Basic Fantasy: Inside The Player’s Section


Basic Fantasy started here on Dragonsfoot forums. The stated main goal was to create a system based on d20 that felt like Moldvay and Cook. Another important goal was that the game should feel light. Much of the rules feel like the old B/X game while certain areas, especially combat, have been streamlined by the d20 mechanic. The rules cover a wide variety of situations including aerial and naval combat - yet they still feel light. Praise for BF based on Chris' original criteria are well-deserved.


Release 2 features a beautiful cover art by Erik Wilson. This cover art is not attempt to emulate an older version of D&D in style. It can stand on it's own as a piece of art. To really appreciate it, download the Open Document format and magnify the graphic.

The interior text font is Soutane Black, a knock-off of the Souvenir font used in the original B/X books. The title font is in a knock off of Fritz Quadrata, the font used for 2e titles. The choice of fonts adds to the feel of a B/X book. Comparing a print out of Basic Fantasy with my Moldvay Basic, there are little to no differences in presentation.


Moldvay stated in the foreword of the Basic Rules that this version of D&D was designed for those that had never played an RPG before. He addressed the input from thousands of players and GMs that informed his revision of the rules.

Basic Fantasy acknowledges that what has changed in thirty years is that many more people have played an rpg. Yet, there is still an obligatory section that describes what an rpg is. It is fairly lengthy if the section about dice is included, but it is shorter than the introduction in Moldvay. There are few standard terms defined save PC, GM, NPC.

The next section involves creating a player character. In less than two pages, character creation, character abilities, Hit Dice, Hit Points, and Languages are explained. The attribute bonus chart is greatly simplified from Moldvay and more easily explained. No attribute above 18 is explained at this point because no player character can start with an attribute above 18.  Some details, such as available languages, are left up to the GM. In other places, room for house rules is provided by a statement about asking the GM. These house rules could be what happens at 0 hit points or available spells to 1st level magic users.

The next section is the largest break from B/X. Character races are described, but they are not distinct character classes. Restrictions on races are listed in terms of class and hit dice instead of level. For example, an Elf can become a 20th level Magic-User. A Halfling can become a 15th level Fighter, but will only roll d6 for hit points.

These tweaks to class and race still make humans feel like the dominant race in the game while still providing variety. In fact, if you need more variety, creating combination classes is a simple matter of adding the XP tables together and meeting the minimum requirements of both classes. Yes,  a Elven Fighter/Magic-User than can cast spells in armor can be created. The limitations, though, are d6 rolled for hit points, 4500 XP to reach 2nd level, and a Constitution limit of 17.

After the XP tables and brief explanations for each class are provided, a through, but not comphrensive equipment list is given. This list covers mundane items like rope and scales up to large boats and siege engines. Yet, the reader may feel like holes exist in certain types of equipment. For example, there are three types of armor: leather, chain, plate. (What! No splint mail?) Compared to the five types of horses, this could look pretty selective.

In the orginal B/X, though, there really were only the 3 armors. Many of the other items appear in the Expert rules or the Rules Cyclopedia. However, the prices of all items appear to have been completely rethought. Plate Mail is, rightly so, quite expensive.  Naval ships are quite expensive and require the type of investment that only truly weather players may indulge in. Sheets of paper and vials of ink are also expensive - it is cheaper to buy a good sword than to buy the means to describe that sword in writing. I appreciate this nod toward actual medieval life that made education prohibitively expensive.

After equipment comes a description of all the spells. Compared to newer versions, the number of spells is larger than B/X (116). Due to BF's removal of alignment, the Detect Alignment spell is gone and Detect/Dispel Evil spells deal more with warding against charms. A large variety is provided, including a few from d20 like Spiritual Hammer, Magic Mouth, and all the Cleric 6th level spells.

More in intermittent posts throughout the month. Next post, the BF Class Generator (with all due respect to David Crabuagh).

Why Basic Fantasy

To answer the question why, I'm going to start with some background. If you are the kind of person that wants "just the facts", skip to the end. The next-to-the-last paragraph answers the question very succinctly.

When I began writing for Nevermet Press, there was some discussion about creating statistics and details for various game systems. Most of the writers played 4e, so that was the big focus. I wanted to help, but since I have never played 3e, 3.5e, or 4e, all I could do is generate stats for systems in less demand. I had wanted to do OpenD6 conversions because I love the system, but WEG's apparent implosion led me to look elsewhere.

When I returned to gaming about four years ago, I had heard of various retro-clones that used the Open Gaming License to create the feel of earlier versions. Since I have only played earlier editions of any rpg (Marvel, Shadowrun, D&D, Ars Magica, Hero, etc.), these neoclassical rulesets seemed like the perfect place to start. I downloaded several and eagerly read through the rules.

What followed was a tremendous sense of nostalgia. I read OSRIC and remembered all the games my high school group played until 3am. It was great! I also read many others, all with similar feelings. I went into my RPG library and dug out my B/X rules,  BECMI rules, 1e rules and 2e rules. I skimmed through most of them before diving into my notebook of house rules. (Note: It's not this set of house rules (broken link), but I like the name.)

Finding the Great Tome of House Rules helped me remember the way my group played the game. We amalgamated rules from almost every version we had. We used 1e stat blocks for everything, we had THAC0, we had no limit to the number of attacks a fighter gained against 1HD or less creatures. We also had certain NPC races as their own character class (There is no good link for were-swans). We never found a spell we didn't like. We loved all character classes as well. We had guns and lasers. All in all, our rule system was best described as founded in 1e, but influenced by the simplicity of B/X & BECMI, using all the settings and kits of 2e. There is no good description for the skill system we used. Please don't ask me to try.

Against this background, I also discovered Microlite20. This was my first experience with anything like the 3e ruleset. Reading the short rules and various add-ons the community posted, I was hooked. M20 has proven to be something between a beer and pretzels rpg and a full-fledged ongoing campaign. I could use my scribbled campaign notes and world creations without too much revision. It allowed me to ditch almost 95% of my house rule notebook. In the anything goes add-ons on the site, it was simple to recreate my beloved Spelljammer and blast off into the ether. It also turned out to be a simple matter to setup some of my previous settings that included so many classes and kits.

I had attempted a Psionics add-on. I helped write a Conan add-on. I had notes for various magic systems strewn about two thumb drives and a few computers. Working through creating these add-ons had inadvertently allowed me to become somewhat familiar with d20.

The other reason that I enjoy M20 so much is the community. There seems to be at least one or two posts a month that start with "I was thinking about creating XYZ in M20." It is possible to make M20 into something very far removed from the world's most popular role-playing game.  More than that, the idea of creating something new is enthusiastically embraced. Many folks, including myself, lurk around the formulas waiting for the next new thing. (Take a look at the new traits plug-in. Feats without the headache.) It's now a part of my Monday ritual.

All of this may be a fun trip down memory lane. It seems to get away from the main idea of this post. In the end, why Basic Fantasy for my fantasy rpg of choice? I want a retro-clone for which I can stat NMP material. I enjoy something that is based in d20. I enjoy that it feels like the games my high school group played. I like the breadth of situations covered in core rulebook. I enjoy the open community that actively embraces new ideas. Most importantly, I have fun doing it.

Next up: Through the Basic Fantasy core rulebook.

Granite Dragons

Here is the first of the weekly dragons for the month of July, the thunder dragon. First the M20 statblock:

Adult Granite: HD 21d12+105 (241), AC 28, Bite +27 (2d8), or Breath 8d6 stream of rocks DC 25,  phys+DEX to dodge for half, or thorwn rock 2d6+7.

And now for the Basic Fantasy Statblock

Dragon, Granite

Armor Class: 20
Hit Dice: 7**
No. of Attacks: 2 claws/1 bite or breath/1 tail
Damage: 1d6/1d6/2d12 or breath/1d6 or rock 3d6
Movement: 30' Fly 80' (15')
No. Appearing: 1, Wild 1, Lair 1d4
Save As: Fighter: 7 (as Hit Dice)
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: H
XP: 800

Granite dragons have thick, rock-like scales with small black spots on them. The scales also tend to become for red as they age. They prefer to live on top of ancient mountains or near stone quarries. In order to properly digest their food, they swallow heavy stones in a gizzard type of organ. The bite of a granite dragon is severe due to their hardened teeth. When fighting, a granite dragon prefers to be near a source of rocks. When their breath weapon is not available, a granite dragon will attempt to hurl boulders. Granite dragons are capable of great cruelty. They enjoy swallowing humanoids whole and listening to their cries as they are ground into pieces by the stone in their gizzard. Outside of this rare pleasure, granite dragons are motivated by the urge to live, breed and collect valuable items.

Granite dragons are immune to poisonous gases.

Granite Dragon Age Table
Age Category 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Hit Dice 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Attack Bonus +4 +5 +6 +7 +8 +8 +9
Breath Weapon Rock projectiles (Line)
Length - 70' 80' 90' 95' 100' 100'
Width - 25' 30' 30' 35' 40' 45'
Chance/Talking 0% 15% 20% 25% 35% 50% 60%
Spells by Level
Level 1 - 1 2 4 4 4 4
Level 2 - - - - 1 2 3
Level 3 - - - - - 1 2
Claw 1d4 1d4 1d6 1d6 1d6 1d8 1d8
Bite 2d6 3d6 3d8 3d8 3d8 3d8 3d10
Tail 1d4 1d4 1d4 1d6 1d6 1d8 1d8