Thursday, August 25, 2011

Let's Talk OSRIC

When I first found OSRIC I thought my dreams had come true. I had been looking for some way to continue playing 1e without having to direct all my new players (on average 8 to 15 a year) to where they could hunt up new copies of the oop rules for original AD&D. OSRIC was free, and it was very 1e. So we started playing, everyone else using OSRIC 2.0 and me using my 1e books.

The first trouble started coming up with attribute bonuses. They were slightly different than the original books. Then came the spell differences. The wording was just different enough to cause interpretation problems between me and my players. They felt like a spell worked one way, and I understood it another. Then came experience points. They were different on just about every level for every class. Then came magic items and differences in description there as well. This began to be such a source of frustration for me that I made a DM executive decision and told my players that OSRIC was fine as a rough approximation of the rules, but where there was a difference my core books trumped any differences in OSRIC rules.

That didn't last long, as my players were the ones that were frustrated. It became quickly apparent that if we were going to play OSRIC we were going to have to all use OSRIC books. And the whole reason I had wanted to use OSRIC in the first place was that it allowed me to use all my original books. Now I felt like I was playing with a cheap imitation of the original that I knew so well. In fact I players would ask me something about a rule, spell or mechanics and I would answer with a 1e answer without even looking it up. I knew it by heart. They would then disagree with me, or quote OSRIC to the contrary. I really couldn't argue with it, because they were right about the rule or question under consideration was written differently in OSRIC. So I began to make a list of differences between the two systems and stopped when I reached a page and a half without even getting past page 50. This had just verified to me that the game could not really be played side by side with 1e books. But it went deeper than that.

What I began to see in how the rules were presented in OSRIC was different in spirit than the game I was used to. I don't want to say that it was without a doubt different in spirit than Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, but ti was definitely different than how I had played. There was a subtle undercurrent in the presentation of the rules that made it clear that this was one person or group's interpretation of what D&D was. That it had lost something very Gygaxian in translation.

James from The Underdark Gazette made a good point in his comment on my last entry,

"V2 is a complete game, but OSRIC is missing is all the little tidbits of Gygaxian wisdom and rules, spread throughout the DMG, here and there. It's a loss that is acutely felt by DM's, but not necessarily by players, who've never read the DMG."

Which made me want to clarify. I was really judging OSRIC unfairly. I came at it looking for a verbatim replacement for 1e. It really can't be that. No retro-clone legally can. And what I was missing was Gary's spirit in the game. OSRIC really hadn't replicated that for me and I missed it. I should have judged OSRIC with new eyes on it's own merits. It is a game a its own right. A complete game. Different from the original but close. I have judged other clones more on their own merits and perhaps have been slighting OSRIC some. It didn't measure up as a replacement for 1e because, as I now know, no clone can replace the original game. Which I think is what Matt Finch was saying here. At first I took this a little personally. I mean I'm looking for a game to make my default game, my goto system, my game of choice. And also a system to publish my own stuff within. And he seems to be telling me that the only reason his clone even exists is to get people to play from the original books. It's just an intro.

Now I can see that this was really a misunderstanding on my part. Matt was trying to point out no clone can ever replace the originals. For one they are created by different people and won't and indeed can't contain their spirit, the spirit they breathed into the game. That spirit has to come through in translation. And that's a tough thing to do. In my opinion Matt Finch has created a masterpiece. The thing he didn;t anticipate, nor did Sutart Marshall with OSRIC, was that these clones would become the games of choice for thousands of gamers. It was never their intention to replace the originals--in fact Matt thus admits he can't replace the original. But Matt has created a game that has its own spirit, in the tradition of the original 0e game. I love the weird dark stuff that is coming out from S&W. Stuff like that was not really available for 0e. It is different, and in some ways better. In this case the creation has exceeded the master's intention. And Matt is truly a master. He's just evidently humble enough to give the real credit and magic to the inspiration in the original games. And that's cool too.

I would in fact encourage people to do exactly what Matt is encouraging them not to do. Play S&W as your game of choice. See it as a creative tool for your game. Sure get the originals eventually and use them as fodder for inspiration but play the game that is out there now. S&W. Lots of people are actually doing that now, and doing some really cool stuff.

The fact is I haven't judged OSRIC by the same yardstick, but that was my own hang-up not OSRIC's. Stuart did exactly what Matt has done, and the new First Edition label and the Advanced Adventures stuff is a tribute to that effect. If I were to play OSRIC now I would approach it with open eyes and as a game in its own right. Not as another copy of 1e. With that in mind I might give the game more of a fair shake. There are things I like more about other games, and some rules in OSRIC that Stuart listed as optional that I would remove altogether (but I guess that's why they're optional huh?). But I could say that about any of the clones and truthfully about the originals as well.

So, all said I apologize for unfairly judging OSRIC. Consider it back in play as I take the time to judge the game on its own merits. I must say however, that there are those more grognardly than myself who look to OSRIC with the same tone which Matt approached S&W. That OSRIC is not to be played as a standalone game but as a publishing tool. I think these folks are worried OSRIC might wipe 1e off the map, and that they can see and feel the differences between the two. But as in the case of Matt's S&W Stu's OSRIC has exceeded his wildest imaginations as the game to play if you want to get into 1e gaming.

I say kudos to them both and that their success is to be lauded, even if they are too humble to admit their impact in the OSR world and the gaming universe. Thanks guys!

11 comments:

ADD Grognard said...

Honestly man, if you would prefer sticking with what you know hook these kids up with AD&D PHBs (There are a TON for sale on Amazon) and be done with it. It's easy, you can explain the historical nature of the edition and a chance to play the first 'flagship' rpg system, play a system you know very well and can have a better experience all around for everyone.

Next year, hell , play Pathfinder. It should be the official 'big dog' by then and it gives you a chance to study the system and be prepared from now until then.

It's all good man...always remember if you are having fun you are doing it right. :)

Chris said...

Hey thanks ADD Grognard. I've actually thought of that ; - )

Btw, how's your game coming? Anywhere we can read some hints about? Would love to hear what you have going on.

And well, let's just say I don't mind PF, and it is the running favorite among current sign-ups for the club, but it is not the game I prefer to play. We'll see what happens.

ADD Grognard said...

Ok...I hit a mental brick wall working on Forsaken Souls about a week ago...one of those it all looks like symbols from an alien planet I can't look at this right now kinda wall.

So I read this post:

First, how do you make roleplaying games something that anyone can pick up and play for as much or as little time as they like – for example, at a party where people who aren’t already gamers are walking up and looking to experience this new thing without having to commit their whole evening to something they’re not sure they’ll be into?

http://muleabides.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/some-interesting-questions-for-rpgs-and-the-osr/

Read 5 posts over at soogagames starting with this one:

http://soogagames.blogspot.com/2011/08/mass-appeal-in-2011.html

Then decided to take the plunge and use it as a challenge to get myself out of the rut.

I had set up a new blog, yes based on the 'fake game name' I had mentioned in a comment on one of your posts that sounded perfect for the Junior Edition (a little less doom and gloom, a little more adventure heroic-for the kids...and their parents :) and I thought that might be a better place to put it.

So at:

http://classicrealmsofadventure.blogspot.com/

I have posted the first few updates on Drop & Delve-RPG. This will be a free system that I'm trying to finish over the weekend and have ready for download by Monday. It has gotten my blood pumping again so I think it's working. I have another concept piece after this one and have decided to re-work the Basic Edition of FS to make it stand out. I never dreamed we were going to have a system released nearly every month this year so I figured I better bring my A-game.

Now we can publish this book I have just typed-1000 Irons In The Fire And Getting Hotter! :)

ADD Grognard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ADD Grognard said...

Linky try to drive me crazy!!!

http://classicrealms
ofadventure.blog
spot.com/

Now let's see if it can post that without choppy choppy!

Chris said...

Sounds like a cool idea. Neat for getting people involved. And I can understand why you went with M20. Superlite.

Good luck with it. I know what it's like having lots of irons melting on you at once.

Have fun!

ADD Grognard said...

I even left the trusty M20 behind for this one. I wanted to cut as much jargon up front as possible to keep it moving.

The ability list is a point pool system and I'm going with a d6 pool for combat. Creatures HD are both their attack and defense, with a 5 or 6 being a success,etc.

I'm going to try my hand at psionics for this one and and use some of -C psionics material so he doesn't feel the work he has done is in vain (for anyone looking for a psionics package check his out at Hack&Slash-he's got a ton of good stuff and leave comments! :).

I figure keep it SUPER lite to start and then create a page for add ons and optional rules that may help a new comer feel the progression of the game.

I would also be very honored if you offered this to your student players for maybe before or after sessions. It is designed to drop in and out of at anytime with little to no paperwork necessary. Like they could play at lunch, folks at work could play on a lunch hour or a break. Really go out there and find folks who might be game caterpillars waiting to become rpg butterflies :)

Also-you will be very proud that the event table is right out of the DMG-page 117:

01-12 Empty
13-14 Monster
15-17 Monster & Treasure
18 Special
19 Trick/Trap
20 Reward

And this has really given me a boost. I feel good again about hitting the keyboard and working a system :)

Last thing: Did the poll widget come up when you visited? Several folks, myself included, are having problems with widgets.

Back to it!

Billiam Babble said...

I find OSRIC (and the reasons for its existence) genuinely fascinating. I bought a hard copy relatively recently so I could curl up properly with it like I used to with the DMG. I certainly think OSRIC is perfect for new players (perhaps after primer or intro game) because it seems to work best as a reference rule-book. I have fairly mixed feelings about AD&D (plus Unearthed Arcana and later OA), partly because I was not very good at prioritising useful rules, so it was no surprise that some rules completely vanish in OSRIC. I don't know what it's like to play, but the all-in-one rulebook, which is hopefully consistent with itself is a great idea, but like you say it's probably very frustrating to mesh it with AD&D-proper (especially with slight variations like with XP tables etc.).

I recently gave a copy of OSRIC to a friend who remembered playing AD&D but didn't own any rulebooks currently so it was the perfect present (I think, he's yet to get back to me and looked a bit baffled by my excited explanation of the Old School Renaissance).

Since I joined D&D during the TSR BECMI redbox period I remember finding the informal Gygaxian direct styleand referencing structure with appendices a little difficult to follow, but today, for me this is what makes all of the earlier editions so interesting.

I rather respect OSRIC for simplifying the weapon names (which allows for a more generic fantasy feel rather than French-historical) and yet clarifying armour types (which helps with visualising characters). It's the little touches.

In summary and response, I think I enjoy reading OSRIC, and I think up to now I was assuming it was just-about-almost compatible with AD&D - but I guess "compatible" is a word which range from "matching" to "mainly supplemental".

(Thanks for stimulating the old brain cells on this) Cool post. :)

ADD Grognard said...

On a side bar, did you have a chance to look the main rulebook over for BFRPG?

I was wondering if there were any parts that just didn't seem to work. I know you love AD&D 1e like me and I really want to do some of this cross platform development with another system and thought if you had any notes to share on major issues with using it. I have briefly went through it and some of the extras from the website and nothing has really struck me but I haven't done a side by side with my old copies and you are more current on AD&D than I am.

Any comments are appreciated! :)

Chris said...

I have recently re-read BFRPG and I really like it. But I don't look at it like an advanced clone really. It seems to me more like a basic clone with race as class removed. Which is what Matt Finch has done with the most recent release of S&W. I personally like this approach, as I don't like the race as class mechanic.

Beyond that the game is pretty much a basic game. Only slightly more dense than S&W. I have not, however, done a side by side with BFRPG and any original rule set.

Lately I have considered using BFRPG / LL AEC / S&W as our club game, but am also seriously considering C&C. I am basically an "advanced" guy so LL AEC and C&C are both AD&D-like enough to keep me happy and yet rules lite. C&C kind of wins the day with the Seige Engine too.

Also, I like being part of a community, and C&C has a great, supportive community. They are friendly helpful, courteous and all that other boy scout stuff.

OSRIC is a good AD&D emulation, but their community is a little sparse. I love Dragonsfoot, but the whole OSRIC/1e disconnect make talking shop with others slightly stilted. And many of those who support OSRIC but play 1e. Which kind of defeats the purpose of playing OSRIC. So I'm still sort of non-OSRIC right now.

ADD Grognard said...

Sweet...thanks :)

Yeah, the whole OSRIC thing...it seemed to start when they released their creature collection and added the Osric License. I don't think that set to well with most folks (including me) and they seem to have drifted off.

It's hard to go wrong with the LL and S&W lines-popular, TONS of community support and with all the free stuff around that works more or less with any of those guys (Like http://www.dragonsfoot.org/ -have you scrolled down this page lately? Wow. For EVERYTHING C&C, AD&D, etc.

I'm still up in the air about the secondary. Just want to finish this DEEP DELVE project (yeah, slight re-title) and then muscle down the schedule. I realize more everyday I want to write and publish-not do design. If I ever get FS done it will get additions but not editions :)