OSR: Introduction for New Players

I've tried to write down what I tell new players before I start a game. This assumes they've seen D&D on TV or something, and at least know the very basic structure of a game. You might find it useful. You might not agree with all of it, but that's also fine - people run games in different ways. At the very least this might be useful if you've never run a game before.

This discussion assumes that the GM has gone over the different parts of a character sheet and some of the other mechanical basics. Every book has a bit that tells you what Stats and Skills and HP and XP are. I don't want to type it all out again. Some of the notes are also GLOG-specific, and most of them are OSR specific. I'd write a very different intro for a Fate Core game.

This is designed to be read out before the first session starts. It might help if you're trying to run the Tomb of the Serpent Kings dungeon.

There are elements of chance

Ever played cops and robbers or any other made-up games? Did you ever meet the one kid who said "Nuh uh,  you didn't hit me, I have a bulletproof vest!" In this game of make-believe, there are a few rules to help decide who hits who, and how hard, and other things like that.

Your characters are also going to have some random numbers assigned to them. Sometimes the numbers will be good, and sometimes they'll be bad, and there's not much you can do about it. In this game the numbers aren't that important. Sometimes, a character will terrible stats and survive for ages, while a character with brilliant stats dies in the first hour of game.

There are elements of skill

In Settlers of Catan, the rules are fixed and solid and balanced. You can't go "Hey Steve, I'll take my Knights and you take your Knights and we'll go pillage that Sheep tile." That's not in the rules. And that's fine. But in a game like this, you can come up with any plans you want to. In that way the game is like a real world, and the people in it are like real people. Nobody minds too much if you go around smashing pottery and looting houses in a video game, but in this game, that sort of thing has real consequences. Similarly, you can't lure Bowser out of his castle with a delicious meal in the video game because cooking wasn't coded into the game.

Coming up with a good plan and executing that plan is important. Be smart. Pay attention. Think of solutions that the rules don't cover.

In Character vs Out of Character

You don't have to do silly voices or wear costumes. You'll figure out how comfortable you are acting as your character as we go along. The main thing, right now, is to remember that your character knows things you don't know, and that you know things your character doesn't know.

Your character knows things about the world that you, as a player, don't know. They know how to ride a horse or make poison or identify magic runes. If there's a situation where that applies, I'll just tell you what your character knows. If I'm not sure, I might make you roll for it.

Similarly, there are things you know that your characters don't know. The main one is reason. We live in a logical age; the characters you're playing don't. They don't have the benefit of a post-Enlightenment education. They might not even be literate. You aren't afraid of the weather because you understand what weather is. Your characters don't. They might not understand things that we take for granted, and they might act on motives that we'd fine archaic or ridiculous.

You, the player, might know things about other characters or the world that your character doesn't. You might know a secret about another character's past, or the best way to kill a vampire. But remember,  your character can only act on knowledge they have in the game.We'll discuss this more as it comes up.

Your characters are going to die

Did you ever play Super Mario Bros? Mario died a lot in that game. Sometimes he died because you made a mistake. Sometimes it was chance, or luck, or you were distracted, or you didn't understand how an enemy worked. This game is like that, except in the video game, Mario comes back again and again. In this game, each time you get a new character.

Having a character die doesn't mean you made a mistake or failed. It's part of the learning process. Sometimes it's just random chance.

You get to make a new character, and I'll find a way to introduce them to the group. You start at Level 1 again but it's not a big deal. A Level 1 character is just as useful as a Level 4 character almost every way. You'll never be completely outclassed.


You level up and improve your character by looting treasure. Imagine a dragon and its hoard. Kill the dragon and you get 0 XP. Steal the treasure, by force or stealth, and it counts. You have to get it out of the dungeon and take it somewhere safe, but once it's safe - buried, spent, invested, or donated - it counts.

You start at Level 1. Levels 2 through 4 are where major upgrades to your character take place. By Level 4, you're about as powerful as you'll ever become, but you'll still get slightly better every Level past 4.

At Level 5, and every time you level up past Level 5, you can retire your character to safety. This means I won't torment them anymore. If they can afford it, they can buy a or rent some land, set up a shop, teach at a wizard college, or beg in the gutter. They won't affect the plot anymore, but the plot won't specifically affect them. General disasters (fire, plagues, war, demonic invasions) will still affect their lives, but they are safe from almost anything else. Feel free to organize your character's retirement ahead of time. You can try and buy a castle, a tavern, or a political position.

If your character reaches Level 10 the usual death rules change slightly. They are less likely to make their general Saves vs Dying, but when Death does turn up, they now have a decent chance of fighting, escaping, or conniving their way out of it.

The Social Contract

If you like this game and you're having fun, show up on time, or tell me in advance if you can't make it. If you don't like this game, let me know and we'll make changes.

Please don't bring out your phones during game unless there's something urgent. Ideally this is the most interesting thing going on. In the same vein, understand that there are 5 other people in the room, so don't deliberately waste time.

The setting of this game is semi-medieval. That means that terrible things happen on a regular basis. It would feel like I was whitewashing or disneyfing the past if I said that this setting doesn't include things like misogyny, racism, sexual violence, etc. These things happen in the real world. It'd be strange to have a fictional world without them. That being said, they won't form a major part of this game

Gender is also much more important in this game than it is in the modern world, but possibly less important than you might fear. At the very high end of society, you can get away with breaking gender norms by wealth, power, law, and ability. At the very low end, nobody cares. It's only the middle classes and the Church who obsess over propriety and station. It probably won't be an important part of most sessions.

If anything about this game makes you uncomfortable, bring it up immediately. If you don't feel comfortable doing that, or it only occurs to you later, you can always email me.

The Rules

Are always available for you to read. They aren't secret. If you find inconsistencies or errors, let me know, but the rules aren't the law. As the GM, what I say goes, and if need be, what I say, went. If you think you've found a loophole, but the results of that loophole don't make any sense, it will stop working immediately.


If you have questions, let me know. Some example questions include:

"Can I hit him with an arrow at this distance?"
"What does X taste like?"
"Does my character know anything about X?"
"How much damage does a longsword do if I throw it at someone?"

Before we start, do you have any questions right now?

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