Earlier, I was posting a comment and got a Captcha that said "Retra". And I thought "man, that would be a good name for a near-clone, an RPG designed with some old school elements, but not really matching any particular game.
And I kind of built a significant chunk of "Retra" in my head before deciding that Retra probably wasn't a good name and I probably shouldn't be working on it, since I've got plenty of stuff on plate as it is, and I doubt I'll ever try it out. But I thought I'd post a couple of the ideas here, for everyone's amusement.
Basic Goals: Use only six-sided dice; lots of randomness; avoid math in mechanics as much as possible (OK for game-world descriptors, though;) stay flexible and simple.
Basic Mechanic: Roll one or more dice and look for the best result. Opponent does the same. Highest wins. Side with highest Hit Dice rating gets to roll one extra die; other situations can add extra dice as well (bigger creature, when wrestling, for example.) Obstacles or hazards have HD ratings as well, but they (usually) are passive effects.
Classes and Abilities: Three basic classes, each with a key ability: Hero (combat), Genius (talent), Wizard (magic). Any character can learn to do any of these things, but each class can substitute Level for Hit Dice when rolling for success with its key ability. Also, each class has a reduced risk of misfortune when attempting actions that fall within its key ability.
Trait Scores: Describe the character. Extrinsics are the only ones that *must* be rolled; they describe external features: Size, Move, Age, Wealth. Each has a split score that looks like "10/4"; the first number is the rating (used for comparisons to see which side gets an extra die,) the second number is the limit (used for restrictions and bonuses.) Roll 3d6 for each score; the total of the three dice equals the rating, the highest die rolled equals the limit. Size is basically breadth or girth, not height (which is always about 6 for ordinary humans.) Move is exactly what it sounds like (distance moved in half a minute.) Add 10 to Age to get actual age, in years. Wealth is starting coins in pocket; character also has weapons with a total cost less than Wealth and one suit of armor that costs less than triple Wealth.
Intrinsic Traits: Do not need to be rolled, but default to 10/4. If the player wants to try for something other than average (and risk being below average,) roll 3d6 and assign the total to the rating and the highest die result to the limit. Intrinsics are Mighty, Clever, Quick, and Charming. Characters can't use a close melée weapon one-handed if its length in feet is greater than the Mighty limit and can't learn spell levels greater than the Clever limit, nor can they have henchmen with a level higher than their Charming limit. The ratings are generally used to determine how long certain tasks take; intrinsic ratings can potentially be increased, but never more than triple the limit.
Misfortunes: If a character rolls dice for an action and fails, Roll one die for misfortune. Some actions are more dangerous (untrained tasks, tasks performed under extreme conditions, tasks performed while cursed;) add an extra die for each. If the action falls within the natural ability of the class (combat for Heroes, for example,) drop one die. If the highest result is greater than or equal to 4, the misfortune occurs. If one or more traits apply, use the lowest trait's limit instead of the default of 4 (so a warrior with Mighty 18/6 will only suffer a misfortune on failed feats of strength if the roll is a 6.) (If I were really turning this into a game, I'd probably add Misfortune Tables for results as well.)
Improvement: If a character tries an action, succeeds, and the highest roll is equal to the limit of an intrinsic trait used for that action, that trait gets an experience check at the end of the adventure. Roll the character's Hit Dice and find the lowest: if it is greater than the limit, the rating (not the limit) increases by 1. If the character uses class abilities successfully, survives the adventure, and returns to civilization with wealth and new stories to brag about, the character gets a Level check, rolled the same way, but using the character's best trait as the limit. If the character spends or flaunts wealth equal to 1000 coins per level, drop the lowest die. If the character was witnessed defeating a creature or hazard more powerful (HD greater than character's level,) drop another die.
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That's pretty much allt I came up with, minus a couple other details not worth mentioning... except maybe the alternate races. I might try adapting one particular race to OD&D.