Friday, December 18, 2009

Comparative Review - 'Old School' Fantasy Games Part 1

Part 1 - An introduction

The games being considered in this review are:
Basic Fantasy Role Playing Game (BFRPG)
Labyrinth Lord (LL)
Old School Reference and Index Compilation OSRIC
Swords & Wizardry Core (S&W)
Swords & Wizardry White Box

These games all resemble the earlier editions of Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game now published by Wizards of the Coast in some of the ways they seek to depict a world for fantasy roleplaying. Their differences come from the particular edition of D&D they seek to emulate. These are:
  • BFRPG - Moldvay/Cook B/X
  • LL B/X
  • OSRIC - 1e AD&D
  • S&W Core - OD&D plus selected elements from supplements
  • S&W White Box - OD&D core books only

I've used LL and S&W, both core and white box editions in play, while the other two games I've purely read through. Because of the mechanical similarities this comparative review will be far smaller than my epic comparison of Castles & Crusades, Runequest II and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2. When I reach the conclusions of this review I will probably compare C&C to these games as it does fit into the same genre of RPG. I am not intending to attempt to compare these games to the early editions of Dungeons & Dragons or to state which is a more accurate recreation of Basic/Expert, etc but I will try and say which are clearest in their writing and how well presented they are.

My credentials for doing this review are that I have been playing roleplaying games since 1977 when I started with White Box Dungeons and Dragons and I have played a large number of RPG with different groups over the years. The editions of D&D that I have played are:
  • White Box D&D or Original D&D - initially just with the three books but later adding the supplements and material from The Strategic Review, White Dwarf, Trollcrusher, The Dungeoneer and various other magazine.
  • Basic D&D - both the Holmes and Moldvay editions together with the Cook Expert rules
  • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - the first edition of the AD&D game
  • Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition - the edition I came back to playing D&D with
  • Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 - the version that I played the most of before starting to use old school games

The other RPG I have played include RuneQuest 2nd edition, Traveller, Bunnies & Burrows, Superhero44, Paranoia, Toon, Call of Cthulhu, Champions, Metamorphosis Alpha and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

An excellent resource to anyone who wants to understand my favoured games and playing style would be Matthew Finch's Old School Primer.

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