Saturday, June 18, 2011

OSR Central & an OGL Hackmaster? III

Following this post is easier if one reads the previous two posts.

Was KCo trying to achieve a similar rebirth with HM Basic? A rebirth of the true old school? An innovation instead of a renovation? Gary Jackson, now returned, issues 5e billing it as what 4e was supposed to be. The very thing HM4e may have already achieved, but was lost due to copyright issues? Well, they haven't been _that_ forthcoming over at KCo, and probably for good reason (again copyright and all that). They have admitted to designing the game the way they would have wanted to play it. And you can't fault them for that.

But they changed the basic engine and that was a _big_ gamble. It was, in fact what lost it for me. It might have been better if 5e had been redesigned utilizing the SRD/OGL. They could have achieved something more like Joseph Goodman's Dungeon crawl Classic RPG which shows awesome promise (but that's for another post).

All of which leaves me wondering if HM4e couldn't be resurrected using OSRIC as a framework. That way they preserve the engine and are able to continue to support what 4e was all about. I must admit, I'm not sure about all the legalities on that. Exactly how much of 4e did WoTC "own" by the license under which KCo operated? To avoid the whole mess they retooled everything. But I'm afraid they threw may have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Even thought the legal mess might have been ugly it would have been worth it to create something truer to form.

Oddly the parody which was the supposed "inspiration" of 4e was transformed at the outset by KCo into a redesign of 2e with some powerful old school house rules thrown in. And this effort was a resounding success. One of the few outside companies that actually improved the game we all knew and loved.

Many have argued that they were only able to pull it off because WoTC gave them license and carte blanche to do whatever they wanted with the original text of 1e/2e. And thus no one can now repeat what they did because they don't have similar legal freedom. But OSRIC exists as a framework and KCo has proven they can retain the spirit and attitude of the game, as they have done so with HMb. They didn't _have_ to change the basic engine.

Which of course makes me wonder -- could anyone public domain HM4e using OSRIC. 'course to truly do so there are lots of proprietary stuff related to KODT that KCo wouldn't want snarfed up. The mechanical stuff like crits and honor and the like could be emulated however. In the end it would likely have to be KCo that led the project. Which brings us right back to legal wranglings at the commercial level.

'Course individuals could OSRIC HM4e without going public, for their own devices as it were. Running their own campaigns using HM books as source and OSRIC as the active engine. Still, that's not the same and I lament the commercial loss of yet another awesome game.
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