I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

In praise of Basic Fantasy (BFRPG)

As we've mentioned before, Basic Fantasy RPG (BFRPG) is a clone of Basic D&D, "with small changes, mainly ascending armor class and separation of character race and class."

This post is just a homage to this system that you probably already know... and if you don't, you're missing out!

You can check the SRD and books for free (the SRD has a few "dice rolling" tools embedded... nice!).

Now, while I haven't played BFRPG by-the-book, I've read it multiple times and used many modules and ideas, so I can say I'm a fan.

The Blackapple Brugh is probably the best BFRPG adventure I ran (and probably one of the best free adventures available anywhere). It has social encounters, an interesting take on elves, a coherent dungeon, investigation, exploration... I definitely recommend it. My group had a blast!

But there are others!

F1 Morgansfort is a decent campaign starter, with a base and a few vanilla dungeons (which I usually dislike, but serves well for introductory purposes).

If you need a Castle by the Sea or a Dark Temple, you can check the respective modules... Each has half a dozen options for each, with a single map but different contents, levels, etc.

In addition, you have a couple of monster manuals, some high-level adventures, and entire campaigns you can get for free. There are also free modules with optional rules, such as additional classes and races, weapon proficiencies, backgrounds, skills, "ability rolls", etc..

The production values are very good for free products (probably superior to many classic modules) - the layout and maps are simple and easy-to-use, and many modules contain plenty B&W art ranging from weak to awesome.

I have read a few others but I'll save my impressions until I can actually run them - which should happen during 2024.

As a retroclone, it does its job well - the basic book has few but worthy changes. Classes have 20 levels, but are otherwise similar to B/X. Clerics spells and thief abilities are organized. Races are more or less well-balanced.

The bestiary is a bit more expansive (and, maybe, flavorful) than B/X, and the encounter tables are more sensible and coherent (but unfortunately too short for my tastes - 15 entries are not enough for me).

Magic items - which are a bit limited in B/X - are considerably expanded here. There is also an amazing supplement expanding all kinds of items (The Equipment Emporium).

Overall, as a basic retroclone, BFRPG stands somewhere between OSE (which has rules that are nearly identical to B/X) and DCC (which has lots of cool innovations). The system is Basic with some Advanced additions. Likewise, the flavor is somewhere between vanilla and weird. It has a good balance, usually choosing "classic" solutions over novelty.

The best thing about BFRPG, however, could be its open/free philosophy, encouraging people to participate and create their own stuff, which fosters an amazing community with lots of free tools, in addition to cheap physical books and good rules.

FWIW, most of my books (written with B/X in mind) are perfectly compatible to BFRPG, including Old School Feats and Alternate Magic. My OSR adventure adventure could be a good addition to a BFRPG campaign - I think the flavor fits perfectly!

BFRPG has a CC-BY-SA version too, which I appreciate; after the OGL debacle, I'm thinking of using it for my own games in the future.

After all, these are some of my favorite aspects of the OSR: the ability to build on top of each other's creations, combining rules and adventures from different sources, and creating a community with a shared language even if each table is using its own preferred rules.

EDIT: I created a small list of things I like about "core" BFRPG. Most of these are already mentioned above.

- CC license.

- Race separated from class.

- Cleric spells are "fixed".

- All thief abilities use percentages.

- PCs go to level 20.

- The weapon list is more sensible than B/X, and magic item tables are more expansive.

- Contains some new, interesting monsters.


  1. Hey, thanks for the kind words! I appreciate it! I do feel I should point out that the "optional" items on the SRD page (extra races, classes, and rules) have been removed. They were never "official" and should not have been included there. All of those items are still available on the Downloads page as ala carte supplements, as I always intended.

    1. Hey Chris! Thanks for the comment! It is great to have you here!

      Will update the text regarding optional rules.

  2. Bfrpg was the first osr system I ran. I had a few great campaigns with it. I'm currently working on a hexcrawl peppering a bunch of modules thru out including black apple. I've recently been spending time on the forums and write a supplement called "woodland races". I like the community and open source ethic.

    1. I did something similar with my current hexcrawl - mixing modules from BFRPG, DCC, LotFP and others.

  3. I should also note the new version of the srd is amazing. It's a lot easier to navigate and I like the ability to roll dice.