Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More thoughts on an OA retro-clone

What does a retro-clone of 1E Oriental Adventures need? Let's break it down into content:

  • Races - hengeyokai, korobokuru, spirit folk
  • Classes - barbarian, bushi, monk, ninja, samurai, shugenja, sohei, wu jen
  • Weapons and Armour
  • Societal stuff - family, inheritance, Honour system
  • Martial Arts
  • Monsters
  • Events tables
  • Setting outline

There's a lot there if one is going to re-present, as it were, the original in a format that allows for the seamless use of old materials (adventures etc). Do we need all of this? I asked about Honour on Google+, and there seemed to be a variety of opinions, ranging from it being a necessary sub-system to such concepts purely being a roleplaying choice.

What are the objectives in creating such a retro-clone? Possible ones include:

  • Giving new players access to out-of-print material
  • A creative endeavour, in and of itself
  • Making money (yes, yes, I know, please keep the laughter down)
  • Taking the original and working out the kinks

Do we faithfully translate the original to OSRIC, warts and all, effectively doing for OA what OSRIC does for the PHB and DMG? Or is this an opportunity to utilise knowledge and insight gained over time to rework elements of the book that meet with the most contention (e.g. class power levels, martial arts)?

Do we take the AEC route for Labyrinth Lord and bring the power level down, strip out some elements of the classes, adapt others (which is what I've been doing on this blog)?

Or would such a retro-clone be a self-contained game, a la Ruins & Ronin?

Lots of questions! For myself, I am happy working on my conversions for Labyrinth Lord, but I can totally see why one would want to create a product for OSRIC (I just happen to prefer the former over the latter). So, to summarise, I think if a team were to assemble to create such a product, the decision would need to be between these three:

  • OSRIC supplement
  • Labyrinth Lord supplement
  • Self-contained game based on a retro-clone

Now, the retro-clone market has exploded but I am using the two most prominent names within it as examples. Swords and Wizardry would be there but it already has Ruins & Ronin. What game do you want to make?

Another thing to bear in mind is the OGL and what can be utilised from that. Matt Finch is the guru of retro-clones, indeed one of the founding fathers. Check out his blog for a discussion of copyright and the OSR.


  1. I think to achieve maximum market saturation we will need both an OSRIC OA clone AND your proposed Labyrinth Lord AEC Supplement; but obviously what I really want to do is make a fixed version of AD&D's OA, which would be a self contained game based on a retro-clone I guess. Actually when 3e OA came out I spent a long time "fixing" it too, stripping out Rokugan and the L5R stuff, rebuilding the classes to be more like they were originally in 1st edition, so I guess a Pathfinder OA book would be nice too, even though I am not really into later editions anymore I'd probably buy that.

  2. For what it's worth, I'd like to see a system simple enough to adapt within many systems. Now that's already quite possible to the initiate, but it's a tough ask for those of us without intricate knowledge of earlier versions. Hence my eagerness to see what Fabes comes up with.

    I think I'm going with self-contained here.

  3. I think I see what you mean - you'd want a D&D style game that was its own thing, rather than having to get a supplement for a particular game and trying to fit it into your ruleset. I must confess that I now understand something about game authorship that I didn't before - more in another post.

  4. That's it exactly. I've got a magpie approach to gaming (as you know) and readily pinch stuff from all over the place. It's just much much easier for me to swipe and use if the system is self-contained and I can extract it into whatever form I want at the time.

  5. I'd have to say, go with two versions:
    1) LL + AEC-compatible (also then easily used with Swords & Wizardry and other 0e clones).
    2) OSRIC-compatible
    The truth is, making it a standalone RPG simply means you're presenting the same rules (or as close as) that everyone likely to be interested in the project *already has*. That means more redundant material for most folks (or yet another system variant in an already chock-full OSR marketplace), and a lot more time, effort, and energy on your part working on it. Let's be honest, the folks who're going to be interested in the OA project are those who already *have* various OSR rulesets; give them the tools, not yet another game. The folks who'd genuinely need and want a standalone OA RPG would be a very small minority given that what you'd be releasing is essentially a legacy tie-in.

  6. Also, as you've already done a lot of the LL + AEC-related conversion work, you'd be making a bigger rod for your back by switching route now. I'd say keep yourself focused and on-task with that supplemental approach, THEN consider whether you actually want or need to do a different version when you've nailed it. Trust me, there's a world of difference between doing a supplement and doing a complete game, and I've done plenty of both, both as a veteran freelancer and in running Radioactive Ape Designs.

  7. Thank you all for your thoughts! Colin - I really appreciate your comments and I think I will continue as you suggest.

  8. No worries, mate. Keep up the good work, and if I can be of any help or advice, hit me up via my RAD e-mail address.