Sunday, September 21, 2014

The OSR for the Lapsed Gamer - The Timeline

I figure if we are going to present the OSR RPGs in some sort of order, actual release dates should have some sort of influence on that order. Then the question became: "has anyone done such a list?"

The answer is yes. Thanks to +Rob Conley mentioning it on his Bat in the Attic blog a few year back, I found out that +Guy Fullerton had put together an amazingly comprehensive list - with a spreadsheet no less, that offers an OSR timeline until June of 2012. For the sake of our needs, I've filtered the list by system releases.

I'm going to use "full" release dates, not previews and such, so the initial order of the free OSR releases that are being highlighted will be:

OSRIC - 1/20/07

BFRPG 2/17/07

Labyrinth Lord 8/4/07

Swords & Wizardry 10/15/08 (note - S&W comes in 3 versions and a number of rule sets use it for the base of their variant. Each version of S&W will get it's own post. The variant rules will get a post at the end where applicable)

Dark Dungeons 5/26/10

LotFP Weird Fantasy Roleplaying 7/26/10

Mazes & Perils 8/7/12

Delving Deeper 3/18/13

BLUEHOLME Prentice Rules 1/9/13

Seven Voyages of Zylarthen 6/1/14


  1. What about Torch and Sword? It was a free PDF release, the.closest to original DND released on July 14, 2011. It is my preferred Retroclone. I like it better than the three LBB since it is better organized.

  2. Ordering OSRIC and BFRPG relative to one another is tough. Using the "final version" release date for each is certainly one way to do it. The energy both games generated certainly overlapped (and even reinforced one-another).

    But for most practical purposes BFRPG was first.

    OSRIC wasn't initially meant to be played; it was meant entirely as a legal safe harbor publishing vehicle, so you could play OSRIC-compatible stuff with the real 1e. And to that end, it had fully satisfied its goal well before 1/20/2007. Nine OSRIC modules (and 20-odd other accessories) were published before the "final" OSRIC release, starting as early as Aug 2006.

    By contrast, BFRPG was absolutely meant to be played* (a spiritual successor to B/X D&D, modulo some fantasy heartbreaker changes—something of a bridge between B/X and 3e that leaned heavily toward the B/X side, effectively (if not intentionally) an alternative to Castles & Crusades) and so it necessarily was in usable form long before it was "complete" ... and certainly usable before OSRIC-compatible products came out. Its other goal was to be an in-print game, but this didn't happen until the Feb 2007 date. BFRPG was also the release vehicle for modules prior to its release date. Two modules were out in June & July 2006; certainly BFRPG was playable enough by that point. With some research on dragonsfoot, you could probably nail down when people were actually playing BFRPG.

    BFRPG took the first visible steps (from where C&C left off) a couple months before OSRIC was conceived. (Both games were borne from the promise of momentum [products!] that had been built up by C&C. OSRIC very explicitly so, and BFRPG effectively so, because BFRPG was compared to C&C due to its bridge qualities.) And really, the spark of energy & momentum is what's important from a historical/understanding perspective. BFRPG sparked before OSRIC, though OSRIC ultimately burnt much brighter. Some of OSRIC's design goals were conceived in relation to BFRPG (arguably in *reaction* to BFRPG), so BFRPG influenced OSRIC, whereas the reverse is not really true.

    1. Hmm - I may just put these two up on the same day, or consecutive days.

      Always glad when you stop by to comment Guy, you are like the OSR's unofficial historian, and I mean that in a very good way :)

    2. "OSRIC wasn't initially meant to be played; it was meant entirely as a legal safe harbor publishing vehicle..." That's fascinating. I never knew that.

  3. Not sure but the beta is as good as many full releases, it is complete, laid out nice for tablet, has art and index plus an appendix of optional rules. Best one out there in my humble opinion. - doesn't get talked about enough -for free - you can get started gaming like it is 1974.

    1. I will have to wait to the end of the free OSR rules

  4. does ACKs (adventurer, conquer, king) belong on this list???

    1. According to Tenkar, it is just freebies this time around. ACK will probably be in the next set, as I don't recall a free version of ACK.

    2. yeah, free rules first, because that is where lapsed gamers are most like to look first.

  5. If one is really considering this for the "Lapsed Fantasy Gamer" is it worth noting A) What system these are mostly clones of - i.e. Lab Lord and S&W are Moldvay or Mentzer basic clones, OSRIC is sorta an AD&D clone and LOTFP is a Mentzer Clone with peculiarities. B) That the Moldvay Basic and Expert books are sold as cheap PDFs on RPGNow. C) That many of these clone rulesets have free online versions and that regardless of the system used (possibly not including some outliers with rule variants like S&W Whitebox's LBB's rules or LOTFP's eccentricities) most 'OSR' rulesets are largely interchangeable, and fully compatible with 90% of OSR blog content?

    1. a) as i do each post I will point out which system the clone emulates

      b) the inquiries I've gotten via email are asking "what's in print that plays like my youth?" In the first round of systems I'll be posting about, I'll be looking at those that are free in PDF. When I move on to pay for PDF and print only systems, I'll touch upon the originals.

      c) I'd say most of the clones that closely emulate the originals are closer to 95% compatible with all the OSR resources available. that said, I'm looking at the systems now, not the blogs. If they've found The Tavern, they've found my blog roll ;)

  6. Have you checked out Full Metal Plate Mail?


  7. While not free I think you should really look at the 1st OSR game, in my opinion, which would be HackMaster. It came out in....2001 and was only possible specifically because D&D was moving to 3.0 and TSR thought the old rules weren't worth anything other than settling a lawsuit.

    HackMaster was, as on of the KenzerCo staff put it, 50% 1st Edition, 25% 2nd edition, and 25% home-rules.


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