Old-School Essentials

Created by Necrotic Gnome

A modular adventure game in the tradition of the beloved 1980s role-playing rules. 100% old-school rules, 100% modern design.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Old-School Essentials Generators!
9 days ago – Wed, Feb 19, 2020 at 01:03:23 AM

Hi everyone,

Wow, it really feels like it's been a long time since I wrote a Kickstarter update! (Looking back... ok, yes, it was almost two months ago!) I have three pieces of marvellous news to share today...

First News: The Old-School Essentials Generators Are Now Live!

Remember the stretch goal that said "The Old-School Essentials System Reference Document website will be enhanced with a selection of fancy interactive elements. Generate classic fantasy treasure hoards, wandering monsters, or entire NPC adventuring parties at the click of a button! All fully integrated with the SRD."?

Well, feast thine eyes, for it is live: https://oldschoolessentials.necroticgnome.com/generators

A quick summary of what the generators can roll for you:

  • Treasure by treasure type.
  • Treasure by dungeon level.
  • Treasure maps.
  • Dungeon encounters by level.
  • Wilderness encounters by terrain type.
  • Basic and expert adventuring parties, including the special types of party led by a high-level cleric, fighter, or magic-user.
  • Memorized spells by character class and level.
  • Magic items, including sentient swords.
  • Retainers.

Some cool features of the generators:

  •  Massive cross-linking with the Old-School Essentials Online Rules Reference. Spells, monsters, magic items, etc. all link to the relevant page in the rules reference SRD.
  • Optimised for desktop, mobile, and tablet.
  • Cut and paste nicely formatted text. Try copying a generated NPC into a google doc, for example.

An Example: Generating Retainers

Just for fun, here's a screenshot of the results of hitting "Create" on the retainers generator. Go ahead and try it out for yourself! There are also some settings you can tweak to determine what kinds of retainers are generated.

A selection of generated retainers


If you have any feedback on the generators (e.g. comments, bugs, ideas for new features) there's a special feedback section of the site. We already have some ideas for additional generators to be added in the future, but we'd also love to hear suggestions from users.  

Massive Thanks!

To Frederick Münch for all of his excellent work on creating the SRD and the generators. I think you'll agree that these are super useful tools for running old-school games, and I'm very happy to be able to share them with the old-school community.

Second News: Necrotic Gnome Bundle of Holding

It would be highly remiss to not mention that the esteemed Bundle of Holding is currently running a bundle full of Necrotic Gnome goodies! The bundle runs until March 2nd.

Here's what you can get for a piffling $25 (all PDFs):

  • The full run of 8 issues of the Wormskin zine which details Necrotic Gnome's fairy tale forest setting, Dolmenwood.
  •  The Weird That Befell Drigbolton. An adventure module set in Dolmenwood.
  •  Winter's Daughter. Another Dolmenwood adventure. Nominated for two ENnie awards in 2019.
  • Old-School Essentials Rules Tome.
  • Old-School Essentials Referee's Screen.
  • Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy Genre Rules and Druid and Illusionist Spells.
  •  The Hole in the Oak.

Now, most people who backed this Kickstarter will already have some or all of the Old-School Essentials PDFs which are included in the bundle, but the Dolmenwood PDFs alone have a retail value of $66.50. If you've ever felt the inclination to delve into Dolmenwood, now is a prime chance to get over 1,000 pages of material for a crazy cheap price!

What's more, 10% of the proceeds from the bundle are donated to charity.

Third News: New Products Coming Soon!

In the previous update, I mentioned that we're building up to publishing three new products in the Old-School Essentials line:

  • A deluxe printing of the referee's screen.
  • A Player's Rules Tome.
  • A 2nd printing of the standard Rules Tome. (The first printing is, lamentably, sold out at present.)

Back in December (when I wrote the last update), we were planning to run a Kickstarter for these products, but the big news today is: we're not doing a Kickstarter and these new products are being set up for manufacturing as we speak! (The big advantage of not running another Kickstarter is that the new products will be available much sooner!)

By current estimates, we're expecting manufacturing to finish around mid March. Following that, it'll take some time to get them from the manufacturer to the warehouses. I'll keep you updated when everything's available for sale.

US Distribution

You may have noted that I used the word "warehouses", plural. Yep, we're in the final stages of setting up a deal with a distributor in the US. That means that people in North America will be able to order directly from the US warehouse, rather than having to have stuff shipped from Necrotic Gnome in Europe. A proper announcement with more details will be coming soon! 

Keeping in Touch

As I said at the beginning of this update, it's been a long time since the last one. But that doesn't mean that I'm not talking about Old-School Essentials on a virtually daily basis! The buzz has simply moved over to other platforms that have built up around the OSE community. Please come and join us to get sneak previews of new stuff, chat about the game, or share your ideas for adventures, house rules, new classes, etc!

Hope to see some (more) of you joining up!

If you want breaking news, the best sources are the Necrotic Gnome social media accounts:

All for Now!

Gavin / Moss Master at Necrotic Gnome

Online rules reference, pre-gen characters, and what's next for OSE!
2 months ago – Sun, Dec 22, 2019 at 01:26:09 AM

Hey everyone,

A few noteworthy items of news have accumulated, so I felt it's a good time for an update! First up, some news on the remaining digital rewards — the online rules reference and the pre-gen characters.

The Old-School Essentials Online Rules Reference

Is live now! Check it out here: https://oldschoolessentials.necroticgnome.com/srd

The rules reference is still in development, but most of the content is in place. The most significant things that are not live yet are:

  • The encounter tables.
  • The section on running adventures.
  • The treasures and magic items.
  • The generators (more on these below).
  • Internal cross-references. These will take the form of hyperlinks between pages in the SRD.

Online Rules Reference Generators

These are in development but are not live yet. I've seen pretty advanced previews of the following things, which are all looking great and super useful!

  • Treasure type and magic item generators.
  • Wilderness and dungeon encounter generators.
  • NPC party generator.
  • Memorized spells generator.

These will be released into the wild when they're finalised (and may be joined later on by more generators!).

The Old-School Essentials Rogues Gallery

The PDF with the first set of 7 lawful pre-gen characters was released a while back. Earlier today, I pushed an update to the PDF adding the 7 chaotic characters. The illustrations for 6 of the 7 chaotic characters are still in progress, but I'll update the PDF again when they're done. (Also when the neutral characters are written up.)

We aim to have all pre-gens written and illustrated in January, finalising the PDF.

A Note on Fulfillment

It's now well over a month since the first packages began shipping out to backers. From what I've heard, the vast majority of backers have now received their rewards and are enjoying delving into the wondrous depths of their Rules Tomes and Black Boxes. However, there are a few people who've reported problems with their shipment.

If you've not received your physical rewards and you're concerned they're lost, please open a ticket with GamesQuest! https://gamesquest.freshdesk.com/support/home

GamesQuest will consider your package lost if it hasn't arrived within a certain number of days of it being. If this happens we'll be happy to send a replacement to you.

What's Next for Old-School Essentials?

You've probably seen various hints and rumours as to what we're planning next in comments, blogs, social media posts, and so on. I can now reveal the plans for the next products in the Old-School Essentials line!

We're currently in the mid-to-late stages of planning a follow-up Kickstarter in early 2020 (exact date to be announced when plans are finalised). The goal of this Kickstarter will be to produce three artifacts of wondrous power:

1. Referee Screen Deluxe Print Run

One of the most exciting items for me that was unlocked as a stretch goal in this Kickstarter was the referee's screen. I've long wanted to design a referee's screen, so it was great to have the opportunity to do so, bringing the Old-School Essentials focus on clarity and concision to the process. Even more exciting was the second stretch goal that unlocked a full 4-panel painting by Peter Mullen to grace the front of the screen!

To really do the artwork justice, we're going to produce a deluxe print run of the screen early next year. This will be printed at high quality on thick card stock (2-3mm). It will be a thing of great beauty and an essential item for any old-school referee!

2. Player's Rules Tome

The Black Box and the Rules Tome are perfect for a referee wanting to create their own campaigns and run games. But what about all the players out there who just want to roll 3d6 in order, buy a sword, and get hacking? Two out of the five books in the Black Box and 152 of the Rules Tome's 296 pages aren't relevant to players, as they contain the lists of monsters and magic items, which a player has no need to refer to during play.

Well, there is soon going to be a third form of the Old-School Essentials game: a book dedicated to players: the Player's Rules Tome! This book is a cut down version of the current Rules Tome, with the referee-only sections removed. It clocks in at 144 pages, which is about half the length of the full Rules Tome. We're expecting it to be a nice chunky book still, about half an inch thick.

The really good news is that we're planning to produce this book at the same deluxe quality level as the standard Rules Tome, but the price will be significantly lower! The idea here is to for this book to be a perfect entry-point into old-school gaming, with an entry-level price point to match.

3. Rules Tome 2nd Printing

The third and final product we'll be manufacturing in early 2020 is a 2nd print run of the standard Rules Tome. I'm amazed how quickly the book has sold since this Kickstarter and am delighted to say that we're going to be needing a 2nd printing very soon. The book will be produced to exactly the same high standard as the 1st printing, the content will be the same, but there will be new cover art (just for fun!) and a new foil-stamped leatherette edition (also with new art)!

More details on the 2020 Kickstarter coming as soon as plans are finalised!

Research into Shipping Improvements

The Old-School Essentials Kickstarter was the first crowdfunding campaign I've run and by far the largest publishing project I've undertaken. Overall, I'm super happy with how everything went, but with a big project like this there are naturally areas that can be improved upon and lessons learned. So as part of the planning for the next Kickstarter, we've been looking into ways to improve the whole process.

One of the big things I'm hoping we'll be able to improve is the cost of shipping to the US and Canada. The reason for focusing on those countries in particular is that, looking at the backer stats from this Kickstarter, it turns out that 70% of backers were in the US or Canada!

Canadians in particular were hit with very high shipping fees plus import duties on top. We want to improve things next time around! To that end, we've been researching ways to get rewards shipped to backers in North America more cheaply, more reliably, and (especially of interest to Canadian backers) free of import duties.

The fulfillment process we'll be using in the future isn't completely finalised yet, but I can report that it's looking like we'll be able to offer significantly cheaper shipping to North America plus customs-friendly shipping to Canada!

The plan for the next Kickstarter is to have the shipping rates for major countries/regions clearly spelled out in the campaign description, including a matrix of shipping rates for each pledge level, making it super clear how much backers should expect shipping to cost. Again, more details when everything's finalised.


I wanted to recommend a product that goes great with Old-School Essentials: On Downtime and Demesnes by Courtney Campbell. This is a 254 page book full of inspiration, procedures, and random tables for virtually every kind of "in town" activity players might want to get up to. Carousing, ritual sacrifice, training, professions, research, golem construction, haggling, investment, arena fights, assassination... the list goes on! Check out the table of contents in the preview at DriveThruRPG to see the scope of this weird and wonderful work.

All for Now

Until next time!

Gavin / Moss Master at Necrotic Gnome

IMPORTANT: How to resolve fulfillment issues
3 months ago – Wed, Dec 04, 2019 at 02:12:56 AM

Hey everyone,

Many of you have received your physical rewards by now and have been posting all manner of photos, reviews, podcast episodes, and unboxing videos showing off what you've received. It's a wonderful experience for me seeing these all come up in my social media streams every day and I'm delighted that you're all enjoying Old-School Essentials and are impressed with the physical products.

However I know that not everyone has received their rewards yet and have a couple of updates for those people today.

Issue With US Shipping Notification Email Fixed

As I mentioned in the last update (and as many backers have been mentioning in messages / comments / social media!), there was a problem whereby the shipping notification emails for many backers in the US were not being sent out properly. I've been in touch with GamesQuest about this and they got back to me today to let me know that they've fixed the issue. This means that the shipping notification emails have now been sent out to everyone. Yes, including people who have already received their package!

Really sorry for the mix up with this!

If you're one of the people who is still waiting for their email, check your email again. It should have arrived today. (Please check spam etc too.)

Resolving Other Problems

As you can imagine, shipping out 10,000+ items to 3,000+ people in dozens of countries around the world is unlikely to be completely free of problems. It's just in the nature of international shipping that sometimes packages get lost or damaged.

As luck would have it, though, Games Quest have a customer support system specially for dealing with these kind of issues that come up from time to time with international shipping! They even have an FAQ addressing some of the most common shipping problems and describing what to do.

So if anyone's had a problem with their shipment, please go to the following site, look up your problem in the FAQ, and (if appropriate) open a new support ticket.


Art Auction

Finally, on a completely different note: you know the gorgeous basilisk image that graces the cover of the leatherette edition of the Rules Tome? Well, the artist, James Shields, is currently auctioning the signed original art in the Old-School Essentials group on Facebook! The auction is running until Friday this week, so you still have a chance to jump in.

Here's the link to the auction: https://www.facebook.com/groups/889914041423398/permalink/1008547562893378/?sale_post_id=1008547562893378

All for Now

Until next time!

Gavin / Moss Master at Necrotic Gnome

Quick fulfillment update
3 months ago – Sat, Nov 23, 2019 at 01:36:26 AM

Hey everyone,

Just a very quick update on the status of the fulfillment of the physical rewards.

The Excellent News!

It's been an exciting last week, with a steady (and increasing!) stream of photos, posts, and messages from backers who've received their package. It makes me very happy that you're all enjoying the fruits of this Kickstarter and are impressed with the quality of the printed books and box!

For those backers who've not yet received their package, here's the good news: barring half a dozen orders where we've had to contact the backer to check the delivery address, I'm delighted to report that all packages have now been shipped! So your package is on its way.

Wot No Email?

I know many of you at this point are now thinking "Huh? Everything's shipped? Why haven't I received my shipping notification email?". Here's what's happening:

  • The fulfillment company told me that the notification email is sent out when the package is scanned in by the shipping courier. So it's not sent when the package leaves the warehouse, but rather at a later stage in the process when it's in the courier's system.
  • Looking over the overall status of fulfillment, I've noticed a pattern: many US orders were handed over to the shipping courier some days ago, but the shipping notification email still hasn't been sent.
  • I need to check this with the fulfillment company, but my hunch is that the email will be sent out once the package is scanned in by the shipping partner in the US. If my hunch is correct, US backers will probably find that you'll receive the shipping notification very shortly before your package arrives. (Kinda weird, I know...)

By the way, the packages were shipped in size order, from the smallest to the largest. So don't worry if people in your vicinity have already received theirs and you're still waiting! The destination address has no bearing on when a package was shipped.

Please Allow 10-14 Days for Delivery

I know it seems like a long time, but the fulfillment company is estimating delivery to most destinations at 10-14 days. As shipping from the warehouse was completed yesterday, that means we'd expect all packages to have arrived by December 6th (14 days on).

If it gets to December 6th and you've not received your package and suspect there's a problem, please follow the instructions below!


I've only heard of one instance of someone having a problem with their package so far (and that appeared to be a blunder on the part of Royal Mail!), but in case anything comes up, here's what to do:

  • Send an email to summon@necroticgnome.com.
  • If you use the email title "Old-School Essentials Fulfillment", it'll be easier for us to quickly see what the message relates to.
  • In the email, please describe what the issue is.
  • Please also mention your backer number and/or Kickstarter username, so it's clear who you are.


  • To reiterate: if you've not yet received your package, please wait until December 6th before emailing us.
  • Due to the number of backers of this project, I won't be able to respond to messages on other platforms, so please don't message me / Necrotic Gnome about this on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

All for Now

I hope those of you who are waiting receive your rewards very soon and those of you who have already received them are enjoying the "new book" smell!

Gavin / Moss Master at Necrotic Gnome

Physical rewards are shipping out!
4 months ago – Thu, Nov 14, 2019 at 12:56:58 AM

Hi everyone,

Big news today!

Packages are Leaving the Fulfillment Warehouse!

Fulfillment started on schedule on Monday and, following a couple of days of checking and preparing everything, I've received notification this morning that packages have started leaving the warehouse. This means that the chances are high that the first lucky backers will receive their rewards this week!

It feels totally unreal to me that you will all have this game in your hands very soon!

You'll Receive an Email When Your Package Ships

When your package has shipped, you'll receive an email from GamesQuest informing you that it's on its way. I'm sure everyone will be very excited to get their package, but please understand that I won't at this stage be able to answer specific questions about whether any individual backer's package has shipped yet or not. Please just wait to receive the email informing you that yours has shipped.

About Tracking Codes

The next question many of you are probably wondering about is when / how / if you'll receive a tracking code for your package. The answer to this is somewhat complicated.

As backers are located all over the world and the rewards that are being sent out range from single books to weighty collections of dozens of books, the fulfillment company is using a number of different international shipping partners and services. Basically they're matching the requirements of each individual package (size / weight / destination) against the shipping services that are available and going with the best option for the price. This means that while the majority of packages are being sent tracked, some are being sent untracked. If your package is sent tracked, you'll receive the tracking code in the email from GamesQuest informing you that it's on its way.

This mixed tracked/untracked approach was recommended by GamesQuest in order to keep international shipping costs as low as possible. They said that they have a very low rate of errors with untracked shipping, so the risks are minimal. (And of course if anything untoward should happen with anyone's package, we'll sort it out.)

Keep Us Posted!

When you get your shipment notification — and when you receive your package! — please feel free to comment here or to post on social media at tag Necrotic Gnome. I'm hoping to see a stream of photos of Old-School Essentials books in other people's hands in the not too distant future :)

Getting Notified of Future Projects

A few people have asked how they can get notified of future projects by Necrotic Gnome (including the projects that were mentioned in last week's update — the Old-School Essentials deluxe referee's screen and the Dolmenwood Campaign Book). There are quite a few different ways!

Mix and match as appropriate :)

All for Now

Gavin / Moss Master at Necrotic Gnome