Category Archives: X-plorers

Best & Worst of Gaming 2009 [Part 3]

If you haven’t already, you should have a look at Part 1 and Part 2 of my Best & Worst of Gaming 2009 series.

Best Adventure

OPD Codex 2009 The best adventure of 2009 was not one, but many! If you have followed my blog you may have read about Michael Shorten’s and Philippe-Antoine Ménard’s One Page Dungeon Contest. They looked for the best one-page dungeons and on July 31st they released the One Page Dungeon Codex 2009 which contained all winners and the runner-ups, but also several blog articles about the history of the One Page Dungeon Template and how to use it.  Definitely my pick for best adventure in 2009! And the fact, that my contest entry was one of the runner-ups had nothing to do with that decision… honestly!

Best Free Product

Dungeonslayers For me the best free product of 2008 was Christian Kennig’s Dungeonslayers game, because of the rules-light system and it’s great community support. For the German edition of the game you can not only download the free core rules, but also four rules supplements (which add optional rules, new equipment and new spells to the game) and over twelve one page dungeons. Aside from that there are several accessories like printable floor plans, various sheets, monster cards, a GM screen and many more free goodies. If you are looking for a great free fantasy game which is not an OD&D clone, you should have a look at Dungeonslayers.

Best Production Values

Alpha Omega logo The production values of roleplaying games have improved tremendously over the years but the product line that impressed me most recently was Alpha Omega by Mind Storm Labs. The original core book had been printed back in December 2007, but the creature book called “The Encountered Vol. 1” has just been released last year, so I think the Alpha Omega game line is still eligible for this category. Like the core book, the Alpha Omega creature book is a hardcover book with horizontal format, full-color glossy paper and gorgeous artwork. If you have the chance to leaf through a copy of one of the Alpha Omega books at a FLGS, you should do so.
Close seconds in this category were the recently released Rogue Trader RPG and Paizo’s Pathfinder RPG (but haven’t we praised Paizo often enough already?).

Best Trend

Old School ... do you feel lucky, punk? The best trend of 2009 was probably the renewed interest in old-school gaming. I am sure this trend started even earlier, but last year it became much more noticeable if you ask me. Swords & Wizardry won an Silver ENnie, Grey Area Games released the awesome pseudo retro-clone X-Plorers and even Green Ronin’s latest game, the Dragon Age RPG, is very much reminiscent of old-school games and even comes in a boxed set to boot. 

This concludes Part 3 of the series. I will cover the remaining categories in the fourth and final post, so stay tuned!

Guide to retro-clone roleplaying games

It’s probably pretty obvious that I recently discovered the world of old-school gaming for me. In a way this new passion started with Dungeonslayers (which is actually not old-school at all) and later I stumbled upon X-plorers. Since I love SF and it seemed easy to run, I gave it a try and this paved the road for me having a look at the real retro-clones like Swords & Wizardry.

One thing that bugged me for quite a while was the question what the differences between the various retro-clones are. The most well known are obviously Swords & Wizardry (which itself is available in two distinct versions), Microlite74, OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord and Basic Fantasy RPG.

All of those games are inspired by early editions of D&D and make use of the d20 Fantasy SRD under the terms of the OGL and they are all available for free as PDF. But what versions of D&D do they try to emulate and what version is the right one for me?

Retro clones

I initially wanted to write a big post about all this, but when I started doing research I stumbled upon the perfect article about retro-clone roleplaying games at the “To The Blogmobile!” blog. The post not only describes the various games in detail it also links a few interesting reviews.

If you are interested in playing any retro-clone, you should probably read “Old is new again: a guide to ‘retro-clone’ roleplaying games" before doing so.

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?