the Old-School Essentials game line. We intend to captialise on the modular setup of the rule books by producing a series of books that can be seamlessly mixed and matched—all 100% compatible with the Old-School Essentials Core Rules (and hence with the classic Basic / Expert rules).

    Some future books to look out for:

    • Post-Apocalyptic: Genre Rules: Characters, equipment, and adventures inspired by road-warrior / post-apocalyptic classics such as Mad Max and Tank Girl.
    • Advanced Fantasy: Monsters: What better challenge for your Advanced Characters (see Stretch Goals, above) than a selection of classic monsters from the 1979 Advanced rules—carefully adapted to Old-School Essentials.
    • Lost World Monsters: Dinosaurs, weird cults, and terrifying beasts that ought to be extinct! A genre-themed bestiary.
    • ...and many more! The possibilities are endless.

    Page Examples

    The full combat rules from Core Rules

    The Dwarf character class from Classic Fantasy: Genre Rules

    Some 1st level magic-user spells from Classic Fantasy: Cleric and Magic-User Spells

    Some V and W monsters from Classic Fantasy: Monsters

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