Anyone here plays an OSR system 100% RAW? If not, what mash-up exactly do you play?

I thought i’d launch another topic, for all the new arrivals as well as old hands to weigh in. I was thinking that since day 1 of the emergence of D&D in 70s or even before, it has been defined by building on each others’ work, trying out things, tweaking and the -often outspoken- assumption that every DM will combine, discard and house-rule whatever they prefer. OSR very much embodies that philosophy.

In my case, even when I played 2E and 5E mostly as per the books, there was always 5% to 25% of the rules that I took from other systems or even made up completely. I also even ban some classes or rules because I felt they were unbalancing, detrimental or overly complicated, multi-classing generally comes to mind as well as Bards in 5E, just was not my thing as a DM and my group didn’t enjoy Bards even when I did allow them.

When playing BFRPG, Mothership and Shadowdark more recently, I literally never ran the system 100% as written. Sometimes because I was still learning/memorizing the system, sometimes because I prefer rulings over rules period. Shadowdark is my group’s current system, I imagine we will stick with it for quite a while. I am getting increasingly interested in running it more and more RAW, because I realized almost every rule or way of doing things has truly been thought through, engineered to solve a lot of issues some OSR Retroclones have and especially to provide balance. It has relatively few and very succinctly written, yet almost all-encompassing, rules and great speed of play. Particularly the torches lasting half an hour (optional rule) or an hour and taking up a slot each, 3 rations taking up one slot, needing to consume a ration + sleep uninterrupted to heal and the carousing rules solve a lot of issues that I previously often ran into while running OD&D or Retroclones as written.

Stil, atm I don’t use the Shadowdark Ability bonus scores that correspond with 5E, instead I use the -bit lower- modifiers like in B/X. I don’t check for wandering monsters quite as much as is suggested, I don’t truly use always on initiative as consciously as the writings suggest and a whole lot more.

Additionally, I truly like many things about Knave 2E, so at the very least I will likely -when the book version or at least 100% finished PDF is out- use almost every table from that, as well as sometimes reaching for the Dungeon hazard die or Warfare rules and a lot more.

So, I wanted to ask everyone reading this:

1.What is your go to system that you play the most games in last few months?
2. Concerning that system, what % of all the Rules As Written do you actually use?
3. The remainder (%) of the rules, which ones specifically from what systems do you use and why?


My go-to systems are Cairn, Into The Odd, Electric Bastionland, and The Black Hack. I usually run them all as-written with the occasional ruling for anything not in the rules. The few times I don’t run as-written have been with house rules like ammo dice or additional hexcrawl material.

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My currently go-to system is Maze Rats, which I mostly run RAW because there’s so little to change. I’ve added simple rules for black powder weapons, because I like them in my settings, but that’s (currently) all. I’m planning on writing a simple, generic-fantasy bestiary to make converting adventures easier, which is technically a rule change since how the monster creation is defined.

When I run anything more complex. though, I start tweaking lots of stuff. I try to stay coherent with myself during the same adventure/campaign, but I also experiment a lot so I rarely play the same game twice.

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Mostly been playing B/X lately (mostly using the OSE books).

I run most of the rules as written except for a few parts of character creation (optional standard array for ability scores and starting with a max role of the hid die for hit points) and dropping to zero hit points (make a final save against death).

I’m not married to RAW, though. I will quickly and happily change any rule if it doesn’t work for me or my group. Most games I run eventually end up having a big ol’ house rules document. I do try to run a new game RAW the first few sessions, though.

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I realized that a lot of the moving parts I was trying to synchronize between OSE(A) and BECMI and Player’s Option and Path of War (Tome of Battle for Pathfinder) would just… work a whole lot smoother if I used 5e as the basis, and modified it from there for things like different XP charts per class and the Player’s Option modular spell lists.

I don’t like 5e, but the actual core systems of it are pretty easy to twist into a more pleasing shape.

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  1. My group has been playing B/X (OSE) RAW for the last year or so. We wanted to spend some time learning it before we started hacking it all to hell.

It was fun and I understand why it’s sort of the lingua franca in OSR circles! But now we’ve made some quality of life improvements (for us, anyways).

  1. I have no idea what percent we’re modding it now, some changes are small but some have a big impact on play.

  2. The changes we are using are:

  • thieves use Hear Noise for all their
    -mages can cast any spell in their spellbook (no memorizing I guess)
    -player-facing rolls to defend.

I’m not sure where we stole these ideas from but I take no credit for any!

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From what I’ve run in the last years:

  1. Into the Dungeon: Revived — RAW by necessity for playtesting, though using rules from the Appendix A as well.

  2. Swords & Wizardry mixed with For Gold & Glory for the Planescape campaign. Clunky but fun.

  3. OSRIC — tried RAW, didn’t like it for the most part.

  4. For Gold & Glory — also tried RAW, better than OSRIC, but still too overly complex for our taste.

  5. Dark Dungeons — plan to use it RAW for a Mystara campaign, did a one-shot test-drive recently and pretty much satisfied with it.

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