What is a retro-clone? The OGL has allowed fans to recreate the rules of older, out of print editions of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game. These are usually called “retro-clones” because they are “clones” of the rules to older (“retro”) editions of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game. Most retro-clones have free PDF versions and most have nicely bound printed copies available for a very reasonable price. Retro-clones allow play of an older, out-of-print game system without the trouble and expense of tracking down a copy of an out-of-print game. While no retro-clone is an exact copy of an earlier game, they generally are close to identical in play. Retro-clones are sometimes referred to as “Simulacrum Games.”
0e and Retro-Clones
0e: The Original Game
The original 0e booklets and supplements from TSR can be found at auction on eBay or RPG Marketplace or at specialists like Noble Knight Games, but they are generally very expensive collectibles. Some excellent third party 0e adventures (and an excellent campaign setting) from the late 1970s are also available in PDF format. These adventures could easily be used with Microlite74 or a 0e retro-clone – and converted for use with any other early edition/retro-clone with only a little effort.
Labyrinth Lord: Original Edition Characters
The Original Edition Characters is a supplement for the Labyrinth Lord game (see below). It tries to do 0e in a B/X compatible way by modifying the rules for Labyrinth Lord. Unfortunately, unlike Labyrinth Lord and Labyrinth Lord: Advanced Edition Companion, there is no free PDF version of this game.
Microlite74 is Microlite20 (a trimmed-down, sub-miniature version of the Primary Fantasy SRD rules that has been designed to be quick and easy to play) that has been rewritten to recreate the style and feel of the 0e edition from 1974. It takes the popular, very rules light 3.x Microlite20 and reshapes it to feel like 0e using Microlite20 rules as the base. While the primary purpose of Microlite74 is to be an introduction to “old school” gaming and 0e style play for players more familiar with the 3.x version of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game, many old-school gamers like the game for its own sake. There are two supplements, Ancient Auguries and Wary’s Grimoire. Ancient Auguries adds an assortment of optional rules. Wary’s Grimoire adds much of the material from the 0e supplements including more character classes and higher level spells.
Epees & Sorcellerie
This is a French 0e retro-clone.
Swords & Wizardry
Swords & Wizardry is an OGL retro-clone of the 0e version from the mid-1970s, the same edition Microlite74 is loosely based on. Sword & Wizardry is handy for complex spell and monster descriptions for use with Microlite74 as well as a great game itself. The spell lists and monsters can be used as drop in replacements for those listed in Microlite74. There are three versions of this game. One uses just the material from the three original 0e booklets (swords & Wizardry Whitebox), the second adds some material from the first 0e supplement (swords & Wizardry Core) and the third uses most of material from all the 0e supplements (Swords & Wizardry Complete). The first two are available as free PDFs, the third is for sale only).
Big Brown Book
This is a “reimaging” of 0e using a “d6” system. “Everything — every single roll you will ever make — is determined by rolling a six-sided die. The resulting design is close to the original yet at the same time is wholly unique when combined with the classic rules some of us love so much. I spent a good deal of time using statistic charts and probability generators (go smallroller, woohoo!) to bring the game as close to the original values as possible. Some concessions have to be made for the sake of balance and playability (and legality), but where changes have been made its been done with considerable reason behind it. What you get is the feeling of the same game you played 35 odd years ago but with a streamlined design and clear and concise rules; just how we like it in the 21st century!”
B/X, BECMI and Retro-Clones
B/X: The Original Game
The original B/X boxed sets from TSR and the revised version of this edition, the five box BECMI edition, can be found at auction on eBay or RPG Marketplace or at specialists like Noble Knight Games, as can a very large number of excellent adventure and campaign modules. Many of these modules could be used with Microlite74 or other B/X retro-clones with little modification — and converted for use with any other early edition/retro-clone with only a little more effort.
Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game
The Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game is loosely based on the so-called B/X edition of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game from the early 1980s. There are a number of minor tweaks like ascending armour class and separation of races and classes.
Labyrinth Lord is more closely based on the so-called B/X edition of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game from the early 1980s. While some minor changes have been made for compliance with the OGL and copyright law, many people have a hard time finding any truly major differences between Labyrinth Lord and the original.
Dark Dungeons is based on the one volume “cyclopedia” version of BECMI edition. Like the “cyclopedia” version, this is a complete game in one volume allowing characters to advance through 36 levels and then try to become an immortal. Unlike most retro-clones, Dark Dungeons includes rules for high level characters with strongholds, mass combat, other planes, immortals (i.e. “deities”), and even includes rules for fantasy space travel.
Lamentations of the Flame Princess
Lamentations of the Flame Princess is a B/X like game aimed at “weird fantasy and swords & sorcery.
Adventurer Conqueror King
The Adventuer Conqueror King System stresses a realistic economy and the so-called “endgame” where player characters rule lands, temples, guilds, etc. While the game is clear rooted in the B/X tradition, it has a lot of variant rules and systems to handle the campaign economy and the rulership endgame.
The B/X Companion is intended to be the mythical 3rd volume designed to complete the work begun with Tom Moldvay’s Basic Rules and continued in the Dave Cook/Steve Marsh Expert Rules, both published in 1981. Both promised a “Companion” volume that would conclude the series…instead TSR (and Frank Mentzer) re-wrote and re-published a five volume series (BECMI) that, while certainly interesting, failed to deliver on the promise of those earlier works. This is an attempt at producing the promised B/X Companion.
This is another attempt at producing the mythical “third book” of the B/X version. “Presenting additional creatures and magical items for fantasy roleplaying games for basic- and expert-level players and gamemasters, including 8 additional character classes (bard, druid, gnome, wildwood elf, half-elf/half-orc, half-ogre, illusionist, scout), expanded experience, combat, and saving throw tables, two additional types of magic (druid and illusion) and additional magic-user and cleric spells (90 in all), over 130 new or additional creatures (with a comprehensive index and suggested experience point awards), dozens of new or additional magic items, and extended treasure generation tables!”
Warriors, Wizards & Worms
“After a Holmes gaming spree, I decided to produce a Blue Book Basic clone which would incorporate Meepo’s Companion for extending the Blue Book Basic’s game play beyond 3rd level. What I loved about Blue Book (and tried to emulate in the clone as well) was the low page count, the short stat blocks and spell description, and the quick-play rules. The 3rd level cap bothered me, but Meepo’s Companion took care of that. So, with Meepo’s blessing, I set out to produce Wizards, Warriors & Wyrms.”
1e and Retro-Clones
1e: The Original Game
The original 1e rulebooks and adventures from TSR can be found at auction on eBay or RPG Marketplace or at specialists like Noble Knight Games – often at good prices if you do not need collectible condition. Also, some excellent third party 1e adventures are available in PDF format. 1e adventures and campaign settings could be converted for use with Microlite74 or any other early edition/retro-clone without much work.
Labyrinth Lord: Advanced Edition Companion
The Advanced Edition Companion is a supplement for the Labyrinth Lord game (see above). It is allows the use of the array of advanced character possibilities from the first edition rules, and first edition monsters and magical items. All character class options from the Labyrinth Lord core rules and the Advanced Edition Companion book are cross-compatible.
OSRIC (Old School Reference & Index Compilation) is an OGL version of the first “advanced” edition of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game from the late 1970s and early 1980s. The first edition of OSRIC was designed to be just something that would allow publishers to legally publish OGL materials compatible with 1e. This attitude is also responsible for the boring name. The second edition of OSRIC is much more complete and is written with both players and publishers in mind.
2e and Retro-Clones
For Gold & Glory
For Gold & Glory “is a near perfect adaption of the 2nd Edition rules. It contains all information culled from the three “core” rulebooks, with the exception of optional rules, into a single product. The intention is to preserve a source that’s long out of print. The 2E books were, in some cases, poorly organized and ill suited for quick reference. Although most books can be purchased cheaply, my goal is that you will turn to this product, quickly reference what you’re searching for, and return to your game without having to scour several documents or heavy books.”
Myth & Magic
“Myth & Magic is a remake of the 1989 Second Edition Rules. The good remains. The bad or complicated is refashioned using today’s modern gaming theories. In the end, Myth & Magic is the perfect progeny to that era of gaming. Resurrect your collection. Resurrect your imagination.”
Adventures Dark & Deep
A “second edition” of AD&D as it might have been if Gary Gygax had written it — built from ideas taken from Gary Gygax’s writings over the years. Implementation is not Gary’s, obviously.
Ancient Mysteries & Lost Treasures
A Swords & wizards Whitebox variant designed for adventures in the modern world. Well, a modern world full of secret societies, ancient mysteries and lost treasure. Link is to the free PDF.
Blood & Bullets Old West RPG
A Swords & wizards Whitebox variant designed for adventures in the old west. Link is to the free PDF.
Dragons at Dawn
“Welcome to Dave Arnesons Basement! It’s 1971 and you’ve been invited to play this cool new game… Experience the thrill of the very first fantasy RPG adventures with Dragons at Dawn, the rule set that harkens back to the early days of adventure gaming when everything was new and the possibilities endless. Dragons at Dawn is a retro tribute to the very first fantasy gaming system pioneered by Dave Arneson, the man who later went on to co-author the worlds most popular roleplaying game. The result of years of careful historical research, Dragons at Dawn is entirely consistent with Arneson’s original, largely forgotten methods of play developed roughly in the period 1970-1973. Dragons at Dawn approaches gaming with none of the assumptions and habits developed from later rules, allowing a return to a kind of free form and open style of interaction between players and referees to develop and play whatever aspects of fantasy adventure gaming the players like best.”
“ELEGIA is a (free to download) fantasy RPG based on the tropes and mechanics of eight-bit console RPGs. Inspired by the “old school renaissance” and “neo retro” clone games, ELEGIA is at once familiar and brand-new.” While this game is not strictly a clone of early editions, it is very similar to them in many ways.
Fire and Sword
“A fantasy RPG system created by Raymond Turney. Raymond was a co-creator of RuneQuest, and Fire and Sword is his evolution of the system. It thus has much in common with BRP, but contains many new interesting mechanisms.”
Legends of the Ancient World
Legends of the Ancient World is a rules-light clone of Megagaming’s The Fantasy Trip — complete in seven pages. The game is a free PDF, but the publisher sells solitaire adventures for it similar to the ones Metagaming produced for TFT. Science fiction (Time and Space) and old west RPGs (Untamed West) based on these rules are also available as free downloads.
Dangers & Dweomers
This free OGL PDF is the author’s personal version of the world’s most popular RPG. It starts with Swords & Wizardy and adds material from other editions that the author likes. It is very complete in its less than 200 pages.
Hulks & Horrors
Hulks & Horrors is a science-fiction roleplaying game of galactic exploration and adventure. It’s “D&D in space”, characters explore the ruins of lost galactic civilizations for treasure.
Mini Six is a fast and flexible rules system that encourages cinematic play. It is based on a popular multi-genre role playing game that was created in the 1980’s, originally around a very popular science fantasy movie series that takes place in a galaxy far away. The free 8 page PDF includes OGL rules for fantasy, modern, and science fiction settings.
Sabres & Witchery
A Swords & Wizards Whitebox variant designed for adventures in the 18th century, from the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Link is to the free PDF.
“Siege Perilous is an RPG based on the Ultima Age of Darkness CRPG games – #1 through #3. It is developed from an adaptation of the Swords & Wizardry White Box (1st printing) and uses several other sources – Skathros’s S&W Companion Rules, a magic system developed by Arminath, the Minimal Space Combat system by Timoth Swenson and a lot of glue, rewriting, adaptation and content by myself. This game uses names, monsters, spells, settings and features from all 3 of the games.”
Spellcraft & Swordplay
Spellcraft & Swordplay is an OGL redesign of the 0e version from the mid-1970s. The designer decided to rewrite 0e based on the original combat system (from the miniatures rules 0e grew out of) instead of 0e’s “alternative combat system.” The alternative combat system quickly became the standard combat system of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game. This is sort of a retroclone from an alternate universe where the original combat system was the most-used. (No free PDF version.)
Stone & Wood
A Swords & Wizards Whitebox variant designed for adventures in the Land
David “Zeb” Cook’s 1985 rules for the TSR Conan roleplaying game return in clone form as a generic sword-and-sorcery RPG complete in one volume. Trample the jeweled kingdoms of your own world beneath your sandals!