Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Should You Switch to an Earlier Edition or a Retro-Clone

This was originally going to be a replay at B/X Blackrazor but I thought it might be a better post for the blog

Assuming you players are game, the question is should you switch to an older edition or a retro clone??

These days cost and support are not longer issues, Retro-Clones are free , there are plenty of adventures and most older stuff is fairly cheap .

Remember though that Gary and company were as old as many of us Old Grogs when they designed D&D. Making mature , fair judgment calls were not an issue for them.

OTOH an 11 year old kid like I was won't have the same skills out the door and while many of us could and did wing it well, not everyone did.

At that point rather than a big arbitrary Notebook O's Rulings, it was kind of nice to have rules in the rule book.

if you and the players are young or you don't feel like you could handle the extra burden of Old School DMing, thinking on your feet all the time (granted lighter now with the Internet and all) and being a very impartial "Judge" who does his best to make good ruling, than you might benefit from older systems

However if the issue now though is bloat and a lack of sense of imagination, you might be better served with older rules

Understand that say B/X or Labyrinth Lord (or Swords and Wizardry) and a DM's notebook and a bunch of misc stuff (extra critters and so on) was much shorter than just the Pathfinder rules, all 576 pages of them.

Don't get me wrong but Pathfinder is a great game but if you use the expected books, it can get rules intensive well over 2000 pages! (Core+APG+Bestiary 1 and 2, +Ultimate Magic + Ultimate Combat ,granted not out yet> + Misc , Bonus Bestiary, etc) exclusive of Golarian material or 3rd party stuff. Throw in some fairly generic Paizo stuff like the Inner Sea Magic, good 3rd party stuff and such and its easy to hit 3000+ pages.

Heck my trimmed "rules legal 3.5 for Pathfinder " stuff alone is nearly 4x larger than my entire B/X rules and while I can handle it, it can get to the point where the interaction of the pieces is a burden. How does this feat work with that spell or magic item and so on.

And yes sure you don't have to use it all and of course the Pathfinder SRD has most OGL stuff but thats a titanic challenge to keep track off and can seem very intimidating.

Thats not always fun.

As a counter point, Dark Dungeons a superb (and free) copy of Rules Cyclopedia one of the comprehensive Old School rules sets ever and say a fat DM's notebook/splat book is less than just Pathfinder core.

If your at that point when the rules are a burden you have some choices ..

You can

#1 Try and get your players to go simple
#2 Trim and possibly disappoint the players
#3 Or Just deal

So far for me, just deal is working OK but I certainly can see why a lot of people would benefit from a lighter rules set and with the Retro-Clone rules being free and all, its worthy asking. You'll never know till you do.


  1. I've got to get me a Dark Dungeons.

    I vote for retro-clone, as long as it is well-written.

  2. DD is very good and free in PDF. Its also dirt cheap and you can buy it from Lulu at cost.

    Frankly I think Blacky should have charged more than that, he deserves it but its his call.

    I'll tell you what though its a whole lot of gaming for $12.61 US plus shipping

    As for the RC, well they are easier to set up, easier for me to run (they suit my play style better) and can be just as much or more fun to play than older versions.

    However players do like their options and it can be difficult to get them into the Old School mindset.

    Either way as long as everyone is having fun, your doing it right ...

  3. I wish he charged more, but added some chick tract style art to illustrate game elements and play

  4. Chick style art would have rocked.