And in stranger weekends, even PCs may die. I'm planning an OSRIC dungeon exploration game for next weekend; I've been rolling random dungeon bits in my scraps of spare time for the last week or so. The first level is built, with monsters, treasure, and room contents rolled, so now I just need to assign that content to rooms (stocking, if you will). Also been working up a pile of rumors in town regarding the dungeon, but I still need a name for the hellhole...
So, content! I guess I'll go through some interesting rules differences between OSRIC and the 3.x that I and most of the people are know are used to playing. Not going to hit all the rules differences, obviously, just some of the more curious ones.
Ability score bonuses are must more spread out; it seems to take a score of about 15+ to start getting any real bonuses, and a score of 6-7 or lower to start taking any penalties. This is kind of interesting, and reminds me of Traveller's wider ability score bonuses brackets (3-point increments, rather than 2-point increments as in 3.x). This also means that a significant range around 'average' still pretty much functions as average, and that ability scores play a much less important role than they do in 3.x. I rolled up a couple of sample characters and about the only thing ability scores influences were race and class selection (yeah, classes have minimum ability score requirements to enter. See here for why).
There's a lot of save-or-die. All poisons for example. Fail a save against poison? Toast. This actually makes some sense... if you get bitten by a spider the size of a horse and it injects you with 100ccs of neurotoxin... you're not just taking 2d4 int damage. Falling damage is much increased; it still caps at 20d6, but only from a 50-foot fall rather than from a 200-foot fall as in 3.x. If you're polymorphed, there's a chance based on your Con that you just die of system shock. If someone tries to resurrect you, there's a chance based on your Con that you don't make it back. Also, elves have no souls and cannot be resurrected. I think this is actually a pretty neat rule; they live a long time, but can't come back if they screw up. It also reinforces the 'fey' / otherworldly nature of the elves (reminds me of the Eldar soulstones, too... maybe it's not that they don't have souls, but that Slaanesh eats them?) Death and dying of damage are pretty normal; die at -10, lose 1 HP per round between -1 and -10. However, a few interesting things: No chance to stabilize yourself, but any other party member can automatically stabilize you; no skill check required (since the only classes with 'skills' are the Thief and the Assassin, and heal sure isn't one of them). Also, any additional damage dealt to an unconscious character is lethal; no special coup-de-grace rules. Finally, there are longer-term consequences for being beaten unconscious; it takes you 10-60 minutes to wake up even after being stabilized, and then a week of rest before you're able to resume 'strenuous physical activity'.
This ties in nicely with the dungeon exploration rules, which are one of the neater things in OSRIC (from a new-schooler's perspective). The passage of time is much more of a thing here. A turn is 10 minutes of game time, and can be used to move through the dungeon map, search rooms, try to break down locked doors, and similar. Wandering monsters are checked for each turn, and one in every six turns must be used as a short rest / breather, or you start to take fatigue penalties. A round is a minute, and is the unit of combat time, more-or-less equivalent to a round in 3.x in terms of what you can get done. The round is subdivided into 10 segments of 6 seconds each, with different sides acting on different segments of the round depending on their initiative rolls. The cool thing here is that spells have casting times measured in segments; you start casting on the segment where your side acts, and then the spells goes off n segments later, giving the opposition a chance to interrupt it while you're casting. Similarly, if you get iterative attacks, they're spaced out by segments, so you might get to attack, then the enemy attacks, then you again, rather than the "Aha, we won initiative, eat a full attack before you get to act" kind of thing that happens a lot in 3.x.
Some other interesting notes on combat: in melee, your attacks target a random adjacent hostile target. Firing into melee, your ranged attacks target a random combatant without regard to hostility. And no, there is no such thing as precise shot (well, except magic missile).
XP: Different classes require different amounts of XP to level. XP for slain monsters is a function of how many HP that particular monster had, as well as species, with the assumption that you're rolling random monster HP. You also get 1 XP for every GP that you manage to get out of the dungeon. Treasure is not important, but so is encumbrance, since there are 10 GP to a pound. Fortunately, carrying capacity is 150 lbs for all characters, plus or minus a bonus based on strength.
Spells: A lot of them are pretty much the same, though I guess 'more random' would probably be a good descriptor. Some are much stronger than in 3.x, some are much weaker; skimming the spells, there were several times where I went "That's a 4th-level spell?" Fireballs expand to fill volume, lightning bolts bounce off of non-conductive surfaces, haste ages the users, and bull's strength grants a larger bonus to fighters, paladins, and rangers than to other targets. Curious indeed.
Magic items: They don't have market prices. No buy, no sell. Use what you find.
That's all I've got for now. Back to work.