An OSR Version of 2nd Edition AD&D
So today I wanted to talk about the OSR version of 2nd Edition AD&D: For Gold and Glory. For those that do not know, the OSR is an open source version of the D&D role playing game. This is intended to allow people to develop games and material for older versions of D&D, using the open game license developed by Wizards of the Coast. There are a number of options out there for the various systems, such as Basic Fantasy, Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, and OSRIC.
For a long time, these were really the only options, and they reflect game rules essentially from the beginning of D&D to the release of 2nd Edition. For a while, it seemed that 2nd Edition was pretty much abandoned until the release of for Gold & Glory.
Although much of the 2nd Edition material is still available, and Wizards of the Coast in the run up to 5th Edition released the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master Guide, and Monster Manual, there are reasons to support the OSR. First, it's free. If you've purchased the 2nd Edition material, and you want to run a game - but your players aren't convinced - they can get the core rules to build their characters and learn the rules for free. Second, it provides a convenient PDF with bookmarks that you can use to navigate when you're running your game.
Finally, if you want to go into self-publishing, Wizards of the Coast prevents third party publishers from using the trademarks and brand identities of the 2nd Edition game. As a result, you cannot publish an adventure module as "Compatible with 2nd Edition AD&D" due to current trademark law. One work around would be to write: "Compatible with the World's Most Famous RPG from 1989" which was the original publication date. That's a hassle. Although I support Wizard's of the Coast, and am a huge fan of 5th edition, for those that love 2nd Edition and want to find official publications for it - For Gold & Glory is an excellent thing.
How do the Rules Compare
Frankly, very well. For Gold & Glory is as close to a straight up clone as you can find out there. Every clone takes some liberties, and For Gold & Glory they did as well. Certain sections are slightly changed in their organization. Non-weapon Proficiency points have become skill points. Weapon groups, from Player's Option: Combat & Tactics, was also placed into the rules. However, for the most part the rules are exactly the same, and the slight changes are minuscule. This is not clone of the 2.5 era from 1995 onward with the PO options fully integrated into the game.
For quality, I rate a product on three different categories: layout, editing, and artwork. And for Gold & Glory, I give them full points on all three counts. Let's address each point one at a time:
The layout for the book is two column with some tables taking up the whole page. Navigation is quick and easy in such a format. However, I find that the rules themselves are well structured, with standard conventions across classes and races. For example, each game related skill block is put into a bullet list - instead of just left hanging like in the original rules. I appreciate that because it makes it easier to find the rules later on. Paragraphs also have headers in bold, such as "Armor" or "Weapons" that allow you to quickly isolate where those rules are - again, something that was more hidden in the original rules.
I've read through the rules multiple times to compare them to the original rules that they are based on. Despite that, I have found few editing problems. For a free text, that is impressive. There are some conventions that they have employed which are the reverse of similar presentations in the original work - I'm assuming that was partly for legal reasons - however, it also makes the material smoother and easier to absorb. If you are rusty on your rules knowledge, I'd recommend reading through Gold & Glory before going to original material. A very high mark indeed for the publisher.
I like the artwork, but let's ignore the subjective and instead focus on the objective: Most free versions of the various OSR products do not include artwork. The fact that this work has so much art in it, much of it full page and full color is impressive. Artwork is expensive, so it makes sense that an OSR product that commissioned art would need to charge to cover that cost - and that makes sense. The full team (Edit: see comments below!) went out of their way to find appropriate artwork that was free, so that they could create a free resource for players that was also visually appealing. I appreciate the work and effort that went into that.
I wanted to post this early on to show my appreciation for one of the louder advocates for my favorite edition. I think they have put something together here which is really great and should be supported for their effort. In the future, as I put the final touches on my campaign settings and resources, I'll be happy to use the For Gold & Glory branding.