Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why Play a Retro Clone?

Many old school gamers would shout a quick reply to that question: Because the games were better back then! But that doesn't quite make it. They're talking about the OOP games, not the clones. The gamers who prefer older styles of play usually played the original old school games. Like myself. I own all of the 1e rules, most of the supplements and lots of the modules and setting material. Why would I need OSRIC or LL AEC? Well, I'm certainly not advocating for the dismissal of the clones. Retro clones serve a few important purposes. What I am advocating is an understanding of their place in the gaming world. So, why would someone play a retro-clone?
  1. They don't have access to the original books. Either they sold/gave them away and are coming back to the hobby or they want to try the game out for the first time. Retroclones serve this purpose well. They are an easy, cheaper and still largely compatible option to play older style games without actually buying all the old rulebooks. This also works for a DM who has the rules, but whose players do not; as long as they are all willing to switch.
  2. They like the presentation better in the clone than the original. Many of the retro clones have better presentation and organization than was available in the original works. This is true for clones where the rules closely mirror the originals. It is also true for those who would have preferred slight rule changes, fixes or house-rules that seemed logical, but weren't available in the out of print games. But in this second instance, where the rules are still largely the same as the original.
  3. They want to create new material for original games. Though it is not necessary to play the games to do this it helps. Because newly printed material must closely abide by copyright laws, it is always wise to at least playtest such games in the retro clone environment to make sure the new material abides by the clone's restrictions.
And that's about it. I mean anyone can play any game they want to because they think it's cool. So such an answer really doesn't apply beyond why anyone would play RPGs generally. Because they are fun? Why do you play 4e? Cause it's cool! Why do you play Basic Fantasy? Cause it's cool! Such answers are really meaningless in terms of understanding the place of such games in the hobby from a purely meta-game standpoint. Only slightly more meaningful is that it just "feels" right. That too is fine in and of itself, but it's very little help without further clarification.

So in my opinion, and my opinion is of course law (snicker), there are three reasons to play a retro clone and they are listed above. See, when I was playing OSRIC, it was because I was trying to install 1e as our game of choice in the RPG club which I advise. But getting lots of younger gamers to amass the rulesbooks was unfeasable. So we went with OSRIC. I was squarely located in reason number 1. But personally, I firmly believe that only reason number 2 is valid. Which means there is only 1 reason, and 1 reason alone to play a retro-clone. Wonder why I say that? Well, first let me ask you all out there in webland: Why do _you_ play retro clones?
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