A deceptive title... I know.
It was a day or two ago, I participated in an interesting thread about the various incarnations of D&D and the various retro-clones and various OSR re-interpretations available now and on all our respective gaming shelves. Of course, it's not the first time someone as issued statements like 'we have all the clones we need' or 'do we really need another OSR game that is basically doing the same thing many others have already done'.
It's a question that many OSR publishers and hobbyists have already asked. But this isn't what made the thread interesting. What made it interesting was what we do have on our shelves, why, and how we use these resources.
For instance, my goto game is Castles & Crusades. I stumbled upon C&C in 2006 and picked up the pair of books (the Players Handbook and Monsters & Treasures) just a few months of the M&T's first printing. Fortunately, I picked up the 2nd printing of the PHB because the first printing was just awful and likely would have deterred me from the game entirely. I was led to it when I was looking for a miniature-less alternative to D&D 3.5. Why? Beacause miniature-centric combat Feats ticked me off (among other things).
Castles & Crusades was not a clone of AD&D but borrowed heavily from it and updated the mechanics to be consistent with d20 as an OGL title. Many others began to follow. Some of the design philosophy served to be as close as possible to the original D&D games, which has seen many permutations itself. When I first became involved with Brave Halfling Publishing, I was finally exposed to the Swords & Wizardry White Box. In many ways, this truly was a great tribute to the OCE, 6th printing that OD&D received. The booklets were all assembled by hand and done with care. The box cover itself was pretty slick with artwork by Mark Allen. Here's a great picture of it alongside the OD&D box and the White Collector's Box for C&C (itself a tribute):
|From 'Strange Stones'
John Adams provided me a copy of the box set but it wasn't until 'Swords & Wizardry' became affiliated with Frog God Games that I really started to take notice. With one massive Kickstarter, the Swords & Wizardry Complete got the treatment it rightly deserved since, the game more or less positioned itself as baseline for other OSR related projects. Under the care of Frog God Games, it has thrived but remains deceptively simple to use with a growing array of resources. Resources like the 'Tome of Horrors Complete' and the sizable 'Monstrosities' book. 'Rapan Athuk' and 'The Black Monastery' for S&W grace the shelves alongside them. It was about a year ago that I made the decision to begin adapted Arcana Creations work for S&W as well at C&C.
Naturally, my shelves are full of D&D books. I have the Moldvay/Cook Basic and Expert D&D sets, the BECMI books as well as the D&D Cyclopedia, 1st and 2nd Edition AD&D books. The Adventures Dark & Deep: A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore became a great companion to my AD&D Volumes. Of course, I also have some D&D 3.5 books which I've trimmed down to 9 official releases. While there were great third party efforts which took me away from 3rd Edition, I couldn't quite part with all the book. Despite its flaws, there were a great many features which are great. Besides, 3rd Edition also brought about the OGL which made all these other games possible in the d20 era. For those curious, my 'top 9' 3rd Edition releases by Wizards of the Coast:
- Players Handbook (3.5)
- Dungeon Masters Guide (3.5)
- Monster Manual (3.5)
- Deities & Demigods
- Manual of the Planes
- Spell Compendium
- Magic Item Compendium
- Unearthed Arcana
- Rules Compendium
I never embraced Pathfinder and sold my Core Rulebook with a few months of owning it. With 3.5, there was little enough I was getting out of Pathfinder and, given that the book risked giving be carpal tunnel syndrome every time I picked the book up to consult something, I decided I could do without it. Given that Paizo is going the way of Wizards of the Coast with a machine of book and supplement additions to the Pathfinder library, I am glad I got out when I did. One thing I thing I truly disliked about the Pathfinder organization was the decision to cram so much in the one book EXCEPT creatures. The Bestiary that came out afterwards was a comparatively small volume and I could help observe that transplanting the magic items from the Core Rulebook to be put along with the Bestiary would have resulted in two books of similar page counts. This would have become a nice two-book paradigm the way that Castles & Crusades started (given that it went for years before the Castle Keepers Guide was produced).
As for 4th Edition, it was something of a disaster. The system itself has some potential and I did give it a fair shake and like most systems, who runs the game and who you game with make a huge difference on your enjoyment of it. The biggest problem with 4th Edition is how they took a second stab at producing it... allowing clarifications to seep in the revisions but trying not to create a new and premature edition to a game that was failing to gain a gaming foothold that the company had wanted. With Pathfinder gaining many adherents, the existing 4th Edition fanbase became split. The chips were down and it could very well be that the success of 4th Edition (or lack thereof) was one of the factors behind the reprinting of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Edition rulebooks and adventures. Even the OD&D material was re-released in a beautiful wooden box set (something I still desire to add to my shelf just for the sake of having it).
Now, with public playtesting over, we have what is referred to as 'D&D Next' or 5th Edition on the horizon prepared to hit this summer. Will it be a hit, or will it fall short of the mark. Time will certainly tell but with so many D&D type games available, it will be interesting to see how things will change in the years to come.
One thing for sure, there won't be any lack of D&D type games. ;)