My Thursday group discussed running some old-school modules for nights when we aren’t doing our main campaign, ideally, the UK series, since those tend to be overland and less dungeon and combat-focused (so-as not to be too much like our main campaign).
Here are some various notes on old-school gaming for a group that mainly does modern D&D (5e, 13th Age, etc.).
D&D 5e vs. Old-School D&D (OSE)
Old-school modules are about 30 pages long, take about 1.5 to 2 hours to read, cover to cover, and generally will give you 15-25 hours of adventure time.
The rules that work out-of-the-box with old-school modules are some flavor of OD&D, BX D&D, or AD&D. BX D&D (using Old-School Essentials, a phenomenal retro-clone of those rules) plays very much like PbtA games; loose, fast, and often narrative.
OD&D is also an option, the original box set D&D (0e edition, preceded AD&D and BX). I have a copy of the wooden box print edition you can look through (man, it’s going for $800!):
You can also get PDFs of it here:
Swords & Wizardry (which I backed) is a great, cleaned up retroclone of the 0e boxed set rules, with some AD&D classes pulled in:
The PDF of the Swords & Wizardry new edition is out next month. It supports ascending armor class, simplified saving throws, etc.
All that being said, we mostly play D&D 5th Edition, so we may run the old-school modules with the new rules.
Digital Copies of the UK Modules
The modules can all be bought in PDF format, either individually or as a bundle (see https://www.dmsguild.com/
UK1, UK2, and UK3 are all set in Greyhawk; the rest are setting agnostic, I believe. So Greyhawk is a great choice and maybe we should be biased to picking classic modules that are in Greyhawk or can be easily adapted to Greyhawk.
What Sequence to Run the Modules
If we wanted to run the UK series with the same characters, here’s the order I would recommend. Eye of the Serpent is the lowest-rated of the series, and is originally meant for one-to-one play (1 PC and 3 hirelings), but can be adapted to run with 4+ PCs. The others are well-regarded.
The level we use somewhat depends on whether we’re running OSE or 5e.
- UK5 Eye of the Serpent — Levels 1 (Run at Level 1 in 5e)
- UK2 The Sentinel — Levels 2–5 (Run at Level 2 in 5e)
- UK3 The Gauntlet — Levels 3–6 (sequal to UK2) (Run at Level 3 in 5e)
- UK4 When a Star Falls — Levels 3–5 (Run at Level 4 or 5 in 5e)
- UK1 Beyond the Crystal Cave — Levels 4–7 (Run at Level 5 or 6 in 5e)
- UK7 Dark Clouds Gather — Levels 7–9 (Run at Level 7 in 5e)
5e Conversions of the UK Series
I run a site that coordinates a community-conversion program that I set up after chatting with Mike Mearls at D&D. Here’s a list of about 80 old-school modules converted over to 5e: http://classicmodulestoday.
More specifically, here are all the UK Conversions.
- Classic Modules Today: UK1 Beyond the Crystal Cave (5e) https://www.dmsguild.com/
product/186491/Classic- Modules-Today-UK1-Beyond-the- Crystal-Cave
- Classic Modules Today: UK2 The Sentinel (5e) https://www.dmsguild.com/
- Classic Modules Today: UK3 The Gauntlet (5e) https://www.dmsguild.com/
- Classic Modules Today: UK4 When a Star Falls (5e) https://www.dmsguild.com/
product/182120/Classic- Modules-Today-UK4-When-a-Star- Falls
- Classic Modules Today: UK5 Eye of the Serpent (5e) https://www.dmsguild.com/
product/186604/Classic- Modules-Today-UK5-Eye-of-the- Serpent
- Classic Modules Today: UK6 All That Glitters…(5e) https://www.dmsguild.com/
product/252088/Classic- Modules-Today-UK6-All-That- Glitters5e