Friday, November 11, 2022

Cloning AD&D to Avoid Zero Days


I have been having a rough month! Both of my sons developed croup a while back, and no sooner did my oldest recover from that, but he and my wife each brought another virus home. So, I've been intending with croup, the flu, and a Norovirus all at the same time. Amazingly, in spite of all the bedclothes I've changed, baths I've given, and laundry I've done, I have managed to avoid getting infected with any of it myself.

With a lot of long nights spent sitting vigil over my family, my creative energy has been next to zero. I have had neither the creativity to continue working on The Depths of the Eternal Ocean, or to continue editing and refining the presentation of Deathtrap Lite. Valkyrie remains a slow movie side project intended to catch my thoughts while working on Eternal Ocean.

Needless to say, I haven't really wanted to lose my writing time. In fact, I have been aggressively grabbing time for myself whenever I can. So, I started yet another project. A much less demanding one. This one is for dipping into when I have the time, and probably won't be ready for a very long time. 

The project is intended to be a faithful reproduction of AD&D's rules.

I'm doing this for a couple of reasons. The first one is that I find that the OSR has become mostly focused on either modern hybrid retroclones or B/X derived games. And it is becoming harder and harder to find good 1e content.

OSRIC and Hyperborea are the two main contenders for AD&D clones, and both have their own interesting limitations.

OSRIC is definitely a product of its time. It doesn't have the benefit of the incredible organizational and information design principles that have characterized and newer OSR games. They have omitted large amounts of content. And they have retooled some of the charts and rules to avoid possible legal issues have turned out, in practice, to be a non-issue.

OSRIC also misses a core element of the AD&D design ethos. It doesn't explain the whys and wherefores of the rules, nor does it provide useful examples. 

Hyperborea is not a 100% accurate clone. It makes a lot of tweaks to the rules. It also includes a great deal of Unearthed Arcana material that I would just assume skip initially. In many places the game is heavily tweaked to fit the weird fantasy setting of Hyperboia that is presented in the game. As it should. The setting is amazing.

So what I want to do is create something as close as I can get it to the original rules, and then add in commentary where appropriate to explain the hows and whys of the rules just as Gygax did in AD&D. In fact, I want to cover a couple of points I feel he missed that help explain why strict time, upkeep and training rules are a good idea, for example.

I also want to give it to the Gavin Norman treatment: I want to compress the language of the rules and places, to make it easier to read. I want to reorganize the books in an order that makes information easier to search. I want to use a size, font, and layout that makes it easy on the eyes.

In other places, I intend to pare things down to bare bones for the sake of space. Almost half of the Players Handbook is magic spells. Most of which could be stuffed onto a chart and explained in just a couple of lines. Monsters could likewise be formatted to take up a lot less space, especially if you leave out the lore.

Overall, what I'm hoping to create is a pair of beautiful, easy to read books that give the much-neglected Advanced Dungeons & Dragons a shiny new presentation, but doesn't adapt or modify it in any meaningful way. Except, perhaps, ins side bars.

This is a casual thing to do when I can't sleep, I can't work on my other projects. I will mention it from time to time.

I am currently using the working title Ruins & Redcaps.

If this is something that interests you, I would really appreciate hearing back. Perhaps I am misjudging how much priority I should place on this zombie sideline. If there is a real demand for an AD&D clone with attention to scansion, I would be happy to provide.


  1. It definitely interests me! Not, like, "would shell out for an expensive hardcover book" interests me, but it definitely sounds like something I'd enjoy checking out - the commentary especially, since obviously I have some basic familiarity with the existing rules.

  2. That sounds like an unexplored niche in a crowded market. I'd give it both ascending and descending (thac0) armor classes. All those old charts, procedures, and explanations are rpg gold. It really was a different game back then.

  3. Count me in as also being interested in tracking this. I host the SRD for OSRIC and would be happy to host yours depending on how you are going to license etc all that.

    Contact info is in that page. No pressure and no worries if that isn't your interest; was just putting it out there.

    1. Awesome! I will definitely be interested once it is ready.