The OSR in Vivid Colour: The Fellowship of the Bling

I know that a lot of people these days are curious about the “OSR”, which is about a lot of different things. One of those things is returning to older versions of games and trying to play them “by the book”.

Here’s a wonderful Actual Play account of such a game over on : a group has decided to take on this challenge of playing an old version of D&D rules as “by the book” as possible. They eventually start naming all their characters using names from the Lord of the Rings, which adds to the fun.

Not only a great transcript of play (concise and focusing on the important bits), but also a good discussion as well as a really entertaining read.

It’s fun to see this group discovering and re-discovering certain elements on old-school D&D play. (Although some of their solutions, like what they do with prime requisite XP bonuses, are downright brilliant.)

If you’re curious about this sort of thing, take a look:


If you want help navigating a series of posts that are hundreds of pages, long, instead, read on for my “reader’s guide”, below:



(From page 1; otherwise nothing important there.)

Finally got to run some B/X DnD–playing pretty much btb–3d6 roll and keep, rolled HP, wandering monsters, death at zero HP, etc. Not so much a series campaign as straight dungeon crawls using a few of the really cool random adventure generators at Wizardawn and Dunjon.


I lightly chronicled some of the misadventures and will post them here for your analysis on how B/X plays straight by the book. It is pretty brutal–had a bad streak of low HP rolls at character gen. Plus some of the traps in the random generators are really deadly.

  1. Page 4 has a brief “rules” overview and discussion:

  1. Page 8 is where the Fellowship is formed, and the magic begins!

The Fellowship met at Rivendell to discuss the cursed One Ring.

Elrond, “It must be taken to Mt. Doom and destroyed, but unfortunately, you are all first level and have no hope. You will have to first delve dungeon after dungeon, accumulating gold, because as we all know, hoarding treasure somehow makes us more powerful.”

“Yes,” said Gandalf, “This is known to be true.”

And so the Fellowship of the Bling was formed with one goal–Grab the loot so someday, maybe they could think about making a plan to destroy the one ring. Many, many years from now.

And so the Fellowship of the Bling descends the stone steps into a dark and damp corridor. Gandalf holds his lantern aloft, and they soon come upon a door and a south easterly bend in the passage.

  1. It gets particularly interesting around here, with an overview of how play has felt so far, and some high and low moments:

And I guarantee that player will remember the day Frodo died in the Secret Tomb of Darkness for decades.

An interesting moment after Strider’s death, a few pages later:

[…] to move the game along I cut them a deal–sell off all the surplus, the silver daggers, the holy water, and spend all the coin, and the clerics of Gygax will resurrect Strider.

This sparked an all new debate. Spend the money to raise Strider or save it in case Merry or Gandalf should fall?

Merry because he is the single greatest hope to hit level 2 soon. He has also been a stalwart and brave adventurer–the keystone of the Fellowship’s front line. And for a longtime, he has carried the heavy burden of everyone’s hopes and dreams for level 2 (both at our table and for the readers of this thread. No one, and I mean no one, wants to lose Merry).

Gandalf because he is the only character with a charisma bonus and the party’s only reasonable shot at a level 2 wizard any time soon. Also the Gandalf character is beloved at our table because of the way his very capable player handles him.

But Strider is also a table favorite–great character in the book, great actor in the movies, and beautifully played at our table. This poor guy faces the worst the dungeon has to offer day after day without complaint. On top of that he’s halfway to level 2–so Strider is all that and a bag of lamprey pies.

So ask yourself–given the choice to resurrect Strider or save the money in case Merry or Gandalf should fall–What would you do?

Enjoy part 4 of the Unholy Shrine of the Gorgons tomorrow.

  1. The group struggles to achieve second level:

B/X DnD is a journey rather than a destination. Though the players have been on level 1 for a long time–look at the variety! There is so much content you could almost just play te game permanently on level 1. If you read back over all the old adventures–even pre-fellowship–you’ll notice a whole world of varied events and even now its still surprising and delighting.

The lycanthropy was yet another unexpected turn of events that had yet to occur in all these weeks of gaming–so to some degree, the lower levels should be savored.

And all of it with essentially ZERO prep.

I went back and looked and Fellowship started on 2-24: which would put us at about a month of weekly gaming long sessions. Of course, if Merry, Strider, and Gandalf get killed–time to reach level 2 will go WAY up. But we all really, really hope this doesn’t happen.

By page 57, the tension for someone managing to make 2nd level without dying is going through the roof, for players and readers alike.

With new, beast-man companion coming along, the Fellowship returns to the octagonal entry chamber.

Gathered in the entry chamber, Gandalf reconsiders the marching order and battle formation.

“I would like to put your Morlock on the front line,” Gandalf says to Saruman, “and move Merry to the back flank for the time being.”

“Why should we have to risk our sausages on the front line while Merry plays it safe in the rear?” Archade demands.

“He’s a short timer,” Strider cuts in. “That’s why.”

“I understand,” Archade says. “I had a brother in my homeland who was a mere 20 coin from reaching level 2. Then that damned yellow mold–” Archade breaks down for a moment, reflecting on the tragic loss of his brother to the deadly yellow spores.

  1. Mailer reflects on the campaign so far on page 62:

[…] on the gonzoness of the random generators: This has been a net positive actually. As I get more skilled at it, I am able to take the results and narrate and improvise in such a way that they seem pretty logical–but it’s main feature:

The stories! Because its so random, it forces the story in unexpected directions that I just wouldn’t have written otherwise. The tragic turn of events with the wererats turned the story 360 degrees and ended up being a poignant moment at the table. Or the rogue Hobbit hideout, and even the piercers. Lots of animals end up in non-ideal environments, and these guys have actually provided a bit of comic relief.

Beyond all that though, from the “game” point of view, the unpredictability provides a tough but fun, brain-blistering challenge that prevents the party from settling into rote tactics that they are able to use over and over again like an efficient machine. They have to work with the 3d6 characters fate gives them, while entering a fully, unknown, unguessable dungeon. There are no “best” tactics when facing that it keeps things dynamic with a lot of juicy variety.

You have to admit, these random dungeons really keep a Hobbit on the edge of his seat–I get excited to see what’s next and I’m the dungeon master!

For instance, another poster says:

I’ve been playing with the generators for a couple of days. The biggest potential treasure I have run across yet was a trap: a room that turned characters (with a save) into gold statues. If one didn’t mind melting down one’s erstwhile colleagues, they would be worth 26,000gp each. Due to the nature of the geomorphology, though, it ended up as a sealed chamber with no entrances, so you’d have to dig to get there…

  1. It is finally on page 84 that one of the adventurers achieves second level. It’s a hard-fought victory!

“Show us!” Saruman orders. Urk reaches into the chest and removes the contents, turning and holding it up for everyone to see.

“Oh my,” says Fatty Bolger.

"I believe this is the part, " Archade says, “where Strider would say, ‘Jackpot’.”

The Hobgoblin holds a magnificent golden necklace–set with gems–in its filthy fingers.

“Give!” Saruman orders, holding out his palm. The Hobgoblin obeys, placing the ornate piece of jewelry in the eager wizards hand.

“It is enough,” Gandalf says. The old wizards eyes well up with tears, “It is enough.”
Gandalf wipes eyes on sleeve and collects himself, “Everyone! Surround Merry! Allow no harm to affect a single, curly hair on his head! We depart immediately!”

The Fellowship forms a protective shell around Merry.

“Guys,” Merry says, “no need for all this fuss. I am perfectly capa–”

“Quiet, hobbit!” Thorin growls. “You are walking out of this dungeon today if it costs everyone of us our lives!”

The Fellowship moves rapidly through the domed chamber, past the shallow pool and the dust covered room. They emerge into the sunlight, where Strider rests against a tree.

“Did you find any treasure,” Strider asks.

Saruman presents the ornate, jeweled necklace. Upon seeing the valuable item, tears race down Strider’s face.

“It is accomplished,” The ranger weeps, “By Gygax, it is accomplished!”


And there is much feasting and much drinking. Elrond–drunk as a Dwarf on Gygaxmas–staggers over to Merry.

“So Merry,” the elf lord slurs, “How does it feel to finally become a man?”

This last quote from:

You can sense the incredible sense of accomplishment when this milestone is reached, even from the readers.

There’s also lots of interesting business later, including a Charmed Ogre, but I will leave that up to those of you with the time and interest to discover yourselves.

4 Appreciations