Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Fantasy Supplement Must Be Cloned

I started a discussion on the ODD board wondering what it would take to "clone" the Fantasy Supplement from the Chainmail rules. We'll see how much conversation it generates, but a lot of great archeological work has been done by the community, and collected, clarified and elaborated on by D.H. Boggs, Jason Vey, and Finarvyn.

However, right now I'd say the work can't go a whole lot further. To use any of the materials generated so far, you need the Chainmail rules, more specifically the three tables at the end of the Fantasy Supplement. And, of course, the legal pdf of Chainmail was discontinued along with the rest of the original D&D supplements when WotC decided that it was terrified of pdf pirates, which makes it pretty hard for anyone who's new to the discussion to follow along.

Which leads me to the title of this post: The Fantasy Supplement must be cloned. I mean this in the vein of the retro-clone explosion, as a continued way of exploring the hobby's past to generate a robust present and future, at least in part by drawing new players into the game. However, these rules aren't covered in WotC SRD, which is what has made so many retro-clones possible.

So, help me out. How do I clone the Fantasy Supplement in a respectful, non-litigious format?


  1. I am not a lawyer. Nor do I play one on TV.

    But as I understand it, the rules cannot be copyrighted, only their specific presentation/implemetation.

    If you restate the tables, in some other format, you should be okay.

  2. 1) Rewrite all the text. "All orcs despise sunlight" becomes "Sunlight is a great hindrance to orcs" or something like that.

    2) Redo all the charts. If nothing else, fix typos and flip the X and Y axis.

  3. Alrighty, now we're gettin' somewhere...

  4. On one hand, I agree that the lack of a legally available version of Chainmail makes it difficult for newcomers to add to the discussion. However, so does the lack of a legally available version of OD&D. Let's face it--in general and especially for this discussion, Swords and Wizardry doesn't cut it. It's a fine old school game, but OD&D it's not.

    Of course we do have Labyrinth Lord plus Original Edition Characters, which IS 99.5% OD&D...but again, there's no references to Chainmail in there anyway to foster discussion. The closest we have to a Chainmail-driven retro game is my own Spellcraft & Swordplay, and that's "inspired by," not "cloned from" (though my combat tables are close enough to Chainmail's MtM tables for gummint work).

    That being said, if you want to clone the rules, rewrite them as they stand (as others have mentioned) then reproduce the table, but shift all the target numbers up by one (so a 10 on the original table becomes an 11 on yours). You can then--if you want to go for a 100% accurate re-statement, reproduce the mathematical accuracy of the original system by having heroes roll 2d6+1 instead of just 2d6, which shifts the die probabilities to match your new target numbers.

    Voila--a retro-clone re-stated just enough to get around copyright infringement.