Retroclone

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A retroclone is a knock-off of an older gaming system, for those grognards with grey in their neckbeards that mumble about how things were better "back in my day." However, as everyone grognarded to basically the same systems, most retroclones are pretty similar, with neckbeards arguing which one is the truest experience when the real answer is none of them are. Retroclones are also frequently referred to as OSRs.

For Your Reading Pleasure[edit]

A guide to how OSR any given game is, allegedly
  • Adventurer Conquerer King: Based on the 1981 B/X set, with a few changes, such as using a d20 for most rolls, adding a proficiency system, and doing 'race-and-class-as-class', which means that each race has several different classes to choose from (instead of the single 'elf' or dwarf' race in B/X). It also expands on the dominion management and stronghold building part of the game, with some other options such as trading. Supplements add systems for wars and battles, many more classes, and a custom class building system. Published by Autarch.
  • Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea: AS&SH is an AD&D 1e OSR game which is, as the name suggests, inspired by the works of Robert E Howard and co. Its big twist is the large amounts of subclasses to the usual Fighter/Magic-User/Cleric/Rogue array, meaning parties can quickly differentiate themselves... which is necessary, because there are no demi-humans. The "races" are all based on races of men from old Conan stories: Kimmerians, Picts, Vikings, Stygians, et cetera. Published by North Wind Adventures
  • Basic Fantasy RPG: A knock-off of the 1981 B/X set but adds a few modern touches (races separate from classes, ascending AC, several rules clarifications). It is available for free off of its main website. Published by Chris Gonnerman
    • Iron Falcon: Created because the creator of Basic Fantasy was told BF wasn’t OSR enough. Based on Original D&D. Uses descending AC.
  • B/X Essentials: It's B/X, but with modern editing for easy reading. Published by Necrotic Gnome. As of April 2019, it has been renamed Old School Essentials. The books are divided by subject for ease of use (or to get you to buy five books instead of one, your choice)
  • Beyond the Wall: An OSR game with a focus on being able to play with little to no prep, though it's perfectly playable in a more traditional way. Character creation is done "Apocalypse Engine" style, with pre-existing "playbooks" which are flavored through random tables. Published by Flatland Games
  • Blueholme: Blueholme is a knock-off of the 1977 Holmes basic edition of D&D (aka the weird one), with the base version Prentice Rules only covering play at levels 1-3. Expanded Journeymanne Rules bring the game up to level 20. Published by Dreamscape Design
  • Castles & Crusades: An AD&D 1e by way of D20. Its big change is the addition of "Prime" attributes, which give a base chance of 12 versus non prime attributes base chance of 18, meaning characters are more specialized. Published by Troll Lord Games
  • Dark Dungeons: The knock-off of the Rules Cyclopedia with a few differences. Published by Gratis Games.
    • Darker Dungeons is a reorganized re-release, which makes a number of changes to the base Dark Dungeons game (including swapping the mechanics of the elf and wizard and adding pistols as standard equipment)
  • Dark Places & Demogorgons: A retroclone ripping off the Netflix series Stranger Things, based on older D&D (which was featured in the show as a sort of meta-commentary). Set in modern times in a small 1980's Kentucky town, you play as high school students who must get to the bottom of the nefarious goings-on in their community that the adults seem oblivious to. Features numerous (paid, natch) supplements for your Teen Wolf, Ghost busting, UFO Hunters, et cetera experiences. Published by Bloat Games
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics: An OGL based work which uses Race-As-Class mechanics and high lethality to give the feeling of OSR play without sacrificing modern conveniences... right up until it ruins that by trying to make you buy a bunch of dice you will probably never use for anything else ever (seriously... d5? d7! d14 AND d16!! d30!!!). Best to just use a simulated dice roller, though that kind of sticks a knife in that coveted OSR experience. Published by Goodman Games
    • Mutant Crawl Classics: DCC, but you're a scavenger in a horrific irradiated futue. And probably part animal.
  • Esoteric Enterprises: LotFP-style B/X, but as modern day Cthulhu Mythos/World of Darkness. Play as a member of the criminal underworld dipping their toes into the supernatural. Uses WP&WS's Flesh-&-Grit system, and tables for playing as a vampire, werewolf, ghost or other creature of the night if the usual classes aren't your style. Published by Dying Stylishly Games.
  • Exemplars & Eidolans: The test run for Godbound. Play as an epic Fighter, Rogue, or Sorcerer. Also comes with a commentary laden version which teaches would-be game designers on best practices for editing an RPG book, especially formatting. Published by Sine Nomine Publishing
  • Godbound: D&D meets Exalted. Comes with rules for converting OSR or D&D adventures so your godling can fight a hoard of orcs barehanded, bring a follower back to life, or grow themself back from their own severed arm. Uses keywords instead of traditional classes, with players starting with three that define their abilities. Features a free version on DriveThruRPG. Published by Sine Nomine Publishing
  • Labyrinth Lord: The knock-off of the 1981 B/X or orange/blue books of D&D (levels 1-14). Published by Goblinoid Games. Settings include-
    • Apes Victorious: Just straight up Planet of the Apes
    • Mutant Future: It's Gamma World
    • Starships & Spacemen: Star Trek-inspired space adventures
    • Realms of Crawling Chaos: Brings Lovecraft and friends into Labyrinth Lord.
    • Red Tide: Fantasy China leads the rest of the world to Fantasy Australia to escape Fantasy Cthulhu, where they proceed to dispossess Maori Orcs. Made by the same guy who did Stars Without Number.
  • Knave: A toolkit from Questing Beast, featuring a leveless magic system that uses gear for spell knowledge. Publishing by Questing Beast.
  • Lamentations of the Flame Princess - A B/X clone with ascending armor class and gore porn. Uses race-as-class, a d6 system for skill roles, and replaces the thief with the Specialist, who uses a pseudo-3e skill system to allow them to act as thieves or rangers or historians. Has consistent releases of ungameable modules designed by Old Testament save or die GMs, with an extra layer of pretentiousness. Published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess, because they're good at naming things
  • Machinations of the Space Princess is LotFP but IN SPAAAAAAACE, complete with the partially naked monster woman on the cover. Uses a Lamentations style d6 skill system, separates the "Looks" stat from Charisma for a total of seven stats, and adds a wealth mechanic where characters without points in the Lifestyle skill will start new adventures penniless, having assumed to have gambled it away or spent it on their ship, thus incentivising players to be quick with their gold. Published by Post Mortem Studios
  • The Nightmares Underneath - An eclectic mix of AD&D 2e with mechanics borrowed from every other edition OD&D to 5e from the writer of the Metamorphica. The vaguely Islamic setting features adventurers of the Land of Dreams fending off incursions from the Land of Nightmares, allowing strange and distorted dungeons that seem like something out of a Goya or Escher painting. Fighters are very good in this one because they never miss, with "hits" dealing double damage. Published by Red Box Vancouver
  • OSRIC: Old School Reference & Index Companion is a /tg/-made attempt to better 1e AD&D. Published by Knights-N-Knaves
  • Silent Legions: 80's synthwave Call of Cthulhu-esque Lovecraftian Horror. Geared more towards creating you own mythos instead of using an existing one. Descending AC, keywords instead of classes like Godbound (albeit at a more conventional power level). Published by Sine Nomine
  • Stars Without Number: D&D IN SPAAAAAAAACE. Uses 2d6s for skill tests. Brags that you can take any module from OD&D to AD&D and with 20 minutes work convert it, which you will need to do because the game doesn't expect you to stay in one place for too long. Second edition adds ascending armor class. Free, abridged version on DriveThruRPG. Published by Sine Nomine
    • Other Dust: SWN's post-apocalyptic counterpart, and cross-compatible with SWN 1e. Numerous tables for generating your wasteland. Descending AC.
    • Spears of the Dawn: African fantasy game based on the SWN ruleset. Setting deftly avoids being bunga-bunga land without going in the opposite direction and pushing the "we wuz kangz n shiet" meme in your face. Written by the same guy who made SWN after people told him that an OSR game set in fantasy Africa would never sell.
  • Spooktacular: Another "make money selling your house rules as a new game" retroclone, except this one is a ripoff of Ghostbusters RPG instead of Dungeons & Dragons. Published by Yaruki Zero Games
  • Swords & Wizardry: A streamlining of the White Box, including all supplements. Published by Frog God Games.
    • White Star: Swords & Wizardry IN SPAAAAAAACE. Uses race-as-class. Leans heavily on Star Wars, with Star Knights and Void Knights, Aristocrats, Hotshots, et cetera.
  • Wolf-Packs & Winter Snow: This is LotFP adapted for a stone-age setting. Less grimdark grindcore stuff, more wilderness survival. Magicians record their spells in cave-paintings instead of spellbooks, while the cleric-equivalent gets unreliable spells based on how much attention their god is paying. Uses race-as-class, with Neanderthals and Morlocks instead of Dwarves and Elves. Uses Flesh-&-Grit, where Grit can be easily recovered through a simple ten minute rest and acts as traditional HP and Flesh is gained slowly and recovered slowly. Published by Dying Stylishly Games
  • Zweihander: Another non-D&D retroclone, this time based on the much-loved second edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Published by Grim & Perilous Studios.

Adventures and Dungeons[edit]

Because your lazy GMs can't just keep running Keep on the Borderlands forever, here is a selection of suitable retroclone content:

  • Anomalous Subsurface Environment (System Neutral): THE Gonzo megadungeon/setting book. Martian elves, so many mad scientist wizards, tables upon tables packed with detail, and a dungeon with hundreds of rooms waiting for you.
  • Barrowmaze (Labyrinth Lord): A series of interconnected tombs on the Barrow Moor chock full of vermin and undead.
  • Fever Swamp (Lamentations of the Flame Princess): A hexcrawl through a horrific, plague-filled swamp, with all that entails. Candle stealing ghost children, a psychic crocodile, a wandering horde of skeletons, and a god monster deep beneath the fetid water.
  • Gardens of Ynn (System Neutral): - A randomly generated pointcrawl through the lands of the Sidhe. Delightfully weird in a Narnia sort of way.
  • The Hyqueous Vaults (OSRIC): An anniversary dungeon for OSRIC, built by the community. A classic venture into a dungeon, with a river flowing through it's heart which adds a lot of strategic depth to how the players go through
  • Maze of the Blue Medusa (System Neutral): Players are hired to steal a magic painting, probably getting trapped within, get wrapped up in the strange politics of the dozens of weirdos imprisoned there.
  • Stonehell (Labyrinth Lord): Monsters have taken up refuge in an ancient prison, but what horrible secrets could lie below? One of the first OSR megadungeons.
  • Tomb of the Iron God (Swords & Wizardry): An abandoned monastery to a God of the Dead. His servants, turned to iron by some unknown curse, littering the halls. A crapload of loot. What more could you want?
  • Tomb of the Serpent Kings (System Neutral): A (frequently shilled) starter dungeon for OSR play. The dungeon itself opens up from a single corridor to a sprawling multi-route complex with skeleton snakemen, goblin spawning pools, and horrific mutations galore.
  • Tower of the Stargazer (Lamentations of the Flame Princess): The "introductory" adventure of Lamentations, featuring a Wizard's Tower... stuffed to the brim with save-or-die bullshit.
  • World of the Lost (Lamentations of the Flame Princess): A large hexcrawl set in in Africa with players dealing with crazed cultists, sentient slimes, pteradactyl-people and more.

Gallery[edit]

See Also[edit]