I will discuss these together.
Dark Dungeons & Basic Fantasy RPG
You can buy both these games in softcover via Lulu and have enough money left over to buy some generic fantasy adventures from your local bricks & mortar store to support them.
Dark Dungeons is a total recreation of the rules I grew up with, everything from the Basic Set to the Immortals, including some optional rules for skills and weapon mastery. This includes things like saving throws that really make no sense, descending AC and races as character classes. Somehow I have managed to play too much D&D 4E and descending armour class now looks strange. As does THAC0. I thought I missed THAC0 but it turns out I don't. Anyway the book covers everything apart from the Mystara specific stuff and anything that is considered product identity by WOTC.
Basic Fantasy I thought, from glancing at the site, was just a cut down d20 system. It is sort of. It feels just like I remember basic D&D being. They have split races and character classes to allow a bit more variation. Armour class is ascending and Saving Throws are the classic Dragon's Breath, Spells, Death etc. There are no skills, no weapon mastery just a fairly bare bones combat system. If I am going to run a retro style fantasy game I am almost certainly going to use Basic Fantasy RPG.
I recently read Microlite74 (the most recent version) and Basic Fantasy RPG very much comes across as a slightly bulked out version.
Both games can be downloaded for free if you want to check them out. Buying a copy from Lulu is cheap enough to be an option.
As part of my retro experimentation I have been playing about with Traveller (classic). I picked up the starter set for £5 recently. I see someone here is try to sell it for a bit more: http://goo.gl/YEJt9 (link to eBay auction)
Traveller (Starter Set)
Traveller was a game I always wanted to play when I was younger. Also when I was older. The problem is that no one I knew ever owned a copy. After playing Elite (ZX Spectrum, Deadly) I wanted to play it even more. I had picked up enough of the system that I knew there were similarities.
The starter set comes with a 64 page rule book (character creation, combat, spaceships, planets and a short section on skills and gamemastering), a book of tables and charts (there are a lot of tables and charts) and an adventure (maybe 2). I have been trying to find the rules for experience and character advancement in the Starter set, I have yet to find anything.
To try and introduce myself to the system I thought I would try going through the character creation process exactly as the rules state. This was an experience. None of your fancy points based stat creation here. If I wanted to be a particular career class I had to roll for it, then if I failed get i class i could still be drafted into the service that had just rejected me. Here is how my first character creation went:
1. Roll Stats.
In order (2d6 each): Stren (4+4) 8, Dext (3+5) 8, End (3+1) 4, Intel (5+4) 9, Educ (3+3) 6, Soc (5+6) B
Social standing as a stat! B (11 in Hex for anyone not paying attention) makes my character a Knight. Feudal terms are big in the traveller universe. Traveller to my mind encourages a story via the stats. So I imagine a third son of a lesser noble household sent out to make his way in the universe. He decides to become a Scout and help explore the universe. Now I need to roll 5 or above on 2d6 to see in the Scouting service will take him. I'll call him Chan for the time being. For being intelligent and strong I get a plus 3 bonus to my roll.
Enlistment: 4+1+(3 bonus): 8
I just manage to make it in. Perhaps my family put in a good word. So a pushy family, that thinks it has influence. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't.
If I failed my enlistment roll I would need to roll a d6 and see which service drafted my. One option would be other, which does not look like a good option.
Next I need to survive my first 4 year period of service with the scouting service. I need to roll 7 or higher on 2d6. If I had a decent endurance I would get a bonus. The Scouting service looks like dangerous work, it has the highest chance of death of any of the services.
Survival: 3+2: 5
Now that is hard core.
I am too distressed over the death of Chan to write any more. I may scrawl some poetry into my angst journal.