Sunday, January 17, 2010

My New Obsession

A couple of weeks ago, I announced the beginning of Project Shibboleth. I was deliberately cagey about its nature, other than to say that it was a gaming project, and had second place behind the completion of the core levels of Castle of the Mad Archmage.

Well, I'm usually pretty good at keeping a secret, but I'm just so bursting-over-the-walls with enthusiasm that I've just got to spill the beans. Plus, over the last two or three weeks, I've made a lot of progress, although nowhere near completion.

As one enterprising commenter opined (you get a "no-prize", Joe Mac), Project Shibboleth is, indeed, my attempt to create a "Gygaxian" Second Edition of AD&D.

I've previously written about the various plans, hints, and so forth that Gary Gygax had given us in the early to mid 1980's about how he would approach such a thing (and indeed some of his ideas were eventually incorporated into Unearthed Arcana, released just before he was ousted from TSR), plus his various statements on the Internet in more recent years. I want to see how a game would look with mountebanks and seers, and I want a rulebook with all the classes, races, and spell descriptions in one place. I want combat to actually work in practice the way it's written, and to be written consistently.

So, given as I am to Quixotic quests (as my progress with Castle of the Mad Archmage no doubt demonstrates), I have embarked on the creation of my own interpretation of what Second Edition *could* have been. Obviously, no one can know what such a thing would really have looked like, as the moment was lost a quarter century ago. But we can imagine, and extrapolate, and opine, and I intend to do all of those as part of my own effort. A small part of the thing I've already published as a free PDF; my take on the Jester class, inspired by the very same sources that I'm using to inform the entire project. Look for that to be a part of the new project, pretty much wholesale.

The project (for which I've bounced around a bunch of names, none of which I find ultimately satisfying) consists, in my mind, of three parts:
  1. Integrate and reorganize the material from the PH, DMG, DaD, and UA (and select pieces of WSG and DSG) so as to make it seamless and better laid out.
  2. Make alterations to the existing rules along the lines that Gary Gygax laid out over the years (variable hit die types for monsters, removing psionics, streamlining combat, etc.).
  3. Design entirely new material, also along the lines that Gary Gygax had described as stuff that would be included in such a new edition; new character classes and spells, a workable skill system, etc.
And then, coming out with a trio of core books-- for players, for game masters, and a book of monsters-- for the whole, in addition to a "starter kit" (I envision a true boxed set that someone can open up and get to playing in 20 minutes) and a book of Gods and rules (and special spells) for their attendant priests as an extra.

This won't be a retro-clone, technically, because it's not a "clone" of any particular system. Rather, it's something of a "retro-recon"; reconstructing a workable system from hints about something that never was. As Rob Conley states:

To me the Old School Renaissance is not about playing a particular set of rules in a particular way, the dungeon crawl. It about going back to the roots of our hobby and see what we could do differently. What avenues were not explored because of the commercial and personal interests of the game designers of the time.
If this ain't that, I don't know what is.

Told you this was a Quixotic project... But then again I've been thinking about it for the better part of a decade or two. So maybe I might just have a shot.

There are obviously legalities involved here, but I think I can get the job done within the framework of the OGL, in much the way other games such as Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, etc. have done.

I make no promises about timelines, or even whether I'm going to be able to finally pull it off. I'll also be needing playtesters at some point, and art, and all of that rigmarole. Watch this space for details!

UPDATE: The final name for the project is now "Adventures Dark and Deep". Look for the ADD tag on the blog for details!