Tales From the Gazebo – Reusing Old Gaming Products


Reusing Old Gaming Products
By Cape Rust

Last week I discussed rivers and river crossings, this week I want to talk about reusing old products for new games. The amount of and types of information that supplements provide has changed over the years. Things started out very basic, then they trended towards hyper-detailed and now the trend, in my humble opinion, has gone to a plot hook dropping format that gives the GM the maximum amount of flexibility in fleshing out their world. I have watched these trends and as much as I love the flexibility that game designers provide me these days, I really do miss that almost microscopic view of some game worlds.

If the game you are involved in runs on a timeline and supporting products follow that timeline, using older products becomes more difficult. Let’s look at two major systems/settings that are on a timeline: Shadowrun as a system and the Forgotten Realms as a setting. I recently reviewed Storm Front, described by Catalyst Game Labs as a bridge between Shadowrun 4th and 5th editions. There was a significant jump both in rules and major events between 3rd and 4th editions, so to see the changes for 5th edition is both exciting and a little frightening. I mention all of this because with the major changes between 3rd and 4th editions, there are some products and items that are simply not valid anymore. A great example are the Decks of Yesteryear. There are no more Deckers in 4th edition, they are now Technomancers and I thank the gaming gods for them! If you ever played a Decker, you know how long it took to build a deck, I have eluded to this lengthy process several times in my reviews of Shadowrun products. It is kind of hard to use an old product that was dedicated to Deckers in the 4th edition setting. Hard but not impossible. What if there was a small contingent of Deckers still out there wired into their Decks navigating the matrix? From a rules standpoint, treat them like 4th edition Technomancers but give them 3rd edition Decks. It isn’t quite that simple, but at the same time it will only be as hard as you make it.

Forgotten Realms is an iconic D&D/gaming setting that is on a timeline. They have a very established timeline and even went so far as to include the roll of years in the campaign setting for 3rd edition. Every year on this roll had a name that corresponded with a major event that was going to happen that year. So the year that the Harpers “broke up,” the year was named The Year of the Unstrung Harp. In that roll of years, the next few years we actually named, and the products that followed supported some of these names. Some of the amazing products that were put out back in the day to support the Forgotten Realms have been overcome by events. Some locations that were focal points for adventures have been destroyed or have changed hands several times. With the introduction of D&D 4th edition, the Forgotten Realms timeline was advanced 100 years to account for the drastic changes in the rules. I have to give Wizards of the Coast credit for taking the time to do this; some companies would have simply given the rules changes a hand wave, yelled suspension of disbelief and moved on.

Even with these changes, some of those products were so rich in flavor and detail that it’s hard to see them gathering dust on your game book shelf. If you are digging into those hyper-detailed sourcebooks, rather than exploring the major events of the time, pick out some of the obscure locations and descriptions of the people who inhabit those old supplements and advance them with the timeline. There are some old school players who might remember the tavern or the person who runs that tavern from an encounter in a game from 10 years ago, but there are not many. If you do have one of those folks at the table, just smile at them, wink and keep going with it. It really is a shame to just let all of the hard work that those developers put into those products go to waste right?

So I included a few tips when discussing Shadowrun and the Forgotten Realms, here are a few more. Not all temples are the same, but a lot of them are really similar. Notre Dame has been around for hundreds of years, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a great setting for an encounter in a game. With a few descriptive tweaks, Notre Dame could become a temple to any number of gods in a fantasy setting. In fact, in many fantasy settings, as long as the god the temple was built for is still around, those temples rarely change; so a 1st edition temple to a god is most likely still the same in 3rd edition. If that doesn’t work for you, then why not say that the temple once belonged to worshipers of another deity? Describe how the old carvings have been covered up with tapestries of the new or different deity. When I was in the Army serving in Germany, I can’t tell you how many of our buildings once housed Nazis. In our headquarters building, there were swastikas carved on most of the WWII handrails in the building. Old building reused for a new purpose.

If you have a location you really like, but the NPCs involved or associated with that location are dead or have been too involved with world shaping events, don’t include them or have them make a very quick, very subtle cameo appearance. Have fun with it, or even better use that famous location and adjust the NPCs to be the original inhabitants’ relatives. No matter what you do, don’t dismiss reusing older products just because they are old, some of them were created at the height of gaming goodness and the sweat equity the creators put into those products shouldn’t go to waste.

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