Author Archives: Solomoriah

Metarules

by Solomoriah

One of the things about the Old School that’s not obvious to everyone is that what you don’t write down is as important as what you do. Sometimes I refer to this as the “metarules” of the game.

For example, the “1-n on 1d6, sometimes adjusted by ability bonus” mechanic, or some variation of it, is used in several places in the rules. But never do I explain it in any general fashion, and I’m not going to. Novice GMs will apply the rule only as written, but as they become more experienced, they find that the mechanic is more generally useful than it appears. If I chose to explain it, to make it an abstract mechanic, it would change its nature.

The “unified mechanic” of modern games is like that. It becomes a hammer… as in, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If I codified the d6 mechanic above, it would become a single hammer, rather than a set of similar hammers useful in different circumstances. Some GMs would be less willing to change the rule, while others would try to apply the rule in places where it was not really appropriate.

But instead, I provide similar, but not identical, rules in several places.  As the GM gains experience (GMXP?), he or she notices the similarity, and the differences as well.  When a player wants to try something for which there’s no rule written, the GM may remember the d6 rule, and see that some variation of it is appropriate to the situation.

I’ve learned from long experience that the things I figure out for myself I know far better than the things that are prescribed to me.  For the purposes of the game, I choose to keep the rules simple and brief, but provide interesting, varied game mechanics to stimulate the imagination of the GM, rather than to try to figure out every possible thing that might happen and write a rule for it.  Or, to write a “unified mechanic” that supposedly covers every situation, but isn’t necessarily appropriate to all of them.

Fans of the “unified mechanic” are howling as they read this.  Bah, I say to you.  Before Basic Fantasy RPG, I had a game called Project 74, and the earliest versions of that game were built around a unified mechanic.  It sounded good on paper… ability rolls on 1d20, with a given target number, and the ability score bonus applied (along with other bonuses, like the Attack Bonus, called a Combat Rating in the earliest versions of Project 74).  But in the first player character group we had a human, a gnome, an elf, and a half-ogre.  The odds of the gnome forcing a door (he was a magic-user) were around 50% (11+ on 1d20, no STR bonus) while the half-ogre had a 60% chance (same target number, 16 STR).  Say what?  The number of times we saw the “pickle jar” conundrum, where the weakling succeeded at a strength task that the hulking brute failed at, were just silly.  Oh, I could adjust the target number, but I couldn’t get a range of results I liked with a “standardized” target number rule.  Raising the target to 16+, for instance, lowers the gnome to 25%, but the half-ogre is now down to 35%; the proportion is better that way, but it’s now too hard for the half-ogre to open the door.

On the 1d6 mechanic, the gnome needs a 1 (16.7%) while the half-ogre needs 1-3 (50%).  MUCH more reasonable, in my opinion, and in the last versions of Project 74 I wrote it that way.

Sometimes, what is needed isn’t an overall rule. Sometimes it’s the LAST thing we need.

Storytelling

by Solomoriah

I’ve said before, in the Old School we don’t tell stories.  Story is what happens when the players pick up their dice and walk into your world.  If you, as the GM, try to plan what the players will do, and create a railroad to lead them through the story from start to finish, what do you do when they go off the rails?

But… we do tell stories.  Backstory.  How did that tower get toppled?  Who lived there before?  A wealthy and powerful warlord?  A great wizard, who might have left valuable magic laying around?  It’s through those stories you tell, through the mouths of your NPCs, that you entice your players into your world.

I’m a proponent of the “fast and loose” method of campaign world development.  The more you write down, the more you have created that the players will never see or appreciate.  Look at the classics of Sword & Sorcery fiction… they use a variety of shortcuts to make the world seem real, or at least interesting, without actually providing deep background material.

Not exactly S&S, but here’s one of my favorite examples:  “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

You just read that, and now you can see it in your mind’s eye.  I don’t know if the two men named (I’m 95% certain you imagined the gunslinger as a man) are on horseback in your imagination like they are in mine, but you can see the desert, and the man in black, and the gunslinger dressed in tan clothing rather like Marshal Dillon or Clint Eastwood.  If you don’t imagine it exactly as I do, I bet you still have a vivid image.

If you don’t recognize it, that’s the first line of the first Dark Tower book by Steven King, titled “The Gunslinger.”

Or look up the lyrics to the song “Badge” by Cream.  With just a few words, you begin to imagine the singer and the woman he is singing to.  You get their past relationship, and you are led to wonder about the things the singer is telling her.

You don’t need a deep description of the world to make it seem real (and interesting) to the players.  Don’t be afraid of stereotypes… they are the shorthand of the imagination.  You can set a scene very quickly by using stereotypical words, then as the scene unfolds, the players begin to realize those were just their first impressions.  Stereotypes are only bad, story-wise, when they trap you.  When you let each and every character be only a stereotype, with no actual depth.

The same things that work with characters work with worlds.  If an NPC swears “by the seven swords of Saviare” you know there’s a story there; it doesn’t have to be heavily detailed, but it can lead to an adventure if you play it right.  (It worked for me.)

Many are the times I read through Gary Gygax’s great tome of collected wisdom and wondered about the people and places named therein.  I wondered at the stories behind them, and the few times he told those stories, I was always entranced reading them.

The secret is not to show everything, or tell everything.  Keeping some mystery in your storytelling is important.  And if you’re going to do that, don’t bother writing down in detail 1,000 or 2,000 or 10,000 years of your campaign world’s history.  You won’t remember it all, and if you do, you’ll never have an opportunity for your players to appreciate it.  Keep it short, just notes to remind you of the main parts.

After all, people in the real world don’t really know history nearly as well as they’d like to think.  Why should it be different in the campaign world?  So you, in the guise of an NPC, tells the players about the defeat of the great clan of Senarius, and later another NPC tells a contradictory story.  Even if it is, in fact, you who have remembered wrong or otherwise screwed up, why worry about it?  Make it part of your world.

Additional CreateSpace.com titles, soon to be on Amazon.com

by Solomoriah

As of this morning, all four of the Basic Fantasy Project’s in-print modules are available through CreateSpace.com, and soon through Amazon.com and Amazon Europe.  Their rules required removal of the spine labels (which honestly are too small to read on the JN series modules anyway), but the proofs I received look pretty good.

Here are the CreateSpace.com links:

BF1 Morgansfort
BF2 Fortress, Tomb, and Tower
JN1 The Chaotic Caves
JN2 Monkey Isle

What Is Old School?

by Solomoriah

Back in the day, as they say, when I started playing RPGs, there were certain things that were just understood.  What the GM said was law.  When you rolled up a new character, you rolled a spare just in case, because you knew that not all the player characters were coming back alive from their first adventure.  When you met the monsters, you were not guaranteed to be at your best… and there was no guarantee you could defeat them, either.

Looking back, I can see when it began to change.  It started in small ways.  New character classes and races resulted in a form of what is called “feature creep” in the programming world.  More detail added to the player characters made creating one take longer.  A new focus on “story” led to some players writing extensive background for their characters, well beyond “he’s a barbarian from the hill country looking for adventure.”  All that effort spent creating a character meant that, before play even began, the player was already emotionally invested in the character.

When you have an investment in a character, you sure don’t want to see him (or her, or it) die right away.  Traditional games tended to mitigate lethality for higher level characters with spells like Raise Dead, which were generally not available to beginning characters; so the rules were changed to make it harder to kill the character in a permanent fashion.

There is surely a balance to be struck here, a balance we’ve tried hard to find in Basic Fantasy RPG.  Modern games ignore the balance, as creating a character takes so long and involves so much work that no one wants to risk (character) death.

But even in a modern game, there has to be some semblance of failure.  To make the game “better” for the players, even that risk required mitigation.  The designers of the new school made the idea of game balance into a virtual religion… each encounter was carefully analyzed to confirm whether it was a proper challenge for an “average” party.  As far as I can figure, this means “make the PCs work up a sweat while killing the monsters.”  It specifically doesn’t mean “the monsters might kill you all.”

Players who learned in the new school will tell the GM he’s doing it wrong if he causes them to face monsters more powerful that “game balance” allows.  Players trained in the old school know that monsters prefer to prey upon the weak.

Let me give you an example of the old school at work:

In my current campaign, the player characters, all around 3rd level, were traveling through the wilderness; I rolled a random encounter, and a green dragon was indicated.  The dragon did not leap directly into battle; rather, it positioned itself across their path, and told them it could smell their gold.  “Give me half, and I’ll let you live.”  So they did.  This sort of exchange has actually happened several times, even one time involving a red dragon (though he wanted more than half).

In the new school, I’d have been shouted down as soon as I announced the monster.  How dare I use a monster the party couldn’t defeat?

Bah.  The real world doesn’t work like that.  Bad guys don’t pick on you because you represent a fair challenge… they pick on you because they believe they will win.  They believe you are weaker, one way or another.  Why in the world should the game be any different?  Is this world we’re imagining designed by Disney or what?

The Difficulties of Sharing

by Solomoriah

Sharing is hard.

The Basic Fantasy Project is built on the idea of sharing, freely, the game we love with all its many facets and options.  Many people have told me over the years that I’m crazy to give the game away for free… I’ve talked about it before.  Let me tell you right now, if I sold the game, I’d be crazy.  I’d have been driven crazy by now.

Worries about things like “brand recognition” and “fragmentation” only make sense if you are trying to make a profit.  Marketing… it’s a pernicious thing, a necessary evil in a land of capitalism (which I do believe in, honestly).  It influences my business, but I refuse to let it worm its way into my hobby also.

So really, sharing is easy.  It’s the easiest choice, once you lay down the idol of profit.

But sharing is still hard.

You create something, something that you think is good.  Maybe really good, but you know you can’t tell for sure.  You share it, and you invite people to help you finish it, polish and primp and repaint and remodel, and behold, they do come.

But there’s an unexpected factor.  They don’t all think just like you.  They have ideas… their own ideas.  You think some of their ideas are really, really cool.  You aren’t so sure about the rest.

They want to help, but they expect you to take their stuff and put it in your stuff.  What you do next defines you.  It defines your project.  It colors things from then on.

This is what I faced when I started the Basic Fantasy Project.  It turned out, once I let go of my ego for a few moments, that more of the stuff I received was good than bad, and even the bad stuff had a certain charm.  Many times, we’ve taken ideas that were not so good and hammered and polished them into something really nice.  It helps that I published my goals and my methodology from the very start… people whose ideas differed too much from what I was trying to accomplish quickly came to understand, and moved on to other projects more compatible with their material.

Still, even now, every time I receive a new document to consider for the site, I have to push my ego away for a bit and try to be objective.  Even the authors I respect the most sometimes turn in material that doesn’t fit with my vision, and I have to decide, is it the material that needs to be changed, or my vision?

Sharing is hard, but its been worth it.  Thank you, to everyone who has contributed to the project.  Thank you very much.

Why BFRPG isn’t on RPGNow

by Solomoriah

I spent some time studying RPGNow; even started signing up for a publisher account.  But I don’t think we’re a good fit with them.

First, they’re oriented toward profit-making products.  We don’t make profit, at all, and do not intend to ever change that.

Actually, that leads more or less directly into the second issue… locked, watermarked PDF files.  We give ’em away here… why in the world would I want people to “buy” (for some definition of “buy”) a watermarked, locked version of something we give away for free in source or PDF?

I understand we get overlooked because we aren’t on RPGNow.  It was mentioned several times during the Basic Fantasy Blog Appreciation Day event.  But honestly, I just can’t see it as a good idea for us.

3rd Edition Development Begins

by Solomoriah

The following is a recap of my post on the forum here: Basic Fantasy RPG Core Rules 3rd Edition:

That’s right, I’m going ahead with it. Sometime in the next week or two, I plan to post R76 of the Core Rules.

Here’s my plan:

1) Collect the whole rule system into one file, then hammer out the known formatting issues. R75 was created in July 2008; since then, changes to OpenOffice.org, and then to LibreOffice, have screwed up my carefully-planned layout.

2) Correct the known errata, from the errata thread here and from the Dragonsfoot.org Core Rules thread, plus anything else anyone points out.

3) Add some stuff that I think would benefit the game. A handful of new monsters and one or two magic items are what I have in mind right now.

What I WON’T Change:

1) Player-facing rules. Except with respect to the errata, I won’t change anything players need to know to create and play characters. No new combat rules, no additional classes or races. I’m considering adding the Magic-User/Thief combo class, but that would be the biggest planned change.

2) Organization. Don’t whine about it, okay? The rules stay in the same order they are in now. Consistency was the reason when I wrote 1st edition (consistency with the coverage target, that is), and with the 2nd edition I made just one change (swapping races and classes). For the 3rd edition, everything stays in the order it was in the 2nd.

I will NOT invalidate anything substantial from the 2nd edition, whether by changing rules, omitting rules, or adding sufficiently to the rules to change their nature. My games are run with two copies of 1st edition and two of 2nd edition on the table; I don’t want to have to throw any of them out, nor do I want anyone else to do so.

To the Italian Translation team: Take heart, guys. All the above means is that your efforts will not have been wasted. I’d like to ask you to finish translating R75 as is, and turn it over to me finished. I’ll deal with getting it into a single file and fixing the formatting, and we’ll probably publish it that way. It may take a few iterations back and forth between myself and you guys to get everything right (for instance, I won’t know if a piece of art is inappropriately placed after reformatting without one of you reading it) but we’ll get it done. Then, at your convenience, you can read through this thread to find the changes, translate and apply them, and with any luck we can keep the Italian version in sync with the English version so that 3rd Edition can go to print in both languages at the same time, or at least, within a few days.

Regarding Artwork:

I do not see the cover art changing substantially; I will maybe add a corner-banner identifying it as 3rd Edition, so you can tell at a glance what you’re holding.

However, interior art is welcome. I’d love to see monsters not illustrated in 2nd Edition get their mugshots into 3rd. I’m expecting newly minted Art Director Shonuff to be busy wrangling artists and drawing some himself for the new release.

The Tagline

When I released 1st Edition, I used the tagline “make mine Basic” a lot. The 2nd Edition tagline is “Adventure Lurks Within.” Both are worthy, but if someone should think of something cool to say about 3rd Edition, this would be the thread to air it in.

If you have something to say, please feel free to post in the comments below… but if you want to participate, please join us in the forum thread.  It will be the primary communication hub for the project.

Basic Fantasy Role Playing Blog Appreciation Day

by Solomoriah

You may have heard about Erik Tenkar’s suggestion of a “Basic Fantasy Role Playing Blog Appreciation Day” on January 31st, that is, tomorrow.  If not, I invite you to read it on his blog (go on, I’ll wait here until you come back).

http://www.tenkarstavern.com/2013/01/the-red-headed-step-child-of-osr-basic.html

My attention was called to his post a couple of days ago, and let me say right now that I am humbled by the outpouring of support for our game.  It inspired me to start this blog, and to get on the ball and get J.D. Neal’s “Monkey Isle” module into print on Lulu.com.

Yeah, it’s there right now; I’ve already ordered my copy.  Things snowballed after I announced my plans to release it, with newly appointed Art Director Cory “Shonuff” Gelnett supplying several more pieces of art for it just in time for the release.

Alerted by members of our forum, I wandered over to Christopher Helton’s Dorkland blog, which I found very enjoyable… his take on the game is different than mine, and that’s cool.  One of my design goals for BFRPG was to decouple the rules so that you can easily mix and match supplements to get just the campaign you want.  He has an earlier post also, just kind of introducing the game, where his comments mirror mine about both our different direction as well as the modularity of the game.

Looking through the list of volunteers in the comments below Erik’s post, I discovered J.D. Jarvis, a long-time supporter of Basic Fantasy RPG (and creator of my personal favorite character sheet), has a blog of his own at aeonsnaugauries.blogspot.com.  Turns out, it’s full of game materials I didn’t even know he had written.  I’ll have to remember to talk to him about publishing some of his stuff.

Now to see what tomorrow brings.  Many people have promised to say a few words on their blogs about the game… I’m looking forward to reading them all.

EDIT 1/31/2013 @ 8:21 AM

Just read three more blog posts supporting the game, and thought I’d call some attention to them:

On the Unto the Breach blog, the author thereof gives a capsule review of our community as much as of the game.  I liked the statement “They’re doing it for love of the game.”  Indeed.  Also, he (and I’m guessing “he”) notes how difficult it was to figure out who the author was… which is funny, because I can’t figure out who the author of the blog was.  Probably I’m just dense…

On The Other Side blog, Timothy Brannan posted a short review of the game, followed by a discussion of his experiences using his Witch class with BFRPG.  It’s an interesting read, showing again the benefit of designing a loosely-coupled game system where bits can be added or removed at will.

Raven Crowking posted just a few moments ago about BFRPG.  He mentions the ease with which adventures and rules cross between BFRPG and other old-school retroclones, which is another of the original design goals of the game.  Staying close enough to the old core materials that the old materials will still work has the side effect of making all class-and-level fantasy retroclones brothers under the skin.

More later, I hope…

EDIT 1/31/2013 @ 8:42 AM

They’re coming hot and heavy:

frothsof 4e has a post about Basic Fantasy RPG.  In it, the author calls attention to the adventures we’ve written for the game.  He mentioned in particular the hit point checkboxes, which put a warm feeling in my heart as they are one of my favorite features.  He also calls some blush-causing attention to my own work in years past as a member of the Dragonsfoot.org development team.  I remember those years fondly, and I can say without reservation that my experiences working with the Dragonsfoot team prepared me for my current role developing and managing Basic Fantasy RPG.

Lord Gwydion’s post on the What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse blog calls Basic Fantasy RPG a “little gem of a game.”  Thanks, Lord Gwydion.  I wish I could experience your megadungeon first-hand… and hey, when you’re done with it, we’d love to publish it on the site.  Just sayin’.

Everyone sees the game differently, and like I said before, that’s a good thing.  Supporting the visions of Game Masters and increasing the enjoyment of the players are what this game is about.

EDIT 1/31/2013 @ 10:03AM

Many more posts… wow.  It’s hard to keep up.

Fabio Milito Pagliara, one of the guys who is working to translate Basic Fantasy RPG into Italian, made a post about BFRPG on his blog “Castelli & Chimere.”  In it, he emphasizes the Open Source nature of the game as part of the attraction, and indeed, were BFRPG not Open Source, we likely wouldn’t have an Italian translation project at all.

Lars Alexander’s post on his blog Mad-Kyndalanth also calls attention to the game’s Open Source roots.  Lars is apparently German, and mentioned the German translation of Labyrinth Lord, another retroclone game.  Labyrinth Lord is among the games most compatible with Basic Fantasy RPG, and I have to admit, if it had existed before I wrote BFRPG, I probably wouldn’t have written my game.  (Let me mention here that I wouldn’t mind at all if someone wanted to translate BFRPG into German.  Email me if you’re interested.)  He also called attention to my “Don’t buy this book!” message on our Lulu.com page as a positive feature.  Personally, I just don’t see the point in someone paying for the game without knowing if they like it or not.  Guess I’m just cheap…

WQRobb’s post on his site, “Graphs, Paper, and Games” sums his view up in one statement, Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game combines the ethos of Old School [rpg games] without the slavish devotion to antiquated and unhelpful rules, and its free.  OGL rules require me to omit certain names… rules which happily do not apply to WQRobb.  He printed his own copy, too, with his own cover.  Nice!

Danjou’s Hand (hey, cool name) wrote about our “obscene amount of free gaming goodness” in his blog, Tabletop Diversions.  I’ve always encouraged others to submit materials for the game.  I’m proud of our many contributors… without them, Basic Fantasy RPG wouldn’t be half the game it is.  It might never have been finished.

R.J. Thompson wrote about, of all things, our wrestling rules on his blog, Gamers & Grognards.  The funny thing is, we wrestled with the wrestling rules.  They are one of the very few things that changed substantially between 1st and 2nd editions.  Sometime later, I’ll find the original discussion and give credit to those who created the current wrestling rules.  It was definitely a team effort.

On his “They Might Be Gazebos” website, the author (whose name is escaping me) points out our “solid set of easy rules.”  I couldn’t say it better myself.

More to come?  Watch this space!

EDIT 1/31/2013 @ 12:44 PM

Three more blogs have posts about Basic Fantasy RPG since last I looked:

Steve Zieser, one of the original illustrators of the Basic Fantasy RPG Core Rules and BF1 Morgansfort, has a brief “thank you” post on his “Curmudgeons & Dragons” blog.  I’d been wondering whatever became of Steve, and now I know where to find him.  Steve did the “iconic character” drawings, featuring the Intro Story characters Darion, Morningstar, Barthal, and Apoqulis.

ERIC! (nice name) has a post on his “Chronicles of Ganth” site about Basic Fantasy RPG.  He says he has a “huge desire to be a part of something like” BFRPG… dude, come on over and join us, there’s always room for one more.

Finally, Daniel Luce has a nice post on his “In The Shadow of Puzzled Vikings” blog where, rather than talk about the game, he posts a new race of his own design for use with BFRPG.  I’ll have to remember to ask him about putting it on the site.

Thanks to all who have posted so far.  We appreciate all the appreciation!

EDIT 1/31/2013 @ 2:45 PM

One more for the list… Omer Golan Joel has a nice post on his blog, The Space Cockroach’s Hideout.  Sadly, in it he describes his defection from the rolls of the Basic Fantasy Project to ACKS, a more recent retroclone (if that even makes sense).  While I’m sorry to see him go, I appreciate the contributions he made to the game.

EDIT 1/31/2013 @ 3:16 PM

Jeremy Deram has a post on his blog, “People Them With Monsters” (love that name) about Basic Fantasy RPG, with our old but well-loved slogan “make mine Basic!” as the title.  He reminds me there that one of my early goals was a game I could play with my daughter, and I have to say I succeeded there; she is now a teenager and thinks she has cooler things to do, but we all know how inevitably you return to the things you loved.

EDIT 1/31/2013 @ 3:35 PM

Gene D. has a campaign journal on his blog, “Gene’s Worlds,” detailing an adventure session played using Basic Fantasy RPG along with a brief recounting of his selection of the game.  Looks like a good time was had by all!

EDIT 1/31/2013 @ 5:18 PM

Two more, and I think this is all of them:

A guy named Roger has a blog called “A Life Full of Adventure,” and he has posted a brief “shout out” article about Basic Fantasy RPG.  Thanks, Roger.

Michael Garcia, the Crazy GM (apparently, since that’s the name of his blog) has an article titled “What I Like About My BF.”  The title made me smile, as did his comment about the core rules cover, which almost all of the Appreciation Day articles include.  (I, personally, never get tired of Erik Wilson‘s beautiful cover art.)

EPILOGUE

It’s been a heck of a day.  Thanks again to Erik Tenkar, and to Christopher Helton for whatever he said to Erik to start all of this.  I’m really happy to see so many RPG bloggers really get what I was trying to do with Basic Fantasy RPG, and I want to take one more opportunity to thank everyone who contributed to the game over the years, even those who later moved on.

I guess now I need to get to work and put some more materials out there…

EDIT 2/1/2013 @ 8:12 AM

I missed one… Herb has a blog called “Places to Go, People to Be,” where he writes that BFRPG was his first OSR game experience.  The article is titled “I’ve Always Liked Redheads,” a reference to Erik’s description of the game as the “red headed stepchild” of the OSR movement.  Herb also shares his Clockwork Skeletons on his site.  Nice!

On the Origin of Species

by Solomoriah

One of the questions I seem to answer over and over again is this:  What was the original “retro-clone” game system?

For the purposes of this discussion, let me define “retroclone” in this way:  Such a game is one which reproduces the class-and-level game mechanics familiar to those of use who attended the Old School, where dungeoneering and the slaying of dragons was of paramount concern.  Retro-clones in general depend on the Open Game License originated by Wizards of the Coast to make themselves legal, or at least, to cover their author’s behinds.

Given that definition, which was first?  Well, it’s a bit of a gray area.  Before any OGL-based clone game ever appeared, Kenzer and Co. released Hackmaster.  That game definitely reproduced the classic mechanics, but it did so while being, in essence, a parody of those games.  This parody status, and other legal issues, allowed Kenzer and Co. to sell their game without fear of legal retribution.

The first “old school” game to use the OGL was undoubtedly Castles & Crusades, and it could reasonably claim the title of “first retroclone” if you accept it as a clone.  Many don’t consider it a proper clone of the classic game systems, as it includes a “unified mechanic” which replaces the various odd rules of the Old School.

About the same time the Troll Lords were designing C&C, I was creating my own game system called Project 74.  Though I did not refer to C&C at any point during my development process, I found that they and I had taken similar approaches in some details of our game systems.  But I found Project 74 ultimately unfulfilling; it just didn’t feel right.  I had thrown out too many Old School rules, and unified the game system too much.  I felt the need for a change.

That’s when I started putting together the rules that became the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game.  There wasn’t much to it when I released the first version back in 2006, but over the course of a few months it became playable (I ran a game at a mini-convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa using Release 45 of the rules) and within about a year it was complete and available in print.

Around the time I was halfway done, I was contacted by Stuart Marshall, who had a similar project in mind.  His “coverage target,” i.e. the age and style of mechanics he was replicating, was different than mine (more advanced, you might say), and his game, now known as OSRIC, was closer mechanically to the original materials than I had dared to go.  Matt Finch worked with Stuart on OSRIC, and I honestly don’t know how much or which parts of the development were done by each of them.

EDIT 12/26/2013: While searching for something else entirely, I came upon a thread on the Knights and Knaves Alehouse forum where Matt “Mythmere” Finch proposed the project that became OSRIC.  The post was made March 18, 2006, the same day I announced Release 29 (labeled “2006.29”) of the Core Rules.  So that gives a bit better indication of the order the games were released in.  The thread is here: http://www.knights-n-knaves.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1231

Not long after that, I recall hearing of Dan Proctor’s Labyrinth Lord game system.  Whereas I had solicited all the help I could get, Dan built his entire rule system all by himself.  That cannot have been easy, but I knew as soon as I read the first release version that he really had something there.  In fact, if Labyrinth Lord had existed in early 2006, there would be no Basic Fantasy RPG… I wouldn’t have needed to write it.

The last game of the “early period” that I remember hearing about was Swords & Wizardry, by Matt Finch.  His game’s “coverage target” was the very earliest RPG systems, and what I’ve seen of that game is pretty impressive.

I must admit, I don’t actually know which of the game systems that followed BFRPG was really first, though I’m pretty sure OSRIC was out before either of the other two.  Each game that came after Basic Fantasy was closer to the source material, just as BFRPG was closer to the source material than the games that came before it.

Nowadays, it seems that every second game master has his own retroclone game system… recalling the days when I was treading on untested ground seems very strange indeed.