King Arthur Pendragon

Monday, March 19, 2012

To Retro-Clone or Not Retro-Clone

One of the major stumbling blocks to playing D&D online using the old books is that they are all out of print and, therefore, not everyone has access to them. I have because I am a collector at heart and don't mind scouring Ebay and other sites, looking for another piece of memorabilia to add to my collection. However, I cannot demand the same from my players in order to play the game. Playing face to face is easier in that we would only need one copy of the books to pass them along, but online it's another story. I also cannot encourage my players to seek out scans or pdf files of these books and download them. This would be tantamount to piracy. However, another solution presents itself: the retro-clones.

Retro-clones are rule systems that try to emulate the feeling and play style of the old school D&D and AD&D. They were made possible when WotC published their Open Gaming License (OGL), which allowed many third-party publishers to modify, copy and redistribute many of the original rules. This led to the creation of several retro-clone systems from 2000 to this day. I have checked a few and some are even available online for free from their respective publishers. This post is not about all the retro-clones that exist but only the ones that caught my eye.

Using a retro-clone system would effectively allow us to continue playing our game as before even if not everyone has access to out of print material. That's why the retro-clones exist: so that current gamers can experience old school play style, not being forced to pay sometimes exhorbitant prices for the old books. I have come to appreciate Labyrinth Lord from Goblinoid Games. Already there are two books published for this line: the first emulates the B/X sets and the second allows to play AD&D 1st ed. style. I've checked them, they're quite good and 100% compatible with the old modules with no conversions required. Another option is OSRIC which is a considerably larger book, also available for free, that emulares AD&D 1st ed.

At this point, I think this is the way to go. As I said, I could not demand from my players the same willingness to go out and buy the old books when something free is available online that allows the same play experience. This is the next best thing. I'll continue to expand my collection which already includes the likes of Keep on the Borderlands and Temple of Elemental Evil so we have no shortage of adventures to play in the near future.


Keith418 said...

My post on the clones is over here:

Fandomaniac said...

My thoughts are if I'm refereeing a game, I'll run the rules system I'm most comfortable with. I love OD&D, I own OD&D, and so I run OD&D. If someone in my group wants to run Labyrinth Lord, S&W, QAGS or any other game system, I'm fine with playing in a game they are most comfortable running. I've read S&W and it's a nice game, but I like OD&D more. If I read it and liked it more than OD&D, I would run S&W instead of OD&D. I guess my point is, run the game you enjoy running and don't settle for a second favorite if your first choice is available.

Victor Raymond said...

The amount of difference between S&W, LL, BFRPG, and OD&D is less than between OD&D and AD&D 1st Edition, i.e. they are ALL "D&D" - various versions, yes, but all D&D. As someone who started playing when D&D was the only thing out, I find the current debates over distinguishing S&W from LL from OD&D to be hairsplitting, at best. Call 'em "house rules" but in basic structure and form, they are all the same game. I could easily go from one to the other and probably have to be reminded where one differed from the rest. However, as always, YMMV.

jogadorsonhador said...

Last year, for the Neverwinter Game Day, I set up a classic dungeon crawl with the free beta version of Dungeon Crawl Classics and it was awesome. Eight 0-level characters entered and only one got out with a huge diamond, a pitchfork and a chicken. Good times.

Aplus said...

Yeah, run whatever you like running. Even if it happens to be an out-of-print version of D&D, it's easy to type up a few character generation notes, which are all the players really need (and perhaps spells). It's not like modern rules-heavy games where every player needs to have a book.

Bobjester said...

I'd 'play' about anything, but I am most familiar with BX, AD&D1 & Holmes, and I have duplicates of Holmes & BX rules, so letting the players go over them (if they don't have their own) is not a problem, plus I have a ten page Holmes primer that can be printed out for newbs to Holmes, and, like most early D&D rules, the differences are really slight, and can be the source of much amusement when one player rolls up a PC using AD&D1 rules, another using BX, another using Holmes Basic & another using 0e!

But, my old group finally let Katkin Kalvin run a 1e game using OSRIC. They used to hate 1e & always said that the rules were "broken", but using OSRIC rules, they love it! Kalvin uses his 1e books at the table with the players' copies of OSRIC.

Cartmic said...

OSRIC is great, I bought a copy for each of my players, in fact as if it wasn't for me buying second edition I'd be using the books exclusively.

Without the Simulacrum movement I would never had have been playing OSR rules, I'd be completely Fourth Edition; which I like for it's own style of gaming.

I've been reading Swords and Wizardry: White Box rules 'ahem' guide 'ahem' recently and can see myself making my future one-off games use the book.