Annotating AD&D, and Thoughts on Retroclones

Some thoughts while reading and annotating the AD&D rules.

A cover shot of my copy of Unearthed Arcana.

Some days ago I finally started my declared read-through of the three core OAD&D books and Unearthed Arcana. But secretly, I decided to do more than read.

I had gotten this idea in my head that since I'm reading the books anyway, I might as well take notes and perhaps even transcribe the rules into something that could be a useful reference document – or perhaps eventually an entire retroclone. After all, OSRIC hasn't been updated in a long time and my version would be different anyway. I knew this was an extreme aspiration and I played along because I figured at least the fantasizing would include me reading the books and get me asking the right questions.

I have since decided to cease this practice and simply read the damn books and take notes, for the following reasons:

  • I have no actual desire to become the publisher or maintainer of a retroclone.
  • Even if I did, that is an enormous project that would consist of a huge amount of dreary reproduction.
  • I have absolutely zero experience running AD&D correctly. All my AD&D experience is from high school when I was playing it through the lens of a 3.5 player and had read approximately zero of the wonderful posts and essays about running good AD&D.
  • After my read-through is complete I will feel qualified to run a proper campaign, but by no means will be qualified to publish a tome telling anyone else how to run theirs. And since an AD&D retroclone of interest to me would take opinionated stances on some of the "gaps" in the original rules, I would be telling people how to run their game.

So here's what I'm going to do:

  • Carry on with a full read-through of the three core rulebooks and UA.
  • Take notes as though I was going to make my own retroclone.

As I was writing my document, I was leaving TODO's everywhere – questions I felt needed answering, and things I wanted to look into more. I left TODOs to remind myself to check back later and fill in the blank. If my question had been answered elsewhere in the rules, great. If not, I could do some research.

I think this TODO practice is quite good when writing anything and I'm going to continue to take notes in this manner. Perhaps I can compile the answers into a document that will be useful to others. A sort of compilation of annotations. I have a pretty good eye for rules gaps and I figure my notes will be at least useful for my future campaign.

If I do shape up a useful document, I'll share it here. I'll be sure to include sources for any judgements and interpretations.

As a final thought: Does AD&D need a new retroclone? Trent thinks it could be good. OSRIC hasn't been updated in a long time and was written with "win lawsuits" as the first priority, not "faithful reproduction." Necrotic Gnome is still online so I think it's safe to say we can fly closer to the sun these days. But man, I don't know, the original AD&D books have magic about them. Could a clone ever hope to capture even half of their texture? It would certainly take a lot of work.