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January 22, 2013 2:42 PM   Subscribe

Dungeons and Dragons Classics -- First Edition. Second Edition. Third and Fourth Editions. Even Basic and Expert sets. Psionics, Magics, Ninja and Samurai, Are you looking for modules? Come on down to DnD Classics! Wizards of the Coast has decided to release D&D sourcebooks as PDFs for your enjoyment and reminiscence.
posted by boo_radley (118 comments total) 80 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not everything is there right now, but they're working on scanning in their enormous back catalog -- downloads are $5 to $18, with In Search of the Unknown free for the first week of business.
posted by boo_radley at 2:43 PM on January 22, 2013


And.... dead already.
posted by JHarris at 2:44 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


And.... dead already.

I can imagine this becoming a new baseline in server stress-testing.
posted by lekvar at 2:47 PM on January 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Apparently people really like In Search of the Unknown. It's weird. The standout for me is the 2E historical guides -- things like The Glory of Rome, which were a great gloss on entire periods of history.
posted by boo_radley at 2:49 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was a little disappointed there were no social share buttons. I share stuff like this on G+ with high school friends who are into sci-fi and roleplaying. The link doesn't display anything, either. Oh well. Looks cool!!!
posted by KokuRyu at 2:49 PM on January 22, 2013


Oh.
My.
God.

Brilliant idea.

I kind of feel lilke Uncle Scrooge swimming in the money bin.
What shall I buy first with my spare change?

*checks Deities & Demigods (1e)*

Looks like it lacks the Cthulhu Mythos and the Melnibonean Mythos. Bugger.
posted by Mezentian at 2:52 PM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's back! Here's the Historical Reference bundle!
posted by boo_radley at 2:53 PM on January 22, 2013


I wish the industry would move beyond D&D, whether it's the new streamlined D&D or the OSR. What excites me is Over The Edge or Unknown Armies or FATE - things about symbolism and magic and strangeness, not 30 years of reiterating the same Tolkien tropes and complicated math.

For the worst of D&D fans, there's always grognards.txt (old thread).

That said, I appreciate these modules for their historical value, and I've got a few 2nd ed sourcebooks I've never played. And I like Planescape:Torment and Baldur's Gate 2. But I wish D&D was more niche.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:54 PM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Fiend Folio, what a great compendium of C-list monsters.
posted by benzenedream at 2:55 PM on January 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


Gone again, from my end. Maybe it's just me? Anyway, this is wonderful, or will be.
posted by JHarris at 2:55 PM on January 22, 2013


Love the graph paper background.

Should be in hex, though.
posted by goethean at 2:55 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Humpf. No Mystarra (did they all come with "mood music" CDs?) or Blackmoor yet?
posted by Mezentian at 2:58 PM on January 22, 2013


benzenedream: "Fiend Folio, what a great compendium of C-list monsters."

That got-dang githiyanki on the cover. Man.

Oh! So one of the reasons this is a big deal is that WotC stopped providing PDF downloads in 2009. And they started it up again because they realized that people were still downloading as much as they ever were and wanted to give people a way to legitimize their downloads. How times have changed.
posted by boo_radley at 3:01 PM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


This will be a mixed blessing for sure. (Hello Time Sink!) Mostly I fear that it will make me miss "that one box of stuff" that went missing years ago. The one that had the first edition Deities & Demigods and numerous miniatures and old character sheets, and... and...

*crawls under desk and weeps quietly*
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 3:02 PM on January 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


Ooh, maybe it's time to give Moldvay a try.
posted by clockbound at 3:03 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Looks like it lacks the Cthulhu Mythos and the Melnibonean Mythos. Bugger.

The last artifact of my D&D days is an original edition w/ those chapters in it.

I haven't seen some of this stuff since 7th grade. If Expidetion to the Barrier Peaks is available, i may download it out of shere nostalgia.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 3:03 PM on January 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Aw shit, if they put up the Planescape back catalog I'll never leave my house. Except to explore the City of Doors.
posted by clockbound at 3:04 PM on January 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wow. Nostalgia. I have about 20-30 classic D&D books and modules from the late '70s - early '80s in a storage locker. Need to pull out S1 Tomb of Horrors and spring some ancient lich traps on some friends.
posted by scelerat at 3:05 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bah. Doesn't seem to have legendary PC-blender Tomb of Horror.
posted by Artw at 3:08 PM on January 22, 2013


We probably just triggered a death trap.
posted by Artw at 3:08 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


No Immortals edition either?
I guess no one really did play that after all.
posted by Mezentian at 3:09 PM on January 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hah, it's a trap! If I click the link I'll be sucked into a stationary sphere of annihilation. Can't get me with THAT twice.
posted by delfin at 3:16 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


C-list monsters? OK, yes, a bunch of them were basically filler and poorly-disguised party-killing "trap" monsters, but 'cmon, the Githyanki/Githzerai were just nifty! Nifty I tell you!
posted by aramaic at 3:16 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


That got-dang githiyanki on the cover. Man.

You all do realize that the Githyanki were created by MeFi's Own cstross?
posted by eriko at 3:19 PM on January 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


Plus, if I remember the Githyanki/Githzerai were a major race along with the space Hippos in Spelljammer.
posted by Mezentian at 3:20 PM on January 22, 2013


I got Pathfinder for me and the boy a few months ago, but the whole time I was grumping that what I really, really wanted was just the plain old blue and red books. Those are the "Basic and Expert sets"?

The Pathfinder buying experience sucked so bad. I went to the nearby game store and tried to get the clerk to understand there had even been blue and red books, and that once upon a time you could play D&D without three hardbound books and that class & race were conflated and everything, not because I thought those were still around, but because I wanted something close to that experience for me and an eight-year-old boy; and he was just "no it was never that simple and you need the four books to have any fun anyhow." And he was a DICK about it. Just a grumpy, neckbeard-y, nerd-dick.

The Pathfinder starter edition really isn't that bad, but it still feels a little overburdened for what I was after, which was more of a collaborative storytelling framework than A Whole System. Or at least a Whole System that was spare enough to endure being further reduced to a collaborative storytelling framework with dice now and then.

suggestions welcome
posted by mph at 3:21 PM on January 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Artw: "We probably just triggered a death trap."

Sphere of Annihilation in the preview window. Gets 'em every time!
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:21 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I just failed my saving throw.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:22 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


mph: Isn't Pathfinder one book? Alternatively: Burning Wheel.
posted by ellF at 3:22 PM on January 22, 2013


Sure, there were some good things in the Fiend Folio, but many entries read like "The flind is a gnoll that is called a 'flind' instead of being called a 'gnoll'".

In fairness, I don't remember if the flind entry was one of the ones that really read that way, but I do remember that there were many that did.
posted by Flunkie at 3:25 PM on January 22, 2013


Sure, there were some good things in the Fiend Folio, but many entries read like "The flind is a gnoll that is called a 'flind' instead of being called a 'gnoll'".

"Also has a bar."
posted by Artw at 3:29 PM on January 22, 2013


ellF: It is playable from the one book that came with the starter set, yes, but I was sort of using "number of books" as a proxy for "complexity of system." Pathfinder feels a little busier than I remember Basic D&D being. I might be wrong! Maybe I got old and learning is just harder now!
posted by mph at 3:29 PM on January 22, 2013


From what I've heard, the quality on some of these is pretty lacking.
posted by themadthinker at 3:38 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah, my dream is still to someday run the Village of Homlet/Temple of Elemental Evil campaign leading to the Slaver campaign (A series) leading into the Giant campaign to the Drow series to Queen of the Demonweb Pits.

A MAN CAN DREAM, RIGHT?

I have them all on a special shelf with Tomb of Horrors, In Search of Unknown, and like a dozen others.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:43 PM on January 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


How likely am I to ever play 2e again (given that I haven't really played any tabletop RPGs in 20 years)? Not very. But I still considered chucking some bucks at these PDFs out of nostalgia. At a minimum, I'll wait for some screencaps to see how the quality issue plays out.
posted by jepler at 3:45 PM on January 22, 2013


Deities and Demigods - Oh sweet dear lord Cthulu yes.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:46 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Joey Michaels: "Ah, my dream is still to someday run the Village of Homlet/Temple of Elemental Evil campaign leading to the Slaver campaign (A series) leading into the Giant campaign to the Drow series to Queen of the Demonweb Pits."

T1-4 + A1-4 + GDQ1-7.

I miss those cryptic letter/number combos.
posted by Chrysostom at 3:50 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Very cool. A whole bunch of original D&D boxed sets for sale at a thrift store the other day - the red one, two differently-shaded blue ones, and this one. Thought to myself: hey, those be cool little objects-der-art to have floating around the place, but then saw they were $60 each so I looked at a big pile of ROM back issues I wanted but they were four bucks each so in the end I just left and now here we all are.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 3:51 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wish the industry would move beyond D&D, whether it's the new streamlined D&D or the OSR. What excites me is Over The Edge or Unknown Armies or FATE - things about symbolism and magic and strangeness, not 30 years of reiterating the same Tolkien tropes and complicated math.

The youngest of the games that you mentioned here (FATE) is ten years old (assuming that you don't count its FUDGE predecessor), and the oldest (Over the Edge) is twenty, with Unknown Armies falling squarely in the middle. Any one of these games is arguably as venerable as D&D at this point, but they haven't caught on to the extent that D&D has, and there must be a reason for that.

Speaking only for myself, the experience of playing Over the Edge and Unknown Armies left me with the impression that the games in question were designed with an eye towards how cool the settings were, rather than whether or not the games would be fun to PLAY. Unknown Armies is a great read (although it hasn't aged particularly gracefully), and it certainly convinced me that I should pay attention to anything that Greg Stolze has to say, but I don't know anyone who played more than a few sessions and found the experience satisfying.

I've run two weekly FATE campaigns (Spirit of the Century and Dresden Files) for a combined period of probably about a year. It's a fun system and does some very interesting things with narrative mechanic, but it requires a lot of trust between the players and whoever's running things; I would not suggest it for new groups.

So even though there's a lot that I like about all three of those systems, it's not exactly surprising that the community hasn't moved on from D&D.

Full Disclosure: I am currently running Pathfinder. Because it WORKS.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 4:01 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


mph> You might be interested in Labyrinth Lord, which is a "retroclone" of the Basic / Expert sets. Explaining what a "retroclone" in modern RPG terms is would be a bit complex, but it's basically the same set of rules (I think there are a handful of minor tweaks) released legally. It's available for free download without art, and for purchase as a physical book both through PoD services and in game stores. There are a couple of other versions of Basic / Expert retroclones out there, but Labyrinth Lord is the most popular and the easiest to get ahold of. Any B/X module you pick up will be compatible with Labyrinth Lord.

Pathfinder is a pretty complex system. It's a revision of the revision of the 3rd edition of D&D, which I played extensively in the 2000s. It's a very different experience in play than B/X. It's currently the most popular RPG out there, tho'.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 4:03 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm a middle-aged philosophy professor with a baby on the way, but I recently got back into RPGs and I want you all to know my secret: Google Hangouts.

Also: Apocalypse World is way simple and quite fun if you want more story and less system. I will still be grabbing some of these PDFs in the near future.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:06 PM on January 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Unknown Armies is a really solid system, but people occasionally take the disempowerment-through-realism angle a bit too far and kill the ability of the party to actually be adventurers or heroes. I ran a fairly successful campaign of it online where the PCs were a employees of a detective agency in New Orleans back in the early 2000s.

FATE's OK. 3.0 is world's better than 2.0 was, but the only implementation I personally find interesting is Diaspora, since it cuts out a lot of the redundant lists of stunts for some simple rules about creating your own. I also like the minigame elements, and my impression is that it is the most playtested FATE 3.0 system. The creators continue to play it regularly.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 4:10 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


The release of these PDFs certainly hasn't helped my yearly mournful yearning for actually playing tabletop. This go around has manifested in buying Pathfinder and sadly rolling up characters: an Aberrant Bloodline Sorcerer who's out and about in the world in order to meet the ladies, sire some kids, and taint the bloodlines of generations to come; a mendicant lawyer cleric who wanders the countryside setting up contracts for the layfolk; and of course, my trusty halfling paladin with a dog mount.

It will get worse when the Dark Sun stuff gets scanned. Although, I recently reread some of the setting info and I'm not sure you can go home again once the curtain has been drawn aside. I have a drive somewhere, I think, full of the previously free pdfs. I hope they are restored in their cheap as in free form (I loved the 2nd ed Castle Guide).
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:17 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


For folks who are unaware, most previous versions of D&D are available as "retroclones" in some form, usually free. One of the more important things about Dndclassics.com is that it makes copyrighted material like the modules and supplements available legally.

In the past five years there has been the rediscovery / reconsideration of the value of modules, especially the early modules (prior to Dragonlance / Castle Ravenloft). Though it may not be obvious if you haven't played since the 80's, a particular style of play became dominant in the period from about '85 to '89 and has remained so ever since. This is a very plot-driven, combat-heavy style with lots of action-adventure inspired by the kinds of behaviour seen in movies and television.

These early modules predate that dominance, and show a playstyle that has only recently been recovered and begun developing again. It's sometimes called "sandbox gaming", though this properly only refers to particular set of techniques that can be used to realise it. It's strongly driven by player-agency, with an emphasis on narrative as a construction of memory rather than something inherent in the presentation of events. Games tend to focus on exploration and player-created goals, with combat as a very contingent element of games, rather than an inevitable feature (at least at the scope of a single encounters). The other name for it is "old school gaming", and its revitalisation as a dynamic and interesting playstyle is one of the things called "the Old School Renaissance".

The early modules are documents of, and guides to, this style, and increasing their distribution will hopefully allow new, lapsed, and currently unsatisified gamers to discover a potentially satisfying way of gaming that they may never have been exposed to before.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 4:23 PM on January 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Also, [INSERT PLUG FOR PLAYING AT THE WORLD HERE]!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:27 PM on January 22, 2013


You don't all still have your originals? Huh.
posted by GuyZero at 4:30 PM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mashing Pseudoephedrine's mention of Old School Gaming (OSG) with more modern design elements, you may be interested in checking out the D&D Next playtest. (Easy to google, I can't pull the link due to work web filters.)

It's a free playtest and appears to be taking elements from across the D&D history. Take magic - Wizards and Clerics are back to a core Vancian system, but with some at-wills to provide an option every round.

As for OSG - it's definately back. Just look at the included adventures... picking two, The Caves of Chaos and Isle of Dread both play incredibly open ended.
posted by m@f at 4:36 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pseudoephedrine, since I never played anything but the old school back in the day thanks for the explanation. Though I'm at a loss how play could be anything but open ended. Do players advanced in a linear fashion from pre-set encounter-to-encounter with no option until they reach the Boss?
posted by stbalbach at 4:40 PM on January 22, 2013


shit's about to get real planescape up in this bitch
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:42 PM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Pseudoephedrine: Actually - the early modules were mostly tournament dungeons and do not reflect pre-1978 D&D exactly; they tend to be fuller, simpler and more focused than the "megadungeons" used in the earliest days. Not that it's a bad thing, but Gygax's game wasn't really like B2, GDQ1-7 or S1. Of course both Dave Arneson's Blackmoor and Gygax's Castle Greyhawk have only been published partially. This style of dungeon is not well represented in print even among products associated with the Old School Renaissance.

I'm very happy that WotC is doing this, although I have the majority of the modules published in the 1980-82 trade dress (solid color covers with a yellow bar in the top left corner). It should be a good chance to get some of the stuff that I missed from 2e without cluttering up shelf space.
posted by graymouser at 4:44 PM on January 22, 2013


As for OSG - it's definately back. Just look at the included adventures ... Isle of Dread both play incredibly open ended.

I'd hope so. Many fond memories of eating dinosaur hearts because "that's where the dragon's power is." Oh, Thrag, never change!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:45 PM on January 22, 2013


St. Balbach> Potentially. That's often referred to as "railroading" and is deprecated as an undesirable extreme.

In its most positive method, the ideal of the type of game I am describing as dominant is that referees and players should collectively work to realise a story where the internal elements mesh well to reproduce the feeling of inevitability that many great dramas create, with the action and excitement of an adventure tale. Characters should be portrayed as having strong internal motivations that drive them, while the referee plays NPCs similarly, and plots often involve grand struggles to save the world (or at least the portion of it that matters to the players). Encounters are planned ahead of time, and inserted as the referee feels appropriate to the story. In general, the pace and progression of the plot are in the hands of the referee, who offers clues, events, incentives, etc. to players to encourage them to move through it.

I've been in several groups that enjoyed this kind of game. Only one of those groups really ever pulled it off successfully and consistently, but that group also led to some of the best gaming I've ever been part of. It does offer a different set of rewards than old school gaming though, and I ultimately tend to prefer the latter style, since I find it much easier (personally) to obtain the rewards of old school gaming than of the story-driven stuff I described above.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 4:55 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Graymouser> I don't disagree with your characterisation of very early modules. They don't fully capture that era, which is one of the reasons, IMHO, that a lot of that knowledge was lost, or fell out of the common heritage of roleplayers.

Megadungeons are making a comeback, if you're interested. Barrowmaze, Anomalous Subsurface Environment and Stonehell are three well-regarded examples. Rappan Athuk was also recently republished. There's also been a ton of DIY advice about creating your own megadungeon, especially last year and the year before on the OSR blog circuit.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 5:02 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I could use some good news today. I can't access the site, are the downloads kindle friendly?
posted by Renoroc at 5:04 PM on January 22, 2013


$4.99? Thirty years later, five minutes with a scanner, and they took a buck off the price? Man, fuck these--

Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh?

The GDQ bundle?

Temple of Elemental Evil?

Goddammit.

Where are my dice?
posted by Etrigan at 5:06 PM on January 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


you may be interested in checking out the D&D Next playtest. (Easy to google, I can't pull the link due to work web filters.)

We've run two sessions of D&D Next (12/17/12 update) and got a bit into Caves of Chaos. It's pretty cool, although I and my players are a bit dismayed that a basic hobgoblin has like a +4 to-hit advantage over them. I can only assume that's an oversight?
posted by JHarris at 5:12 PM on January 22, 2013


my trusty halfling paladin with a dog mount.

"Ho faithful steed! I name thee SNAUSAGEBANE."
posted by JHarris at 5:15 PM on January 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


Anumhotep, 12th Pharaoh of the Black Pyramid shook its crumbling fist at the assembled party. "And I would have got away with it too," it whispered through shriveled lips, "If it wasn't for those darned adventurers!"

"Don't forget Snausagebane!" chimed in Ser Jook.

"Dooooooohhhhh," moaned the mummy.

The party laughed as the evil from beyond the aeons faded to nothing more than dry dust in the wind.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:24 PM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'll never forget the first time I hit a giant centipede with my crossbow in the Caves of Chaos. Am I remembering correctly that the slavers (A) series was really well done?
posted by cgk at 5:24 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Meh. Chainmail n00bz
posted by Windopaene at 5:26 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pseudoephedrine: Yeah, I've got Barrowmaze, Stonehell and ASE (1 and 2-3) on my shelf. I haven't kept my blog up to date for quite a while but I was in that scene for a bit, and have written a bit for Fight On!. So I'm pretty keyed in on the OSR stuff.
posted by graymouser at 5:26 PM on January 22, 2013


I still have all my old books, and they're being used by the next generation, so yay!

As for me, my head is full instead of the Souls reference material. Let me show you my DEX+HUM scaling fire sword (+5!) made out of a spider's leg, by sticking it violently through your chest then pulling it out firmly with one foot braced on your shoulder.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:34 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I remember playing with a $10 basic set, circa 1982 or somewhere around there. But in my memory, the box was greenish/blue. Yet all I see is a red boxed set on sites such as this. Am I nuts? Is this mis-rememberance proof that I'm really a cyborg or replicant? Does anyone else remember the blue-green boxed set?
posted by mecran01 at 5:37 PM on January 22, 2013


Joey Michaels: "Ah, my dream is still to someday run the Village of Homlet/Temple of Elemental Evil campaign leading to the Slaver campaign (A series) leading into the Giant campaign to the Drow series to Queen of the Demonweb Pits.

A MAN CAN DREAM, RIGHT?

I have them all on a special shelf with Tomb of Horrors, In Search of Unknown, and like a dozen others.
"

Online version? I am in.
posted by Samizdata at 5:39 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I believe blue-green was the "expert" set. And google image search seems to confirm that.

Basic was only until level 3 or so. Pretty restricted really.
posted by GuyZero at 5:40 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah, I believe we had the 1978 Holmes Basic Set.
posted by mecran01 at 5:43 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


One recommendation if you want some laughs... you can get N2 The Forest Oracle, which was the inspiration for this epic thread on EN World. Totally worth it.
posted by graymouser at 5:45 PM on January 22, 2013


Mine were the mid-80s versions and this was the split for levels off the top of my head:

Red - Basic - levels 1-3
Blue - Expert 4-14
Green - Companion - 15-25
Black - Masters - 26-36
Gold - Immortal ... Um... Paragons?

All classics.
posted by Mezentian at 5:48 PM on January 22, 2013


I can't seem to find X1 - Isle of Dread?
posted by newdaddy at 6:18 PM on January 22, 2013


Immortal took the players outside of the level structure and made them demigods, but kept the game going.
posted by JHarris at 6:22 PM on January 22, 2013


A few posts have talked about RPGs as a "shared storytelling" environment, and mentioned FATE specifically. Brief hijack: anyone who has played any version of FATE (or Dresden, or Diaspora) or who likes the sound of a story-centric RPG should check out the Fate Core Kickstarter. Supporting at the $10 level gets you everything produced as a result of the Kickstarter in digital form -- which, right now, is looking like around 1,500 pages.
posted by thudthwacker at 6:42 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Immortals was highly confusing. We never got that high. By the time we were into Expert territory our own game was a weird homebrew mix of 1E/2E Advanced and the Basic line.
But I had all the boxes and I would look at Immortal and never imagine how to run a game like that. It was an oddity. Hopefully one day they'll chuck it up.
posted by Mezentian at 6:47 PM on January 22, 2013


Any one of these games is arguably as venerable as D&D at this point, but they haven't caught on to the extent that D&D has, and there must be a reason for that.

Of course there must be a reason, but not necessarily a reason that has to do with the content of those games. Network effects are important- D&D could be big because D&D is big.

That said, Over the Edge is pretty specific. If you had to choose a game that everyone played, why not one that was a little more flexible in its setting, like Nexus, Everway, or GURPS?
posted by Jpfed at 6:48 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hmmm. It appears that The Keep on the Borderlands is missing some maps. It looks like quality control isn't all that it should be.

Still, what are the chances of Gamma World and Alternity?
posted by Mezentian at 6:49 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pseudoephedrine, thanks for the explanation. That sounds ideal actually. You would need a good DM and players to pull it off. The modules promised that sort of play, a "movie in your mind", they were appealing to read even if one never played them. The sandbox type modules are probably less interesting to read but easier to DM and probably play.
posted by stbalbach at 6:53 PM on January 22, 2013


> I wanted something close to that [D&D Blue Box] experience for me and
> an eight-year-old boy [...]


mph, you might want to look at Delta Green1 Dragonraid2 Tunnels and Trolls. They even have a (wildly successful) Kickstarter thing going to fund a new edition. In the meantime, you can get the old-school rulebook as a (legit) PDF download for US$4.

A bit lighter-weight and (IMHO) better mechanically constructed than basic D&D (which, even through the lens of substantial nostalgia betrays its Chainmail-esque mass miniatures roots).

But tabletop pen-and-paper roleplaying games are a lot like Lothlórien: what you find there is what you brought with you. The attitudes of the players and the group dynamic are a whole lot more important than the system (if any) you choose.

(1)-- Everybody dies. Everybody.
(2)-- I regret that I am *not* making this one up.
posted by sourcequench at 6:57 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Delta green is just an update to Call of Cthulhu where, yes, everybody dies. Repeatedly. Thankfully the character generation mechanics were not very complex because someone was creating a new character during every gaming session.

it was actually a lot of fun because it gave you (well, me) the opportunity to chew through a bunch of really diverse characters. it was a little like improv where everything changed really quickly.
posted by GuyZero at 7:26 PM on January 22, 2013


Mezentian: "Immortals was highly confusing."

If I recall correctly, B/X were largely the product of Tom Moldvay. They got slightly revised by Frank Mentzer as part of the BECMI vision, but the Companion/Master/Immortals was all Mentzer. Of course, there are grognards who think the whole direction under Mentzer was a mistake, but I think the critical consensus is pretty strong that Immortals didn't really fit into the D&D vision.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:28 PM on January 22, 2013


The modules promised that sort of play, a "movie in your mind", they were appealing to read even if one never played them. The sandbox type modules are probably less interesting to read but easier to DM and probably play.

There was a module for Star Frontiers based on the movie 2010. Which was basically a verbatim retelling of the movie. I bought it but considering that everyone I knew at the time saw 2010 it seemed sort of redundant to play through it.
posted by GuyZero at 7:28 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Looks like it lacks the Cthulhu Mythos and the Melnibonean Mythos.

(;,;)
posted by dragonsi55 at 8:32 PM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


If I was still playing RPGs I would so be the guy insisting on playing Deltra Green every time, such a great elaboration of the CoC setting.
posted by Artw at 8:38 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought they did this years ago. What am I missing here?
posted by Bonzai at 8:46 PM on January 22, 2013


Bonzai - the PDFs were previously available, but as mentioned upthread WotC thought everyone was torrenting the files so they stopped. Of course everyone continued to torrent the files, especially since there was no legal option to buy out of print books.

So now they're back online - and my wallet is a little thinner in the process.
posted by m@f at 8:54 PM on January 22, 2013


You don't all still have your originals? Huh.

A few years ago my parents dropped off a large and heavy box of my old "books". A couple of years later I opened the box to find a ton of modules and rule books. I had a brief look through having stopped playing them mid-high school I think, and was astounded by the detail and how much time you would need to take it all in, but then when you're young you have way more time then you appreciate, at the time, as it were. I'll never use them again, though finishing Legend of Grimrock on the PC was a pleasure recently.
posted by juiceCake at 9:13 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


A few posts have talked about RPGs as a "shared storytelling" environment

Just want to point out that this is one way to play RPGs, but it's not central to what an RPG really is. More to the point, "role playing" is not really the same as "cooperative storytelling". Sometimes people seem to forget that.
posted by fleacircus at 9:20 PM on January 22, 2013


The Pathfinder buying experience sucked so bad. I went to the nearby game store and tried to get the clerk to understand [blah blah blah]

Yeah, that's not a buying experience, that's delivering a sermon. You kids get off my lawn! And somehow the clerk is the grumpy neckbeard?
posted by robcorr at 9:34 PM on January 22, 2013


Stbalbach> You're welcome mate.

In my experience, it's less about one style or another being definitively superior to another and more about group dynamics and interests:

I know a couple of guys who idolise sandbox gaming and yet are incapable of playing it because they consistently create characters poorly suited to it. Similarly, I know a lot of people who claim they want rich, complex, cinematic plots and yet do everything they can to undermine the ability of the group to create such plots (and worse yet, often unintentionally, so that they're as frustrated as anyone else).

It gets even more complex when you introduce interpersonal factors, of course. Part of the fine art of refereeing is knowing your players, and creating the kind of game best suited to them, or at least recruiting ones who are amenable to your desires.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 9:48 PM on January 22, 2013


My favorite part of Delta Green is that the premise is "Have you looked around lately? The stars come right when human beings live like the the Old Ones. The starts are right, assholes!"
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:29 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Any one of these games is arguably as venerable as D&D at this point, but they haven't caught on to the extent that D&D has, and there must be a reason for that.

Of course there must be a reason, but not necessarily a reason that has to do with the content of those games. Network effects are important- D&D could be big because D&D is big.

That said, Over the Edge is pretty specific. If you had to choose a game that everyone played, why not one that was a little more flexible in its setting, like Nexus, Everway, or GURPS?


To be honest, I've only read about OTE but I haven't played it. Everything about the setting and the aesthetics and the math and even the culture of D&D bugs me but OTE and Unknown Armies just set me on fire and I wish there was more love for them. They tell stories about my world.

I suppose the success of the World of Darkness was a small victory.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:54 PM on January 22, 2013


Hey, Pseudoephedrine , thanks for the Labyrinth Lord tip and retroclone keyword. That made for some interesting reading on the ride home this afternoon. And sourcequench, thanks for mentioning Tunnels and Trolls. It's spoken of highly by a gamer friend of mine, but I'd never looked into it much.

Delta Green sounds like fun. I'd like to see my son deal with something like that, especially if I took the time to generate a stack of characters for him ahead of time but didn't tell him and just produced a new one each time his character bought it. I'm pretty sure his sense of humor would kick in after the third death.
posted by mph at 10:58 PM on January 22, 2013


The youngest of the games that you mentioned here (FATE) is ten years old (assuming that you don't count its FUDGE predecessor), and the oldest (Over the Edge) is twenty, with Unknown Armies falling squarely in the middle. Any one of these games is arguably as venerable as D&D at this point, but they haven't caught on to the extent that D&D has, and there must be a reason for that.

Apocalypse World, than. And they haven't caught on since gamers and geeks - especially fantasy fans - are a reactionary lot. See Moorcock's famous essay. (and yes, I know his works were in D&D).
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:02 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hidden Shrine of Tamochan. Baddest assed D&D module ever.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:09 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


mph, Delta Green is a great game. (Specifically, it's an absolutely first-rate setting with kind of "meh" mechanics, but who cares about the mechanics really.)

But, it's bleak as a very bleak thing. You're the Bad Guys, except you're pitted against the Even Worse Guys. Everybody dies -- everybody -- alone, in mortal terror, and knowing in their guts that they've utterly failed.

You know MeFi's own cstross' Laundry Novels? That setting's a right larf compared to your common-or-garden Delta Green scenario.

It depends a lot on the individual, but I guess what I'm saying is that without a whole lot more information, it wouldn't necessarily be my first choice for the inaugural roleplaying experience for an eight-year-old.

You want a game where his sense of humor can kick in after the third death? Try Paranoia, or maybe Macho Women with Guns.

That's as opposed to Dragonraid, which is like the roleplaying game equivalent of a Chick tract.
posted by sourcequench at 11:30 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


How about stock Call of Cthulhu? I tend to find the quasi-military nature of Delta Green off-putting, and the 20s setting of classic CoC underserved by other RPGs.

Here's a secret about the game: if you don't like cosmic horror, you can discard it entirely and the game still works perfectly fine! Make it about mobsters vs. the government, or moonshiners during prohibition. There are no tomes, no one gets any spells, and no one gains any Cthulhu Mythos points. There are still sanity rolls depending on the violence level of your campaign. There's lots of stuff in the classic Cthulhu books that are just setting.

In fact, scenarios like that can serve as a nice respite between sessions of fighting off the forces of Nyarlathotep. There are even a couple of official Cthulhu scenarios with no supernatural elements at all, although I think those work best if the players are expecting them anyway. They act entertainingly like crazy people on street corners who see the workings of demons in everything.
posted by JHarris at 11:54 PM on January 22, 2013


WELL THAT'S JUST FUCKING GREAT WHO'S GOING TO BUY THESE BOXES OF CRAP I'VE BEEN HOARDING NOW
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:18 AM on January 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm more interested in playing FATE Core, but on the other hand, grabbing one oid the weirder modules like Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and converting it might be fun. FATE makes such a task pretty easy.
posted by happyroach at 1:40 AM on January 23, 2013


I put on my robe and wizard hat
posted by horopter at 5:54 AM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


A few posts have talked about RPGs as a "shared storytelling" environment, and mentioned FATE specifically. Brief hijack: anyone who has played any version of FATE (or Dresden, or Diaspora) or who likes the sound of a story-centric RPG should check out the Fate Core Kickstarter. Supporting at the $10 level gets you everything produced as a result of the Kickstarter in digital form -- which, right now, is looking like around 1,500 pages.

Thanks for the tip! Much appreciated although it doesn't look like I'll get to play it. The consultation documents about adapting FATE for home games sound good too.
posted by ersatz at 5:57 AM on January 23, 2013


Trying to wrangle a Google Hangout game has proven to be trickier than expected, and we're not even up to scheduling or trying out the technology yet. Victims of enthusiasm are we. The most enthusiastic potential wants to run (YAY!) but wants to run FATE in a steampunk setting (BOO). Nothing against FATE (or even steampunk, really), but a chunk of the other players are of the "yeah, it'd be fun to play D&D again. Delve some dungeons, slay some monsters" variety and not that interested in cinematic airships and cogs and stuff.

The only solution is for me to run a game, which doesn't do much for my yearning to play.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:11 AM on January 23, 2013


What WotC should do is open-source the text, and have a contest for new artwork. A lot of the artwork for the early modules etc falls short of most gamers' imaginations. Artists could submit works specific to the text (e.g. 4x5 characters confronting beholder) then sell PDFs of the modules w/ new artwork. Artists whose works are used get credit in print and a share of the profits.
posted by newdaddy at 6:42 AM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Aw shit, if they put up the Planescape back catalog I'll never leave my house. Except to explore the City of Doors.

shit's about to get real planescape up in this bitch


You're got-damn right, Lady of Pain fo life!
posted by zombieflanders at 7:11 AM on January 23, 2013


Mezentian: Still, what are the chances of Gamma World...

OH HELLZ YES. I would so be all over that.

Even though I still have my original 1978 Gamma World rulebook sitting right there...
posted by hanov3r at 7:17 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chrysostom:
"but I think the critical consensus is pretty strong that Immortals didn't really fit into the D&D vision."
Yeah, it really didn't. Wrapping your head around the original Immortals boxed set was like trying to read the original Mage only not as rewarding. They eventually fixed the rules up into something more manageable with the Wrath of the Immortals box years later, but that was a Mystara specific event product.

And my poor, crumbling Gazateers (especially Karameikos and Glantri) need digital copies so they physical ones can go into the retirement home and take a well deserved rest. New material is supposed to be released each month so here's to hoping the GAZ series makes its debut soonish.

Also, they have the whole B series of adventures except for one and it was the best of all - B10 Night's Dark Terror.
posted by charred husk at 7:29 AM on January 23, 2013


BTW, if you're not listening to Community's Dan Harmon playing D&D on his Harmontown podcast and tour then you're missing out.
posted by alby at 7:37 AM on January 23, 2013


No Expert box set up yet. :(
posted by introp at 9:32 AM on January 23, 2013


Immortals worked just fine in the Mentzer D&D structure, which worked by increasing complexity over each boxed set and play stage. This was a brilliant way to structure a game that no other system has really captured the promise of. Other games contain optional rules, but not ones tailored to play stages, or feature introductory rules you throw away when you get to the "real" game. Immortals was complicated, but not much more so than you'd be used to be the time you incorporated Expert, Companion and Master.

The problem was that honestly, few people put in the play time to level 30+ where you'd gradually embrace the system. We were talking about the extreme edge of dedicated play.

Nevertheless, eyeballing a game instead of playing it, or running one-shots of something designed for continuous play, can often lose sight of some of the important stuff. And it pains me to say it, but fewer new designs fit long term play styles than before, which sucks, because that's a distinctive strength of the form. Unless you hack things from many sources, there's an contradiction between the ideal of getting together with your buddies for an ongoing game and being a consumer of many kinds of RPGs. What we're seeing is more games designed to enable consumption at the expense of dedication, but then again, as Western friendships and empathy decay (these are real psychological and social phenomena) and people work more, we're losing the ability to make these long term commitments in the first place.

So the BECMI sets are kind of bittersweet. They're designed to support an intense, long term social activity that strained the commitments of people even when it was published, closer to the peak of the RPG craze. In some ways, it assumes that we're better people than we were, and certainly better than we've become.
posted by mobunited at 9:53 AM on January 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Aaaaand the site is down, again.
posted by newdaddy at 10:03 AM on January 23, 2013


hmm. torn between buying say, ad&d or d&d basic... and that I probably will never sucker my group to play them. and already have savage worlds for fast rpg, mutants and masterminds for more complex, and other systems like silhouette I've yet to run...

course. these could be fun in my pdf rpg collection :)
posted by AngelWuff at 10:28 AM on January 23, 2013


I'll always have a special place in my heart for B1. Sitting and reading it last night brought back so many memories.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:47 AM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


The 4ed introductory adventure Keep on the Shadowfell is available free right now, too. I own a copy, but it'd be neat to have the PDF.

I wonder if they will offer the D&D Encounters adventures? Keeping the adventure is one of the perks of DMing, but a PDF is different, and the things fetch decent prices on eBay, so I wonder if Wizards will get into the act.
posted by Gelatin at 12:09 PM on January 23, 2013


Something seems whacked about the PDF for Keep on the Shadowfell. Encounter text is printed in red, but red rectangles on most pages are partially blotting the encounter text out. Different PDF readers are all showing the same thing.
posted by newdaddy at 12:29 PM on January 23, 2013


newdaddy, my PDFs looked just fine so far, including KotS. Can you re-download once you've checked out the file?

We're starting a second-level 4e adventure tonight, and I wish I'd known about this earlier so I could have suggested we run Khyber's Harvest (also free right now!).

Also, I own the sweet, sweet 4e Rules Compendium, but the Quick-Start Rules (also free) are an excellent primer. Those 15 pages (not counting the sample characters) are all one really needs to play.
posted by Gelatin at 12:56 PM on January 23, 2013


Gelatin, I did download the file. For instance the red encounter text on page 73 is partially hidden by the red backgrounds. Can you read that?
posted by newdaddy at 1:20 PM on January 23, 2013


I suspect they're watermarking each file per-user, and maybe their system sometimes screws it up.
posted by introp at 1:57 PM on January 23, 2013


Hrm. I said Alternity above, when what I meant was 'Amazing Engine'. I never got to look at a copy, and never knew anyone who played it, but it always seemed terribly interesting to me.

Plus, in addition to Gamma World and Metamorphosis Alpha, it had some other interesting looking settings within its GURPS-like milieu.
posted by Mezentian at 4:18 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just want to point out that this is one way to play RPGs, but it's not central to what an RPG really is.

I don't know about what an RPG "really is", but regardless, I didn't mean to imply that shared storytelling is the only way to do it. I've played in some games where the campaign was a story being told, and some where the campaign was a world the PCs were dropped into. I know people who prefer the former (I'm among them), and many who prefer the latter. I only wanted to say that, if shared storytelling is a mode you enjoy, the Fate Core Kickstarter is something you might want to look at.
posted by thudthwacker at 5:15 PM on January 23, 2013


Sorry for the delay, newdaddy. My PDF looked fine on that page. Introp might be right. I wondered if you could download it again from their store since you're on record as having purchased it. Maybe if so it'll have a different watermark, or the file will be better. In any case, good luck.
posted by Gelatin at 5:06 AM on January 24, 2013


mobunited:
"In some ways, it assumes that we're better people than we were, and certainly better than we've become."
Tell me about it. A character created in junior high finally completed his quest for immorality my freshman year of college. After that we had a few campaigns that ran to 8th level or so, one to 14th and the rest fizzling out in the mid single digits. Occasionally it was because of general campaign fail or DM burnout. Usually it was because of drama and life changes.

After going a few years without gaming I joined a group of friends of friends (who are now my friends and included my now wife). When someone starts a game it is immediately asked who will take over next since it isn't expected for whatever we're doing to last more than ten sessions or so. Lots of artsy fartsy games like Dogs in the Vinyard and Shab-al-Hiri Roach. It's fun, but I miss the old long form games.
posted by charred husk at 10:22 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


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