Old School Renaissance and Retro Clones

Response to interesting youtube video from tetsubo57


I think there is an element of nostalgia in this but underlying that there are real distinctions also so I’ll just address those.

You’re right there are distinctions between the variations of simple, rules-lite, complex and incomplete.

The old school games were generally incomplete simple games.

Part of both the simplicity and the incompleteness was due to restricting the setting to a dungeon crawl but even with just that they were still mostly incomplete.

Later games became both more complete and more complex.

That led to
– simple and incomplete
– more complex and more complete

I think that does mean there is a gap for games which are less incomplete than the original ones while trying to remain as simple as possible and I think retro clones designed to fit that gap could work well particularly as an introductory game, particularly if it restricted itself to a single simple setting – whether that be a dungeon with fixed passages and rooms or a jungle with fixed paths and clearings.

So that’s the first point, yes there is a difference between simple and rules-lite, yes there is nostalgia muddying the picture, yes the old simple games were very incomplete – but that still means there is a niche for simpler faster complete (probably only within a restricted setting) games. These games would be the kind you could play with your kids as they grew up or give to a young nephew and would also be good for a evening nostalgia fest with old buddies: four specialist classes, levels, class skills, few spells etc – very simple, at least within a restricted setting.

Secondly there’s rules-lite games which as you say are only complete because a lot of it is decided on the fly. I like that personally but I think specifically rules-lite games – Barbs of Lemuria is one of the best examples imo – require at least an experienced GM, possibly experienced players as well and most importantly the same attitude towards the setting among the whole group i.e they all want to create a cool Conan-esque (in the case of BoL) story using the rules.

Anyway, very interesting video which helped crystalize my own thoughts on this subject.


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