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Retro D&D clones...which is best?

daddystabz

New member
Banned
I own a lot of Castles & Crusades stuff and absolutely loved its SIEGE system mechanics and old school feel. I am curious though, after seeing just how many retro clones are out there now, how do they all stack up and contrast apart?

What are the merits of each and which one seems best overall?

I've noticed Castles & Crusades, Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, etc. Even Tunnels & Trolls is old school, though not necessarily a D&D clone...more its own thing.

Tell me all about them! How are they?
 

Skywalker

Back Off the Buddha!
Validated User
There have been quite a few threads on this including at least 1 poll on the D&D forums. C&C generally comes out ahead but it is actually not that representative of the retroclone community.
 

Novatian

Registered User
Validated User
C&C isn't, technically, a retro-clone. It is an attempt to recreate 1e AD&D gaming while using a unified mechanic inspired by 3e/OGL. I love it, and so does my group, but it isn't strictly a retro-clone.

So, you want to hear about retro-clones? Well, here's a few random thoughts...

True retro-clones (Labyrinth Lord, Dark Dungeons, OSRIC, Swords & Wizardry, etc.) are supposed to replicate 99% (more or less) of the rules for their respective forms of D&D. Labyrinth Lord is for B/X (aka Moldvay/Cook) D&D; Dark Dungeons for the Rules Cyclopedia; OSRIC for 1e AD&D, Swords & Wizardry for the White Box.

As far as I can tell, they have three main goals. First, they allow people to get copies of the rules for older editions of D&D that have become rare or expensive. Actually, since I think all of the retro-clones have their rules available for free downloads, they are automatically cheaper than getting any actual version of D&D. So you can get a copy of the White Box rules without paying out the nose or breaking the law, just by downloading Swords & Wizardry. Yippee!!!

Second, the retro-clones allow new material to be published for those older editions of D&D. Copyright law prevents you from publishing an adventure that actually says it's meant to be played with the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia. You can, however, publish an adventure that is meant to be played with Dark Dungeons, and thus in fact produce Rules Cyclopedia material under a different name. And again we have... yippee!!!

Third, the retro-clones, by bringing older versions of D&D back into print, allow the fan communities for those versions a chance to actually gain new members, partly as a result of points one and two. And once more, with feeling... yippee!!!

As for which is the best, that will largely depend on which OOP version of D&D you like best. For me it's Labyrinth Lord, but that's only because I'm not a big fan of the optional rules from the Rules Cyclopedia, and those are included in Dark Dungeons. OSRIC isn't a very good rulebook, though it's a fine rule set (it's 1e AD&D). More than the others, it seems to have been produced strictly with the idea that it would make new 1e AD&D modules possible. Swords & Wizardry isn't quite my cup of tea, but it will get played at my table at some point, just for that White Box experience.
 

Chade

Setting junkie
They are all pretty good, if you like the source games. I prefer Swords & Wizardry, as it is a 0e clone (but with built in options for ascending AC and the much improved single saving throw). If you like Castles & Crusades already, I doubt any of the others will change your mind.
 

Xylarthen

No, not THAT Xylarthen.
S&W = not so much a "clone", even so far as it goes, as a personal response to OD&D -- and sort of an attempted "Rosetta stone" among retro-clones
OSRIC = very close to 1st ed. AD&D, so far as it goes, but streamlined and reorganized
Basic Fantasy RPG = one man's house rules based on Moldvay/Cook/Marsh
Labyrinth Lord = about as close as can legally be to a clone of Moldvay/Cook/Marsh
Dark Dungeons = a "retro clone" of Mentzer (which I have been unable to download)

What's "best" depends on ... whatever it depends on to you.

Every one is a free download, so why not see for yourself?
 
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Hogscape

Registered User
Validated User
S&W = not so much a "clone", even so far as it goes, as a personal response to OD&D -- and sort of an attempted "Rosetta stone" among retro-clones
OSRIC = very close to 1st ed. AD&D, so far as it goes, but streamlined and reorganized
Basic Fantasy RPG = one man's house rules based on Moldvay/Cook/Marsh
Labyrinth Lord = about as close as can legally be to a clone of Moldvay/Cook/Marsh
Dark Dungeons = a "retro clone" of Mentzer (which I have been unable to download)

What's "best" depends on ... whatever it depends on to you.

Every one is a free download, so why not see for yourself?
To download Dark Dungeons, right click on the link and choose a download location.
 

Sanglorian

Registered User
Validated User
There's a list of retroclones at the Year of Living Free wiki. It's got every retroclone that I know of (though it does use a fairly strict definition of 'retroclone'; for nostalgia games like Microlite74 you'll have to look further afield.
 

Richard R.

Gargoyle Head
If somebody put a gun to my head and made me pick a favorite RPG of all time, it would probably be Moldvay Basic / Labyrinth Lord.

That said, Swords & Wizardry is also very cool and worthwhile.
 
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