... now with 35% more arrogance!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Liber Zero's Goals

Porky's comment on a previous post raised the spector of Liber Zero and what, exactly, I'm doing with it right now. As I mentioned in my reply, the main obstacle right now is a couple specific incomplete sections: the spell system needs to be finished, treasure tables are still in flux, a couple other things need to be tweaked. The monster creation rules haven't really changed, but I haven't gotten around to writing individual monster entries, which will mostly be monster categories and how to run them. I need to write all this up into a coherent draft, instead of stray bits and pieces. And then, I need to go through the draft practically word by word to check for legal issues.

Aside from the waves of laziness that hit me when I contemplate this mountain of work, it's the legal issues that are perhaps the bigger obstacle. The state of what Liber Zero actually is is still in flux, as it has been ever since I learned about the Delving Deeper project. Once I saw the pre-release Delving Deeper documents, I could see that it was close enough to the original rules that, between it, Swords & Wizardry Whitebox, and Labyrinth Lord's Original Edition Characters, there really wasn't a need for yet another OGL retroclone of OD&D. Sure, there were places where my opinions on running OD&D were different from DD, Whitebos, or OEC, but rather than publish an entire game to express my objections, I could just write up a Delving Deeper supplement with my alternative rules.

So what I still see as the unexploited niche is a core set of rules published under a Creative Commons license, instead of the OGL, exploiting the principal that game mechanics can't be copyrighted, only the expression of those mechanics. In fact, I think the exact dice rolled or modifiers added should not be important; only the fact that dice are rolled and modifiers added, within the context of a specific structure, should be important.

I want to spend more time on that structure, on what classes mean, where they exist, how characters advance, and how to translate attempted action into chance of success. That means that I may wind up doing some things that won't be in the original rules, strictly speaking. Like, for example, Porky's comment about the "slow armor" rules; I hadn't originally considered that as being part of Liber Zero until Porky suggested that it might be. And so, I started thinking: the idea of being overburdened and needing to rest twice as long is actually in the original rules, but it's not developed the way I developed it, and it's really just a fleeting comment. Shouldn't Liber Zero focus on the fleeting comments or unspoken assumption in the original rules and really expand them?

The reason why I did things like the mechanics-neutral rules table, or comparing ability score names and class and level names across multiple old-school adventure games is because I've always been looking at a way to get rid of the OGL and get down to a common adventure gaming core. In a sense, then, the "Zero" of Liber Zero has transformed from "zero edition" to the "zero point" of several games, of which OD&D is only an example. So maybe Liber Zero is evolving from yet another retroclone to a guide on how to do adventure gaming with that mechanics-neutral structure shared across several games.

I'll probably have more to say on this soon.


  1. I like this idea very much - a zero point common adventure gaming core and guide, ready to run alone or for souping up another system. It could be built as a set of modular structures to be plugged in anywhere they're needed. A lot of the material you post here is essentially independent of D&D.

    Although I mix and match rules and merge systems for my own games, I would still be interested in Liber Zero if it was more of a retroclone, but as a whole new thing like this it's far more attractive. There can't be many authors whose game I'd rather play than yours - the blog is a persuasive trailer and 9&30 as a game would be something out of the ordinary.

    1. I think I'm going to post some more specific plans for a couple components in a couple days. A big issue is finding the "cutoff": what unique interpretations should be included in LZ, what parts should be separated into modular components in another document (Liber Blanc.)

      It's important not only to make LZ more useful to others, but because LZ is going to be the core of Alternative V, which won't be D&D at all, but will be easily mixed with D&D if someone desires.