i’ve been getting really into Grave, which is a neat dark-souls-y knave hack. i ended up liking a lot of its improvements over knave to the point it’s the base for the standard-fantasy, not-dark-souls game i run nowdays.
it has a really elegant system where your stamina - your resource for maneuvers and spells - is derived from how many item slots you leave empty, which provides a natural incentive for casters or light-armored swashbuckler types to not wear big suits of plate armor they’re perfectly capable of wearing. the different stamina uses have in my experience made combat a lot more interesting, too, providing a lot more choice than just run-up-and-hit-the-thing-and-that’s-your-turn, without bogging down everything with long lists of abilities and different resources.
i find it has a lot more variety in character archetypes than knave - knave just has fighter (carry heavy weapons/armor), thief (carry lockpicks, crowbar, rope, caltrops, oil, that sorta thing) and mage (carry spellbooks). plus mixes of those three. the stamina system creates a divide between heavily and lightly armored warriors, and the game splits spells into three types, one for each mental stat (so you get wizards, witches and clerics all being different from each other). so it’s closer to the breadth of options you’d expect from a standard fantasy rpg. i just feel like it covers all the usual bases much better.
i also think it was a fantastic first OSR game for my group because part of the dark souls thing is that each character has a limited number of resurrections before they for-reals die since you’re all playing sentient undead. the amount of second chances is a little much (i’d probably halve it if i run another grave campaign) but this means players can have their cake and eat it too - you can have OSR lethality but still get invested in a character. deaths never go away, so each one still feels impactful despite how many second chances you get, like a clock ticking down to your eventual doom. it’s a good cushion for players new to the OSR to screw up a couple times before they get it and stop dying so much.
i also like the souls mechanic. gold is replaced with souls which are both currency and XP, like in dark souls, but you can also get big super-special souls from extra-nasty monsters which are mostly used to make magic items. every time the players take down an especially dangerous monster, i’m always excited to see what they’ll stick its soul into and it gives me an excuse to come up with a magic item.
super recommend, one of my favorites. hell, it’s probably worth the $2 price tag just for the d50 magic item table.