Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lejendary Adventures, Hackmaster and Castles & Crusades, Oh My!

Are they classic? Well, they certainly have an old school feel. So much so that hordes of AD&D gamers are transitioning (okay maybe hordes is too expansive a word) to these new-old games.

I must admit I've been giving them a look myself. Doing a lot of preliminary feeling around for their tone, what people's opinions are and what the fans and critics are saying. I will say most who are reviewing them aren't giving much in the way of negatives. So one can't help but wonder what's behind this new generation of throwback--or revivals if you like?

Well. Hackmaster is probably one of the oldest, and the one with the most direct AD&D lineage. We all know it came about as a longing for a real game to fit the parody mentioned in Knights of the Kitchen Table. It's been my experience that gamers, more than most, love to laugh at themselves and their culture. Sure there's always a few closet gamers that are afraid of being too closely associated with anything nerdy or geeky, but to the core, we love laughing at ourselves. So it was only natural that given the smash hit of KOTKT that we would soon be begging to actually play Hackmaster.

Since Hackmaster was a direct allusion to AD&D it was also natural that AD&D would provide the rule-set. Now, mind you I've never played HM and probably never will given the precious nature of my gaming time. But the feel I get is that it can be indeed a serious game that simply contains ripe material for parody ala Robert Asprin et al. And let's be honest given the above average intellect of most gamers we all love throwing in the abstract jokes, esoteric anachronisms, occult Monty Python allusions and liberal puns whenever possible. So I'm sure we get enough parody without a game specifically designed for it. Of course there's no accounting for the smashing popularity of Steve Jackson's Munchkins.

So why even lump it in with AD&D? Because given the void left in the aftermath of 3.0 there was simply no one doing AD&D anymore and HM is one of those games that filled the void. And for that reason there are many gamers who use it instead of AD&D now. I suppose this has to do with new material coming out as opposed to the system itself as the systems are evidently very close.

And what about Castles and Crusades? Well, this I believe was a valiant attempt to offer frustrated AD&D gamers somewhere to go to actually play a game somewhat like what they used to play. I don't know how successful it's been, but it certainly has its proponents. The game itself is not a core AD&D mechanic. That has fallen to the d20 OGL which I must admit boggles my mind somewhat. I think the general dissatisfaction with the quirks of the AD&D system (i.e. AC goes down instead of up, separate combat tables, saves and attacks go down while checks go up, etc. etc.) led the charge for a single mechanic that could be applied across domains.

On the surface this is appealing, but it worries me some. Changes have the potential to change more than the structure of roll mechanics. Change the rules and you risk changing the spirit of the game. Now, I'm not saying C&C did that--again, I've never played it, and I'm thinking about giving it a shot. Maybe I'm just so nauseated by 3.0+ trying to be D&D that I'm afraid I'll need Pepto if I get to close to it : ) But then again they say Gary approves.
So lastly--Lejendary Adventures. This one I will buy--if for no other reason than Gary wrote it. And more for the fact that from what I hear it sounds like a good system. I am interested to try Gary's newest creation. His revisioning of what a game could or perhaps should be. Now, having said that I get the feeling from various of Gary's posts, particularly on Dragonsfoot that he is still saddened by what happened to TSR and the game he so lovingly crafted. I think he would have picked up the AD&D torch again in a heartbeat had someone given him the chance. But score one for big world corporations and greed, score ten for Gary. Because they lost a lot when Gary left and what they ended up with was something fundamentally different. I'm not going to say a lot of people didn't play 3.5 or are now playing 4e but they aren't playing AD&D. I suppose they had to create something more proprietary. So the first thing to be changed was the entire system to the d20 mechanic.
That's a lot of water you just chucked out, you are there wasn't a baby or two in there?
More like a hundred babies. Such is life. We move on and when given lemons we make lemonade. That's just what Gary did. LA (Lejendary Adventures) is a completely new start. Same spirit? I couldn't tell you. My thoughts are no, because there is so much change to the rules. Bu then again maybe that's not what he was aiming for. Maybe he was going for something different but just as good. I'll have to wait and see--because I haven't even begun purchasing yet--but I will.
I'm keeping an eye on Gygax Games and waiting for the new publisher to come on line--hopefully they won't do a re-write. ... Argh.

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