So, I found out recently that the new Revised edition of Labyrinth Lord has a small handful of rule changes included. Leather armor, for example, is now AC8 instead of AC7.
I don't like this development. I don't like it at all.
Big deal, you say? Maybe so. I hope so.
But what worries me is that this might just be a sign of things to come, as simulacrum game makers more and more cave to the temptation to "improve" on their source material.
We've already seen this in Swords & Wizardry, which really bugged me with its creator's insistence on including what I can only describe as some very half-baked house rules in the main book. In fact, it bugged me so much that my copy was sold to the local Half-Price Books fairly quickly and hasn't been missed since. The worst offenders by far were consolidating all the saving throws into one and tacking-on an overly-complex 3E-style "challenge rating" system for monsters. Oh, and ascending AC. Don't even get me started on that bull.
Maybe this stuff works great in the author's own campaigns. Good for him. Maybe Daniel Proctor really gets a tangible benefit out of running his Moldvay-style game with AC8 leather armor. Again, fine, but that's not the point.
The point is a bunch of questions that have been running through my head all afternoon:
1. How serious are these authors about making games that are as faithful to the original works as humanly (and legally) possibly? Can they divorce their egos enough from the process to acknowledge that, yes, Gygax and company really did do it right the first time and the old designs don't need any of their help now, except as it relates to getting back into print? Or will the clones/simulacra increasingly become more and more "their own things" until they eventually have as little proper claim to the label as Castles & Crusades or the new Hackmaster?
2. What are we to make of changes that bring the so-called clones objectively further from their source material in later revised editions? Why did they start? Will they ever stop? If so, when?
3. If they don't stop or persist for some time, how soon until we're seeing multiple editions of the clone, each one increasingly more and more its own game?
Player: "So, what's the AC for studded leather?"
DM: "Depends. Which version of Labyrinth Lord are we playing again? 1.0? 1.5? 2.0? Even I can't keep them all straight sometimes..."
Player: "Uh, okay. Well, is Sleep second level this time or first?"
Keep in mind, I'm not talking about minor lawsuit dodges like calling the displacer beast a phase tiger or leaving Bigby's name off his Hand spells. I'm talking about more fundamental, completely elective rules changes and additions such as the recent tweaks to LL or Mythmere's house rules in S&W.
More and more I'm thinking that I should just stick to out-of-print games for my play. At least they're a known quantity, if only because it's too late for any of them to turn around and change horses midstream.
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