I want to let y'all know this is an opinion piece only and shouldn't be taken to think any particular game is bad.
I've looked through a lot of these games, I mean a crazy crazy lot of them and I have yet to find one that's actually bad or adds nothing of value to our community.
I guess it because these games come from a good foundation with decades worth of real world testing for that foundation. Or it could be that OSR writers are just awesome. Who knows?
However my picks for the best six are as follows.
#1 Swords and Wizardry
This does everything an OSR game needs to do and does it well. Plenty of support and plenty of genres make it a magnificent tool box of a game. Best of all the "Complete" version which is enough gaming for a lifetime is absolutely free and can be snaked here or a number of other places.
#2 Labyrinth Lord
I gave this amazing game 2nd place with a tiny bit of reluctance as its probably as good as S&W. Its a matter of taste really S&W mimicking early AD&D and OD&D as versus Lab Lord mimicking B/X and AD&D . It too is well supported and free
#3 Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures
This one isn't free and as heavily supported or generic like the other games. Instead its tight, focused and has the coolest character generations systems in any OSR game. You can learn about it on its homepage.
#4 Fantastic Heroes and Witchery
This isn't a game for newbie gamers, its rich, complex, nuanced and incredibly complete especially as it was basically made by one man. Its also free along with some cool support which can be had here though you can buy a print edition or a properly indexed PDF as well. If you like a more AD&D2e or more pulp flavor, this is the one for you.
#5 Basic Fantasy Rolepaying Game
Often overlooked including by me hence the edit. This is a B/X rift, modernized, incredibly well supported, sold at cost, yes cost, in print that does everything a D&D RPG ought to do. Its all amazingly open, generously set up and ready to rumble. Interestingly this is the only OSR game in which my players actually have a copy and are even eager to play. I can't recommend this game highly enough. Its all free here.
#6 Castles and Crusades.
I don't actually have that much to say about this game other than its solid and once you get past the SIEGE gaming engines quirks and the sometime haphazard presentation of the books, I think you'll find this to be a good OSR game with a low learning curve for players coming in from Pathfinder or other 3x games. It has intriguing support books as well and plenty of adventures. And yeah its a bit more modern in feel that the above games but in general, it works, is well supported and has a good player base. You can hit the Troll's Den in my blogroll or the company homepage for more information.
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