This weekend, I discovered Microlite20 on donjon.bin.sh. Suddenly I “got” the OSR. Despite having read a bunch about it, the whole thing just hadn’t clicked for me. Then I read that Purest Essence version and boom. I remembered being 13 in my best friend’s converted garage, playing D&D and GURPS and Traveller and our own designs and just having fun.
In fact, the OSR in general feels a little like “classic rock” to me. That particular subgenre has something special for a lot of people. Newer trends in rock music have lots of good stuff to enjoy (grunge forever), too, and so you have things like the Foo Fighters and Black Keys with similar appeal even to listeners who come from newer eras themselves. Rock music… microlite… it made sense in my head, anyway.
Specifically, the simplified attributes and skills within M20 really appeal to me. The non-Vancian magic system also makes more sense, at least so far as made-up phenomena that bypass the rules of physics can “make sense”. In M20, mages fuel their spells with their life force, spending HP, rather than “fire and forget“. Other things concern me, like clerics not getting any healing until 3rd level. Resting daily for 1d4 HP seems a little underpowered. Maybe I missed something?
But D&D 5th Edition has lots of good stuff too. In fact, a few folks have coined the term “O5R” to refer to OSR-style gaming (whatever that means for you) in 5e. After all, 5e kept one of the most important aspects of what I like in RPGs: rulings instead of rules. So I will forklift a few ideas from the newest version of D&D into Microlite20. The Advantage / Disadvantage mechanic replaces modifiers (+2 / -2) quite cleanly. That Wild Magic Surge table looks useful, too, and so I’ll yoink that into my game for when a Mage rolls a 1. Many others have published various hacks on the system, so I’ve started collecting the ones I want to use (plus a few of my own tiny modifications) into my own house rules. I might need to add some rules about rests and healing there, in fact.
That’s the other thing I like in RPGs: rule 0 always applies.
2 thoughts on “Microlite20 and O5R”
Glad to have you aboard! Just curious, what about that purest essence version reminded you of your teen years of roleplaying?
I believe that I’m the one who coined “O5R” in creating Draconic Magazine. Shortly after, a couple others starting using the term, such as Grand DM.
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Excellent, I’ve seen the term around a bit but was unsure where it started.
Purest Essence feels right to me because it doesn’t involve endless rule lookups. Pretty much everything is d20 plus the relevant ability and skill, and the skill is tied to your class. d20 per se didn’t exist when I was a teenager, so it’s more about just winging things and telling the story based on the dice and what seems cool. M20 is a step above “uhhhh roll high to see if you win”.
Plus the layout of PE is gorgeous to me. I quibble a bit with the readability of certain letters in the typeface used for the section headers, but the use of the old woodcuts really works for me. It’s a style I plan to emulate to a degree in upcoming projects.