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Shadowdark looks so good!

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Unfortunately it's not really "compatible" with either. I was curious about this claim so I took a look at the monsters in the quickstart compared to b/x monsters. HP in shadowdark are much lower than 5e obviously, but not as low as b/x. AC values for the same monsters differ by as much as 3. More importantly, b/x monsters don't even have ability scores, whereas everything, especially saves, are based around ability scores in SD. It's not a big issue, and designing with full compatibility in mind would actually be limiting.
I also noticed that monster abilities have DCs assigned to them. The HP thing is solvable (just rederive them from HD), but the rest will require some work by the GM to adapt. However, the monster design stuff @darjr linked in post #157 seems like it should make that easy/possible, assuming there will also be additional information on setting ability DCs, spells, etc.

Otherwise, I agree. For what Shadowdark is trying to do, it doesn’t make sense to target perfect B/X compatibility if that requires sacrificing familiarity for those who like 5e.
 

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kenada

Legend
Supporter
I don't consider armor classes being a few points off to be incompatibility and setting saving throws for monsters is like setting any other difficulty class: set it at DC 9, 12, 15 or 18 depending on how good you want a monster's saves to be.
That’s not how B/X works. Monster abilities don’t actually have DCs. They just roll against their own saving throw categories, which use the PC combat matrices (fighter by default). It’s very simple. A compatible approach would just provide new matrices with the right values and categories as needed by the system or indicate how to derive them.

For example, PCs in Worlds Without Number have four saving throw categories: Luck, Physical, Evasion, Mental. Monsters have one. Their saving throw is equal to 15−½HD (rounded down). When you use a monster from B/X, you just roll against the appropriate category on the PC’s sheet or against the one derived for monsters. Even though WWN is different from B/X (different ability modifier ranges, character building, saving throws), it uses a similar resolution approach.

Note that this isn’t a criticism of Shadowdark. It needs to do certain things to appeal to 5e players. Otherwise, it’s not going to hit the right notes for them. It seems to have made reasonable trade-offs in that regard, but they are trade-offs (mostly on the OSR side of things it would seem).

I consider "compatibility" to be "can I run this at the table without effort?" Shadowdark passes by that standard for me. I have all the Goodman Games OAR books right beside me and have no doubt I could run the Lost City or the Caves of Chaos without breaking a sweat.
Aren’t those 5e conversions? How do you think running the originals would work?

If you want your OSR game to exactly match your OSR adventure stats, that dramatically limits what you can use and makes a large portion of the OSR "incompatible" with any standards tougher than I'm applying.
The standard you seem to be applying is “works like 5e”, which isn’t a reasonable standard from an OSR perspective.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
That’s not how B/X works. Monster abilities don’t actually have DCs.
I am aware. I have been playing D&D since 1979 and have played all the versions of the game but OD&D and 4E. I wasn't aware that it was necessary to give my resume in every post.
They just roll against their own saving throw categories, which use the PC combat matrices (fighter by default). It’s very simple. A compatible approach would just provide new matrices with the right values and categories as needed by the system or indicate how to derive them.
So what?

I can pick up the Caves of Chaos and run it without effort under Shadowdark. That's compatible for me, in the sense that "I can run this at the table without real effort."

Compatibility is not a religious dogma. If you want everything to exactly match BX, then only BX and its retroclones are truly "compatible." And when we get to that point, every other OSR game is incompatible.

But that's also demanding a level of compatibility beyond how people actually played AD&D and BD&D. It was incredibly common for people to play a BD&D adventure with AD&D rules, despite slight numerical differences between the two rulesets. Only Gygax on his bad days thought this was a problem.
Aren’t those 5e conversions? How do you think running the originals would work?
They have a complete set (including every single printing, so it's a very aggressive version of "complete") of the original adventures, followed by a 5E update. So the original versions of In Search of the Unknown and Keep on the Borderlands in all their BD&D glory are in Into the Borderlands in addition to the 5E.

So I am talking about running the originals.
The standard you seem to be applying is “works like 5e”, which isn’t a reasonable standard from an OSR perspective.
No, that's not what I'm saying at all.

I'm coming at this from the perspective of someone who actually DMs games, rather than hoards RPGs, and I'm saying that I can grab a BD&D or AD&D adventure, or an OSR adventure, and other than having to do a simple swap on monsters with descending armor class, I can run the adventures in Shadowdark without effort.

Anyone who is concerned that an ogre's armor class might be a little off from what it says in the rulebook is invited to find a different game where they're more comfortable.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
That is a really weird line in the sand. It’s not B/X therefore it’s not compatible with B/X. Well, spoilers, it’s not trying to be B/X. We already have B/X and OSE and a dozen other clones.

And it takes precious little to convert to and from most old-school and OSR games. Run AD&D characters through a DCC funnel and wash it down with a trip through the Shadowdark and emerge in the Hollow World. You can eyeball the conversion. None of these games care about balance so use whatever monster stats you want. Pick some numbers and go.

As for innovation, I’m not sure how fruitful that question will be. Because it will all ultimately point back to Prussian kriegsspiel. I can see the DCC elements in Shadowdark. Roll to cast. Corruption or disapproval on a casting fumble. Spell loss on a failure. Sacrificing gold to one’s deity to avoid disapproval. But also the Five Torches Deep influence. And clearly the 5E influence. But knowing that doesn’t really gain us anything.
 

I can pick up the Caves of Chaos and run it without effort under Shadowdark. That's compatible for me, in the sense that "I can run this at the table without real effort."
Sure - if you run B2, you just have to look up the equivalent monsters in the shadowdark rulebook. If there is a monster not in the shadowdark rulebook, you have to spend a few minutes in your prep making a conversion, adjusting AC and HP and so forth. It's the same if you were running B2 in 5e or Dungeon World.


Compatibility is not a religious dogma. If you want everything to exactly match BX, then only BX and its retroclones are truly "compatible." And when we get to that point, every other OSR game is incompatible.
Some non-retroclone OSR games are designed specifically to be easily compatible with classic modules; Knave and Whitehack both come to mind. Other non-retroclone OSR games are unconcerned with such compatibility; for example, Cairn or Mork Borg. "Compatibility" in SD is closer to the latter than the former.
 

None of these games care about balance so use whatever monster stats you want. Pick some numbers and go.
I agree, was just responding to this specific claim. By the standards of "pick some numbers and go," it's fully compatible with 5e too, as is just about every dnd-derived game or module.

As for innovation, I’m not sure how fruitful that question will be. Because it will all ultimately point back to Prussian kriegsspiel. I can see the DCC elements in Shadowdark. Roll to cast. Corruption or disapproval on a casting fumble. Spell loss on a failure. Sacrificing gold to one’s deity to avoid disapproval. But also the Five Torches Deep influence. And clearly the 5E influence. But knowing that doesn’t really gain us anything.
It doesn't gain us anything in the abstract. But let's say I have the 5e players handbook. Should I buy the 1dnd PHB when it comes out? Or should I get Black Flag? Or go with MT Black's 5e game? So, as I mentioned earlier

Again, happy it's doing well, but if someone had $30-$50 and wanted to get into the OSR (in particular with a 'modernized' pick up and play ruleset) I'd recommend they start with any number of games that are between $0 and $20 on drivethru: cairn, knave, maze rats, the black hack, worlds without number, index card rpg, sharp swords and sinister spells, etc
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
I am aware. I have been playing D&D since 1979 and have played all the versions of the game but OD&D and 4E. I wasn't aware that it was necessary to give my resume in every post.
Sorry, no. It’s not necessary. I apologize if I implicitly questioned your experience. I can only reply to what you wrote. I don’t agree that devising a DC is the same deriving from the monster’s HD. It’s different, and it’s one of the things that appeals to me about OSR games versus “modern” ones.

So what?

I can pick up the Caves of Chaos and run it without effort under Shadowdark. That's compatible for me, in the sense that "I can run this at the table without real effort."
What does that mean? I’m not being snippy or trying to pull a gotcha. The GM quickstart doesn’t have anything to say about using other adventures. In my mind, there’s a difference between compatible and requires conversion — even minor conversion! It’s any indicator of how much work I can expect to do when using monsters or material created for a different game.

If it’s just substituting monsters (and using discretion regarding DCs on ability checks), then that seems more like conversion to me. My rule of thumb here is if I can do the same thing using Pathfinder 2e, then it seems more conversion than compatibility to me.

Compatibility is not a religious dogma. If you want everything to exactly match BX, then only BX and its retroclones are truly "compatible." And when we get to that point, every other OSR game is incompatible.

But that's also demanding a level of compatibility beyond how people actually played AD&D and BD&D. It was incredibly common for people to play a BD&D adventure with AD&D rules, despite slight numerical differences between the two rulesets. Only Gygax on his bad days thought this was a problem.
I gave the example of Worlds Without Number, which is a game that has different numbers. They’re close (like your mixing AD&D and D&D example below), but they’re different, and the categories are different. My point here is that “conversion” in this sense is just swapping one number for another. The resolution process ends up working more or less the same.

See above regarding compatibility. I should note that I’m not talking about how people actually played but OSR the retrospective movement based on a particular style of play plus also looking at the classic games and analyzing what their mechanics suggest about play (particularly when it comes to NuSR games).

They have a complete set (including every single printing, so it's a very aggressive version of "complete") of the original adventures, followed by a 5E update. So the original versions of In Search of the Unknown and Keep on the Borderlands in all their BD&D glory are in Into the Borderlands in addition to the 5E.

So I am talking about running the originals.
Oh, okay. Thank you for correcting my misunderstanding. I did at least try to check what Goodman Games said about those adventures, but I was wrong.

No, that's not what I'm saying at all.
I apologize for the accusation. I thought you were talking about 5e versions of adventures. Obviously, what followed was wrong.

I'm coming at this from the perspective of someone who actually DMs games, rather than hoards RPGs, and I'm saying that I can grab a BD&D or AD&D adventure, or an OSR adventure, and other than having to do a simple swap on monsters with descending armor class, I can run the adventures in Shadowdark without effort.

Anyone who is concerned that an ogre's armor class might be a little off from what it says in the rulebook is invited to find a different game where they're more comfortable.
This gets back to my question regarding conversion or compatibility. I suppose it’s just semantics though.

I don’t think the different AC numbers are a big deal. It’s something worth noting I guess, but the other things would be issues for me. I wouldn’t like to have to devise ability score arrays for every monsters I was converting.

Update: I consolidated some of the quotes to avoid looking like I was nitpicking line-by-line. That’s not the intent.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Sure - if you run B2, you just have to look up the equivalent monsters in the shadowdark rulebook. If there is a monster not in the shadowdark rulebook, you have to spend a few minutes in your prep making a conversion, adjusting AC and HP and so forth. It's the same if you were running B2 in 5e or Dungeon World.
To provide some examples, I’ve been running a lot of Necrotic Gnome’s adventures lately. A couple of sessions ago, my players took out the dream dragon in The Incandescent Grottoes. That’s definitely a custom a monster. Would it require conversion? Yes, probably. Is it hard? No, I doubt it. However, I’d still call it conversion over compatibility (just like I would when I ran Winter’s Daughter using Pathfinder 2e, which required me to make PF2 versions of most of the monsters).

And to be clear, I don’t think this is a big deal. For what Shadowdark is trying to do (appeal to both 5e and old-school players), it makes sense to do some things certain ways to make sure you appeal to the former because there’s some flexibility with the latter, though I think pointing out where those trade-offs are made is not unreasonable either.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Sure - if you run B2, you just have to look up the equivalent monsters in the shadowdark rulebook. If there is a monster not in the shadowdark rulebook, you have to spend a few minutes in your prep making a conversion, adjusting AC and HP and so forth.
OK, this is such a weird claim, I have to ask: Do you actually run any games? Because you absolutely don't have to spend several minutes making a conversion.

If there's, say, a thoul in a BD&D adventure you're running for Shadowdark and -- spoiler alert -- there's no thoul in Shadowdark, just run the adventure. Use the thoul's AC and the thoul's HP and damage and all the rest. Decide whether it should have an easy, normal, difficult or extremely easy time making a save when it's hit with a spell, based on those numbers I quoted above, and play.

It's super weird that you're both trying to gatekeep OSR while making the very bizarre claim that a DM can't just make a ruling on the fly in an OSR game -- which is a central ethos of the OSR movement.
Some non-retroclone OSR games are designed specifically to be easily compatible with classic modules; Knave and Whitehack both come to mind. Other non-retroclone OSR games are unconcerned with such compatibility; for example, Cairn or Mork Borg. "Compatibility" in SD is closer to the latter than the former.
And guess what? You can run any of them at the table without advance work.

I ran Castles & Crusades for my main campaign during the 4E D&D rules and I never converted anything. I just ran it. You can do it, too. You're free! Free, I tell you!
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
See above regarding compatibility. I should note that I’m not talking about how people actually played but OSR the retrospective movement based on a particular style of play plus also looking at the classic games and analyzing what their mechanics suggest about play (particularly when it comes to NuSR games).
OK, here's the disconnect, I think:

I am talking about actually playing the game, not game design theory. I don't care about the platonic ideal of whether a game matches a latter-day decision about what compatibility means in 2023. I am aggressively, across all games and genres, all about at-the-table play.

If I can grab a random TSR module -- don't get your hopes up, Forest Oracle -- and run it without encountering a meaningful speed bump, it's compatible by the standards of old school games as they were actually played at the time by people that included me.

Note that every game isn't compatible in this fashion. I would have to do work to convert something from RuneQuest or Traveller if I wanted to play it in a D&D derivative, for instance.

But the meaningful difference between BD&D and Shadowdark is so minor that it has taken vastly longer to post this than it would be to make the on-the-fly conversions for all of Keep on the Borderlands.

I get that there is a whole subculture of people who are focused on teasing out the implicit world building and game design theory in older versions of D&D, but they neither own the OSR movement, nor do they get to define it. OSR is a big umbrella, with a lot of different people and games in it.

You and malmuria can want something different than I do and we are all right in our disparate desires.
 
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