Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I Want an OD&D Clone

I know I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: in my ongoing Dwimmermount campaign, I'm using Labyrinth Lord as the base for my ruleset, but I am modifying it by using bits of both Original Edition Characters and Advanced Edition Companion to bring it closer to the LBB + Supplements flavor of D&D I prefer these days. It works pretty well, all things considered, but, even so, I still find there are things I need to house rule in order to bring it closer to what I want out of the game. That's not a knock against Labyrinth Lord by any means. It's a very good game and I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that Original Edition Characters is probably the closest we've yet seen among the clones to a "pure" re-statement of the original rules.

I still think it'd be nice, though, if there were a stand-alone volume that (perhaps with a single supplemental volume) gave me OD&D without any contemporary accretions, so far as that's legally possible. To a certain extent, simply taking Labyrinth Lord, swapping in the material from Original Edition Characters and making a few other changes here and there (like ditching certain spells -- know alignment, I'm looking at you) gets you about 80% of the way there, maybe more. But I can't point my players or other interested parties toward a single book or PDF that gives them all the goods. OEC isn't a complete game but rather a supplement to LL and, while I appreciate the reasons for that, I think it'd be very helpful to have a complete-in-one-volume OD&D clone. It'd be really useful too for newcomers interested in the origins of the game, so we can all point them toward this clone and say, "OD&D was like this."

In the course of working on Dwimmermount, I've been slowly producing a document, one that uses Labyrinth Lord as a base and then makes changes to bring it as close to OD&D as I can under the terms of the OGL. When I'm done with it, I'll pretty it up a bit and make it freely available as a text file. Maybe some day I'll even give it a proper layout, some art, and sell the thing, but that's not my immediate plan. I already own the LBBs + Supplements, so there's no need on my end for such a clone, but I don't imagine every gamer out there interested in giving the original game a whirl owns them all. So, I think there's utility in such a project, even if it's limited to a few weirdos like me.

81 comments:

  1. I would probably attempt this if I actually had the OD&D box set to reference ...

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  2. Well, that begs the question, "which OD&D do you want?"

    The OD&D that was just the three LBB's, using the combat rules from Chainmail? The one that included Greyhawk, and the alternative combat system? The one that included Blackmoore? Eldritch Wizardry? That's 8 "canon" versions of OD&D right there (different books plus the optional combat system). That doesn't even touch the various articles from SR or TD...

    I think you'll find it difficult to say "OD&D was like this", because there was never one single "this" that OD&D was like.

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  3. So, James, are you saying Swords & Wizardry's White Box does not fit that niche? It's a free pdf download and it's one book. I have been using the Core book with a group of students here where I teach. They love it.

    But I get the feeling, you're trying to house rule less and I do not believe that is possible with either the OD&D or with any clone. Good luck in your search though.

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  4. I want an OD&D clone too. S&W doesn't cut it for me and my players are afraid of getting fingerprints on my LBBs. I'd especially love a Book 1: Men & Magic clone that collates the character classes, spells, and variable weapon damage from Supplements 1-3. This would be perfect for me!

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  5. If WOTC just bound the LBBs + Chainmail into one soft-bound "classic" book, I'm guessing it would sell a lot of copies. Seems like semi-free money.

    Hell, make the whole thing OGL while I'm fantasizing. :)

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  6. Joseph said: "The OD&D that was just the three LBB's, using the combat rules from Chainmail? The one that included Greyhawk, and the alternative combat system?"

    The LBBs include both the option for Chainmail-style combat and the "Alternative Combat System" (Vol-1, p. 19). Greyhawk's not part of that.

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  7. I would love to be able to own the original boxed set without spending a fortune, even if it was re-titled, re-written, and not even a boxed set. :)

    S&W has too many tweaks and house rules to fit the bill, sadly.

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  8. "Well, that begs the question, 'which OD&D do you want?'"

    Credit to James, he seems to have done a fair job illustrating that with image at the top of the post. :)

    In a perfect world, I'd take two seperate products: A LBB-only main book and a big old compendium with all the material from the supplements, both 99+% conforming to the originals, warts and all.

    Now *that* would be a dream come true.

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  9. I'd be sure to download it. I hope you tackle this James.

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  10. I wish I had more time (don't we all) I somewhat started down the path of trying to provide a brown box system reference document.

    http://www.kirith.com/rulebook/brown-box/srd/article/

    But I didn't want to actually read the ODD books so that I wouldn't be infringing on copyright. I started taking all the charts and putting them into a wiki, but then I had real life start creeping into my free time and never got around to completing it.

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  11. I think the answer to this problem is always going to be: make your own document. The fact is, old school really encourages this kind of buffet style rules building which directly conflicts with our nature to want one book to rule them all.

    Myself, I play Labyrinth Lord, but with the original B/X spells and equipment back-ported, but also a custom race/class split system... wait, what are we playing?

    Ultimately I dumped the LL pdf to text and just modified it with all my customizations and came out with my own document. I keep a couple print outs of it at my table for reference while we play. I even made pretty bindings for them. It's why we call it DIY gaming.

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  12. Not really, Will, since the picture at the top of the post is of the original white boxed set, and yet James makes reference to the supplements. There are variations possible even within those sub-sets...

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  13. If you really just want it for use at your personal gaming table, then just photocopy your boxed set. WOTC isn't going to bother suing you over 4 copies at your table for a game that they refuse to sell even though they could sell copies of it. The company doesn't actually care about the copyright of the original game, they just care about the brand name and current edition sales. The original game is not profitable enough for them to bother selling it, so it's definitely not profitable enough to bother suing. Now obviously if you are talking about putting something up online that anyone can legally download that's something else, but for actual use at the gaming table just photocopy it.

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  14. Honestly, maybe just a re-purposing of the Reference Sheets would do the trick...

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  15. This begs the question, especially for those of us who don't have any LBB to refer to, what makes S&W WB not work?

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  16. I heard you the first time, although whether I'll be able to complete what I've started or whether it will meet your needs. I do make a couple tiny changes in order to compress the tables and save space, since I want to be able to fit all the tables necessary in play to one or two sheets. Ideally, a GM would read a booklet that explained the rules, then never refer to the booklet in play, only to the charts.

    It's still on-going. So far, the most interesting results of this are the discovery that the clerical turning table is basically identical to reaction rolls and compressing all the scattered 1 in 6/2 in 6 rolls into a three-line table. Where it will diverge the most from the LBBs is the absence of spell and monster lists, at least in the SRD; instead, there will be construction rules to build such a list.

    Check out some of my design notes posts and let me know where you think things can be compressed or simplified further.

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  17. Well, that begs the question, "which OD&D do you want?"

    To start, I want the LBBs only. This will necessarily require excluding references to Chainmail since Chainmail isn't available as open content in any form.

    I think you'll find it difficult to say "OD&D was like this", because there was never one single "this" that OD&D was like.

    That's certainly true to an extent, but I think it's possible to do a reasonable job of presenting the bare rules -- complete with ambiguities -- from the LBBs in a form that's nevertheless intelligible to a contemporary reader.

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  18. My question is the same as Andreas'. I know about the ascending AC issue, and the Monster level stuff, but what else?

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  19. @Paul: That is so awesome. I'm holding back a string of excited expletives out of respect of James' blog.

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  20. Talysman said: "Where it will diverge the most from the LBBs is the absence of spell and monster lists, at least in the SRD; instead, there will be construction rules to build such a list."

    The issue of the spell list is just what my OED: Book of Spells was meant to solve. Historically D&D spells were mostly copy-and-pasted forwards with accretions, so I could take the official SRD and just chop out the non-OD&D stuff (mostly).

    Link.

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  21. But I get the feeling, you're trying to house rule less and I do not believe that is possible with either the OD&D or with any clone.

    Actually, that's not my point at all. My point is that I don't there is currently a single-volume clone product that gives us OD&D without extensive house rules already included.

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  22. S&W has too many tweaks and house rules to fit the bill, sadly.

    I agree; that's why I abandoned it as my ruleset of choice after a while. I spent a lot of time removing so many changes to OD&D from S&W that I felt I might as well just go back to the original.

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  23. In a perfect world, I'd take two seperate products: A LBB-only main book and a big old compendium with all the material from the supplements, both 99+% conforming to the originals, warts and all.

    That's precisely what I'd like to see too.

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  24. I wish I had more time (don't we all) I somewhat started down the path of trying to provide a brown box system reference document.

    Oh, nice! Thanks.

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  25. Honestly, maybe just a re-purposing of the Reference Sheets would do the trick...

    Which ones?

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  26. James, I'm getting a little confused when you use the term S&W are you referring to "White Box," "Core" or both?

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  27. This begs the question, especially for those of us who don't have any LBB to refer to, what makes S&W WB not work?

    The differences between even WB and LBB-only OD&D significant, beyond even the ascending AC and unified saving throw, such the lack of most of the dungeoneering and wilderness exploration rules, to cite two obvious examples. I could present a big list, if you really want, but this isn't about S&W so much as the fact that I'd just like an OD&D clone that hews closely to the original in terms of content.

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  28. Check out some of my design notes posts and let me know where you think things can be compressed or simplified further.

    Thanks for reminding me of these posts! I was trying to remember where I'd seen them.

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  29. I think it's a useful exercise (one that I'm currently about 50% done with myself) for anyone trying to come to grips with OD&D to write their own clone of the three LBB's. Organize it in a way that makes sense to you and your players, but hew as closely as possible to the originals.

    I've learned a lot by doing this.

    One of the main problems/decisions is what to do about the ambiguities and omissions in the originals. You must decide whether to preserve those ambiguities or to clarify them. I've settled on mostly preserving the ambiguities, and providing filler for the omissions in an appendix.

    If my lawyer gives it the thumbs-up, I'll release my clone as a free PDF (along with the LaTeX source files).

    I encourage everybody interested in this kind of thing to give clone writing a try for themselves. Don't worry about having too many clones around; filtering for the best content is one of the things the internet does well.

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  30. Oh, most important thing you have to import from Chainmail: ranges for missile weapons.

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  31. I know about the ascending AC issue, and the Monster level stuff, but what else?

    There's a lot of rules missing from S&W, such as the dungeoneering and wilderness rules, for example, as well as treasure types and lots of other stuff. It's not any single thing that's missing that's the issue so much as the combined weight of all the little changes. In the end, S&W feels more like a new game inspired by OD&D than an OD&D clone proper.

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  32. The issue of the spell list is just what my OED: Book of Spells was meant to solve.

    Which is why I'm so fond of the Book of Spells -- even if you do give a saving throw to magic missile ;-)

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  33. James, I'm getting a little confused when you use the term S&W are you referring to "White Box," "Core" or both?

    Both. Most of the things I dislike about S&W's approach are features in both White Box and Core; indeed, they're important features of S&W's brand identity.

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  34. The differences between even WB and LBB-only OD&D significant, beyond even the ascending AC and unified saving throw, such the lack of most of the dungeoneering and wilderness exploration rules, to cite two obvious examples. I could present a big list, if you really want, but this isn't about S&W so much as the fact that I'd just like an OD&D clone that hews closely to the original in terms of content.

    Actually, I would love to see that big list.

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  35. Hey Will Mistretta -- just curious, what constitutes "spending a fortune?" Everybody's budget is different, but I ask because I'm seeing sets starting at about the MSRP of two mass market DVDs, or roughly what DMG+MM+PH+FF cost all those years ago.

    (The $10 auction on eBay probably has a higher reserve price but contains a lot of great extras.)

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  36. 0d&d is simply a house ruled game that gary and arneson worked up of chainmail.

    0d&d failed at fully expanding the chainmail rules (4th level heroes kept 1d6 dmg, yet wizards experienced no loss of puissance with their artillery fireballs.

    The subsequent supplements to 0d&d through Greyhawk and culminating in Ad&d was an attempt to rebalance many things that got lost in the jump from chainmail to d&d (by the time of Ad&d a 4th level fighter had the chance to kill an ogre in 1 round as it was in chainmail two-handed sword+exceptional strength bonus...something the magic-user never lost the ability to do in the transition). Better off starting with chainmail; looking at the changes they made to translate it into d&d and then fix their mistakes.

    It will answer questions like, "should magic missile automatically hit?"

    answer: Magic Arrows in chainmail did not require a to hit roll, but struck automatically--this rule is the basis for the developement of the magic missile spells well known ability.


    Simply, making a clone with strict fidelity to 0d&d is a fools errand. One should make a game of D&D from chainmail, just like gary and areneson did!

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  37. I encourage everybody interested in this kind of thing to give clone writing a try for themselves. Don't worry about having too many clones around; filtering for the best content is one of the things the internet does well.

    I think this is excellent advice. I've actually thought something similar for a while now.

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  38. Oh, most important thing you have to import from Chainmail: ranges for missile weapons.

    Yeah, there's no much in Chainmail that's required in order to be able to play OD&D straight from the LBBs. Certainly quite a bit of context is lost with it, but that's part of the fun :)

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  39. Actually, I would love to see that big list.

    I never worked one up myself, but I've seen them in various places online. I'm sure others could point you toward them. For me, ascending AC, the unified save, way abilities and XP are handled, the lack of dungeon/wilderness rules, and the treasure system alone are issues enough.

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  40. Everybody's budget is different, but I ask because I'm seeing sets starting at about the MSRP of two mass market DVDs, or roughly what DMG+MM+PH+FF cost all those years ago.

    You can get LBB sets for under $100 with relative ease, but they're often in bad shape and, speaking for myself, if I'm going to spend that kind of cash on a game, even an old one, I expect it to be in good shape.

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  41. If you were going to do your own re-write, this would be a good place to start without having to do a lot of re-typing from the originals:

    http://members.cox.net/brucemohler/dnd/odnd.html

    It's missing some of the stuff you said you wanted, but at least you wouldn't need to start from scratch.

    Is it open content? Nooooo. In fact, I'm pretty sure that guy's whole site isn't a clone, but basically is just a straight copy with some re-org and clarification. But for your own usage, you definitely could go from here.

    Hope that helps!

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  42. @Delta:
    "The issue of the spell list is just what my OED: Book of Spells was meant to solve."

    Indeed... I plan on putting recommendation to GMs to use published spell lists (or other lists) if they'd rather not work up all the spells themselves. The construction rules are meant to compress the final document. Plus, I'm trying to keep the expression of the rules different while making the results as close as possible.

    Oh, and I need to talk to you about Target 20, too. I didn't see licensing info in it, but I want to refer to it.

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  43. @Paul:
    "One of the main problems/decisions is what to do about the ambiguities and omissions in the originals. You must decide whether to preserve those ambiguities or to clarify them."

    My own solution is: if there are two possible interpretations of a rule and no clear way to decide which is correct, mention both as possible choices. I'm going to have to do that with the % In Lair rule and how to roll hit dice, for example.

    Similarly, when a rule is missing because the LBBs refer to Chainmail, I'm looking stuff up in Chainmail to determine the intent, but expressing the result in terms of the alternative combat system.

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  44. @ Talysman

    I just wanted to express interest in your project and say that I think the work you've done so far is quite excellent. I especially like the idea of extrapolating the intent of Chainmail rules into the "alternative" combat system.

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  45. I believe "keeping the warts and all" and "accessible for newcomers" are in some aspect opposite goals.

    I wonder if at the end of such a project, if the author really went with the "accessible for newcomers" way, the result wouldn't look like, at least in concept if not precise rule explanations, to something similar to Swords & Wizardry.

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  46. Talysman said: "Oh, and I need to talk to you about Target 20, too. I didn't see licensing info in it, but I want to refer to it."

    I figure the status is equivalent to "THACO" (developed outside TSR) -- go ahead and use it, naming me is extra-nice. (delta at superdan.net if you need more)!

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  47. @ Dom

    One difference we might expect to see in such a hypothetical clone would be the inclusion on wilderness and dungeoneering mechanics. They're omission from S&W is a black mark on what is otherwise my favorite expression of D&D.

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  48. I believe "keeping the warts and all" and "accessible for newcomers" are in some aspect opposite goals.

    The only way in which I care about "accessible to newcomers" is in the literal sense, namely, there's a book available that encapsulates the contents of the LBBs so far as that's legally possible. Whether it's intelligible to someone coming to it fresh is a different matter entirely.

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  49. One difference we might expect to see in such a hypothetical clone would be the inclusion on wilderness and dungeoneering mechanics.

    Their inclusion is essential.

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  50. Damn... I just noticed I mixed up their and they're...

    /shame/

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  51. "Their inclusion is essential."

    I totally agree. I'm not entirely sure how one would expect to run a game of D&D without them, especially if we are to believe the assertion that this is a game about exploration.

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  52. The most important issue, of course, would be what to call it...

    Curse computer games for stealing all the really obvious titles like "Might & Magic." :)

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  53. "The only way in which I care about "accessible to newcomers" is in the literal sense, namely, there's a book available that encapsulates the contents of the LBBs so far as that's legally possible. Whether it's intelligible to someone coming to it fresh is a different matter entirely."

    Ok, what you basically want is a legal paraphrasing of the original texts.
    I'd be curious to see how it comes out.

    On another note, isn't S&W Complete supposed to include the dungeoneering and wilderness rules from OD&D (or at least an adaptation) that are missing from Core and WB?

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  54. What about Dark Dungeons? It's a retro-clone of the red-blue-green box games, it's free to download and the hardbound copy is super-cheap

    http://darkdungeonsblog.wordpress.com/get-it-now/

    Max

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  55. I think anyone who plans on writing a clone of OD&D for anything other than underground distribution will, (upon considering the relative value of losing his house in a lawsuit), end up with something essentially like Swords & Wizardry (different in the particulars, but with the same number/scope of diversions from the "official" rules - which is a misnomer in any case).

    If the plan is to distribute it underground, you might as well start with a cut-and-pasted pdf of the original, because you're going to end up with a derivative work (in the legal sense) anyway. Too much of OD&D is copyrightable and not in the SRD.

    The best plan for what you're looking for is either to cut and paste the pdf, if you own a legal one, or to just photocopy for personal use.

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  56. There's a similar conversation going on over at Gringle's Pawnshop, about the RQ2 clone "Glyphmaster" that's being worked on. What should the goal be? My opinion was to reproduce in some format a document you can give to potential players that allows them to play in a RQ2 game. Not "updated," or "modernized," or house-ruled, but the original game (with the understanding that verbatim can cause legal problems). That's a clone, rather than a re-imagining as each of us individually would choose to play today. Then everyone at the table, across the internet, and at the convention has the same reference document. Add a sheet of house rules as necessary. Looks like that's what you're looking for here, too.

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  57. "I think anyone who plans on writing a clone of OD&D for anything other than underground distribution will, (upon considering the relative value of losing his house in a lawsuit), end up with something essentially like Swords & Wizardry"

    Wow... Witness Finch here trying to actually scare people out of doing a better job as a game designer than he was able to.

    Pathetic beyond words.

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  58. Hey, Will, I'm allowed to defend the way I did things. If you're going to start calling names based on that, it's your decision to go there, but it's pretty childish.

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  59. Than tell me this, Mr. Finch: Where is Dan Proctor's house now? After all, he's done a much better job than you with Labyrinth Lord of accurately "cloning" his D&D version of choice. If you're not engaging in silly fearmongering, maybe you could detail exactly when and how his home was seized by sinister forces?

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  60. Matt's providing sensible words of caution. Copyright is a murky area of law, and something which must be a design consideration for any publicly released retro-clone. Before you start writing, decide what you'll do if WotC sends a C&D letter.

    Writing a clone is a worthwhile project for me even if I never publicly release it, or have to pull the PDF's as soon as WotC sees them. That might not be the case for others.

    There's no need for personal attacks here.

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  61. "There's no need for personal attacks here.

    I will always feel a need to "attack" stupid ideas and innuendos. Their sources are irrelevant.

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  62. Will, I don't know the specifics of S&W creation but I think a key phrase from what Matt Finch said (whether you believe it to be true or not) is:
    "Too much of OD&D is copyrightable and not in the SRD."

    OD&D. In the case of Dan Proctor, it was B/X. Maybe much more of B/X is available legally in the SRD.

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  63. The SRD is also a red herring in this case, since one cannot legally trademark/copyright game mechanics.

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  64. It's the copyrightability of table formats and the "similarity of appearance and presentation" test that generally worry me. Although if you're going to use words like "stirge," the SRD is far from a red herring.

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  65. I would just like to say two things:

    1) Yes, I'd love a very faithful clone to the LBBs plus Supps 1-3 (and throw in G,DG, & H while we are it)

    2) The reason being is because,like a complete freakin' idiot I sold my original LBBs & supps (among other things) about 5 or 6 years ago.

    :doh:

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  66. The closer you get to the "Real Thing" the closer to a potential lawsuit you will be. There is still a legality cloud hanging over OSRIC in case some of you (Will) forgot. Better off having something close, than having nothing at all.

    Don't forget there is also The Gray Book pdf floating around out there, although it's legality is in question as well, obviously.
    http://odd74.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=holmes&action=display&thread=2472

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  67. I find S&W and LL perfectly serviceable for my needs; and if I'm honest, am somewhat puzzled by the desire to produce an exact copy in all but name. The underlying system is simple enough to house rule back to authenticity if that's your aim.

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  68. The SRD is also a red herring in this case, since one cannot legally trademark/copyright game mechanics.

    That might be true but it does not help if a company with deep pockets decides to take legal action anyway. I don't think a "RPG Legal Defense Fund" will come to the rescue of a small press publisher.

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  69. On another note, isn't S&W Complete supposed to include the dungeoneering and wilderness rules from OD&D (or at least an adaptation) that are missing from Core and WB?

    That could well be the case; I haven't kept on top of everything that's being added to the Complete version of S&W. Is there a list anywhere of all the changes being made to the Core Rules?

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  70. What about Dark Dungeons? It's a retro-clone of the red-blue-green box games, it's free to download and the hardbound copy is super-cheap

    Dark Dungeons is very well done for what it is, but it's a bit far removed from the LBBs mechanically and stylistically for my needs.

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  71. I think anyone who plans on writing a clone of OD&D for anything other than underground distribution will, (upon considering the relative value of losing his house in a lawsuit), end up with something essentially like Swords & Wizardry (different in the particulars, but with the same number/scope of diversions from the "official" rules - which is a misnomer in any case).

    I'm curious then as to why OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord are such close clones of their respective inspirations.

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  72. There's a similar conversation going on over at Gringle's Pawnshop, about the RQ2 clone "Glyphmaster" that's being worked on. What should the goal be? My opinion was to reproduce in some format a document you can give to potential players that allows them to play in a RQ2 game. Not "updated," or "modernized," or house-ruled, but the original game (with the understanding that verbatim can cause legal problems). That's a clone, rather than a re-imagining as each of us individually would choose to play today. Then everyone at the table, across the internet, and at the convention has the same reference document. Add a sheet of house rules as necessary. Looks like that's what you're looking for here, too.

    Pretty much. My desire is for a clone that is to OD&D what OSRIC is to AD&D or Labyrinth Lord is to Moldvay/Cook/Marsh. Now, it may well be the case that such a thing isn't possible for legal reasons and I'll admit that I'm not (yet) up on all the issues involved, but I find it difficult to believe that something like OSRIC has been kicking around for four years now without any legal challenge but that a close OD&D clone would be a greater violation of copyrighted material.

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  73. Matt's providing sensible words of caution. Copyright is a murky area of law, and something which must be a design consideration for any publicly released retro-clone. Before you start writing, decide what you'll do if WotC sends a C&D letter.

    Oh, I agree absolutely. My big question remains, though: why could something like OSRIC, which is many times more massive an undertaking, hew so closely to AD&D?

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  74. There is still a legality cloud hanging over OSRIC in case some of you (Will) forgot. Better off having something close, than having nothing at all.

    Is OSRIC still under a cloud?

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  75. I find S&W and LL perfectly serviceable for my needs; and if I'm honest, am somewhat puzzled by the desire to produce an exact copy in all but name. The underlying system is simple enough to house rule back to authenticity if that's your aim.

    What I like about OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord is that modules or supplements written for them can be used seamlessly with their inspirations without the need to have to modify them. That's what I'd like out of an OD&D clone too.

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  76. why could something like OSRIC, which is many times more massive an undertaking, hew so closely to AD&D?

    My suspicion is that there are three reasons:

    1) The people at Wizards who are aware of OSRIC (gamers themselves) kind of dig it, and don't have any desire to see it quashed. They don't feel any need to push the Hasbro lawyers to action.

    2) If the Hasbro lawyers have looked at it, they have decided that they couldn't recover their costs by going to court over copyright, and OSRIC/LL do not present a challenge to their trademarks.

    3) Copyright is complex, and the OGL makes any action still more complex for Hasbro. They may also be worried that a judge would read the OGL far more liberally than they would like, potentially opening the door for competitors to their current product line.

    This is all just speculation on my part, and there's no guarantee that Hasbro won't change their minds in the future.

    So, I think a close OD&D clone is feasible, as long as the authors are willing either to walk away from all their work when Hasbro sends a cease and desist letter, or willing to fight Hasbro in court (and loose their house, as Matt says).

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  77. So, I think a close OD&D clone is feasible, as long as the authors are willing either to walk away from all their work when Hasbro sends a cease and desist letter, or willing to fight Hasbro in court (and loose their house, as Matt says).

    That's my feeling too, but, as I said, I haven't delved extensively into this question, though I probably should, if only to get a better grasp of just what's going on.

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  78. I think OSRIC and LL are both within legal bounds - but OD&D is a different animal in terms both of content (less SRD safe-harbor coverage) and in presentation (it is not clear to me whether an "option" is a "rule" when many of these options are linked, over and over again, in a pattern that can be viewed as a total pattern under the SAP test). The looser the rules, the more difficult it is to separate rule from creative content, the more difficult it is to identify something as a rule, and the more difficult it would be to survive a test of SAP (similarity of appearance and presentation).

    Here is a clear-cut example of one aspect of 0e that I simply could not manage to work in. The illusionist from the Strategic review. You have a list of spells with unique names, and very few if any are in the SRD. Not only do you have the unique names, but you have the "total combination" of those spell names into levels that match the ones in the Strategic Review. Plus, the spell descriptions, even though they are rules, are showing the same similarities over and over and over again with nothing from the SRD to break the pattern. I don't know what level a judge would see as the "key" comparison, but this should provide the extreme edge where cloning can't defensibly go, even with the help of the SRD/OGL.

    As to OSRIC, specifically, any attempt to sue Stuart, who is in England, would be very expensive. Moreover, since he has never been in the USA, there is a jurisdictional hurdle in addition to any substantive issues.

    Don't get me wrong, either - ANY retro-clone that uses the SRD is sitting in an area where there is no super-clear law about how to handle that mix of licensed and unlicensed content. That's good because it adds to the unpredictability of outcome for the plaintiff. However, it also creates unpredictability about how far you can push the envelope from the writer's side.

    The unpredictabilities involved in 0e are much higher than in OSRIC and LL, where there is a quite identifiable set of rules that interact with each other in very clear ways. 0e does not have that tight set of easily identifiable rules.

    On the other hand, I, at least feel like there's more flexibility in the definition of what is 0e. A lot of people disagree with me, but a lot of people involved in the old TSR days don't have a problem with that idea.

    I invite anyone to say to Tim Kask, "My problem with it is that the rules aren't exactly ..."

    And I think that's as far as you'd get before the diatribe. :) You'd get a bit farther with Frank Mentzer (and get a much gentler diatribe), but you'd still get a very polite set of thoughts about being too fond of exact rules. And Dennis Sustare would hear you out all the way, but he also hates complicated rules (and writes S&W modules). Rob Kuntz might agree - I think he would - but I think his objection to retro-clones is more fundamental than JUST the correlation of specific rules. It's that you can't reproduce lightning in a bottle, so it's not so much about the individual electrons.

    Anyway, I'm way off topic and speculating about what other people would say about things, which is always a bad idea, so I'll quit typing. :)

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  79. Oh, plus, I'm not saying one WOULD lose a house. It's about how far I am willing to RISK it as a remote possibility with MY house. Those are two very different things. :)

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  80. Will said: Curse computer games for stealing all the really obvious titles like "Might & Magic." :)


    Men & Magic?
    Monsters & Treasure?
    (the Underground & Wilderness Adventures is a bit long.)

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  81. Hi. Long time reader, first time poster. I love this blog!

    As I'm finishing up For Gold & Glory, a 2e retro clone (I always advertised it as the OSRIC of 2e) I too lamented over the lack of ODD material. The White Box by Mythmere was good but I miss the scattered d6 hit dice, flat damage, the titles, and the addition of being a war game at heart. I witnessed ODD late (I started gaming with 2e early 90s and hadn't even heard of LBB until I found a copy of the OCE white box at a pawn shop in early 2000) but I loved how the game can go from dungeon crawling to massive table-top battles without any extra effort. AD&D carried over that feeling of being a hero with title and rank but it wasn't until much later in the product line that rules were released for how to actually mobilize the 20 cavalry with ring mail that made their way to your stronghold.



    I'm writing a retro clone that encompasses the "rules for medieval minitatures"(including supplement V where it overrides) and the three "rules for fantastic medieval wargames campaigns playable with paper and pencil and miniature figures". There'll be an optional section in the document that expands the work with suplements 1-3. The game automatically assumes you're using the "alternative combat system" (the combat matrix) but rules for mass combat with the "this class fights as hero+1" will be incorporated. It is being written in a rather snarky, sarcastic tone but that's only to keep the material fresh and interesting for new people to read. Writing something as dry as FG&G (much like OSRIC is) for the past 10 months has been incredibly tiring. All the original rules are still there just with some humor thrown in for fluff and fun. There will be a reference document that removes all the fluff, containing only the actual rules, charts, and tables allowing for people to easily incorporate the OGC to their own projects.



    When the game is in a playable form, Mr. Maliszewski, you'll be the first to know :D



    http://feysquare.com

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