Tag Archives: Retro Clones

Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG

Like everyone else I have downloaded a copy of Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG Beta (DCCRPG). Since this is not an official release and there is a strong possibility much will change between now and actual publication, this is not be a structured review, but rather more of general observational post.

First off Goodman Games did what every other Retro Clone designer does. Instead of modeling their game after Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) first edition, they modeled it after the Original Dungeons and Dragons (OD&D). My issue with this is the race as class nonsense. This is a stupid concept, however, if you are going to do it, then fucking make it consistent, do something new and innovative, make all the races classes. Go all the way and just say, all elves are Magic Users, All Dwarves are Fighters, all Halflings are Thieves and all Humans are Clerics, now let the players choose one of the other classes if they want to. Really though, this idea just needs to die, it is confusing and adds nothing to the game. It was a bad rule back then and it is a bad rule today, no game designer has ever given me a reasonable answer as to why they cling to this idea beyond “Its SSOO Gygaxian” or because its “Retro Coolz”. It is all baloney if you ask me.

The second thing that bothered me about this game is the needless use of non standard dice. Why do I need d3, d5, d7, d14, d16, d24 and d30 ? Don’t get me wrong, I like dice, I have tons of them, I even have a few of the ones listed. However, looking at the rules, I don’t see any particular use for these dice that is creative or fun. It seems to me Goodman Games threw these dice in here for the same reason teenagers become Goths. Seriously, this falls under the category of confusing and adds nothing to the game.

Enough bitching, there were a few things I did like. For instance the 0 Level character rules look like they would be fun to mess around with. Ed’s dream of playing the Cheese makers son, could finally be realized. They also did some interesting things with Luck and Alignment, how a player adheres to the characters alignment affects his luck, of course this requires GM’s to enforce it, but it is an interesting idea. The art and layout is nice, the book is well organized, the game system appears to be easy to learn and it looks like a group of new DCCRPG players could get started in under an hour.

Right now, I would probably not bother with this game. If found myself in a position where I were running a game based on OD&D, I’d probably use the Basic Fantasy RPG or Labyrinth Lords, both are much closer to OD&D in style and mechanics. Either that or I would just use OD&D rules, I have several copies, no real reason to buy or print anything out. Besides that, I can not imagine myself in a situation where I would be running an OD&D based game rather than using AD&D or HackMaster. DCCRPG at this point does not add anything to the RPG hobby and I have to say I think its time to stop cloning OD&D, game designers either need to adopt one of the already existing games (do I really need to list them, there are at least 6 and might be as many as 10) and start making supplements, settings and adventures or they need to find a niche that is not already filled with other games. Please stop reinventing the OD&D wheel.

Hot Elf Chick

Carnifex.org is proudly participating in James Smith of The Underdark Gazette plot to bring attention to the Old School Renaissance by posting pictures of hot elf chicks. In this case Mia Rose from WhoreLore (formally known as World of Whorecraft) episode Two.

Warning, clicking on the picture takes you to a NSFW site, you have been warned.

http://underdarkgazette.blogspot.com/2011/03/hot-elf-chick-my-fiendish-plan-to-grow.html

The Ages of RPG’s: The Silver Age Part II

I have received some feed back on my estimation of when the Silver Age occurred. There are those who feel the 1990′s were not the Silver Age and if not a dark age, then definitely a time of shadows. The 1990′s were marked most heavily by the decline of Dungeons & Dragons and TSR generally being in self destruct mode. While there were other RPG’s that were popular, by in large the 1990′s were bereft of innovation and nothing of significance occurred. While I see this point of view, I am not certain I agree with it. There a lot of action going on in the RPG hobby, with TSR and D&D on the decline, it opened the market to other possibilities and allowed Vampire: The Masquerade to out sell D&D for a short time. The idea the 1990′s were completely without merit is only valid if you make the assumption that RPG’s and D&D are hard linked together and I am not convinced this is the truth. You may be able to convince me the Silver Age did not start until 2000 when D&D3E was released, I refuse to acknowledge that the 1990′s were a cultural wasteland for our hobby.

I am actually hoping the decline of D&D in the last couple of years sparks a new era similar to the 1990′s where D&D isn’t dominate and other game systems are allowed their time in spot light. As I have said in previous posts, I can easily see a future where D&D is nothing more than a gateway game published as some sort of evergreen game similar to Monopoly. In this future, D&D still extremely popular and is the game most people start with, but is not the best selling game or even the most popular game. In this near future we may see Pathfinder become the frontrunner, but replaced within a few years by GURPS 5th edition or something entirely new. This would not be a bad thing at all.

Enough with the Retro Clones

Brave Halfling Games has just announced it is going to do yet another retro clone of the Original Dungeons & Dragons (OD&D), most likely with the odious “Race as Class” rule intact, called Delving Deeper. Personally, I would rather see him pick up one the already available retro clones. I am aware he was caught in the middle of some sort of disagreement with the two guys who authored the Swords & Wizardry white box set. I can sympathise with him and I can see why he does not want to bet his business on other people, honestly I do see it. The problem is there are still a bunch of other rule sets out there he could use; Basic Fantasy RPG, Labyrinth Lords or Lamentations of the Flame Princess to name just three and yes, there are more. Okay, so by writing a “New” OD&D clone he has complete creative control, but so what. My question is what exactly is he adding the Old School Renaissance (OSR) ? The answer of course is nothing.

My real problem here is I would rather he spend his time writing modules or supplements or setting books. These are the things missing from the OSR. Please, do something new and original, something we have not seen yet. If you want to keep the OSR going you are going to have to innovate. If you keep going over the same territory again and again, after a while people are going to loose interest. Find a niche and fill it, I point to Carcosa as one possible way to bring something new to the table. Another way to go is perhaps a supplement for Labyrinth Lords similar to OSRIC Unearthed. How about a setting based on Norse Mythology, who doesn’t want to be a berserker Viking. My point is, there is a lot of ground not being covered by the OSR that is ripe for the taking. It just seems to me doing yet another OD&D clone is a waste of time.

The Ages of RPG’s: The Bronze Age, Maybe

I have written about the Golden Age (1974-1989) and the Silver Age (1991-2000), this begs the question of where are we now. The problem with setting “Ages” is you really rarely know where you are until long after its over and it is not unusual for the genre you are speaking about to go in to a long decline before the new emergence occurs. It is definitely possible we moved from the Silver Age directly into the Bronze Age. Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition (D&D3E ) certainly caused a large influx of new players and brought a large number of players back to the table who had not gamed in a decade or more. It is also very true the history of the RPG hobby is the history of D&D. Even the Silver Age was characterized by D&D’s decline as much as by the rise of the World of Darkness.

There are other things which point to the serious probability we have already seen the Bronze Age. For instance the Old School Renaissance, which is a niche within the RPG hobby of players and publishers returning to the old games. This renaissance started with the publication of HackMaster in 2001 and was followed by Castles & Crusades, New Editions of Traveller, RuneQuest and Tunnels & Trolls. It also gave birth to the Simulacrum Games which are games that attempt to emulate the old games without treading on copyrights and allow for the publication of new material for the old games. Simulacrum Games include, but not limited to, Labyrinth Lords, Spells and Wizardry, OSRIC, Lamentation of the Flame Princess to name just a few. This movement is characterized mostly by people who have fond memories playing the game back in the early 80′s, have now reached middle age and want to recapture that feeling of wonder and exploration we all felt when our first characters took their first tentative steps into the Caves of Chaos.

The Open Game License opened up the possibility of 3rd party game companies to write material for D&D3E and they did. In the years following the release of D&D3E there was a huge expansion in the number of companies writing game material. The Internet also gave rise to electronic distribution, companies no longer had to print actual books, but instead release their work as a PDF. The majority of this content was crap, but there was some really good stuff put out as well, material that would have never seen the light of day in previous decades.

If in fact the Bronze Age started in 2000/2001, it is also a good possibility it ended in 2008. In that year two things occurred, first the U.S. had entered into recession in late 2007 (known among my conservative friends as the Carter/Clinton recession) and recessions are never good for business, but also tends to hit niche hobbies harder than other business types. The second thing which occurred was the release of Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition (D&D4E). First, when D&D3E was released, I think the hobby was ready for a serious change to the game, second players had no where else to go, Wizards of the Coast simply stopped selling Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition (AD&D2E) and if you wanted support, you transitioned to D&D3E. When D&D4E came out, people were not ready for a complete over haul of the game and Paizo Publishing took advantage of the Open Game License and published the PathFinder RPG, which is 99% compatible with D&D3E, so players had a place to go for new material, they did not even have to buy new books if they didn’t want to. Although D&D4E was not a failure, it also did not live up to expectations, initial sales were far below what D&D3E produced and players who did adopt the new game, did so very slowly. In effect, the hobby has been in contraction for at least 2 years and it looks like this trend will continue.

At this point, I am not sure I want to say with any authority that the Bronze Age has come and went, but it does appear as though it has. However, it is just as likely it was the Silver Age getting its second wind. Most Comic Book historians place the end of the Silver Age at 1970, however between 1970 and 1975 there was a mini resurgence marked by the Death of Gwen Stacy, the Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories and Mike Grell’s work on the Warlord and the Legion of Superheroes. It is well within the realm of possibility that the Bronze Age is yet to come. Either way, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Open letter to Goodman Games

To: Goodman Games
From: Carnifex.org
Subject: Race as Class

Dear Sir,
In reference to your “Designer’s Blog #1: What It Is, And What It Isn’t”. Specifically in regards to bullet point number 9, “It utilizes races as classes — you can be a warrior, or an elf.”, Really ? Why are you including one of the most odious rules used by OD&D in the 70′s ? The “Race as Class” rules were unnecessary, overly complicated, confusing and added nothing to the game. I can see why tiny one man company’s like Lamentations of the Flame Princess or Brave Halfling cling to these bad ideas, they need every single sale they can get and can not risk alienating anyone. Goodman Games on the other hand is a widely known and respected company within our hobby, presumably you can make design decisions based on making good games rather than trying please a group of people who have not been in a game store since 1985, but yell really loud on Internet forums. Please dump the “Race as Class” rules, your game will be much improved and you will feel better about yourself for having done it.

Regards, Carnifex

Review: Your Dungeon is Suck

Your Dungeon is Suck, is a blog and that is about the only positive thing I can say about it. Basically Mr Yourdungeonissuck makes fun of companies, authors and bloggers who specialize in the Old School Renaissance (OSR) RPG niche, however he does attack gamers in general on a regular basis. I gather from reading his blog, he thinks he is funny and clever, he is neither, I personally find him to be boorish and uninteresting. While he is in his own angry little way, expressive, his skill at writing is technically poor and adolescent in style. As far as I can tell he contributes nothing of value to the discussion of RPG’s.

I am not sure what Mr Yourdungeonissuck’s issue is, but my guess is he is one of the handful of self righteous holier than thou bloggers who received a smack down when TARGA refused to disassociate itself from Zak Smith over his “I Hit It With My Axe” series because his players are strippers and pornstars. If this is the case, he is not handling the rejection of his ideology very well. I suppose it is also possible he is a failed RPG writer himself and is simply venting his anger on those who have acquired some amount of success or respect within the hobby, but I think that would be cliché.


Happy Halloween Everyone, have fun and be safe.

The Old School Revival

I am going to go out on a limb here, although, I don’t think I will be going far, and say HackMaster 4 (HM4) started the current Old School Renaissance and without her there would probably be no Castles & Crusades, OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, Basic Fantasy RPG, Swords & Wizardry or LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing. Lets also not forget the resurrection of previously dead systems like Traveller, RuneQuest, Tunnels & Trolls and Paranoia, none of which would have been published if HM4 had not been a successful line. HM4 proved there was still money to be made in old school gaming and a lot of people, whether they want to admit it or not, owe their business to Dave Kenzer and Jolly Blackburn taking a risk and publishing HM4.

RE: LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing

The author of LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing, James Raggi, commented on my review of his product. His comments can be found here;

Lamentations of the Flame Princess

I am actually surprised he found this web site. Carnifex.org is not what anyone would call a high traffic or high profile blog and it is primarily read by friends and family. Anyway, I am an attention whore, so I will take any link back I can get.

Review: LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing

Product Summery:
Name: LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
Author: James Edward Raggi IV
Line: OD&D Retro clone
Cost: $65.00 ($12.50 for the PDF)
Pages: 328 Pages across the 3 main books
Webpage: http://lotfp.blogspot.com/

This product is another attempt to re-envision the Original Dungeons and Dragons (OD&D) box set. The appearance of the book is better than other attempts at redoing OD&D, the cover art is great, the internal art runs from pretty okay to really really good. The layout is well organized and easy to read. There are three primary books, Rule Set, Referee Book and the Magic Book. There is also a tutorial book that walks you through the basics of the game. The print product includes dice, pencil, character sheets and two adventures. I have to say though, I am not a big fan of box sets. Boxes do not do well over the long run, of course the PDF version does not have this problem, unless you want it to.

The game itself suffers from what all the OD&D retro clones suffer from, which is staying too close to the source material. The ridiculous notion of Race as Class is present, this by itself knocks a point off the score. Personally I would prefer it if he had went more along the line of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) instead. Those rules were better written and well thought out. It does not make sense to me that so many retro clone writers cling to OD&D in such an odious fashion. I can see taking the simplicity and ease of play, but would it have kill even one of them to separate race from class. It was a bad idea in 1974 and it is a bad idea today.

The setting is where this product really shines. Raggi is really a good writer, I like his blog, I have enjoyed the modules he has written and the Random Esoteric Creature Generator stands as one of the best game supplements published in the last 10 years. Raggi likes dark fantasy and he does it very well.

Besides the OD&D oddities in the game system, my only other complaint with this game is the price, $65 is way too much money. I bought the PDF and am very pleased with the $12.50 price, but the printed version, UGH!. I realize the cost of putting together a package like this is going to be pricey, no doubt, but $65 is too much, especially when I can get Labyrinth Lord, Basic Fantasy RPG and White Box Swords & Wizardry for free and they are essentially the same game. Unless you REALLY like OD&D and unless you are REALLY planning on playing this game, I can not recommend the print version of this product at all.

Summery (Scale of 1-5):
Appearance and Layout: 3
Game Mechanic: 2
Setting: 4
Overall: 2.666666667 (PDF version is a solid 3)