Old School Essentials House Rules
Click here for guidance on creating a character.
The following house rules apply, with the reasoning included in red italics:
We'll be using the classic rules (as opposed to Advanced OSE), so the standard classes available are:
Through the campaign, the following classes have been unlocked:
I like to keep things simple. The Advanced classes feature only as a result of campaign play.
Rolling Ability Scores
Roll 3d6 for each ability score in order, as per the basic rules, but you may not adjust ability scores. Instead, you have the option of flipping all the scores so that below average abilities becomes above average, and vice versa.
could be flipped to
To calculate this, subtract the roll from 21. There is also a bot on the discord that can do this automatically.
Characters may re-roll 1s and 2s for their initial HP rolls.
This keeps randomness a key element of character creation, but lessens the impact of rolling a generally poor set of rolls.
Class Skills (Thief and Ranger)
Replacing the percentile skills for both classes:
Thief: replace the skill categories with the single skill 'thievery'. Whenever an action which could reasonably fall within the thievery skillset requires a x-in-6 roll on a d6, the thief can improve their odds with the following bonus:
Levels 1-3: +1
Levels 4-6: +2
Levels 7-9: +3
Levels 10-12: +4
Levels 13-14: +5
Ranger: replace the assorted skills with the single skill 'wilderness'. Whenever an action which could reasonably fall within the skillset of surviving in the wilderness requires a x-in-6 roll on a d6, the ranger can improve their odds with the following bonus:
Levels 1-3: +2
Levels 4-6: +3
Levels 7-9: +4
Levels 10-14: +5
I prefer to have most skills and activities, if they require a die roll, to have the same resolution method - a d6. This means that all classes can attempt most things, but thieves and rangers are understandably significantly more capable than their untrained comrades.
A new Magic User or Elf rolls a d12 to determine which spell they start with. They then have the choice to take the result or roll again and accept the second result.
Copying a spell from one spell book to another requires Read Magic and two weeks per spell level.
Instead of everyone choosing the same starting spells, this provides variety and the challenge of creatively using spells in unexpected ways while still allowing for some player choice.
Inventory Slots and Encumbrance
Each character gets ten inventory slots. One item takes up one slot. If the adventuring gear is stacked on the equipment list in the OSE rules, that many items can be combined into a slot. Backpacks, which still take up a slot, can carry four slots’ worth of items.
One-handed weapons take up one slot. Two-handed weapons take up two slots.
Armour takes up one slot for each point of extra AC higher than over unarmoured AC (so chainmail with AC 14 takes up 4 slots).
Characters may carry up to 100 coins in total in their money pouch, spread across coinage denominations. Further coins must be carried in slots (100 coins to a slot).
This keeps inventory management simple whilst still placing emphasis on player choice.
When reduced to 0HP, the character must make a save vs death. On a failure, they are dead. On a success, they survive. If they took damage which would have taken them beyond 0HP, each point of that damage fills up an Inventory Slot, which can be recovered at a rate of 1 per proper night’s rest in a bed (or equivalent). If all ten slots are filled up in this way, the character succumbs to their injuries and dies.
Items must be dropped to make way for this damage if there are no spare slots. Instead of dropping the whole piece of armour, reduce the armour's AC by the number of slots it loses to damage.
This reinforces the idea of HP as ‘not-getting-hit-points’, and the loss of slots represents injuries a character might take without having to refer to a separate table. The save vs death stops slots from just becoming free hit points – characters are still vulnerable and can’t guarantee that they’ll be injured rather than killed.
Characters may move at their regular movement rate of 120' (40') unless:
their base 10 slots are all full, or
at least one slot is affected by injury
If either of those is true, the character moves at 90' (30').
If both of those are true, the character moves 60' (20').
Characters are slowed by carrying too much and / or an injury. A simple way to replicate the bands of movement used in the original rules.
Weapons, Armour and Damage by HD
Characters may use any weapon and any armour.
Damage inflicted in combat is determined by the character's HD, rather than by the weapon. Wielding two one-handed weapons allows a character to roll two to-hit dice and take the better. Wielding a two-handed weapon allows a character to roll two damage dice and take the better.
If a wizard or thief uses armour other than what their classes allow, they cannot cast spells or use their thief abilities.
Players don't feel forced to carry the 'optimal' damage-dealing weapon, and can instead use what feels appropriate to the character. Fighters are better at combat than magic users, whatever they're respectively armed with.
Four turns in a day (roughly six hours each), and one action per turn:
- Move to another hex
- Explore this hex
- Hunt – find D6-d6 worth of meals for the day
- Rest – recover d3 HP
Characters must eat one ration and rest regularly, or lose an Inventory Slot (or lose two if they neither eat nor rest). Their need for rest and food depends on their movement rate:
|Movement||Rest & eat once every|
X quarter-day turns
All adventures have a 1-in-6 chance of swimming for a turn without drowning. They can improve their chances by carrying less. For every unused inventory slot, they may add +1 to their odds.
e.g. A character carrying six slots' worth of equipment and with one slot taken up by an injury has three slots free, so their odds of avoiding drowning are 4-in-6.
Ensuring they have at least five slots free means that a character wouldn't need to roll to avoid drowning - they have a 6-in-6 chance of succeeding, at least initially. Penalties may incur for circumstances such as duration, strong currents or angry fellow swimmers.
Swimming in plate armour is therefore generally unwise!