Monday, November 23, 2015

OSR Freebies from the Library Part 1

A while ago I started seeing the phenomenon that people search for good OSR products and get pointed to titles they need to pay for to check them out. There is certainly nothing wrong with earning a buck for role playing material, but the idea to keep those free OSR gems in circulation is today (as far as I'm aware) mostly reduced to either those games that had a huge part in the beginning of the movement or are simply quoted by word of mouth. If at all. And that's where this little series of posts sets in. I'll try and create a hub for those "old", hidden or lost games and materials, see if they are still around and where to get them. I might be in over my head here ...

What you'll find here (and in future posts)

I'll start with my own hard drive and those games I already took a look at so I'm able to share a few thoughts. I'm not trying to explain what the OSR is here and in general this will be about old(-er) games that still produce free material or new games inspired by the origins of the hobby. Main criteria are that they fit the descriptions above, that there is a pdf of them online available and that they are for free. If I have an opinion on the item, I'll share it.

For now I'll go with what I know, for obvious reasons. There is a new page linked in the header of this blog called "OSR Freebies" where I collect them all and if you guys read this and got a link or two to a product worth mentioning, please go ahead and comment here or on the new page. I imagine this will remain incomplete and a work in progress, but that's the nature of the beast. It's also arbitrary and not in chronological order.

It's furthermore important to mention that there are other blogs and sites around that share similar collections. Some are still active, but others are quite old right now or just not up to date. If I find them or know about them, I'll post them. So here it goes ...

Retro Phaze (RPG by John Higgins)

So this is patient zero for me, really. A game from 2010 (first edition) and somehow I came across this again years later, checked it out and started asking myself why this didn't get more love as it did. It's mixing (old) D&D with ideas and aesthetics of 8-bit gaming.

Where to get stuff & Opinions from Others: The pdf is free to download over at lulu, here are some character sheets and additional races (all fan-made) and here is a review of the game.

My thoughts: With 35 pages quite short, but complete. Fourth edition right now, so the author kept working on it (which is good). Some interesting d6 mechanics for the game mixed with what you know from early editions of D&D. Very well worth checking out.

Renegade & Renegade - Corruption (RPGs by David Morrison)

Old version of the Cover...
400+ pages PWYW D&D retro-clones from 2011 with a great wealth of tools to loot for D&D (and friends). Renegade seems to be the "family friendly" and Renegade - Corruption is the darker variant of the same. Both are complete games.

Where to get stuff & Opinions from Others: The pdfs are free to download over at drivethrurpg (Renegade & Renegade Corruption). Opinions can be found here and here.

My thoughts: Both games are huge, professionally edited, they got nice artwork, are more than complete as they contain far more material than most other RPGs care to get out there in one product and claim to be complete, both are compatible with all things D&D, full of options for customized campaigns and PWYW. Those are very high standards and make both games worth mentioning in one row among other OSR titles like Swords & Wizardry, OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord.

Hulks & Horrors (RPG by John S. Berry III)

"This is a game of those daring and foolhardy beings that seek fortune in the ancient places of the galaxy. May you find wealth before death!" and that's what you get. 3d6 in order, race as class and tons of random table to create content for this 156 pages heavy SF D&D retro-clone from 2013.

Where to get stuff & Opinions from Others: The pdf is free over at drivethru and can be found here. Reviews can be read here and here.

My thoughts: This scratches a particular itch for me: dungeon crawling in space. H&H is focused on that premise and delivers in spades. I'd play it as is and go from there, but it's highly compatible with all the other D&D games out there, so it's free to loot and change and drop anywhere you want, to any extent you want. There is really no reason at all to not have it in a RPG collection.

Westward (RPG by Roderic Waibel)

This is a failed/canceled kickstarter from 2013 that still delivered and is free now. A 102 pages Western D&D retro-clone with as much fantasy as you'd like to have in it. I stumbled across this by accident and remembered it just recently after reading a comment about if it's a good or a bad idea to mix fantasy tropes with western, wondered why that's even a problem and where I had seen something like that before ...

Where to get stuff & Opinions from Others: Again, drivethru/rpgnow is the way to free pdf. I didn't look very hard, but as far as I know did no one even care to write a proper review. Anyway, here's some buzz I could find.

My thoughts: Scratch "Fantasy" and write "Weird" instead and suddenly this sells (same difference, right?). I've also read a lot that having no art is a big no-no for some people and I honestly don't get it. This is a complete game, again highly compatible with other games like it out there and it is for free. Mix it with Hulks & Horrors and you get Firefly, mix it with Flying Swordsmen and you get Shang-High Noon, adapt Better Than Any Men to it and you get a fantastic Western Sandbox during the Civil War. All of it for free. I could go on ...

Under Xylarthen's Tower (Module by Jeff Rients)

I'll end todays line-up with an old-fashioned 21 pages DIY D&D funhouse dungeoncrawl from 2008, the (very) early days of the OSR. It comes with six fully populated levels on hand drawn maps and should allow a group of level 1 characters to advance to levels 4 to 6. It also comes with house rules for random character-level generation.

Where to get stuff & Opinions from Others: The pdf can be found here and it's best to let the man himself talk about it, so here's a short session report for your reading pleasure.

My thoughts: I used this on several occasions over the years and have a printed version of it somewhere around. It's a great dungeon for one shots or to explore over the course of a campaign. Even if you never get to play it, UXT is a great read (same goes for Jeff's blog, for that matter) and it's free, so there you go.

Enough for today

So that should keep you guys busy for a while. I'll have another one like this up soon, but this should be enough for now. If this made you remember some gems on your hard drive, please feel free to share them in the comments. I sure got way to many on mine. There is so much great free stuff out there and the more I look into it, the more I start to believe that way too much of it gets lost far to fast. This stuff shouldn't get old and forgotten. It should be shared and used ...


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! It was time I started something like this. I always wanted to take a closer look at all those nice and free things I gathered over the years and talk about them. So since I'm pretty late in most cases I thought I'd better make a thing out of that, too :) And now I want to DM Hulks & Horrors ...


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