... now with 35% more arrogance!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Clone in Your Head

James Maliszewski raised the topic of what role the retro-clones were good for Friday, with a follow-up post today. He points out that there's still a great need unfulfilled by any clone:
"... there are a finite number of original games still available for purchase and that number will only decrease with time. You can already see this principle in action with regards to OD&D, whose LBBs and supplements are both increasingly hard to acquire and to acquire without spending a small fortune. Twenty years from now this situation will only be worse. This is why I'd like to see more close clones of older games rather than games inspired by them."
In particular, I think it would be better to design a close clone of the original system, with as few add-ons as possible, to act as a base to build inspired games on, even if it's only to say "WackyNewGame is based on CloseClone, using the six attributes and the concepts of class, level, and hit dice, but the mechanics and details are all changed. Here they are..."

Another thing I would like to see, possibly related to this, is a clone that is as close to one of the rulesets as possible while being as easy to recall as possible, so that there is a minimal need to refer to the printed material. You can practically do this with the LBBs: aside from a couple tables and the lists of spells, monsters, and equipment, you really don't have to refer to the books much. It makes the game highly portable and teachable.

A good example of what I'm thinking of is the Target 20 system of Daniel Collins. It's just the resolution system, but that one-page document not only simplifies combat, saving throws, and thief abilities to one mechanic that sticks very close to the original, it also makes these tables, and even this single sheet, unnecessary for actual play once read; all the GM needs is a cheat sheet with the following tables:

Attack bonuses

Save bonuses

Monster = HD
Spells +0
Fighter = level
Breath +1-1
Cleric = 2/3 level
Stone +2
Wizard = 1/2 level
Paralysis +3+1
(round down)

Death +4+2

Something like this could be printed on a business card and carried in your wallet, or taped inside a folder with your maps and adventure notes. Once you've read the Target 20 document, you know how to use the tables. And, if you wanted to run rules that were closer to a specific edition, it's easy to express those combat tables in terms of modifications to Target 20.

What I'd like to see are more rules compressions like Target 20 which eliminate the need to refer back to them, once read and understood, and which require at most a handful of modifiers that could be included on a single cheat sheet along with the above tables. It's what I was trying to do with my unique approach to armor: Armor types are rated from 3 (none) to 0 (plate), AC = 3 + double this rating, base move is 6 + double rating, swim is 1 + rating, add rating directly to some saves where appropriate. It's why I fiddle around with things like calculating equipment costs on the fly.

I'm not sure how much work it would take, but I feel confident that a summary document for the clone you could run in your head would run about 3 to 4 pages, plus a one-page reference sheet. It's all about trying different techniques that produce almost the same results as the originals.

Let's get this sucker done. Anyone have any ideas on a good next step?

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