Sunday, April 9, 2017

Games Based on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

We've been talking a lot lately about 0e and the fact that most games that came after AD&D were based on a 0e foundation. Were there, however, any games based on AD&D? Why yes, yes there are ... Some designers loved the AD&D approach and paid tribute to it in the most flattering way possible--imitation. This would have never flown back in the day of TSR, as they were extremely vigilant about shutting such efforts down, but now that the threshold has been crossed and the SRD published, designers are more open about such things. Some of them were even so bold back in the day.

Published: 2006
Authors: Stuart Marshall & Matt Finch

I've often wondered if Stuart and Matt created their ancronym first and created the words to fit it. While OSRIC is a cool name Old School Reference Index Companion definitely is not. However, this is the watershed clone of AD&D. Created ostensibly for the publication of old school supplements OSRIC is a fairly close replica of AD&D with a few supplmentary additions, such as weapon specialization. OSRIC is also used by a number of OSAD&D gamers as the system of choice when playing 1st E. However, there are some differences, mostly for purpooses of not violatoing copyright and several things left out for the same reason--mostly for content realted items. Overal an incredibly important work that transformed much of the OSR. A new 2013 update had been released as well.

Published: 2001
Authors: Jolly Blackburn, Dave Kenzer, et al

Allow me to gush ... Hackmaster 4e is probably the most incredible work to come out of gaming since AD&D itself. I know, I know, but seriously, the massive labor of love, gaming wisdom and deep insight into what made AD&D what it is, how TSR was and worked that went into Hackmaster makes it my favorite game of all time. What? What's that you say? AD&D held that billing didn't it? Well, yes, and if it, Gary and TSR were still around and a going concern AD&D still would be. The thing about Hackmaster that makes it different is that, not only is it afithful to the original work, it also contains within it what I conisder the spirit of the original while embracing some of those most popular and most widely used supplements, variants and additions that were commonly used in the day. Things like Critical Hits, Fumbles, Increasing Ability scores, Build Points, and the like all find a place in a work that somehow still manages to be true to the Spirit of the game. What at times TSR or AD&D only mentioned in passing occasionally in articles and obscure rules references, Hackmaster enshirnes as the central core of the ethos of the game. In doing so it preserves much of what AD&D lost through silence and the steady pressure of softer gaming. Granted, much of what HM acheived it did so becuase of the brillinat background and history laid for it in the Knights of the Dinner Table Comic Book, but if anyone whats to really know what it was like back in the day, and what Gary and TSR were aiming for (good bad and ugly) have to look no furhter than the KODT magazine and the ongoing Hackmaster universe. It is, bar none, the best and truest tribute to old school gaming and AD&D and Master Gygax ever. Unfortunately it is out of print in its original form, but more on this below.

Published: 1990
Author: Kevin Siembieda

Some might take issue with the inclusion of Palladium's RIFTS RPG, but the fact is RIFTS and other Palladium games are essentially built off of an AD&D chassis. Granted they extend the game into regions unknown and unheard of. Oddly however, at least in my opinion, they avoid heading off into the stratosphere that 2e went by the end of the 90's. While AD&D sort of fell apart in space before the demise of TSR rules-wise, RIFTS managed to stay consolidated and true to what I would consider an earlier version of AD&D generally. It certainly deserves credit as continuing the AD&D legacy in new and original directions. It did not go back to a 0e mindset, but went in its own directions from a solid AD&D launchpad. And as an aside, I consider Kevin Siembieda one of the founding fathers of RPGs in this regards, along with people like Steve Jackson, Ken, St. Andre, Dave Hargrave, Marc Miller and others in the middle expanse.

Published: 2012
Author: Joseph Bloch

I've effusely praised this gem before, and it almost became the default game of choice in our school gaming club several years ago. I own the PDFs, and would love to pick up the hardbacks sometime. Mentioned in my last post as the heir to every note and reference Gary gygax ever made about what his second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons would have been if he had been able to create it, outside of OSRIC this is probably the most accurate in actual text and rules to AD&D. It is a magnificent effort on the part of Joseph Bloch, who others have widely praised as a master of the Greyhawk Campaign. I regularly keep up with his blogging and other projects, most notably a serious effort to lobby WoTC to either issue a reprint of Greyhawk for 5e or release the rights to play in that vineyard. Joseph would be a natural for that task. 

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2nd Edition)
Published: 1989
Author: Dave "Zeb" Cook et al

Well, we might as well include AD&D 2e. While some will take issue with me including this edition in a list of variants, clones and other games that were built on the AD&D foundation; after all isn't this Advanced Dungeons & Dragons itself? Well, not exactly, and anyone who has played it knows why. Having said that I prefer some approaches in this volume, d10 for initiative, and specialist mages just to name two. I personally hate the art worse than 1e, but that's a matter of taste. Generally I will admit this was a more user friendly version of AD&D, but largely defanged of its more swords and sorcery origins. It is decidedly more high fantasy than the gritty low fantasy of AD&D 1e. But, and please notice how big my but is ... this version played as is with the core books of PHB, DMG and Monstrous Compendium is a solid AD&D game. It did expand quickly and was much less shy about adding supplements and variant rules than 1e ever thought of being. I would say for several years it did quite well. I also like the additions of the Options books as codified sets of options that could be added or used in lieu of. I can't say I liked all the options, but if you are going to have them, the approach was nice. So, there you go, the first game built on the AD&D foundation after 1e. 

Published: 2015
Author: Justen Brown

And if we are going to include 2e and OSRIC, we have to include this beautiful piece of work by Justen Brown. I'll admit I'm not terribly familiar with it, but have been meaning to read through the PDF some time soon. I will also say I am a much bigger fan of most of the artwork in FG&G than 2e, and it certainly is truer to the high fantasy feel of the work. 2e always struck me as slightly Saturday morning. The rules generally seem faithful to the 2e ruleset and deserve a place among games that have sought to emulate the AD&D approach. 

Published: 2009 (Basic) 2012 (Advanced)
Author: Jolly Blackburn, Dave Kenzer, et al

Although, not officially called "advanced" in order to differentiate it from 4e, we'll abbreviate it AHM here. AHM is the legacy of 4e HackMaster and something more. Though essentially built on the foundation of AD&D, AHM is something else as well. KenzerCo created HM as the game dreamed of in KODT, but which never felt quite seamless as a product. The extensions of the game they had added onto AD&D in 4e, were worked up as a system in AH. In this way it probably can be said to diverge the most from AD&D of all on this page, but it has something else quite profound going for it. It has the KCo team and KODT. Arguably the thing that made AD&D what it was was the tone and mood behind the game. This is what KODT and the KCo team have done so well. While all the games on this page are more or less true to AD&D RAW, what they lack is the community behind it that supported the style of play enshrined in those rules. This is critical, I think, because as mentioned in my previous three posts what made AD&D different was the ethos behind it. KCo and HM has this going for it in spades.