Under the Hill

so tired…

Serial Numbers Filed Off

with 6 comments

Labyrinth Lord is original Dungeons and Dragons with serial numbers filed off. It seems that Wizards of the Coast, by open sourcing their game mechanics in the early 2000s, also opened them up to be retrocloned to older rulesets that were not part of the original deal. And so LL has nearly everything a group needs to play as if it was 1977. The word is “retrogaming“, and it has been rather popular lately, mostly carried by guys who have been D&D/RPG players in the first years of the hobby. And there is more to that little part of the hobby than only Labyrinth Lord with it’s evocation of 1970s/80s fanzine quality. Sword&Wizardry tries to evoke the aura of even earlier sets of D&D, OSRIC tries to be AD&D 1st ed., Mutant Future tries to be Gamma World.

Now, I’m obviously not part of that age group that seems to be so fascinated by those old-school games. Not as much as those people in their 40s and 50s are who played D&D back when it was fresh and new. I’m not even close to that. My first experience with roleplaying games came in the mid-90s with Germany’s very own “Das Schwarze Auge” (The Dark Eye), although I can relate to them desiring simpler and faster rules than what is current now. The new version of D&D (4th edition) appears to me a as a bloated, overdone try to rip off World of Warcraft. Even the 3rd edition, which I used for a long time and had lots of fun with, always appeared to me as overly complicated. Maybe the reason for that was that the first time I played DSA back then I was using the Beginner¹ rules, which were the rules of it’s 1st edition: fast, easy, and a lot of fun. They had their very own problems. but I never lost the feeling that roleplaying games should be played like that: fast and loose, story over rules, a quick decision in favor of hour long battles.

On the other hand there is a certain dogmatism in the retrogaming community: as much fun as playing the old games just like they were played 30 years back might be, many of those adherents to the old school also want something else: reliving the old days. And so they try to simulate the old times as closely as possible.

Why am I putting that much thought into this? Because I plan to use LL for some games, that’s why. it turns out that there are a few people  interested in playing pen&paper roleplaying games. I haven’t really played for years now, but let’s see if I still got it…


¹ and lo! there actually is a retroclone of those rules as well, in English even…

Written by G. Neuner

24. February 2010 at 6:17 pm

6 Responses

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  1. An interesting post with an interesting perspective on things. I will say that while there are definitely dogmatists out there in the Old School Renaissance (OSR for short – it seems to be the phrase of the day for people poking around at LL, S&W, and the other retroclones), most of us are just dudes playing with the toys we enjoy.

    Since you’re planning on using LL for some gaming, I highly recommend that you take a look at another blog here on WP, Ancient Vaults & Eldritch Secrets, whose author consistently puts out great little usable bits like spells and monsters. There are a bunch of other great sites out there, too, but Ancient Vaults just plain rocks.

    You might also want to pop over to the LL boards to see what the LL community us up to. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of the “Old School Only!” attitude there.

    All of that aside, enjoy yourself with whatever gaming you do. Systems and styles only matter insofar as they support having a good time sitting around with friends pretending to slay dragons, after all.

    Also, thanks for pointing out the Das Schwarze Auge clone. I didn’t know it existed. I’ve never played the game before, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. Time to check it out!

    the venomous pao

    24. February 2010 at 7:26 pm

  2. It looks like I boned the link to the LL boards. It should be:


    Sorry ’bout that!

    the venomous pao

    24. February 2010 at 9:15 pm

  3. no problem, I’ve been lurking on there the last few days anyway… 🙂

    G. Neuner

    24. February 2010 at 10:36 pm

    • Excellent. I’m glad you’d found it and weren’t stuck depending on my fat fingers 🙂


      the venomous pao

      25. February 2010 at 7:36 am

  4. Pao! I thought I heard you rattling!
    Thanks for the mention, chum!


    24. February 2010 at 11:50 pm

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