By now, many of you have probably heard the news that Brave Halfling Publishing is discontinuing its publication of Swords & Wizardry: White Box in order to focus on their own retro-clone, Delving Deeper. Though surprising news on one level, it also makes a great deal of sense. White Box is Brave Halfling's flagship product and is produced under license. And while, from all that I have gathered, the terms and conditions of that license are very generous, the fact remains that unforeseen future events could alter them in ways detrimental to BHP's business. So, rather than risk that possibility, however unlikely, producing and selling an in-house clone seems a logical choice.
I'm sure the usual suspects are already registering their displeasure over the appearance of yet another retro-clone, but the complainers are forgetting a couple of things. First, all the retro-clones of D&D to date are broadly cross-compatible, so it's not as if BHP's publication of Delving Deeper will suddenly make, say, the adventures John Adams will also publish uncompatible with Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, or even Lamentations of the Flame Princess. There's really no harm to anyone who isn't interested in another clone. Second, there are plenty of old school fans who are interested in additional clones, since the best of them all bring something to the table that others don't, whether it's S&W's unified saving throw or LotFP WFRP's encumbrance rules. And since the texts of all these clones are available for free, anyone who just wants to cherry-pick their best ideas without buying them is able to do so with ease. Finally, BHP's White Box was the only boxed, introductory old school RPG out there. Retailing at under $30, it was affordably priced and suitable for a wide audience, from children to adults. That gave it a unique place in the old school market, a place that ought to continue to be filled.
It's worth noting, too, that Delving Deeper looks like it'll cover a couple of related bases. It'll both allow people to play something reminiscent of LBB-only OD&D, as well as, with a few tweaks, something in line with the Holmes Blue Book. I think that's rather unique as well and will help to distinguish DD from both White Box and the other existing clones. So, from my admittedly biased perspective, I don't really see a downside to this announcement, especially since Matt Finch has stated elsewhere that he intends to continue to make WB readily available in some form, for those who prefer that version to Swords & Wizardry. What's not to like?