Monday, November 15, 2010

Are There Too Many Retro-Clones?

It's been in the mix for a while, but recently, I've noticed more about more folks railing against the number of retro-clones and retro-cousins we have available out there. Games such as Labyrinth Lord, Basic Fantasy, and Swords & Wizardry were all "first wave" games of this effort, and now we have games like Lamentations of the Flame Princess WFRP, Dark Dungeons, and the upcoming Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

First, some of these games aim to honor or emulate specific versions or editions of Dungeons & Dragons. That's why you have Dark Dungeons vs. Swords & Wizardry White Box, which are concerned with two different iterations of D&D.

I'm not going to say every clone coming out grabs me; they don't.  Ultimately, the market will bear what the market will bear. If Raggi's LotFP ends up more popular than another RPG on the OSR circuit, so be it. It isn't as if these are giants issues of compatibility we're talking about here. At worst, it's like two people speaking American English--one from Texas, and one from Boston. It's still the same language, just with some quirks. The two people can still use the same textbooks, read the same newspapers, watch the same TV channels. In the same way, just because you're using Labyrinth Lord and I'm playing around with Swords & Wizardry, we can still use ideas from old-school supplements, Fight On!, or ideas passed around online.

But I'll tell you this: you will never get people to line up between a single retro-clone.  Even if Wizards of the Coast tomorrow made OSRIC an official, supported line, you'd still have people producing for other retro-clones. And I get that some really great gamers don't get much out of the entire neoclassical gaming concern, but that doesn't change the fact that it's got an interested, self-publishing audience.

We're seeing a hundred different tweaks, variants, and alternate presentations of a venerable and inspirational source material, and I think it rocks.



16 comments:

Rob Conley said...

I rather have the freedom of the Open Game License than the alternative.

Carlson793 said...

I think we might be about as close as we're gonna get to recreating the early editions of "that game" within the legal scope of the OGL. With that in mind, I'd like to see all this excellent talent redirected to other OSR endeavors: adventures and supplements. Things like Becker's B/X Companion or Fini's The Outpost on the Edge of the Far Reaches have far more utility for me than another retro-clone (even one that offers something unique like Pars Fortuna).

Dyson Logos said...

HELLS YES.

Just look to each retro-clone (especially the ones that are less clonish than others) as a set of house rules to pick and choose from.

But then again, a tempest in a teapot over at the RPGsite? Who would have thunk it?

Joseph said...

I've given this question a lot of thought myself, especially since I'm hip-deep in designing my own game; Adventures Dark and Deep. While I like to think that at least a couple of hundred people will think enough of the game to buy a copy, for myself it comes down to the fact that this is the game I want on my bookshelf. If I sell to anyone else, that's gravy.

Grendelwulf said...

Many choices is preferable to having too few of them. If anything, it helps the hobby appeal to more folks. More tweaks means there is something for everyone.

The important thing is for the hobby to grow. The play is the thing!

Ciao!
GW

David said...

I agree that I'd rather have a variety to choose from. Besides, it isn't like there are multiple clones for the different editions, there is one clone for each edition, plus the weird variations like LotFP, X-plorers, Mutant Future, Microlite20, Microlite74, etc. Each does something different, caters to different tastes.

I am looking forward to reading Adventures Dark and Deep, and seeing what I can steal from it.

However now that we have clones for just about everything, I'm looking forward to more content in supplements and adventures like Carlson793 said.

Grendelwulf is right, the play is the thing!

Jason said...

There wouldn't be all those retro-clones if each of them didn't scratch a specific itch. For my money, it's Labyrinth Lord all the way with OSRIC a close second.

I don't particularly consider my game a retro-clone, though it's been called such. Which brings up another issue: many of these games are just efforts at old-school styled games, not an attempt to clone anything with any degree of faithfulness. My game, for example, borrows elements from Chainmail, but in intent and execution is more akin to Castles and Crusades than LL or OSRIC. That is to say, it is old school, but not a clone. When you consider that, one may as well just ask, "why another fantasy game?" which is perhaps a more valid question.

Stuart said...

I could be mistaken but I think many (most?) people playing earlier editions of D&D are mashing stuff together from different sources and borrowing ideas from different gaming books. More books means more ideas to borrow. :)

ckutalik said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ckutalik said...

Agree with all the folks saying that many of take a cafeteria approach to the various older editions and their clones. I tend to be constantly taking a little bit here, a little there and bolt them onto my campaign's LL platform.

I do think people thinking about releasing more sets of rules should keep this in mind. I would hazard a guess, for instance, that by the end of next year that many people will be NOT playing Raggi's LotFP game. But I would also bet that many will have bought the set and adopted any number of the interesting, innovative sections.

da Trux said...

i wish there was a retro-clone of 1st edition PFRGP (no, NOT Pathfinder). I love that game.

but I suppose that was just a retro-clone of DnD, just 20 years before it was trendy to make retro-clones of DnD.

Aaron said...

There were too many clone games 15 years ago. I don't expect that to ever change. But far be it from me to prevent people from going out an buying whatever floats their boats. But, for my part, it would be nice to see people also working up newer editions/takes on some of the other games that were around at that time, like The Fantasy Trip, for instance. The narrow focus on attempting to recreate early Dungeons and Dragons creates a situation where you have the same game over and over again, with just a few tweaks here and there to set them apart.

Jeff Rients said...

I think folks should be encouraged to write and publish whatever clones or almost clones they want to, but personally I feel like I've got way more rulesets than I need already. What we really need is a centralized workspace where we can share houserules and make it easier for people to mix and match them, then print their own mash-up rulebook.

Richard Iorio II said...

@Joseph. Put me down as a buy as well, I am looking forward to your Adventures Dark & Deep. So that is two sales.

earl said...

I'm getting more and more interested in looking into the D&D retro-clones.

Anonymous said...

All the different clonish games have created a new twist on an old problem. Lack of players familiar with or interested enough to bother learning your flavor of old school. I have had some potential players say, "I don't want to learn game x I only play game y"

This kind of fragmentation is not good for anyone.