Dungeons & Dragons retro-clones

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Dungeons & Dragons retro-clones are restatements of Dungeons & Dragons rule editions no longer supported by Wizards of the Coast. They are mostly made possible by the terms of the Open Game License and System Reference Document, which allows the use of much of the proprietary terminology of Dungeons & Dragons that might otherwise collectively constitute a copyright infringement. While these rules lack the name Dungeons & Dragons or any of the associated trademarks, their intent is to have a playable experience similar to those older editions.

History[edit]

Game retro-clones were preceded by a number of other similar projects that made use of the D20 System, such as Basic Fantasy, and Castles & Crusades, which each presented a different version of the D20 game rules, which uses a twenty-sided die to determine important game outcomes.

Role-playing game publisher Matthew Finch was involved in the development of Castles & Crusades, serving as editor of the Player's Handbook, and was the initial author of OSRIC 1.0, which was afterward taken up by Stuart Marshall and released to the public in 2006 as a simulacrum of the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1977–1989). The release was met with minor online controversy, and served to prompt another game designer, Daniel Proctor, to write and release Labyrinth Lord in 2007, a more complete simulacrum of Dungeons & Dragons B/X (1981–1982). The following year, Finch announced the release of Swords & Wizardry, ostensibly a simulacrum of the original Dungeons & Dragons game (1974–1977). OSRIC 2.0 was released to the public in early 2009, which presented a more complete version of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules.

Many variants have appeared since the original release of OSRIC, as well as restatements of other editions of Dungeons & Dragons and other adventure role-playing games. The games are fostered and supported online by various forums and blogs, sometimes collectively referred to as the Old School Renaissance (OSR), but are also increasingly finding their way into brick and mortar game stores.

A faction of long-time Dungeons & Dragons fans prefer earlier editions to the current one and continue to play them. In addition, new games have been published which address the perceived inability of the current game to preserve the tone of classic D&D while still fixing some of the faulty rules of older versions. Castles & Crusades is one such example, utilizing the unified D20 mechanic of Third Edition while dropping what are often perceived as complications (Feats, Skills, Prestige Classes, etc.). Another alternative is HackMaster, which is a direct revision of 1st and 2nd edition AD&D with some added parody elements. Some variants have literally been around for decades, such as PrinceCon, which originated as D&D Convention in 1976, but by as early as 1979, its mechanics had already begun to diverge via local tailoring, typically in the form of streamlining to facilitate convention play. Recently, there has been a trend towards utilizing the permission of the Open Game License (OGL) to recreate the rules of earlier editions, and using those recreations to publish new material for the old games. In 2006, Rob Kuntz began releasing new material under his "Creations Unlimited" banner and also under the OGL. Similarly, Paizo Publishing has been working on a set of rules based on 3.5 which seeks to smooth out the rules inconsistencies that have grown up after 6 years of supplements. Their effort, Pathfinder, was released at Gen Con 2009.

In a similar manner, Chris Gonnerman used the d20 SRD to create Basic Fantasy RPG, and Goblinoid Games did the same to create Labyrinth Lord, both of which mirror the rules and flavor of the Tom Moldvay/David Cook/Steve Marsh D&D box sets.

Old School Reference & Index Compilation (OSRIC)[edit]

Main article: OSRIC
Old School Reference & Index Compilation (OSRIC)
Designer(s) Stuart Marshall
Publisher(s) First Edition Society
Black Blade Publishing
Publication date 2006 (1.0); 2009 (2.0)
Years active 2006-present
Genre(s) Fantasy
Playing time Varies
Random chance Dice rolling
Skill(s) required Role-playing, improvisation, tactics, arithmetic
Website www.knights-n-knaves.com/osric/

OSRIC, short for Old School Reference and Index Compilation, describes itself as "a compilation of rules for old school-style fantasy gaming...intended to reproduce underlying rules used in the late 1970s to early 1980s".[1] It is a role-playing game. Although OSRIC never refers to this directly for legal reasons, it is intended to reproduce the rules of the first edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.

The legal basis of the project is that rules may not be copyrighted, only the "artistic presentation" of those rules.[2] OSRIC uses the Open Gaming License and the System Reference Document to create a new artistic presentation of the underlying rules set.

The purpose of OSRIC is to provide publishers with a tool to legally produce gaming materials compatible with the non-copyrightable aspects of the underlying rules set. Gaming materials described as OSRIC-compatible alert potential users those materials may be compatible with the fantasy rules sets of the late 1970s and early 1980s (i.e. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons).[3]

The initial version of OSRIC was released in 2006. The latest version, OSRIC v. 2.00, was released in 2008.[4] The OSRIC rules are free to download from the game's site in PDF form.[5] In June 2009, hard copy versions of the rules became available from the Lulu Print-On-Demand service in 4 versions: hard bound in black and white, hard bound in color, paperback and paperback economy. The book remains available through print on demand, and Black Blade Publishing produced their own hardback imprint in summer 2011.[6]

Adventure modules and supplements[edit]

As of year end 2009, more than seventy-five products describe themselves as OSRIC-compatible.[7] More than a dozen distinct publishers have produced dozens of OSRIC-compatible adventure modules and OSRIC-compatible supplements.

Labyrinth Lord[edit]

Main article: Labyrinth Lord
Labyrinth Lord
Designer(s) Daniel Proctor
Publisher(s) Goblinoid Games
Publication date 2007 (original); 2009 (Revised Edition)
Years active 2007-present
Genre(s) Fantasy
Playing time Varies
Random chance Dice rolling
Skill(s) required Role-playing, improvisation, tactics, arithmetic
Website www.goblinoidgames.com/labyrinthlord.html

Labyrinth Lord (LL) is a fantasy role-playing game written and edited by Daniel Proctor and published by Goblinoid Games. It emulates the rules and feel of classic era Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) using the Open Game License (OGL) from Wizards of the Coast. LL borrows its inspiration from the 1981 "magenta box" D&D rule set revision edited by Tom Moldvay.[8]

Compatibility[edit]

Any adventure written to be played with classic D&D can be run using LL with little or no adjustment. However, there are a few differences between the two games. Rather than being released in separate Basic and Expert boxed sets like the version of D&D that it emulates, all of LL's rules are contained in a single volume. Another deviation from the source material is that characters can advance to 20th level (the 1981 Expert set only included levels up to 14). In addition, in a nod to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, clerics receive spells at first level. LL includes most of the same monsters, spells, and magic items as classic D&D, except for those designated as "product identity" by Wizards of the Coast.

Distribution[edit]

Goblinoid Games was the first retro-clone publisher to both make most content open under the Open Gaming License (OGL) and create a free trademark license with few restrictions. The material contained in the LL rules is available to others with few restrictions, allowing fans and other publishers alike to create their own derivative material for use with the system.[9] This is known in gaming circles as the Open Gaming Movement. The term "retro-clone" was coined by Goblinoid Games to describe its reproductions of classic D&D and other games and has caught on among RPG fans, who now use it to describe the recreation of any out of print and non-supported RPG rules created under the OGL. Besides Labyrinth Lord, other retro-clone RPGs from Goblinoid Games include GORE (which emulates Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest) and Mutant Future (which emulates TSR's Gamma World).

Labyrinth Lord is available as a free PDF download at the Goblinoid Games web site, and hard-copy versions of the rules can be purchased from the Lulu print on demand service and are available in hobby stores through traditional distribution networks. Additionally, Goblinoid Games has announced a partnership with Otherworld Miniatures, who will begin selling a line of official Labyrinth Lord miniatures starting in August 2010.[10]

Reception[edit]

Labyrinth Lord was a runner up in the Indie RPG Awards Best Free Game category in 2007,[11] and it received an Honorable Mention in the Best Game category of the 2010 Ennies.[12]

The Escapist recommended Labyrinth Lord in their 2009 Holiday Buyer's Guide. Comparing its tone to 4th Edition D&D's "zany, over-powered sensibility", they wrote, "Labyrinth Lord feels like a Vietnam War movie, where the dungeons are dark, wet, and terrifying, goblins murder all your friends with spiked-pit traps and crossbow bolts from the shadows, and you start to develop a thousand yard infravision stare from the spell shock."[13]

Labyrinth Lord has been translated in German, with the subtitle Herr der Labyrinthe under the original English title.[14] Bastian Ludwig made a positive review in Ringbote - das online Spielemagazin published by Pegasus spiele,[15] and also reviewed Labyrinth Lord material released in German, Die Larm-Chroniken (Morritz Melhem, Mantikore-Verlag 2010).[16] An Italian translation, subtitled Il Signore dei Labirinti has been published in 2009 under the Goblinoid Games logo.[17]

Spellcraft & Swordplay[edit]

Spellcraft & Swordplay
Designer(s) Jason Vey
Publisher(s) Elf Lair Games
Publication date 2008, Basic Game 2011
Years active 2008-present
Genre(s) Fantasy
Playing time Varies
Random chance Dice rolling
Skill(s) required Role-playing, improvisation, tactics, arithmetic
Website www.elflair.com/products.html

Spellcraft & Swordplay (S&S) is published by Elf Lair Games and developed by veteran game designer Jason Vey who had previously worked on All Flesh Must Be Eaten, Nightbane and Castles & Crusades. S&S is a re-imagining of the original edition Dungeons & Dragons with the original Chainmail combat rules based upon the 2d6 Man to Man table retained and expanded, and has been described as an interesting What If style of game.[18] Advances in the game above other simulacra include a unified task resolution mechanic and ability based skills and saving throws. Along with combat, all tasks are resolved with two 6-sided dice (2d6), adding minimal bonuses, and attempting to hit a static target number.[19] The game also introduced Elite Paths to classes for characters to specialize in some aspect of their chosen class.

Supplements[edit]

S&S was followed by Monstrous Mayhem which introduced new Elite Paths (advanced class customizations), magic and monsters. New rules included rules for thugs and feats of legerdemain and hedge magic.

The Basic Game was released in 2011 for free with rules to play to 3rd level.[20]

Distribution[edit]

Spellcraft & Swordplay is released under the OGL. Copies are available from both Lulu.com Print on Demand and One Bookshelf services such as DriveThruRPG and RPGNow as Print on Demand and PDF.

Swords & Wizardry[edit]

Swords & Wizardry
Designer(s) Matthew Finch
Publisher(s) Mythmere Games via Black Blade Publishing and Brave Halfling Publishing
Publication date 2008
Years active 2008-present
Genre(s) Fantasy
Playing time Varies
Random chance Dice rolling
Skill(s) required Role-playing, improvisation, tactics, arithmetic
Website www.swordsandwizardry.com

Swords & Wizardry (S&W) developed by Mythmere Games, owes its roots to the original edition (or "OE") of Dungeons and Dragons from 1974. Like OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord, a free version is available for download from its website. Swords & Wizardry won the Silver for the 2009 ENnie Award for Best Free Product.[21]

On September 4, 2012, Swords & Wizardry completed its Kickstarter Campaign receiving $78,189, surpassing their original goal of $10,000.

Mazes & Perils RPG[edit]

Mazes & Perils
Designer(s) Vincent Florio
Publisher(s) WG Productions, LLC
Publication date 2011 (1.0); 2012 (2.0)
Years active 2011-present
Genre(s) Fantasy
Playing time Varies
Random chance Dice rolling
Skill(s) required Role-playing, improvisation, tactics, arithmetic
Website www.wildgamesproductions.com

Mazes & Perils RPG (M&P), which won the 2013 ENnie Award for Best Free Game[22] is a clone developed by WG Productions, LLC, owes its roots to the Holmes edited edition of Dungeons and Dragons from 1978. Like OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord, a free version is available for download from its website and RPGNOW in PDF.

Compatibility[edit]

M&P is a "What if" clone, taking the game from levels 1 to 3 and expanding it up to level 12.

BLUEHOLME[edit]

BLUEHOLME
Designer(s) Michael Thomas
Publisher(s) Dreamscape Design
Publication date 2013 (Prentice Rules 1.1)
Years active 2013-present
Genre(s) Fantasy
Playing time Varies
Random chance Dice rolling
Skill(s) required Role-playing, improvisation, tactics, arithmetic
Website dreamscapedesign.net

BLUEHOLME Prentice Rules were developed by Dreamscape Design as a simulacrum of the original 1978 "Holmes" edition of Basic Dungeons and Dragons. The game is freely available as a PDF. An expanded version called BLUEHOLME Compleat Rules is in production.

Compatibility[edit]

BLUEHOLME is readily interchangeable with the "Holmes" Basic Set and the "Original Edition", and (with some conversion) with the other "Classic" D&D rule sets. Because the Prentice Rules are a close-to-original simulacrum they only cover character levels 1 through 3. The promised Compleat Rules is planned to cover levels 1 through 20.

Distribution[edit]

BLUEHOLME Prentice Rules are released under the OGL. Copies are available at no cost from One Bookshelf services such as DriveThruRPG and RPGNow in PDF format. A print-on-demand version is expected to be released later according to the publisher.

Dark Dungeons[edit]

Dark Dungeons
Designer(s) "Blacky the Blackball"
Publisher(s) Self-published
Publication date 2010
Years active 2010-present
Genre(s) Fantasy
Playing time Varies
Random chance Dice rolling
Skill(s) required Role-playing, improvisation, tactics, arithmetic
Website www.gratisgames.webspace.virginmedia.com

Dark Dungeons, like Labyrinth Lord, is a fantasy role-playing game that emulates the rules and feel of classic era D&D via the OGL, albeit a different edition from that era. The primary inspiration for Dark Dungeons is the 1991 Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia, with secondary inspiration (particularly for the cosmology of the default game setting) coming from the 1989 Spelljammer campaign setting. The name Dark Dungeons and the names of the sample characters (and their players) found in examples throughout the text are used in parody of the Chick Tract of the same name.

Compatibility[edit]

Because Dark Dungeons emulates the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia, which itself contains collected and edited rules from the basic, expert, companion, and master boxed sets published from 1983–1985, it is strongly compatible with most adventures and supplements designed for those sets. However, while Dark Dungeons does include rules for immortal level play, those rules are primarily inspired by the 1993 Wrath of the Immortals supplement to the Rules Cyclopedia and are therefore not readily compatible with adventures and supplements designed for the 1985 immortals boxed set.

Distribution[edit]

Dark Dungeons is released under a hybrid license. Although all original text found in the work has been placed in the public domain, it contains various terms and names that it uses under the terms of the OGL, and those terms and names can only be re-used under that same license. Dark Dungeons is available as a free PDF download at the author's web site, and hard-copy versions of the rules can be purchased from the Lulu print on demand service.

Periodicals[edit]

The following periodicals include simulacrum-compatible content:

  • Classic Fantasy Review by Goblinoid Games
  • Fight On! by Fight On! Publications
  • Knockspell Magazine by Swords & Wizardry
  • Old-School Gazzette by XRP
  • Oubliette Magazine by Gold Piece Publication
  • Scribe of Orcus by Goblinoid Games
  • Zor Draxtau by Usherwood Adventures
  • Gygax Magazines by TSR Games

See also[edit]

There are a number of free role-playing products which similarly attempt to reproduce the rules and/or 'feel' of early game systems.

  • Basic Fantasy is an old-school roleplaying game in the style of Tom Moldvay and Zeb Cook, editors of the 1981 D&D Basic and Expert sets.
  • Beyond Heroes is a re-imagining of the second edition Dungeons and Dragons rules, but for all eras and multiple genres such as superheroes and far future space.
  • Mazes and Minotaurs is presented as a re-imagining of early Dungeons and Dragons, but based on Greek mythology rather than northern European.
  • Mutant Future is a post-apocalyptic science-fantasy game, compatible with Labyrinth Lord.
  • X-Plorers is a science fiction space exploration game in the old-school tradition.
  • Dungeon World is an attempt to recapture the feel of early Dungeons & Dragons, although uses the Powered by the Apocalypse engine rather than attempts to model historical rules.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "About OSRIC". Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  2. ^ "US Copyright Office". Retrieved 2008-05-22. 
  3. ^ Yourgamesnow.com, retrieved 14 June 2010.
  4. ^ "RPGNet Info on OSRIC". Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  5. ^ "Download OSRIC". Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  6. ^ "OSRIC". Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  7. ^ "OSRIC-Compatible Products". Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  8. ^ Varney, Allen. "Retro-clones". The Escapist. Retrieved 27 July 2010. 
  9. ^ Labyrinth Lord, Release #3 April 2008, Foreword
  10. ^ Richard Scott and Daniel Proctor. "Goblinoid Games and Otherworld Miniatures team up!". Uhluht'c Awakens. Retrieved 31 July 2010. 
  11. ^ "2007 Indie RPG Awards". Indie RPG Awards. Retrieved 29 July 2010. 
  12. ^ "2010 ENnie Nominees". ENnie Awards Blog. Retrieved 27 July 2010. [dead link]
  13. ^ The Escapist Staff. "The Escapist's Holiday Buyer's Guide". The Escapist. Retrieved 27 July 2010. 
  14. ^ Herr der Labyrinthe staff. "Offizielle deutsche Seite zu "Labyrinth Lord"". Herr der Labyrinthe. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  15. ^ Bastian Ludwig. "Herr der Labyrinthe". Ringbote - das online Spielemagazin. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  16. ^ Bastian Ludwig. "Die Larm-Chroniken". Ringbote - das online Spielemagazin. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  17. ^ Dan Proctor (2009), Labyrinth Lord. Il Signore del Labirinti. Goblinoid games. See also Il Signore dei Labirinti.
  18. ^ James Maliszewski. "REVIEW: Spellcraft & Swordplay". Retrieved 5 July 2012. 
  19. ^ Matt Slepin (2008), Review of Spellcraft & Swordplay -- Fantasy Role-Playing Game, RPGNet, retrieved July 5, 2012 
  20. ^ "Spellcraft & Swordplay Basic Game". Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  21. ^ ENWorld (2009), 2009 Nominees and Winners, ENWorld, retrieved July 9, 2012 
  22. ^ 2013 ENnie Award Winners

External links[edit]