Ask The Readers: What is your favorite D&D retro-clone and why?

tsr2002 I have never played the original D&D from 1974 or any other version of D&D before AD&D 2nd Edition.

But then the release of several D&D retro-clones allowed me to explore what people call “old school” or “traditional adventure” (like in TARGA) roleplaying. I have to admit I still haven’t played a OD&D retro-clone, but I’ve run X-plorers which is a SF game heavily inspired by Swords & Wizardry and which is definitely old-school from its design.

I am currently pretty excited about running a Swords & Wizardry White Box game. So, why did I choose this game? There are mainly two reasons:

  • Michael Shorten’s S&W Quick Start
    Michael is my personal expert on all things old-school. When I have some questions regarding legacy D&D (especially OD&D) he’s the first person I ask. I also enjoy reading his blog, especially his solo game reports and everything about the Ultima sandbox game he’s working on.
    Some time ago he has published a quick start booklet for S&W that is supposed to help new players and DMs get into old-school gaming using the Swords & Wizardry rules. I enjoyed reading this very much, so that’s one of the reasons why I slant towards S&W.
  • David Bezio’s X-plorers
    Another game I had a lot of fun with was the aforementioned X-plorers. From David I learned that the game was heavily inspired by S&W and he also recommened me to give S&W White Box a try. In his opinion the Swords & Wizardry White Box stands out from all other retro-clones and is a game that pretty much can stand on its own. That definitely sounded interesting!

In the end my decision to use S&W is grounded on the fact that two people I hold in high regard have recommended the game to me. This doesn’t mean I am not open towards trying out the “competition” as well. 😉

So, what are your thought on that subject? What is your favorite D&D retro-clone and why should anyone pick that game over the others?

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

7 thoughts on “Ask The Readers: What is your favorite D&D retro-clone and why?”

  1. Just so you can update your links, the new TARGA website is – it points to the blog, the new WIKI and our email list.

    Thank you for the kind words on the Quick Start! I hoped it would do exactly what you say its done.

    My favorite clones? Obviously Swords & Wizardry – both White Box (which is as close to the original 1974 rules as you can get in modern format) and Core Rules (which is based on 1974 rules plus the supplements)

  2. I like Labyrinth Lord the most as far as the fantasy retro-clones are concerned. But if you're discussing other genres, I REALLY enjoy Mutant Future, created by the same LL crew. Just as X-plorers is a retro-clone sci-fi system and LL is a fantasy retro-clone system, MF is a post-apocalyptic, mutated, science fantasy retro-clone ala Gamma World/Darwin's World. Great fun!
    .-= Tim´s last blog ..[Thundarr Thursday] Ancient Armory: The Sun Sword =-.

  3. For me it is Labyrinth Lord.

    But the reality is that I don't play any of them, I play B/X D&D. Labyrinth Lord means that my players have a variant of the rules to use themselves instead of relying on my copy all the time.

  4. To be honest, my homebrew. I've been playing it since 1978. It's based on OD&D, but has some differences which I consider to be improvements. I've had probably around a hundred players in 30 years, and so far I've really been happy with it. The game system is called Elthos RPG and I finally got around to putting into a format that I will soon offer up as another retro-clone. Haw.

  5. For me it's Labyrinth Lord. Not only can you play it as is – Basic edition, but by using Dan's Original Edition Characters you've got yourself a 0e game, and his soon to be released Advanced Edition Companion will give a 1e experience – best of all worlds.

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