Monday, December 1, 2008

Rules, rules and more rules

I think it was last week or so that OSRIC v2.0 was released, coming in at whopping 400 pages. I suspect that I am probably the last person to blog about this, but it fits in nicely to my post from yesterday.

Old Rules Summary

As I mentioned yesterday, there are a number of "new" retro systems out on the market, many of which are actually free downloads. I will quickly summarize the versions as there many be some folks out there that are not familiar with the different retro systems:

Swords & Wizardry - OD&DLabyrinth Lord - Basic/expert D&D
BFRPG - Another version of Basic D&D
OSRIC - 1st edition (AD&D)
C&C - Rules light mix of 3rd edition & 1st ed

There could be some other versions out there, but I will use these as my examples when I mention the retro editions. Basically the authors have used the OGL to reverse engineer the old systems. As they have been out of print for at least a decade of so, the online community has taken it in their own hands and created these retro rule books. I do want to acknowledge the hard work of these authors and I appreciate what they are doing for the gaming community.

General Commentary

I suppose at some point I will take some time and read through all of these rules and provide a more comprehensive review. What I find interesting is the number of the retro rules and the number of blogs & forums that are out there. I have become more aware of them since 4th ed, and I am curious if these events are related, or mutually exclusive. A natural hypothesis would be that folks are becoming disenchanted with 4th ed, WotC, and the overflow of 3rd ed material, which is causing them to go back to the roots of the game. I would be inclined to agree with this position, however I was talking with Rob, my FLGS owner of Fat Ogre, and he states that 4th ed is selling very well, and it is being played in his store. This data point would seem to be at odds with the above mentioned hypothesis. There is the possibility that 4th ed is actually accomplishing is primary goal of attracting new players, but at the expense of the older players. I suspect that there maybe some truth in this theory, but I am not sure that I will be able to prove it conclusively. Still it is interesting to note that there seems to be a definite increase in the retro game movement. I will point out the popularity of some of the old school blogs is a relatively recent event, as some of these blogs did not exist a year ago. One thing that is clear is that there is an increase in the discussion of old school philosophy, which I find to be very refreshing.


Today I received my monthly goodness of Paizo's Pathfinder subscription products. What is very encouraging is that mail to China takes about a week, which in some cases is faster than some of the packages I received through the USPS. However, I must admit that the packages arrive fairly beat up, and I end up with product that is not quite in mint shape. Paizo ships out their Pathfinder subscriptions in cardboard envelopes that are only slightly larger than the products themselves. When I was receiving product via UPS back in the states, they would always ship this in an overpack box, which was very nice, and my Pathfinders always arrived in good shape. Unfortunately, now everything is going by 1st class international, which does not get an overpack box.


David Macauley said...

While it's true that the retro-clone/old school movement has seen a surge of interest since 4e, it was going strong well before that edition was released.

It would be more accurate to say the movement came about in reaction to 3e.

Dan Proctor, author of Labyrinth Lord, wrote a good piece about the subject on his blog: The Old-school "Revival": Origins, Current State, and Future; An open discussion

Mr Baron said...


I just read the blog article that you referenced, and it is indeed excellent. Thanks for sharing. I think his commentary about the creation of C&C and out of that spawned OSRIC as the old guard were not completely happy with the result is spot on. One just has to log onto Knights & Knaves Alehouse to pick up on that. I think this is a bit of a shame, as I think the C&C ruleset is a good mix of old & new, which is probably why it has enjoyed some commercial success. I also believe that having Gary's name on their flogship product helped a bit too.

To go back to your point, I think that the retro clone movement clearly began with the OGL, but it was really towards the end of 3rd ed, when it was clear that a 4th was coming out, that the movement really picked up speed.

I think there is a valid question in that was the fan base ready for a new edition, and maybe the answer is "Yes," but that only answers half the question. What is the market really looking for? We are definitely seeing a spliting of the fan base, and I think that WotC is responsible for that, as stewards of the brand.

The ultimate question is, "so what does that mean for our hobby, and how will that influence game design going forward?"

David Macauley said...

Speaking as someone who has no real interest in 3e (despite having played it for a year), and who has followed the retro-clone movement with great fascination, I really haven't seen a lot of attention given to the subject of 4e among the old school crowd. And I'm not talking bury your head in the sand and hope it goes away stuff, just a pure and simple lack of interest. If such a movement was a reaction to 4e and its immanent release, I would've expected a huge amount of ranting and raving (which of course was the case with 3e).

I truly think it had very little to do with 4e and everything to do with the slowly dawning revelation of just what could be accomplished with the OGL, and just how far that freedom could be stretched in recreating the older editions. This took time and it took 3e fans playing around with the OGL, blazing the trail so to speak, before the old school crowd took notice.

The questions and statements you make in the second part of your reply, are the same questions and statements people had put forward when 3e replaced 2e. And of course 3e went on to become hugely popular. It will certainly be interesting to look back, in say a year or two's time and see if 4e goes down the same track, or whether you're right about the fan base and we'll perhaps see them instead embracing Pathfinder, to 4e's detriment.

Either way, with the dissatisfaction of many 3e fans, combined with the availability of the retro-clones, the old school movement is benefiting in such a way that it never did (or could have) when 3e was released.

Mr Baron said...

Good points. I have posted some of my predictions for the game industry for 2009 & 2010.

I do believe that the old school movement will pick up momentum, but I am not sure how that will impact game design in the big production houses.

The ultimate question will be how does this impact design on 5th ed, or does a new version of the game take over.

I do believe that Pathfinder will do well, but I would not call that old school design.