2 June 2021

Simulacrum — Beta Release


I've had a few requests to provide copies of my game, Simulacrum, and sometimes I've posted drafts in the comments section or to /osrg.   Overall though I've been reluctant to put it out in a main post.  In part that's because I wanted to continue to write about the process of development, and putting out a near-final release would seem to detract from charting its creation.  And I've not been in any hurry because this project has always been for myself, rather than based on any delusion that the world breathlessly awaits another OSR game.

But a lot of my reluctance has to do with wanting it to be the best that it can be before really releasing it to the wider world.  I'm currently running a playtest campaign with it; after a year in my players have hit 7th level and I'm looking forward to their exploration of the game's higher levels and the inevitable tweaks that will produce.  I like to edit things as much as possible, tweaking individual words, moving elements a few mm, and so on, and not to no effect: I think the benefits overall have been clear, looking back at older drafts.

Still, I think it's time.  So, without further ado, here's the beta for my humble game.  I'll be continuing to run my campaign, read blogs and other games, and take into account feedback, all of which will lead me to tweak things here and there, and eventually I'll put it up on DriveThru and make it "final", but for now you should find this perfectly playable.

1 - Simulacrum Player's Manual - Beta 21-06

2 - Simulacrum GM's Manual - Beta 21-06

3 - Simulacrum Designer Notes - Beta 21-06

4 - Simulacrum Playing Aids - Beta 21-06

The Player's Manual is entirely self-contained, and should be everything a player needs.  The GM's Manual completes the game; it has some cross-referencing, in that it expands and comments on Player's Manual material, but is GM-only.  The Designer Notes are bonus material, made simply because I'm tired of downloading OSR games and having no idea what they did to depart from the TSR baseline, let alone why they did so.  Everything I've done has been for a reason, and I imagine at least a few of you reading a history/theory/game design blog are going to be interested in that kind of inside baseball, as I am.  By reading it, those on the fence can decide if a given change has a basis that makes sense for them.  Lastly, the Playing Aids PDF consists of a few simple squares you can print and cut out to give to players so that they can announce their stances each round by throwing down their choice on the table, aiding the GM in running fights quicker.  They're not necessary at all: ever since I switched to Zoom I've been just handling that verbally, but in person I've found that it speeds things up.  The PDF also has a GM's sheet that I print off a copy of each session to track key session elements.

The only thing that I feel is missing is a character sheet.  I created one for my own use, but it uses graphical elements I stole from other works and so wouldn't be right to share.  Characters are pretty simple, as they are in most OSR games, and so this shouldn't be a major hindrance.

I would welcome any questions or comments.  I'd only note first that between the GM's Manual and the Designer Notes that a lot of the "why" as to what I did is covered.  Still, if I missed something or are not clear there, by all means let me know.

I hope this is of some use to you out there, either as a full game or as a collection of plunderable elements for you to steal for your own OSR game, as is right and proper.  For those of you who commented on earlier drafts or run playtest games, thanks for your feedback over the years: it's been invaluable.  Happy adventuring.  Go forth and plunder!


  1. Thank you Keith for posting the beta of your game! I am looking forward to reading the books and trying their ideas in my games.



  2. Glad to finally see this on your blog.

    One thing I'd like to see in the Designer Notes (Or the GM's Manual) is how do you handle languages and what purpose do they serve in the game.
    I've become less of a fan of how Languages work after reading Arnold K's blogpost on the subject and was wondering how you tackle the issues presented in that post or if you have a different view and use of Languages entirely.

    Anyways, happy to see your system being publicized more as it gets finished.

    1. I don't have a special systemic approach to languages beyond what is explored in the Player's Manual, where I specifically leave that to the GM, based on their desires for realism vs gameplay convenience. You can see why "Common" became a popular choice, especially in systems that want to encourage roleplaying and general diplomacy with encounters rather than just hack and slash. Ultimately, some people want to invest the time into segmented languages, and others find it annoying, but the community is too fragmented on this one for me to make a one-true ruling for my game and expect it to satisfy everyone, and it's not mission-critical to any sort of experience I'm attempting to capture to mandate it.

      I was intrigued by an idea in the comments to the post you reference that every speaks Common but languages still exist as a way to eke out positive Reaction Roll mods, however. That's an approach I hadn't seen or considered before. Cheers.

  3. Thanks for sharing this with us. I look forward to reading through it!

    1. I thoroughly enjoy what I've read so far. Campaign Matters is such a nice way to handle these rules that are so commonly modified. The Named Levels offers a tiered approach to play that offers some of the benefits of more modern PC leveling, but without the complexity and min/max behavior that can come with it. I appreciate the notes that help establish how Simulacrum would compare to other classic editions, such as how attack bonus compares to fighter levels or feats help create characters that emulate classic classes. Nicely done!

  4. These rules look very interesting - will I be able to solo them ? (just me running a single character)

    1. Hmmm ... characters under the system are more powerful, certainly, but are they powerful enough? I suppose it comes down to whether or not you're willing to start them a level or two higher, and if you would use retainers or not. The common failing of solo play is in the action economy, where a solitary creature/character, even if strong, winds up losing because its opponents have so many more attacks collectively. You can compensate for that here somewhat by ensuring you have a warrior with Hordeslayer (i.e. cleave/sweep). Ultimately I'd give a solid "maybe" but feel compelled to point out that, just as this ruleset was designed with 4-5 players in mind, Scarlet Heroes is specifically designed for solo play and so (though I've never played it) would likely be the better choice. If you wind up trying this out anyways, let me know how it goes. Cheers.