Need help/advice sorting out the various retro offerings

raindog308

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I'm trying to understand all of the retro D&D offerings. And pick one.

Personally, my first D&D was the Holmes basic set, which I have in storage somewhere. Played the hell out of it when I was a kid and then moved to AD&D 1st ed. (I recall that being what TSR intended). Played a lot of 1st Ed AD&D, and then on to 2e/3.5/PF/43/etc.

I'm using these edition histories for reference:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Editions_of_Dungeons_&_Dragons

http://www.thealexandrian.net/creations/misc/edition-nomenclature.html

and this guide:

http://www.retroroleplaying.com/content/retro-clones

So going edition-by-edition:

1974 OD&D: Mythmere's Swords & Wizardry (I think). The "Whitebox" version is the original three books (Men & Magic, etc.), while the "core" rules adds the later Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry, etc. Right?

1977 Holmes (2nd Version): I didn't see anything, but Holmes only went from levels 1-3 and then referred the purchaser to AD&D anyway, so this isn't really a "complete game".

1981 B/X (3rd Version): Labyrinth Lord ("The 1981 version reorganized and clarified the rules from the very first version of the game released in 1974, so it is the best version to pick up and play with little prep time."). Looks like the book called Labyrinth Lord is the "core rules". I'm not really sure what the Advanced Edition Companion is supposed to map to ("a player’s handbook and referee guide that allows the use of the array of advanced character possibilities from the 1978 (first edition) rules, and first edition monsters and magical items"). So I guess the AD&D 1e PHB mapped to LL. Finally, there's the Original Edition Characters, which is...OD&D/Holmes without the 3rd version cleanup?

1983 BECMI (4th version) and 1991 Cyclopedia (5th version): Dark Dungeons. I think 1991's fifth version is just 4th version + errata, so DD covers both.

1st edition AD&D: OSRIC

Based on everything I've read on forums, Labyrinth Lord seems very popular - a good blend of early D&D with some of the 1e expansiveness as optional choices. It's what I'm leaning towards but I've only just begun to explore so I would love to hear some opinions!
 

Islan

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I too am leaning towards Labyrinth Lord, but I haven't fully decided yet. I would love to hear what other people have to say about the other retroclones.
 

Kevin Mowery

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Labyrinth Lord is probably my favorite of the D&D retroclones I've seen, and the Advanced Companion is, indeed, the rules for 1e AD&D presented as options for the D&D rules (which, from Old Geezer, is the way I gather AD&D was used by the creators anyway). I haven't looked at Dark Dungeons, since I actually do have a pdf of the Rules Cyclopedia, and so I don't really need a retroclone of it.

Personally, I'd love a good 2e retroclone (digging through my storage area, I seem to have brought a strange mish-mash of editions with me to Chicago, and so I don't have a complete first or second edition). Myth & Magic (I think that's what it's called) is supposedly a 2e retroclone, but it's missing big chunks of 2e, like some of the races, classes, etc. And it's only available in rtf format rather than pdf, which makes it less useful.
 

jephlewis

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Raindog, your information concerning retroclones is correct as best as I can tell.

Of the retroclones you listed, I prefer either Labyrinth Lord or Dark Dungeons.

Back in the day we played a lot of Mentzer red box basic and blue box expert basic D&D, so those are the ones that represent "D&D when I started playing it", LL moreso than DD because we never got past level 14.

I like DD because there's a lot of stuff that was only in the later boxed sets, like weapon mastery, more spells, and more weapons, but at the same time I like LL because it's just so basic in a good way.
 

Alexander

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Banned
Swords & Wizardry is really not a clone of OD&D. There are many changes, and more glaringly, omissions. Unified saving throw, unified attribute modifier, equipment pricing, no strongholds, no wilderness exploration, no naval combat, no morale, no reaction rolls...It also has somewhat strange play advice that isn't really in the spirit of OD&D, in my opinion.

Although, OD&D is considered by many to be un-cloneable, because so much of the game is embedded in its particular "artistic presentation", and not in the mathematics of the mechanics themselves.

It's unfortunate, because OD&D is really the only version of D&D that's actually expensive and difficult to find in the used book market. That is my advice for playing B/X, AD&D, or BECMI btw--find a used copy of the real thing. They're cheap and plentiful.

In fact, I bet you could find a B/X set, including modules B2 and X1, for less than the price of Labyrinth Lord.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
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1974 OD&D: Mythmere's Swords & Wizardry (I think). The "Whitebox" version is the original three books (Men & Magic, etc.), while the "core" rules adds the later Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry, etc. Right?
Greyhawk, mostly. The hit location rules from Blackmoor, the psionics rules from Eldritch Wizardry -- none of these made it in. But as far as being a clone goes, I'm leaning more and more towards the position that Swords & Wizardry, well, isn't. It's inspired by OD&D, but the author was trying to uncover the "Rosetta stone" behind all the older editions of D&D, and isn't faithful to any version in particular. For instance, Greyhawk introduced percentile strength, as well as changes to the other ability scores that give much higher bonuses -- but even S&W Core Rules uses ability score modifiers closer to those in the three original little brown books (LBBs). Greyhawk also added the thief, which isn't in the Core Rules (though there are two options in the appendix of the print version). There are also modernisms, like one unified save instead of 5, and support for ascending as well as descending AC. It's a retro-game inspired by the source material, but like Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Roleplaying, it's not really a clone of anything in particular.
1977 Holmes (2nd Version): I didn't see anything, but Holmes only went from levels 1-3 and then referred the purchaser to AD&D anyway, so this isn't really a "complete game".
Holmes isn't an introduction to AD&D. From statements by Gygax, and by just comparing the rules, it's closest to OD&D. The AD&D references were thrown in during the last phase of editing. Holmes is a bit weird though, and has a bunch of new rules that aren't quite like the original booklets; the editor made various interpretations and changes that Gygax missed at the time. So S&W white box might be the closest. There are also at least three different PDF documents out there expanding Holmes up to name level or so, and the Gray Book which recompiles(?) it.
1981 B/X (3rd Version): Labyrinth Lord ("The 1981 version reorganized and clarified the rules from the very first version of the game released in 1974, so it is the best version to pick up and play with little prep time."). Looks like the book called Labyrinth Lord is the "core rules". I'm not really sure what the Advanced Edition Companion is supposed to map to ("a player’s handbook and referee guide that allows the use of the array of advanced character possibilities from the 1978 (first edition) rules, and first edition monsters and magical items"). So I guess the AD&D 1e PHB mapped to LL. Finally, there's the Original Edition Characters, which is...OD&D/Holmes without the 3rd version cleanup?
Labyrinth Lord is a clone of the "B/X" edition, composed of Moldvay's Basic and Cook and Marsh's Expert sets. It's fairly faithful. The biggest change to me is the expanded spell list -- Cook/Marsh capped at 14th level, and spell progression slowed down so magic-users and clerics didn't get any spells above 6th level. In Labyrinth Lord, characters go up to 20th level and new spell levels are gained every two levels (instead of three levels) after name level, up to 9th level spells. This really changes the options available at those levels, but it's still one of the closer clones.

Advanced Edition Companion adds all the flavor and options from AD&D (like the larger number of classes, and separating class and race) to Labyrinth Lord. It just ignores the fiddly bits, like all the odd rules that people rarely used in the back of the DMG. So effectively it's a clone of AD&D, just minus all the bits that nobody used anyway.
1983 BECMI (4th version) and 1991 Cyclopedia (5th version): Dark Dungeons. I think 1991's fifth version is just 4th version + errata, so DD covers both.
The version it's explicitly based on is the Rules Cyclopedia, plus the immortals rules from the Wrath of the Immortals box set. Rules Cyclopedia can be a little weird at times, because Allston occasionally picked rules somewhat randomly from earlier editions. RC is 98% compatible with BECM (not I), but there are some oddities. The two immortal rule sets, the original gold box by Menzter and the later Wrath of the Immortals, have some significant differences though. Dark Dungeons is based more on the latter.

Dark Dungeons is probably still a clone, but it isn't the most faithful. Weapon Mastery is presented differently, all the optional rules are turned "on" (skills and feats/weapon mastery aren't optional), and new 36-level progressions for all the demihumans are added.
1st edition AD&D: OSRIC

Based on everything I've read on forums, Labyrinth Lord seems very popular - a good blend of early D&D with some of the 1e expansiveness as optional choices. It's what I'm leaning towards but I've only just begun to explore so I would love to hear some opinions!
Check out the Advanced Edition Companion. OSRIC is also a good option, but it's built on a more ornate system to begin with. Another option is Castles & Crusades, another retro-game (not a clone), which has a lot of the feel of AD&D except it uses an idiosyncratic system based on d20/third edition instead.
 
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Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
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Labyrinth Lord is probably my favorite of the D&D retroclones I've seen, and the Advanced Companion is, indeed, the rules for 1e AD&D presented as options for the D&D rules (which, from Old Geezer, is the way I gather AD&D was used by the creators anyway). I haven't looked at Dark Dungeons, since I actually do have a pdf of the Rules Cyclopedia, and so I don't really need a retroclone of it.

Personally, I'd love a good 2e retroclone (digging through my storage area, I seem to have brought a strange mish-mash of editions with me to Chicago, and so I don't have a complete first or second edition). Myth & Magic (I think that's what it's called) is supposedly a 2e retroclone, but it's missing big chunks of 2e, like some of the races, classes, etc. And it's only available in rtf format rather than pdf, which makes it less useful.
There was a PDF released, but you might still have to sign up for the website to download it. Myth & Magic falls clearly in the "not a clone" category, though. While it's definitely based on second edition, it's a new interpretation with a lot of changes.

For Gold and Glory is a clone of 2nd edition. It was abandoned for a while, but it looks like the author has picked it up again. I haven't looked at the newly released PDFs, but supposedly it's mostly complete, at least the core book.

Back to OD&D, Talysman is currently trying to create a more faithful clone of OD&D. It's not finished, and the author of S&W has expressed skepticism whether it will be legally possible to create a closer clone than S&W. But there definitely seems to be some interest.

Edit: Print versions of the Swords & Wizardry and Labyrinth Lord are currently the most expensive of all the clones. They're both trying to get into normal distribution channels, which means they need to be priced higher because both the retailer and distributor take a cut. Hardcopies of OSRIC and Dark Dungeons are available at cost. Myth & Magic and For Gold and Glory are only available in PDF. Another at-cost print option is Basic Fantasy, which covers the same basic ground as Labyrinth Lord with more house rules (ascending AC and races and classes are split, for instance).
 
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Kevin Mowery

WAUGH!
Validated User
There was a PDF released, but you might still have to sign up for the website to download it. Myth & Magic falls clearly in the "not a clone" category, though. While it's definitely based on second edition, it's a new interpretation with a lot of changes.

For Gold and Glory is a clone of 2nd edition. It was abandoned for a while, but it looks like the author has picked it up again. I haven't looked at the newly released PDFs, but supposedly it's mostly complete, at least the core book.
Oops. I was conflating the two. For Gold & Glory is in rtf format, though, which makes it essentially a several hundred page word document.
 

MonkeyWrench

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Labyrinth Lord is my favorite of the bunch as well. I've mixed LL with RC in the past with minimal effort, and I suspect that most of the "Basic" editions and their respective clones can be used interchangeably.

I'm not sure how much Advanced Edition Characters mimics 1e. I haven't done a line by line comparison, but AEC seems to lack the amount of detail that 1e had over Basic. Again this could just be oversight on my part.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
Oops. I was conflating the two. For Gold & Glory is in rtf format, though, which makes it essentially a several hundred page word document.
It's still RTF? Hadn't opened the ZIP. I assume a better format will be available once it's done.
 
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