Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Yen for OD&D

As you may know, I've been a part of a group that's been campaigning using Castles & Crusades since early this year. I've been a player and a GM in the group, and I have to say it's been an incredible experience. We're a small group, but what we lack in size we make up for in creativity, camaraderie, and lots of RPG experience. This group has fulfilled my long-time goal of finally gaming with new people. Until this year, I had only gamed with childhood friends. And it's been the true vehicle for the return to table-top roleplaying that I have yearned for since around 2007.

All that being said, there's the eternal spectre of Gamer ADD. I think I am a more-than-moderate sufferer of this dreaded condition.

So, perhaps I've fallen under the influence of JB over at B/X Blackrazor, but I've decided that, once our current C&C campaign runs its course, I would like to propose an OD&D game to my group.

This is my chance to finally game using OD&D rules, which I never really did...unless you count my recent, short-term use of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Deluxe Edition rules when gaming with a couple old friends on a few occasions. OD&D represents a more "mythic" play style to me, where characters are more archetypal, more "primal" if you will. This taps into my strong belief that game system plays a large role in determining style of play (a topic I've been meaning to post about for some time now, but haven't yet gotten around to it).

First of all, I'm pondering what system(s) to use. Do I use the original games, or do I use a retroclone? There's a certain something to the thought of playing with the originally published rules. But then again, there's the often greater clarity of rules and presentation of retroclones. At the moment, I'm considering a foundation of Labyrinth Lord with some aspects of Swords & Wizardry thrown in for good measure. But my goal now is to read up on original B/X as well as the retroclones I like (Labyrinth Lord and S&W) to see which has the functionality I need. Oops, almost forgot: I've also got the Rules Cyclopedia as well as the books from the Mentzer Basic and Expert sets. So, I've got some readin' and decidin' to do, as well as battlin' with nostalgia over practicality.

Any suggestions/advice would be welcome! (this includes my request for advice on dwarves from this recent post)

As for the world in which I would place the campaign, I am thinking that I will do a homebrew world. Roleplaying has been a way to fulfill my creative urges. There's a level of creativity in designing adventures and plot hooks. But then there's another level in worldbuilding that I've been missing. I have been worried about lack of time, but I think I have some ideas to get this going.

But again, all of this is just very preliminary. I have no intention of abandoning my current campaign, and expect our C&C goodness to keep rolling for a good while. Still, there's something to be said for a little daydream-brainstorm for future adventures...


  1. Personally, I prefer LL to B/X (ducking.) Never played B/X, though. Compare the "To Hit" charts, of the two games, which is one of the most prominent differences between the two.

    My own "near ideal" version is LL's "to hit" charts and xp progression, slapped into S&W.
    Throw in Akrasia's class-based weapon damage and a few more OSR innovations and that's fairly close to what I'm running now.

    Though, OSRIC keeps calling to me...

  2. None of the games you mention in your post are 0d&d. B/X nor mentzer, nor holmes are 0d&d.

  3. Well, depending on who you ask, several people consider Holmes to be a simple version of OD&D more closely than it's a short version of AD&D, but as UWS guy says, you're actually talking about what most people call Classic D&D, which is a catch-all for everything from OD&D through all the Basic sets up to Frank's Basic and the RC.

    For real OD&D (or cloned) you're talking either the original books, Swords & Wizardry, or the LL+OEC combination. Or Spellcraft & Swordplay, which uses the Chainmail combat system. By OD&D most people specifically mean the first three books of the boxed set (Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure, and Underworld & Wilderness Adventures) and the supplements (GH, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry, Gods, Demigods, & Heroes).

    The original books are the most flavorful, although very poorly organized, and you'll want to already have a sequence of combat in mind if you use them, because they don't give you one.

    I would grab one of the free retroclones (not sure if OEC is free, but I think so, and Swords & Wizardry is free) -- use one of those to get a framework in your head, then (if you have the original books) read those with that framework in mind. Then just decide what you like to use at the table, but if you do have a copy of the original books, they are a phenomenal read even if they're too disorganized for your taste as a resource at the actual gaming table (people differ on this).

  4. @James: thanks for stopping by, good to hear from you again! I too think I prefer LL, but for some reason the RC has been calling me...

    @UWS Guy: I didn't mention Holmes (which I can't stand) and I believe Swords & Wizardry is indeed a clone of "true" OD&D. As for Moldvay and Mentzer, fine, they aren't OD&D. But I don't really care to get my nomenclature correct unless I am teaching a D&D History course. I prefer to reserve precision for what is important to me: actually playing the games. But consider me standing corrected, though I wonder why you saw fit to offer nothing more than your one sentence.

    And thanks to Matt Finch for the insightful input as well as providing the proper alternate term: Classic D&D. I will use that henceforth, to avoid any future dressing down.

  5. personally i would not use one of the clones, i would use TSR books. i don't understand the fascination at all with the OSR clone movement. i would rather use my own house rules on my original books then someone else's house rules that i would probably have to house rule also.

    if your gonna do classic i would go with BECMI or RC if a later edition i would go 2nd edition.

  6. @Kenwolf: thanks for stopping by. There's just some gravitas behind those original books, isn't there? A certain pull that they exert on the imagination. Perhaps that's just a result of nostalgia.

    I definitely don't want to do AD&D. I've done that since I started roleplaying. But I've never really done a sustained, long-term Classic D&D game, race-as-class and all the rest.

    I've tried reading the Moldvay books, and while they are pleasing aesthetically (i.e. the art, the nostalgia factor), they are also hard to read. Maybe I am just getting old, but the format is just not very functional or pretty, to me. And the Mentzer books, while very pleasing with their format and artwork (love me some Elmore), the fact that they are split apart over several sets is somewhat annoying. That's where the RC comes into play. I own that as well, and I have to say it is very appealing to have all the BECMI goodness in one volume, for ease of reference.

    Damn…what was I saying about deciding on LL being my foundation? Looks like I’ve got some soul searching to do…

  7. Funny, I've been on my own journey very similar to yours over the past week or so. I've decided that when it's my turn in the DM chair again that I'll be running an OSR-approved beer & pretzels hex-crawl. I'll either go with original Moldvay B/X (plus JB's Companion, natch) or S&W White Box (for clarity's sake). Like you, I loves me some C&C, but sometimes you gotta go back to the source. Especially since my pool of players are all 4e and Pathfinder types - gotta really rock their world, methinks.

    I've been giving more thought to setting than to rules, really. I think - THINK - I've landed on a final decision of doing a sort of hybrid of Scott Driver's brilliant Wilderlands of Darkling Sorcery, Rob Conley's Majestic Wilderlands, and my own insane scribblings. I'm sort of going for an aesthetic mash-up of classic Elmore meets Erol Otus. We'll see if I can pull it off.

    System-wise, the main question I'm dealing with is one of scope. Do I restrict PC options to the classic 4+3 of OD&D and B/X? Do I ditch race plus class? (Probably not; too close to AD&D.) Do I add other classes and races to the mix? Decisions, decisions. Fortunately, I've got probably another month or two before the current campaign I'm playing in wraps up, so I've got plenty of time to cogitate (not always a good thing...).