What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Codex Egyptium

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Innovation vs Reorganization.

A recent thread on the TLG boards has irked me.

In short, it's a case where some people are in support of various retro-clones and those who are not.  Reasons will naturally vary from person to person and no one was out right trashing a particular game.  To me, some people just don't seem to get it.

FACT: With the lack of availability due to how a large company has decided to market the D&D brand, older iterations of the game are no longer available in any legal format.  This decision results in two things... an increase in piracy of this older and out-of-print material as well as the these newer 'simulacrum games' that seek to emulate a classic form of D&D.

If WOTC / Hasbro decided to do a series of reprints and made them available (even in a limited fashion), interest in the retro-clones would diminish somewhat and it may even curb some of the various pirating efforts.

In no way would these stop though... just diminish somewhat.  ;)

That said, there are games that will reorganize and present a set of rules to be as close as legally possible to a particular version of D&D and those that take a step more and try to introduce some sort of innovation to the game.

I don't care much for games which are pretty much clones of an existing ruleset.  I think they are great as a reference document and have a valid place given the lack of any other option.  However, given that there are so many of them now, it sometimes seems like the choice of one or the other might boil down to how well it is written and how nicely presented it comes off as being.  I mean, there is so little difference between some of the games if you consider the system mechanics.

On the other side, a game that takes the familiar and adds or changes a few things to does a much better job at catching my eye.

Jason Vey's excellent "Spellcraft & Swordplay" is a great example.  James Maliszewski (Grognardia) has an interesting review of the game and describes it aptly as a 'fascinating work of speculative game design' which effectively plays out as a 'what if' design scenario'.

Naturally, there is Castles & Crusades which is arguably the first OGL derivative of an older D&D style game.  There was some innovation there too.  Nothing big but the game retains the feel of an older frame work and adopts a few newer mechanics introduced in 3rd edition as well as the Siege mechanic.  As such, it effectively bridges various editions of D&D.

There is also Basic Fantasy RPG which does an interesting job of 'mixing things up' but doesn't adhere to a particular incarnation of D&D.  A fine system in it's own right and, like Spellcraft & Swordplay, often overshadowed by various retro-clones.

All three of these games utilized the d20 SRD to a degree and they are all OGL compliant.  None of these are an attempt to emulate a specific game and I think they might even be stronger for it.

That is not to say there aren't some great retro-clones out there.  I like the general direction that Labyrinth Lord has taken -- especially with the Companion.

In the end, all of these games exist because of our respective love for the games we play.



  1. Well now you've got me all curious. Care to post a link?

  2. Heh... Nothing major as far as the original thread goes. You can read it in its entirety here:


    I've had some of these thoughts on and off for a while now and what this thread boils down to a bit of stubbornness and the mincing of words. I've written about the desire to see different takes than just emulating an existing ruleset before and I believe that such efforts will bear greater fruit in the long run. However this does not invalidate the games that try to be faithful recreations either. The all fill a role and there is more than unifies then than divides them.

    But maybe I'm off base here.

    Please, if any readers are inclined, feel free to share your thoughts on the matter...