Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Happy Birthday - David Lance "Dave" Arneson (October 1, 1947 – April 7, 2009)

Today October 1st would be the 68th birthday of Dave Arneson if he were still with us and in a very real way he is still with us through Blackmoor, The First Fantasy Campaign and through the Original Dungeons and Dragons. His creations and creativity live on and bring joy to the hearts of all those who refuse to let someone else set limits on their imagination and creativity and who strive to expand their childlike sense of fun and wonder without limit into something new each day.

Based on all that I have read and heard of him I am confident that he would want all those who knew him, to celebrate his life and have some great fun today. He would want to be remembered with smiles and laughter. For those of us who were never fortunate enough to meet him and to play a game with him, we can be sure that sure that he would welcome us the same way he welcomed so many others as he shared the sheer joy of living and imagining with all those that he met.

Have some fun today - do something fun today with those you love in honor of Dave Arneson!

The Noblest RPGer of Them All  

Happy Dave Arneson Day!  

Dave Arneson Game Day 2015  

Reflections on Dave Arneson 

[News] Dave Arneson Game Day October 1st 2015 

[News] Dave Arneson Game Day October 1st 2015 - Preparation 

Dave Arneson Game Day 2015 and Blackmoor Week 

Blackmoor Fans 

The Last Fantasy Campaign 

Happy Birthday Dave Arneson 

Arneson Day 

Dave Arneson Day 2015 Across the Web  

Monday, September 28, 2015

AFS Magazine Available at the Halls of Tizun Thane

AFS Magazine Issues 1-6 are available in print only(it looks like a few copies from the most recent printing may still be available) at $10.00 each which includes postage over on the Halls of Tizun Thane blog by Scott Moberly (aka

Monday, September 21, 2015

Defining Old School Gaming - an Edition/Game Independent Definition (Before the Reviews)

Disclaimer: I am not saying this is the only definition or the definitive definition. Everyone is welcome to their own definition. What I am saying is that this definition goes back to the early days while OD&D was being written and play tested and looks at two very different games: Blackmoor and Greyhawk and based on the information available to this writer defines what old school gaming is based on the things that two very different games by two very different referees have in common. It also looks at the things that to the best of my knowledge Arneson and Gygax had in common over 30 years later.  I also want to point out that this definition of old school gaming would allow you to play an old school game using any D&D Edition and any other rpg whose rules do not directly conflict with this definition. This means that this definition tells you specifically how you can play games that are greatly different from OD&D in an old school gaming style/manner.

So take a look and tell me what you think. I have seen a lot of different definitions, but I think this one is unique in being truly both Edition Independent  and Game independent. I have tried other definitions over the years, but they were tied to the game being played, this one starts with OD&D but then is extended to apply to any rpg game. I also believe that since under this definition you can use all kinds of game features that I do not like (such as skills and ascending armor class) and still have an old school game - because of this I think it is IMO the most unbiased definition to date since you can play your game in a way I don't like and I would still have to agree that you meet my definition of old school.

So here is the definition, part of it I derived myself and part of it I found in various places including on a non-old school focused forum.

Old school gaming is the way that Gary & Dave played in their own campaigns both before and after the initial publication of OD&D and throughout their lives. Some will point out that their games changed a lot over the years and that is true; however, that things I point to as defining old school gaming did not to the best of my knowledge change in their games.

In the beginning Old School Gaming was Original Dungeons & Dragons as played by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson and it was played in a sandbox, involved both prep work and improvisation (i.e. winging it) and each campaign was each refs own creation. House ruling/adjudication was done on the fly as needed and slavish By the Book adherence to the rules did not exist (was never a consideration). The style of play was test the player not the character which means that metagaming (using all player knowledge) was part of the game and an expected part of play.

A pure sandbox is anything from just a village and the surroundings up to a fully top down designed world that is fully fleshed out.

So here we go for the definition:

Old School Gaming is a sandbox game that involves the full range of the extremes between referee pre-designed and referee improvised (winged) materials where everything in the game is the referees own creation created from any number of inspirations. The referee does house ruling/adjudication on the fly as needed throughout the game. There is no BtB adherence to a rule-set and the game is house ruled and rule changes take place over time. The game tests the player not the character. So called "metagaming" is an expected part of the game on the part of the players.
This tells you how to play OD&D, any OSR game, 3.5E, Runequest, Gurps or any other game in an old school gaming style/manner. It does not tell you that you have to dump this or that rule(s). It is an open-ended definition that clearly defines a specific original play style and yet it is not about imitation since there is nothing in the definition that would require conformity between Blackmoor and Greyhawk or any other campaign to any greater degree than what actually existed.  Gary Gygax reportedly like to play in Dave Arnesons game because of how differently Dave did things from the way Gary did things. And yet they both had the same things in common that defined them then and defines old school gaming now.

So what is an Old School Game, any game that readily and easily lends itself to the Old School Gaming style as defined above. What is a non-old school game? Any game that does not readily and easily lend itself to the Old School Gaming style as defined above.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Things to Remember About Retro-Clones

There are a number of things to remember about Retro-Clones. One is that they are based on the Open Game License (OGL) which refers to the System Reference Document (SRD) published by Wizards of the Coast in 2000, of which there are two versions - one based on 3rd Ed Dungeons & Dragons and one based on 3.5 Ed Dungeons & Dragons. This means for instance that when a writer wants to recreate the Original Dungeons and Dragons game as closely as legally possible there are a number of steps they have to take. 

One of course is getting legal advice from an experienced copyright attorney to help them stay within the letter of the law. 

A second is to go through the SRD and delete everything that is not present at all in OD&D. 

A third step is take all the remaining material that is in OD&D in some form and simplify that information into your own words, but as close to OD&D as you can legally go. This is a time consuming and difficult step and is fraught with some peril in more than one way. OD&D is intentionally vague in some areas and has things that can be interpreted in more than one way. Unfortunately when writing your clone those passages are some of the most difficult to work with since you cannot just quote them. So do you use your preferred interpretation or list more than one interpretation or  do you attempt to recreate the original indeterminacy with a different wording. 

Another consequence of this step is that extreme care must be taken to avoid editing out the things that made OD&D a special game to begin with and these are the same things that by and large are missing from all later versions of D&D.

Another pitfall is that there are iconic monsters and other things that were present in OD&D that are not present in the SRD. This means that you cannot put in a Beholder since it is not in the SRD. That means if you want a Beholder you have to call it something else and have a description that is somewhat different. In addition, you have another decision to make - are you using some or all of the material from one or more supplements?

Then there are Balrogs, Hobbits and Ents. All were present in the first few printings of OD&D, but were pulled from later printings due to legal threats. In addition, there are tables that use Banths, Tharks and other creatures from the John Carter of Mars (Barsoom) books. How do you handle these?

Once you have done all that you can do and have written the best possible Retro-Clone that you could write, you will be criticized for every deviation from the original rules even though you had to create your own presentation of the rules to be completely legal and to comply with the OGL.

Reviews of Retro-Clones of OD&D Coming Soon!

Just to give my readers a heads up of what to expect in the near future!

I am going to be posting reviews of clones of OD&D. I know most of them have been out for quite some time; however, I am going to do a review of several and then give you my take on which ones I like the best and why.

The ones that I am going to review are:

Swords & Wizardy - Whitebox edition

Swords & Wizardy - Core

Delving Deeper

Grey Matter

Iron Falcon

Seven Voyages of Zylarthen

Full Metal Plate Mail

There are others of course; however, I believe that these are a good place to start.