What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Immortal Figures: Gods of Olympus

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

When Old is New Again...

There has been some talk recently about the OSR becoming overwhelmed with the continual flood of new retro-clones amongst those which are already available. There have also been some interesting developments with some of the larger publishers around. While it's obvious that nostalgia plays a part in wanting to re-experience and play older games, some of the appeal is also with simpler or just better streamlined game mechanics. Other times, it might be a desire not to be tied down by a complicated set of rules.

Smaller groups and hobby-publishers are putting out, largely due to he OGL, games that run like an older and out-of-print game or material to support such games (whether it be the original game or a clone of it). Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, and Swords & Wizardry are three of the more popular and well known ones. These three in particular have also managed to reach a greater share of the market place with material being written to support the system or getting the system itself into a larger distribution network. The White Box Edition of Swords & Wizardry is receiving the Brave Halfling Publishing treatment and a version of this will be entering retail distribution later this year.

I believe that various other publishers have taken notice though. The pen and pater adaptation of the Dragon Age RPG is being released as a series of box sets which is reminiscent to how the old D&D box sets were broken up. Information can be found HERE.

Before Dragon Age though, you had Kenzer & Company release HackMaster Basic which sports a rather nifty Erol Otus cover which harkens back to the cover pieces he did for the Moldvay B/X D&D sets. More information can be found HERE.


What is interesting is the recent move by Wizards of the Coast. With what many would consider mixed success and reception of 4th Edition D&D, WOTC has decided to release a line separate from their main 4th Edition line which they are calling the D&D Essentials line. This September, they will be releasing a new starter set for 4th edition which includes... you guessed it... the basics. You will be able to play one of the four basic classes (wizard, fighter, cleric, rogue) as either a human, elf, dwarf, or halfling. Since the game is still 4th edition, there are counters and power cards, a book for players, and a book for the GM, and of course some dice. Oh... and another thing -- it's red.

It's a spitting image of the Metzer D&D boxset and it looks like they have a whole line of these planned in terms of support material. Since 4th Edition is set up for three tiers of play, it also makes an easy task of creating other box sets for the line. More importantly, it looks like this might be a way to get this into a wider distribution base (think toy stores people thanks to Hasbro's reach). The price is also 'right'. Instead of dumping $60 - $100 on the three core books, you can buy a $20 box set. Sure, it won't contain everything and it will maintain compatibility with the main 4th edition line but this does change the picture a bit. Who knows? It might be more successful for them to go this route because you know that these would be potentially less expensive to produce than the hardcovers. It's a great idea and, while I briefly owned and then sold my 4th Edition PHB (after giving it a fair shake), I confess that I'm intrigued by this approach.

Beyond this move, I have heard other publishers thinking of similar moves as people are starting to pay attention to what the old-school community is doing. While this is not a bad thing, there is a continual influx of material aimed towards the same people in the hobby. The waters are starting to look a bit cloudy and those who have already made a stake in this (Troll Lord Games with Castles & Crusades) will need to step up their game. Otherwise, they risk being taken away and lost in the current.

M