The Role-Playing Game Primer and Old School Playbook was written by Chris Gonnerman, the creator of Basic Fantasy RPG (BFRPG). It’s a concise introduction to classic tabletop role-playing, of course using the BFRPG rules as a base.
This book fills a much-needed gap in the OSR, namely, how do you deal with someone who has no experience playing or running tabletop RPGs? Many rule books contain the usual sections on funny-looking dice, or what an ability score is, while some provide a sample adventure and give tips on game mastering. In my experience they all fall short, assuming far too much from a total novice.
The book starts with a quite detailed but conversational example of character creation and play, then moves into playing advice, then onto running and creating adventures (including stocking a sample dungeon) and finally game master (GM) advice. The final chapter details how to convert common stats (armor class, movement, etc) between BFRPG and the other major retro-clones – Swords & Wizardry, OSRIC, and Labyrinth Lord. It’s about 60 pages long and is chock full of details that a more experienced player or GM might assume and leave out. Chris takes nothing for granted. The sample dungeon key with Chris’ advice and commentary with each room description will be hugely useful for the newcomer. As an experienced GM, I enjoy reading about how other GMs create things – I’m really searching for ideas for my own games. Indeed I found it interesting to see how Chris’ creative process works. Here is an example of what I’m talking about:
Turning the page, I roll on the “Any” column of the first table. My roll is 97, which indicates a Miscellaneous Magic item. Rolling one more time on the table on page 134, I get a 29. The magic item indicated is a Brazier Commanding Fire Elementals.
Okay, wow. That’s actually a very powerful magic item, probably far too powerful for first level characters. If I was dealing with a group of experienced players, I might just go ahead and use that item, just to see what they do. But this is an adventure for beginners… no, I’m not doing that. I roll again, getting 16 this time.
In short, this is a great resource for the neophyte player or GM, and will even hold the interest of more experienced players or GMs. This book and a print copy of the BFRPG core rules would make a great present for your kids once they start to show interest in RPGs. The PDF and print copies can be found on Lulu.com.