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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Clone Project: Ability Names

The Liber Zero summary document is actually pretty far along, but I've had to put it on hold while I work on layout for someone else. That other project is just about done, so I'll be switching back to LZ work soon. And as a consequence, I've been thinking about some things, especially licensing, since I witnessed a minor OSR kerfuffle recently revolving around licensing.

I'm about 80% committed to making Liber Zero an OGL game with a liberal complimentary license for some of the Product Identity portion, as described elsewhere. But I'm still 20% toying with the idea of going completely Creative Commons on the summary document, ditching the OGL completely. This is why not too long ago I asked about recent RPGs that were very close to D&D but not OGL; I figure if Liber Zero has some distinct (but work-alike) mechanics, procedures and tables, and doesn't copy terminology any more than other non-OGL games that didn't get sued, it would probably work. I'm just not certain if it would be worth it.

One small example: the names of the six primary abilities. Some games have the same six abilities with completely different names, while others only change some of the names; some games add one or two abilities, some replace one (usually Wisdom,) some drop one or more.

My guess is that I could definitely keep Strength, Intelligence, and Dexterity, since they are used in The Fantasy Trip, GURPS, and Runequest/BRP, and I could probably get away with keeping the names Constitution and Charisma, since they are shared with BRP. I have three basic ideas:
  • Rename Wisdom to Sense and define it as "ability to sense when something is wrong -- moral sense, common sense, and danger sense combined." It's still the prime requisite for Clerics.
  • Add an ability called Wealth, rolled the same way. 10 x Wealth equals starting gold. Add some other minor uses for the Wealth ability.
  • Add an ability called Loyalty, but only for hirelings.
My question is: which of these proposals are too radical for an attempted close clone of the original booklets? Are any of these deal-breakers?


  1. It depends on what you consider a "close clone". To me, Labyrinth Lord is a "close clone" (the closest, probably), OSRIC is a "close clone", while LotFP and S&W would be best described as "similar games". There is nothing wrong in that (I like S&W pretty much), but they are two different things to me.

  2. At this point it's about the integrity of your product. I think if you want it to really be a clone then you can't mess with ability names, though Loyalty for NPCs is OK. OTOH if you do change names then you may as well go back and change all the stuff you thought didn't make sense but are keeping in because of the original.

  3. @Il Male: Yeah, that's a consideration. I think I can get away with a lot with my current mechanics and tables, but terminology is a sticky point.

    @Roger: I'm not sure if there was much that I thought didn't make sense, although there were specific numbers I thought made less sense in context, such as changing the M-U HD to half Fighter HD and Clerics to 2/3 Fighter HD.

    Wealth, of course, exists in the original, but as a one-time roll; it's not treated as an attribute. Loyalty already exists for NPCs, although I might add it to PCs (with a different meaning.) So the main issue is whether changing the name of one attribute is going to be a big deal.

  4. The whole appeal of LZ, for me, has been the idea that it is the concentrated and purified extract of OD&D, rebottled in a single clearly written text. I see LZ competing directly with S&W WB except that it cuts closer to the original cloth and brings to the fore subtle features of the original ruleset that have been overlooked by WB. I would greatly appreciate an improved reinterpretation of some mechanic that has been ignored or mistreated in later iterations of the rules as that would add to verisimilitude but changing things central to the body canon would, I believe be detrimental to the appeal of the work. If some change is necessary for publication, I'd rather you introduce additions to branch subjects as Henchmen Loyalty, Status/Prestige/Wealth as an attribute or even FATE points as these are thing which I can clearly identify as additions which I can safely ignore if I wanted to.

  5. @Icarus: Good points. I am planning on putting most changes into sections separate from the main LZ text. Adding stuff to the roll for Loyalty or Wealth is probably not a good idea then... although this means that LZ will have to be OGL, despite my preference for a Creative Commons license.