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I Stand Corrected

Wherein the author notes important lessons

Used to be that if you didn’t like a game or where the RPG industry was headed, you’d bitch about Big Dice (usually TSR, later WotC), post a rant to rec.games.frp.dnd, and go back to playing. But it’s different now. Thanks to the OSR, the Age of Complaint is, for all productive purposes, over.

It’s like my mom used to say: Don’t complain unless you have a solution. Bitching about TSR was fun, but only because you never really had to produce results—I mean, it’s not like Lorraine Williams was going to adopt your tweaks to the thief class, and she certainly wasn’t going to pull back on 2nd Ed. splatbooks.

It’s a different story now. Don’t bother bitching. Either inject a remedy via the approved OSR channel—because there’s absolutely nothing to stop you—or sit down and drink your juice.

This, it turns out, is a fundamental provision of RPG life under the OGL. Too bad that I’m the last person on the planet to realise it.

Lesson Time

None of this was clear to me until I had a discussion on the Yaqqothl Grimoire, wherein the author posts his rationale for playing retro-clones while acquiring second-hand versions of the original games. Il Male™, the author of the Grimoire, makes a good argument, but it’s in the comment section where I found my wisdom.

The long and short of it is this: I realised that my disdain for retro-clones was misdirected.

All along, my beef with retro-clones has been that they’re entirely too derivative. By definition, retro-clones seemed, to me, little more than wordsmithed versions of original games made legal by inclusion of an OGL. I bitch at length on these points here and here, with some considered clarity here, and also with (to my chagrin) uncharacteristic crankiness here.

But my basis for such conclusions weren’t entirely fair. It consisted of Swords & Wizardry White Box (which I didn’t like, possibly because I never cottoned onto the original LBBs to begin with), the Swords & Wizardry Core (1st printing, which I also didn’t like, because it didn’t fix what I thought was “wrong” with the S&W White Box), and Labyrinth Lord (which I didn’t like because it was different from B/X in all the wrong places).

An Objective Evaluation

The discussion prompted me to download the S&W Core (4th printing). After a thorough read, it seems that, given my sources and a closed mind, my charges of gross derivation just didn’t seem to apply any longer. Maybe they never did. I have to say that I’m impressed with the current version. There are innovations there, and some of the D&D warts have been healed, and the author even goes so far as to explain his rationale for ruling this or that, which I think is a nice touch because it helps clear a few things up for me.

Swords and Wizardry Core

S&W Core (4th printing)

I hadn’t given S&W a fair shake (or, at least, I hadn’t kept current), because the 4th printing didn’t seem nearly as derivative as the 1st. More importantly, it made me realise that it’s actually hard not to write an RPG that takes some credit from its predecessors. With some thought, this seems to be the nature of the hobby: Innovation is an iterative, evolutionary process.

Chimera is a good example. Clearly, it’s not D&D, but the concepts are there. Character generation, action resolution, gaining experience to improve one’s PC, magic, monsters, and treasure…Chimera’s innovation is in the presentation of concepts, but not the concepts themselves. I mean, Chimera combat works differently than in D&D, but whether you’re using “wound limit” or “hit points,” you’re essentially talking about the same thing: how much damage can a character take before it’s time to roll up a new character?

As I read S&W, I thought about tweaks I’d make. Could I inject Chimera-style combat? Easily. Could I make a Chimera-style class-builder for S&W, based on the Building the Perfect Class material I wrote up for B/X? No problem. I started to appreciate more and more the flexibility baked into S&W.

Which is important to me. I know of no gamer—of any system—who does not add, tweak, delete, revise, or otherwise customise the rules governing his or her game. That’s pretty much how Chimera started: my desire to codify and publish how I like to run my games (which is code for “D&D but with the parts I don’t like replaced by house rules”). I could tweak any game I wanted to play, but there’s something about Swords & Wizardry that makes it so damn easy.

Reality Check

Despite my previous rants, the urge to share with the community, via the community’s vernacular, is something I’ve wanted all along. Maybe it’s because, after 3 years in NJ, I still don’t have a regular gaming group to run Chimera games. Maybe it’s because B/X will always be my “go-to” game. Maybe it’s because the 4th printing of S&W got me excited about writing up a new setting in a way that I haven’t felt in months.

This need is felt by many, it seems. While on the Yaqqothl Grimoire; site, I met a fellow named Aos, who has his own (excellent) blog. In a private email, he stated what I felt:

I think the retroclone guys have done a great deal to revitalize the old school D&D community. It’s fun to be interested in and write about a game that so many other people are also interested in and write about—even if their opinions are largely at odds with my own.

My sentiment exactly, and thanks to some patient advice from austrodavicus and new words like network externalities, I get exactly what he’s saying. Finally.

Final Words

I’d like to explore S&W a bit more. I’m still supporting Chimera Basic, though now I’m seriously wondering if the D&D “mods” that inspired Chimera couldn’t be grafted onto S&W. While Chimera downloads are encouraging, the feedback I get suggests that people are using it more for mechanical variants of some version of D&D than as a stand-alone system. Which is fine, but why not try to make it “official” with a Swords & Wizardry port? Let’s see where that takes me.

What say you?

P.S. I know I owe a Joesky Tax for this, but the post is already pretty long, so I’m gonna offer this: The Bastard’s Blade, which is where I put my S&W money where my OSR mouth is.

  1. deimos3428
    September 1st, 2011 at 13:52 | #1

    I’m not sure I quite get your mental metamorphosis here.

    There’s certainly some tweaking and refinement in S&W, and it’s fair to say it resembles a well-edited merge between B/X, 1E, and some common-sense houserules, but it’s still unequivocally derived from D&D.

    Contrast that with Chimera. Certain recent articles include ways specifically designed to allow Chimera to “masquerade” as D&D…but it’s really quite a different beast. As you mentioned above, you’d kept some basic concepts, but thrown away the mechanics. That’s not a tiny point. (I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any RPG that doesn’t share something conceptually with D&D…it came first, after all.)

    I’m not entirely sure what a “Swords and Wizardry port” would be.

  2. September 1st, 2011 at 20:28 | #2

    @deimos3428 : I might be getting a little too “meta” here.

    My “epiphany,” as it were, was that even S&W has progressed beyond mere retro-cloning. As Holmes was a derivation of the LBBs, and B/X was a derivation of that, S&W seems to have progressed to a level more substantive than just a retro-clone.

    Chimera is definitely a new way of doing the RPG thing, but given its genesis in B/X house rules, it’s also a derivation. A broad and drastic derivation, but a derivation nonetheless. From that perspective, I think my castigation of the retro-clone was a harsh generalisation.

    So if you can use Chimera to mimic another RPG (like D&D), what’s really changed? Presentation and mechanics are truly different (and, I daresay, innovative in some aspects), but it’s really just another way of presenting the same concepts. Put it this way: if all I’ve done is provided the same functions via different forms, isn’t it rather like introducing an electric car in an era of combustion engines?

    If that’s true, then maybe I’m over-complicating things. There are innovative bits in Chimera, largely because I threw out the tried-and-true mechanics of D&D. I think it shines in the areas of character generation, advancement, modular Perks, combat, and action resolution—but my question is this: Could these same innovations be realised through D&D mechanics with which many gamers are already familiar?

    IOW, could I use S&W mechanics (derived from D&D) to provide the same functional innovations that Chimera provides? If so, would that garner the best of both worlds: fast and easy results via familiar mechanics? Not sure, but I think it’s an interesting question. What if you could emulate the ease and realism of Chimera combat with S&W stats? What if you could provide Chimera’s character advancement options via the S&W level system? What if you could roll up an S&W character with the flexibility you see in Chimera?

    That’s what a S&W port would be. At this point, I’m not sure it’s workable, but I think it’s an interesting challenge and something that I’d like to explore.

    Does that muddy the waters any?

  3. Koren n’Rhys
    September 1st, 2011 at 22:06 | #3

    Hi Erin,
    Interesting article and one I’m glad to see you write. While I agree that many of the original retroclones were simple derivatives, the OSR has come a long way in the past few years since they were introduced and it’s sometimes good for any of us to step back and try to look at things through a fresh set of eyes once in a while. I read your posts here with interest and find your ideas thought-provoking. I’ve glanced through Chimera Basic and to be honest wasn’t too interested. It’s too distinctly “not D&D” for my taste. I _have_ enjoyed your recent Race as Class articles though as they give a neat view into what you can do with your system. I’m a Rules Cyclopedia guy at heart and find your old Bree Yark stuff more useful than the Chimera bits here. Thanks for sharing all of it – there are useful nuggets to be mined across the board.

    Regarding S&W – I enjoy WhiteBox quite a bit. It’s not meaty enough for my regular gaming, but I’m using it as a way to introduce a group of new players to the concepts of D&D on a simple level. In time I’ll convert them to a “proper” RC game. I own copies of Core and Complete – more to support Matt and Mythmere Games more than anything else. They were fun to read through, and I pull from them for the WB game, but would I play them on their own? Probably not. If I want all the features of a rules-heavier D&D, then I’ll just play D&D… of whatever edition.

    But, if I want to write up something on my blog, or self-publish it via Lulu or just as a free download as a vanity project, then I’ll dress it up in OGL-compliant clothing. Maybe for S&W for things I work up during my current game, maybe for Labyrinth Lord later on once I’m running RC. The clones let me do that and cover my butt a little.

    I look forward to whatever you come up with for S&W and I’d certainly recommend you join up on their forum and share there as well. It’s a friendly group of guys for the most part. :-)

  4. September 1st, 2011 at 22:43 | #4

    @Koren n’Rhys Hey Koren,

    Thanks for reading, and for the encouragement. Your admission that, “I’ve glanced through Chimera Basic and to be honest wasn’t too interested. It’s too distinctly ‘not D&D’ for my taste.” is something that’s been in the back of my mind the past several months, and I’m really glad you’ve called it out. I think Chimera contains some good ideas, but—precisely because it’s not D&D—those ideas aren’t really accessible to the larger gaming community.

    My goal isn’t to reinvent the wheel or to convert the masses to a new and different way of playing RPGs. Instead, I’d rather share my ideas with as large a community as possible. Get feedback. Learn what works and what stinks. It’s hard to build a better mousetrap when my plans are in German while everyone speaks French.

    Possibly bad analogy, but what I’m trying to say is that I see no reason why Chimera’s innovations can’t be incorporated into a standard that everyone’s already familiar with. I’ve spent a lot of time evangelising Chimera as a stand-alone system, and while I stand behind the concepts, it’s a hard task. I don’t want people to drop what they’re doing and play Chimera—I want them to give Chimera’s ideas a try, and see if they don’t make sense or improve their experience playing. In its current incarnation, S&W represents the nearest thing to what I’ll call D&D Prime: a familiar framework to which new ideas can be grafted and understood. Let’s see if my “innovations” can’t work within that framework, just as the material on breeyark.org works with the Rules Cyclopedia.

    I’ll check out the S&W forum. So long as I’m not chased away with sticks and torches for my earlier commentary, I’ll stay. ;)

  5. deimos3428
    September 2nd, 2011 at 00:32 | #5

    “IOW, could I use S&W mechanics (derived from D&D) to provide the same functional innovations that Chimera provides?”

    Honestly, I think the answer is “No, you can’t.” The D&D framework just isn’t flexible enough to allow for some of these sorts of innovations, and you lose too much in the translation. But I doubt that’ll discourage you from trying. :D

  6. Koren n’Rhys
    September 2nd, 2011 at 10:53 | #6

    I think you’ll find yourself welcomed to the S&W forums despite your past heresies, Erin. If you openly renounce your past sins and make retribution you’ll be fine!

    Creating a new game that is too different from D&D, and then trying to sell it to that crowd is just a tough, tough sell. I think you’ve discovered that. You may have the greatest innovations to fantasy gaming yet, but if your audience still wants D&D, it’s doomed (in general – not an absolute statement). It’ll be interesting too see how Goodman ultimately makes out with his DCC game. There’s buzz, but I see more and more feedback that makes me think it’s too divergent to catch on. As with Chimera, people may read trough and pluck ideas, but will they switch to the system as their base game? Seems unlikely to me.

    If you look at Raggi’s Lamentations of the Flame Princess it’s got some great, innovative stuff but it’s obviously still D&D. It’s his presentation that makes it a “new” game and people are buying it for that reason, not the content per se, I think. Do we need such a variety of retro version of the same game. I’d say no, not really, and I think that comes back to your old arguments against the clones. Am I glad he wrote it and made a free version available so the ideas are out there without paying $50? Absolutely. I’d encourage anyone to write up their ideas and share with the community at large, but I’m personally pretty unwilling to pay for them.

    You’ve been upfront that Chimera began as your houserules for B/X? RC? Can’t recall – but D&D in any case. I think you’ll have more luck getting it out there if you can roll the presentation back to being optional rules to tack onto RC or LL or S&W. All the clones are pretty much interchangeable, so if you write to make them compatible with S&W for example, just about anyone can still use them with minor effort.

  7. Greg MacKenzie
    September 2nd, 2011 at 18:07 | #7

    deimos3428 :
    “IOW, could I use S&W mechanics (derived from D&D) to provide the same functional innovations that Chimera provides?”
    Honestly, I think the answer is “No, you can’t.” The D&D framework just isn’t flexible enough to allow for some of these sorts of innovations, and you lose too much in the translation. But I doubt that’ll discourage you from trying.

    Interesting point. I think Chimera is “different” in that it does handle the cross-genre idea very well; its adaptable. One of the problems with purpose built games such as D&D, and by analogy S&W, you’ve identified in that if you want to switch to an Elizabethan Action Hero sort of game, you need new rules. I think though that in any system are root concepts and tables which can be re-purposed. The SRD is missing a lot of information that everyone is making up. If you accept the root Abilities, for example, they then have ability modifiers that apply to everything else. You could make an Elizabethan era game by changing the names of Armors, since but scaling Base Attack Bonus as written in the SRD would still apply, add Arquebus and Flintlocks, etc, presto your on your way. You could still have Conjurors, Priests etc. Maybe the Elizabethan era isn’t such a stretch, but a 1930s sort of game would require a lot more work. Chimera has better “core interchangeability” I think. The interest this particular post has generated isn’t too surprising. I think in a lot of the recent posts Erin shows what you can do with Chimera if you want to create a B/X-like game with it. I made a dungeon, Gloomland, for Chimera which available if you want to test drive the characters Erin developed. There’s an OGL version of the text there as well.

    Greg

  8. deimos3428
    September 2nd, 2011 at 20:53 | #8

    Erin: I’ve thunk on this a bit more tonight, and some things would certainly be easier than others. (Having previously said it was impossible, I shall now attempt the impossible…)

    You asked: “Could these same innovations be realised through D&D mechanics?”

    1. Character Generation
    If we follow your steps in Chimera, (Select Race, Select Class, Update Abilities, Update Stats) we get precisely what AD&D does. But in Chimera you’ve completely redefined what “Ability” and “Class” mean, and that gets lost in the translation. The innovation is the redefinition. I really don’t know how to square that one, so moving on.

    2. Advancement –> innovation: More choice.
    Whenever you reach your next XP goal, you choose between levelling up (as per normal S&W) *or* getting a number of Improvement Points equal to your current level.

    These IP can be spent upon:
    +1 to your prime requisite – 1 point
    +1 to any other ability – 2 points
    New Perk (q.v.) – 2 points
    Improve Perk (q.v.) – 2 points
    +1d6 mana points – I just don’t see this one working well without more refinement, but something along the lines of increased spell slots for casters.
    New Class – all points? We no longer have “AdCost” so we can’t determine number of points required.

    3. Perks/Flaws –> innovation: More creativity.
    Most are likely easily rewritten for D&D; power levels would need to be investigated for each. Not unlike minor feats in some respects. Though how does one obtain a Flaw now?

    4. Combat
    I couldn’t find all that much of note in the Combat section itself, to be honest. NB: Could use Action Resolution system below for combat as well, but I doubt S&W players would diverge from tried and true for combat.

    5. Action resolution –> innovation: universal action resolution
    Action Rolls as a concept are easily added to any d20 system:
    1. DM determines most suitable Ability (eg. CHA 14)
    2. Target Number = 20 less Ability Score. (eg, TN = 6)
    3. Player rolls a 12.
    4. As 12 is divisible by 4, it’s a Critical.
    5. As 12 is higher than the TN, it’s a Success.
    6. Result: Critical Success.

    Other Ramblings:
    Perks are not entirely foreign to D&D-like games. 3E has feats, and these provide similar benefits but in larger single-instance helpings. Magical items duplicate the effects of many of these (and flaws too.) But to implement a full Perk/Flaw system into D&D would be slightly harder, along the lines of (secondary) skills or something. Or you could go the route of “You all start with one random perk and flaw. Roll.”

    Question: How would you replicate the Gear Pack in D&D/S&W? It sounds easy…and would be fantastic, but I suspect it’s not. For one, D&D players are used to a rather high level of precision from the rules in terms of what can/can’t be done. For two, how would you go about (re-)categorizing the various available packs? I’m aware of the “Thieves’ Tools” Pack, but really those rely on the skills of a nearby thief. Other packs would need to be equally useless in the wrong hands in a class-based game, for balance. (In a skill-based game…not so much.)

    Is this along the lines you were thinking?

  9. September 2nd, 2011 at 22:15 | #9

    @deimos3428 : Yes, these are along the lines I was thinking. I have some details to work out, but you’ve got the gist of it.

    Character Gen – use the same steps as Chimera, except you roll for Attributes. I’m about 80% done reverse-engineering the S&W classes to give each ability an XP value, so one could easily create new classes. S&W race has that pesky level-limit thing, which I think is entirely arbitrary. My solution is to assign percentages to racial abilities, sum them, and apply the total to the class XP requirement (e.g., maybe an elf’s racial abilities total 25%–that means you increase you increase your XP requirement by 25% to level up)

    Advancement – maybe substitute AdCost with base XP (i.e., the XP needed to reach 2nd-level). Whenever you earn that amount, you roll to advance. Alternatively, you can use the existing level progression tables, but now you have the option of substituting your hit point roll with something else, like a Perk, improved Save vs. some specific thing, mana (got that covered–you’ll see), or a new thing I’m calling Ability Points (more on that later–it’s enough for its own post). BTW, level limit for any PC is the Prime Attribute score.

    Perks/Flaws – I’m adding these, and they’ll work pretty much like they do in Chimera (i.e., adjust rolls or stats in specific situations). You can get Flaws by falling victim to a curse, sustaining a permanent injury, or by getting unlucky in your Boons & Baggage roll. These all translate well to S&W.

    Combat – My primary problem is hit points, which don’t allow for penalties as a result of wounds or one-shot kills. But I have a cunning plan…the idea is that when you get hit, you can soak it up with hit points or you can take a wound. I’m incorporating exploding damage die on a critical hit, so it’s possible to amass enough damage for a one-shot kill; alternately, you can take a wound, but that causes a penalty. Details anon.

    Action Resolution – Invoking full 0e D&D quirk mode, whereby combat uses d20, skills that any character can attempt use 1d6 (e.g., find secret doors, surprise, hear noise), and skills that are specific to a class use 2d6 (I’m looking at you, Greg). For the latter, target numbers are based on level, and the spectrum of modifiers is limited. You can also specialise, granting a bonus to the roll (and, specialising in a class skill is something else you could “buy” upon level-up). I got a whole write up on this bit – kinks are being worked out. All that said, I like the simplicity of your system (TN = 20 – Attribute score) and keeping criticals divisible by 4. Short and sweet.

    Gear Pack – Yeah, D&D is about shopping. Part of the fun of char-gen. I have to think on this. Gear (excluding armour and weapons) is largely useless unless the game is about challenging the players instead of the characters. Like that scene in Apollo 13, when Ed Harris spills out that box of stuff on the table and says to his engineers, this is what they got–use it to build something helpful. So a backpack full of stuff is really only useful if the players are challenged to find ways to use their gear. I’m rambling a bit, but I think the goal is (1) represent wear and tear, (2) encourage only useful things that characters would actually carry and be encumbered by, and (3) avoid laundry lists of every possible thing.

    So, yeah. There you go. Entirely do-able. Stay tuned.

  10. September 2nd, 2011 at 22:28 | #10

    @Koren n’Rhys : I think you’re spot-on with Raggi. LotFPWRPGQEDASAP is an excellent example of house-ruling the crap out of D&D to create something new and different.

    It’s worth questioning the need more variants, but I suggest that it might be academic in that the toothpaste is already out of the tube. There’s a lot of creative gamers out there, and the OGL is an invitation to share.

    The Breeyark stuff started as B/X house-rules that gained more traction and better definition with the RC. In truth, if it had been possible to publish/distribute material based on TSR’s IP back then, I would have done so, and Chimera would have never gone down the paths it went.

    I think we’re on the same page–rolling back the Chimera stuff to work with S&W just makes it that much more accessible to the community, and increases the population of gamers who can talk about it, share ideas, and make improvements of their own.

  11. September 2nd, 2011 at 22:35 | #11

    @Greg MacKenzie : It’s amazing how much time you seem to spend scrying my thoughts. I’m already thinking of S&W variants for WWII and near-future sci-fi.

    You’re absolutely right–D&D’s mechanical limitations seem rooted in its exclusive focus on fantasy. If Chimera covers a wider genre pool, it’s because it’s mechanically agnostic and flexible enough to incorporate new material without breaking other stuff.

    Good goal to have in mind moving forward with this project.

  12. September 3rd, 2011 at 09:17 | #12

    Erin D. Smale :
    It’s worth questioning the need more variants, but I suggest that it might be academic in that the toothpaste is already out of the tube. There’s a lot of creative gamers out there, and the OGL is an invitation to share.

    Indeed. I don’t think we need more full-game variants out there, but I love house rule supplements. Carcosa, and all those cool OD&D supplements that Jason Vey posted for Conan, Mars, etc. are fantastic. I see the best use of the OGL (from now on) being a means to share ideas with a bit of legal protection for the authors – both from WotC and to protect their own copyright. I think the original concept of Greyhawk, Blackmoor, etc. adding classes, rules and whatnot to the game is genius.

    My goal is to share my own creations via my blog (for free) as a neatly formatted supplement. I’m working on a S&W version now, since that’s what I’m currently playing. Then as I roll my campaign to RC, I’ll further detail and expand things and ultimately re-release it under the LL license for B/X, RC or BECMI compatibility.

    I’m also slowly toying with a S&W cyberpunk supplement here. That I’d love to expand into a full-out B/X-styled Shadowrun game. Not a clone exactly, but an inspired-by game. More like Mutant Future is a B/X version of Gamma World.

    Isn’t this fun? It’s the heart of the hobby to me.

  13. September 4th, 2011 at 11:20 | #13

    @Koren n’Rhys : Isn’t this fun? It’s the heart of the hobby to me.

    Yeah, it is. Goes back to Aos’ statement above. I think you have something with your point about the OGL: not new games, but variants on existing themes. Interesting, in that the OGL was originally put forth as a way to strengthen the 3E line, which, while inventive, doesn’t seem (to me) to have had the desired effect. I think it would have been more useful to WotC had they released a “core” version of d20 and let authors use the OGL to broaden it. That didn’t quite happen.

    Instead, the OSR authors have “rolled back” the SRD in the form of retro-clones, then broadened that with material released under the OGL. In that respect, the OGL has been more useful to the hobbyists than WotC. That WotC haven’t made any profit from the OGL post-3E seems telling. Unintended consequences? Most likely (even in 2000, I looked at the OGL askance, as many others surely did as well).

    But the end result has certainly put the game back into the hands of the gamers, which is something that gamers wanted all along. Imagine if such a mechanism had been available in the early ’90s, when 2E was born and raised. Or during the “dark days” of the mid-’90s, when merely posting D&D stuff on your CompuServe account was sufficient grounds for a Cease & Desist from TSR.

    I reckon the rec.games.frp.dnd list would have been a much different environment… ;)

  14. Greg MacKenzie
    September 4th, 2011 at 14:55 | #14

    Erin D. Smale :
    @Greg MacKenzie : It’s amazing how much time you seem to spend scrying my thoughts. I’m already thinking of S&W variants for WWII and near-future sci-fi.
    You’re absolutely right–D&D’s mechanical limitations seem rooted in its exclusive focus on fantasy. If Chimera covers a wider genre pool, it’s because it’s mechanically agnostic and flexible enough to incorporate new material without breaking other stuff.
    Good goal to have in mind moving forward with this project.

    Now if I could only turn the remote viewing thing into a career… I think we’re on the same page because I look at the SRD and think, what else could be done with this. Given any encouragement at all I’ll be off on a complete tangent, Tommy’s and Kaiserbots? ;)

  15. Greg MacKenzie
    September 4th, 2011 at 15:23 | #15

    Erin D. Smale :
    @Koren n’Rhys : Isn’t this fun? It’s the heart of the hobby to me.
    Yeah, it is. Goes back to Aos’ statement above. I think you have something with your point about the OGL: not new games, but variants on existing themes. Interesting, in that the OGL was originally put forth as a way to strengthen the 3E line, which, while inventive, doesn’t seem (to me) to have had the desired effect. I think it would have been more useful to WotC had they released a “core” version of d20 and let authors use the OGL to broaden it. That didn’t quite happen.
    Instead, the OSR authors have “rolled back” the SRD in the form of retro-clones, then broadened that with material released under the OGL. In that respect, the OGL has been more useful to the hobbyists than WotC. That WotC haven’t made any profit from the OGL post-3E seems telling. Unintended consequences? Most likely (even in 2000, I looked at the OGL askance, as many others surely did as well).
    But the end result has certainly put the game back into the hands of the gamers, which is something that gamers wanted all along. Imagine if such a mechanism had been available in the early ’90s, when 2E was born and raised. Or during the “dark days” of the mid-’90s, when merely posting D&D stuff on your CompuServe account was sufficient grounds for a Cease & Desist from TSR.
    I reckon the rec.games.frp.dnd list would have been a much different environment…

    We discussed this before at length but I believe the spin-off to the OSR is demonstrably a consequence of the OGL. Right from the start WOC hinted at the possiblity of a “lite game” based on the SRD material. Even then if the OSR was unexpected, given the entire network externality theory you can only look at the OSR material in general terms as a success for WOC in that it lays the groundwork for “familiarity” with their product. It also effectively drives every other product off the map. Whether or not the SRD/OGL network externalities from 3E matter in terms of 4E is another matter. Is there enough commonality in 4E to make the desired compatibility with 3E network externality still work as intended for WOC? Probably. If not WOC would re-adopt it’s 3E network and some sort of product in-line with that.

  16. Greg MacKenzie
    September 4th, 2011 at 15:32 | #16

    Koren n’Rhys :

    Erin D. Smale :
    It’s worth questioning the need more variants, but I suggest that it might be academic in that the toothpaste is already out of the tube. There’s a lot of creative gamers out there, and the OGL is an invitation to share.

    Indeed. I don’t think we need more full-game variants out there, but I love house rule supplements. Carcosa, and all those cool OD&D supplements that Jason Vey posted for Conan, Mars, etc. are fantastic. I see the best use of the OGL (from now on) being a means to share ideas with a bit of legal protection for the authors – both from WotC and to protect their own copyright. I think the original concept of Greyhawk, Blackmoor, etc. adding classes, rules and whatnot to the game is genius.
    My goal is to share my own creations via my blog (for free) as a neatly formatted supplement. I’m working on a S&W version now, since that’s what I’m currently playing. Then as I roll my campaign to RC, I’ll further detail and expand things and ultimately re-release it under the LL license for B/X, RC or BECMI compatibility.
    I’m also slowly toying with a S&W cyberpunk supplement here. That I’d love to expand into a full-out B/X-styled Shadowrun game. Not a clone exactly, but an inspired-by game. More like Mutant Future is a B/X version of Gamma World.
    Isn’t this fun? It’s the heart of the hobby to me.

    I understand, through network externalities, that there will be an endless supply of rules variations based on the SRD. Any rules that drift too far from the mainstream in terms of compatibility won’t be adopted. It has also created an expectation of “free” stuff.

  17. Koren n’Rhys
    September 4th, 2011 at 16:11 | #17

    It’s a new age. So much information out there it boggles the mind. Sure, it’s made piracy a lot easier, but I think overall there’s more new,original material being shared than there is pirated old material. The OGL provides a legal umbrella for us even if we don’t touch the clones themselves.

    I’m sure it’s far from what WotC intended though. Look at how they hamstrung it in the newer 4e version- they weren’t going to make that mistake twice.

  18. Greg MacKenzie
    September 4th, 2011 at 17:00 | #18

    Koren n’Rhys :
    It’s a new age. So much information out there it boggles the mind. Sure, it’s made piracy a lot easier, but I think overall there’s more new,original material being shared than there is pirated old material. The OGL provides a legal umbrella for us even if we don’t touch the clones themselves.
    I’m sure it’s far from what WotC intended though. Look at how they hamstrung it in the newer 4e version- they weren’t going to make that mistake twice.

    Oh I agree, the OSR must have come as a surprise and it seems there’s not a thing they can do now the cat is out of the bag. I wasn’t referring to piracy really, just that many people are contributing to the OSR materials for free. That’s fine.

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