Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Oldhammer The Retroclone

So what is the feasibility of creating a retroclone of Warhammer?

It's a fact, the rules of a game fall outside of copyright law. However, the presentation of those rules are covered.

Does anyone have the mettle to sort the presentation from the mechanics, so that the legal minefield can be successfully negotiated and we don't end up with a huge pile of cease and desist notices in our in-boxes?

Let's take the statline, we all recognise this:

M | WS | BS | S | T | W | I | Ld | Wp | Int | Cl

how core is that for a game to feel like 'hammer? What if we just swap it out? Maybe with...

D | CS | RS | F | R | HP | Q | Cm | Md | Sy | Kl

Distance, Combat Skill, Ranged Skill, Force, Resistance,  Hit Points. Quickness, Command, Mentality, Stoopidity, Kewl.  Does it feel right? Is even having them in the same order legal? Alternative suggestions welcome!

What about the To Hit Chart?  I'm pretty sure that the table can't just be reproduced legally. can the same outcomes be resolved in a different presentation, could it (should it?) perhaps, be written as a formula?

And what is the desirability? While it could be a great reference-point for  scenario development and players,  would you want a Old-School Warhammer clone?


  1. My first thoughts are:

    Is it true under UK law, I thought the rules from presentation was only good for US law? Fine for DnD from the US perhaps not for WHFB from the UK. I don't know.

    If we want to produce only amateur publications do we need to go that route? It could be a lot of effort for minimal gain.

    Having said that how cool would it be? Very.

    1. Yes, it is true under UK law, copyright covers the expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves.

      As for the distinction between "amateur publications" and "professional", do you recall what happened at Board Game Geek? I don't think the legal team at GW particularly care.

  2. I have to say I can't see what you would be gaining from this. You would put in a lot of work, and essentially end up with a WFB 3rd edition rulebook with most of the cool bits (i.e background and artwork) taken out.

  3. Maybe cool at some point... if there was a solid 'why' behind it... but at the moment, I'm much more excited/interested/energized about the fanzine idea... and wouldn't want to see everyone energy spread too thin.

  4. OSRIC worked as a re-write for 1st edition AD&D -but then, AD&D didn't have all the background material WFB 3rd ed had. I'd also add that OSRIC was successful mostly because it took a rule-set with a horrible and confusing lay-out and re-assembled it from the ground up to be more gamer-friendly. The fact it was free also helped. But with WFB 3rd ed being commonly available online, I'm not sure there's a need for anything more than a prominent link to the WFB 3rd ed files somewhere on the Oldhammer main page. With a nice big sign saying "Download the rules here".

    1. The PDFs of WFB3rd are illegal, and linking to them may land us in trouble with GW lawyers.

      OSRIC is a great example of what, why and how a retroclone should work IMHO - paired down, simple, elegant and clean design, well-written and establish the precedent for creating 'compatible with' products without infringing trademarks.

  5. For my part I'm all for retrocloning Warhammer FB 2nd/3rd, and that's why :
    - Diffusing copyrighting material, even if it has been OOP for years, is the best way to have the GW lawyers fall on us, a Cease & Desist letter is not much if you accept, but I'm sure that's not the think we are looking for.
    - Promoting OOP material (even it is easily available online, or if you can buy it from ebay) is not a good way to attract new player to the Oldhammer community.
    - As we do not own the copyright on the game everything developed for it can be asked to be taken offline the same way the copyright stuff itself
    - A free, lightweight, version of the rules is a good way to promote the system and to be able to create "official" stuff for it, and best of all the stuff is "official" but work exactly the same for the original rules

    Regarding the background of the game, one of the Oldhammer contract base is to say that the system is not tied to a particular gameworld.

    So I'm in and will support zhu as much as I can to retroclone WFB 1/2/3 !

    So yes your proposed profile is fine for me.

    Regarding the tables, the written solution based on a formula is the way to do it, then there could be an unofficial ref sheet presenting it as tables. Either way could be (not totally sure on that) to call hit differently for example : the "to hit" table becoming the "attack table", the "to wound table" becoming the "killing table", and, as the compared characteristics are not the same it's not the same table, no ?

    Then what will be needed (apart from rewriting the rules) will be some generic profiles of not copyrighted creatures (no fimirs nor zoats) and the point system that Zhu already did.

    The biggest part will be the magic, particularly the spell names and description.


    1. Yep I do see any retro-clone as being pretty light weight and existing to maintain ownership of fan material we produce. That's a fair point and I guess it wouldn't be too much work to produce even a few page document to do the job, excluding magic and monsters.

      They could come later.

      I'm also ambivalent about the background. I didn't really bother with it as a 13 year old playing 3rd and later editions background was OK but not great. Background should come from any senario and that is then open to our imagination not constrained by other peoples.

      Oldhammer is probably to close to the bone I propose we call it Wisards, Heroes, Forces, Battle! Or maybe Old School War Game.

    2. Ditto - our rules should be just enough so that new players can download them, a scenario we've written and possibly a set of counters if they don't have the minis available and get playing.

      As for background - personally I've been writing a little introduction to introduce suggested characters and narrative behind each scenario, with the emphasis on being about players using the bare bones of to create their own games.

      Lead addiction and the tracking down of ancient 3rd ed. tomes of wisdom can come later ;)

    3. Bruno, your 4 point goals are spot on for where I was going with it.

      One of the risks with fanzines, scenarios or any material, is that GW may see it as 'derivative material' and request its take-down (although I notice they have not done so - as far as I know - with the fan-made army books), if no mention of anything Warhammer is made then the risk is greatly reduced.

      I'm not 'sold' on my own re-labelling of the profile, it needs some development work I think. I did like the Force / Resistance thing instead of Strength and Toughness. Anything that makes the game a bit more 'educational' is good in my eyes (more maths, more strategic thinking, more reading)!

      I do agree with Erny that "anything-hammer" is stepping on trademarks for a games ruleset name. Old School Wargame is nice, but maybe something a bit more fantasy.

  6. Personally I think it will be a lot if work which isn't necessary at the mo as 3rd is still pretty easy to get hold of at the mo. If you were defo going to go ahead with it then it may be worth looking at the trend in historicals. I don't know if any of you play WAB (warhammer historical battles) or are familiar with it? It's basically 5th Ed WFB without the magic. Anyway GW in it's wisdom brought out a 2nd edition then dropped it's support and has now binned it which left a huge void as well as plenty if angry hobbyists. Anyway there has been a couple of WAB clones released. 1 called clash of empires is basically the same game with different terminology and it is hard to see how they got away with it. So it can be done!

    1. Actually, I had serious trouble getting my grubby mitts on WFB3, that was mostly down to Acrobat Reader but it made for a long, frustrating and determined search for a fix. I won't bore you with details, my point is that a 'no frills, fluff free' .txt file of all the rules and maybe a couple of .bmp print-and-paste counter images would make it a whole lot easier on newcomers like myself.

      If that's all okay (and GW doesn't shoot the project down immediately) then maybe it would be time to roll on to an Armies document where the fluff is re-introduced. All new and Oldhammer-specific, of course.

      I'd be happy to do some of the gruntwork writing things up if someone with more experience can rebuild the rules, and would even volunteer to compose some fluff text once the no-go's are defined.