Saturday, March 7, 2015

DIY OSR Starter Sets

Inspired my recent acquisition of Paolo Greco's punk rock anthem, the Cthonic Codex*, I have been thinking about starter sets.

Here are some things that are great about starter sets:

  • They come in BOXES.
  • Having BOXES on your shelf in between the books makes you feel like a deviant.
  • They are full of weird stuff that would seem totally unrelated if it weren't all in a BOX together.
  • There are primal human urges to read things that are books but play things that are in BOXES. If you want something played, put it in a BOX.
  • You could be making your own OSR Starter Set right now.
  • Then you could give it to the one you love. He will say, "I never understood how you could play a game from a book. Now that you have given me your favourite game in BOX form I can love you again."


These ideas for basic OSR starter sets were chosen with a few simple premises:
  1. The base of a starter set should sometimes include rules, and then either a module with which to use those rules or instructions for generating scenarios for those rules.
  2. The separate pieces of the starter set should have nothing to do with one another. Not be made by the same person, not intended to be used with the same system.
  3. The components of the starter set should be free or very cheap.
  4. These are all things that I really like and would genuinely love to play.

Zero Day is Arnold K's work in progress rule set for really simple adventuring. This should provide a nice simple rules base for Planescrap Chapter Zero to flip out all over and confuse the hell out of everybody. PCZ is one of Scrap Princess's manuals for exploring the planes. It describes places that are simultaneously terrible and inviting. Neither ZD or or PCZ have any pictures though - that's your job.

Players control monstrous humanoids from Patrick Stuart's Savages intent on crashing the rave at the Secret Party House of the Hill Giant Playboy (a module that is more perfectly described by its title than anything I am going to attempt here), by Jason Sholtis.

Small but Vicious Dog is a rules mash-up of Dungeons and Dragons and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay that aims to make you feel better about dying all the time by making jokes at your expense. And succeeds! Dangertopia is a terrible swamp where you will laugh and die in equal measure. These two were meant for one another.

These four books, the first two by Courtney Campbell, the second two by Arnold K., are straight down the line fantastic resources for DnD that I use all the time. Stuff this Starter Set with notepads, extra pencils and other essential Dungeon Mastering shit.

Stars Without Number is a badass space hack of old Dungeons and Dragons by Kevin Crawford, with a heavy emphasis on sandbox exploration. But before you can get to any of that lovely cruising through space you first must escape from the Orwellian hell that is Systema Tartarobasis, by Gabor Lux. 

Planet Eris and roll 1d8
Planet Eris is a great set of house rules for someone else's game. Could it be your game too? Hell yes, their rules are almost as awesome as their illustrations. Will the rules completely cover the wide variety of stuff that could come up in this selection of Gus L.'s first level adventures? Nope, but they have rules for jousting and no-one cares anyway because all of these things are awesome.


  • Carboard - Empty cereal boxes!
  • Paper - Take two seconds to check the paper you're using isn't from old growth forest. That shit is stupid and pretty much the same price as responsibly sourced paper anyway.
  • Long arm stapler -  An investment in yourself.
  • Staples - I didn't have staples once and tried string instead. Use staples.
  • Printer - I got mine for five bucks at an op shop.
  • Ink - So expensive I know I'm sorry.
  • Ruler and Stanley Knife or Guillotine - A guillotine is probably necessary for large scale Zine production but for our purposes a ruler, Stanley Knife and a steady hand should work fine.

You can print your books as A5 booklets as God and James Raggi intended or you can be weird about it. Do what you like.


  1. Stuff your printer with paper
  2. Find the "Print as Booklet" option for your printer. Mess around with the other settings. You actually have a lot of options for how you print stuff in the print menu.
  3. Print the back first, then flip the papers around and stick them back in and then print the front. The pages should be in order. 
  4. Maybe use a thicker paper for the cover? I like 200gsm card.
  5. Staple it.
  6. Fold it.
  7. Cut off the white space (or at least trim the pages so they are flush).
  8. Done.


  1. Find cool stuff to put in the BOX
    • pictures and diagrams cut out from dollar op shop books
    • maps
    • spare dice
    • pre-made characters
    • origami battle unicorns
    • pictures found on the internet. Sometimes those pictures will have been made by a real person. Advantages of asking the person if you can use their art:
      • Your starter set will be too legit to quit
      • The artist gets to feel fuzzy and appreciated
      • You get an excuse to talk to someone whose work you admire
      • If you mention them in your Starter Set then whoever uses the Starter Set can check them out too.
    • custom tokens
    • pencils
    • paper
    • weird notes stained with tea and burned around the edges. Fun when you were a kid, still fun now.
  2. Build a BOX to house your new starter set.
  3. Play some games.

I'm sorry if all that was painfully obvious. Most of this post is fairly unexciting as far as DIY printing goes. I just wanted to write this because I realised recently that maybe not everyone treats PDFs as build-it-at-home kits and just reads them straight off their tablet instead. You could do that, I suppose, but that would be boring.

Here are some places you can find more impressive DIY construction:

Regardless, do you like starter sets? I know you do. Do any of these ideas appeal to you? What would you put in your ideal Old School Starter set? Let me know. Link me pictures.

I'm off to make one myself.


*Here is my Cthonic Codex Review:

Do you like Wizards? Paolo Greco likes wizards.
Do you like going out into the sun? Paolo says there are only caves, the land above is on fire fuck you.
Do you like spell slots? Paolo says mana casting fuck you.
Do you like shit that was made in a factory? Paolo says I make my own fucking boxes fuck you.
Do you like d20s? Paolo says I will bury you in an avalanche of d6s and mana-tar fuck you.
Do you think your campaign world is pretty cool? Paolo says, oh yeah? in my milieu (rolls some dice) fucking causes iron to turn into rats. That's right I rolled that on a chart. I've got dozens of these and yes, they're all that awesome fuck you.
Do you like... Paolo says AAAAAAAAARG Paolo bored now fuck you all, you are all eaten by the Asphaltarch.

It's very good.

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