Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Differences between retro-clones? A request!

I haven't really sat down to do a long comparison, so this might be obvious stuff to those who have. But what are the essential differences between these retro-clones?

From what I understand:

Labyrinth Lord is Moldvay (or perhaps Holmes) B/X, with AEC as a bolt-on for AD&D-like additions. That's pretty clear to me, and from reading LL adventures it's very clear I need to keep my red box Basic Set hat on to follow it.

But these throw me a bit: White Box is the LBBs. So what exactly is Swords & Wizardry? LBBs plus all of the supplements, or just part of them? Looking at it, it seems very close to both Basic Set and the LBBs. It's hard for me to pick out the real differences between them.

I'm also not really sure how OSRIC fits in here, either.

I'm asking mostly because I use supplements for them for inspiration for my own GURPS 4e game. And because it's easier for me to understand the material if I know which rules assumptions underlay them.

I'm sure I'm embarrassing myself in front of all the OSR folks just by asking these questions. But I think I really have all this stuff already - I have a (battered and colored-with-marker) copy of the Holmes Basic Set. I have both the Moldvay and Mentzger Basic Sets (and most of the follow-on books). I have the actual white box D&D with the LBBs, and Supplements I, II, and III. I have all my 1st edition AD&D stuff. And I downloaded the free copies. It's just hard to read through all four of them in PDF and then track the differences, so I need a better handle on them. I'd like to know what each of them represents, in sort of a Venn diagram of coverage. Maybe I need to sit down and read one or more of them, or maybe I'm good with just grabbing my original stuff off the shelf if I get stuck.

Any pointers to comparisons, explanations, or reviews would be helpful.


(Editing 10/29/11 - I saw this great post on Troll and Flame with a picture reference of system equivalency: Publishers & Products)


  1. The quick versions, because I can't find a good link to send you to:

    LL is Moldvay B/X. With the AEC, it is like AD&D. With OEC ("Original Edition Characters"), it is like OD&D.

    S&W is OD&D, including many items taken from the first three supplements (and with some interesting rules changes, like saving throws).

    S&W:Whitebox is the 3LBBs, as you surmised (and my personal favorite retroclone). (There is also a S&W:Blue Book, which is Holmes plus higher levels, like if there had ever been an Expert set for Holmes.)

    OSRIC is 1E AD&D, pretty much straight. It was intended merely as a reference for people who are writing OGL material for 1E (the assumption being that people would find or have copies of that game), but the writers didn't realize that people wanted access to something in print. So, it went into print.

    Given that you have the originals, the only things that I can think that you might want for inspiration are the S&W Monster Book or the Tome of Horrors. Oh, and maybe Dark Dungeons (an overt reference to the infamous Chick Tract that condemns roleplaying games, the references continue in the examples throughout the text by using the sample character Black Leaf), which has all sorts of crazy stuff in it (and is a retroclone of the Allston Rules Cyclopedia plus the Immortals - not, oddly, the Wrath of the Immortals - boxed set), such as guns (with "red powder" that doesn't explode in quantity, only in small amounts), flying ships, and spelljammer clone rules.

  2. This chart is very useful.

    This is further complicated by the fact that 3LBB + Supplement I: Greyhawk is in some ways closer to AD&D than to Holmes/Moldvay/Mentzer.

  3. @faoladh: thanks for the summary, comments, and recommendations! I've heard good things about the Tomb of Horrors but I just chalked up to "clone of something I have like 3 copies of already."

    @Brenden: Nice link, thanks!

  4. Ha! Yeah, the title can be confusing. The Tome of Horrors Complete is pretty much the ultimate monster book, with a version for Pathfinder and one for S&W.

  5. @faoladh: I'll check it out. I'm trying to see if there is a monster list online. It looks sweet but I have to see how many new monsters are in there that I can use, since $30 isn't cheap.

    But I do love monsters.

  6. Here is a list of monsters by terrain type, though I think that this may be for just the original Tome of Horrors (the Complete version includes all of that plus the second and third ones).

    As I've said, I'm waiting for SJG to release a print version of the DF monster book. I may end up getting impatient and using a copy center to print out a copy, but I hate having to do that. It's still baffling to me that they don't want my money enough to set up a long tail POD option. I guess that Munchkin is doing well enough for them to not have to worry about catering to the unreasonable demands of Luddite roleplayers like myself (did you know that I forbid computers and smart phones at my gaming table? I find them to be distracting from the event at hand).

  7. @faoladh - thanks for that link, it helps a lot.

    As for POD, I'm not sure why SJG does it that way. I'm not privy to that kind of information.

    What I did was print out my DF books and three-hole punch them. I happen to have DFM1 on my desk right now, because I was looking up a monster to stick in an encounter. I use PDFs heavily but I do like the flip-through effect of hard copies. FWIW even on a cheap printer the copy came out very well, and the art looks good.

    If and when you do finally get the book I hope you enjoy it!


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