Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Swords & Wizardry Core Rules Released

Today, Mythmere Games released the core rules for Swords & Wizardry in both free PDF and in printed form. Rather than try and explain the whys and wherefores of S&W myself, I'll just quote its creator, Matt Finch:
As a lot of you know, Swords & Wizardry is a retro-clone of 0E, although it's not as tight as OSRIC is with 1E. The main differences are that there is only one class of saving throw, the initiative system (there's not one in 0E) is rudimentary (since everyone had to house rule this or use Chainmail, I just used a least common denominator) and the XP bonuses are constructed differently (but with similar results) - for legal reasons. These core rules are a mix of the White Box classes (only), the GH system of hit dice and variable damage by weapon, and spells from across the supplements.

In addition to the normal reasons for creating a retro clone (organized/beginner-accessible rules, shared brand name, preservation of rules in free format), Swords & Wizardry is a project to re-initiate the "hobbyist" approach to OOP gaming, the idea that you can tinker from the ground up and make the rules fit any sort of fantasy you want. Too many gamers (and this is not limited to modern gamers, I have seen it on OOP sites as well) approach games like consumers. If it's not in the rules, it's not in the game; if it doesn't fit into the rules, it's not in the game; if the rules aren't completely specific, they're bad rules - you see what I mean by this mindset. But games used to be approached with the ASSUMPTION that the GM and players were going to hack them apart and make them fit the desired effect. The same way we'd take rules for Napoleonic wargaming and tweak them into rules for Space Marines or 52mm green plastic army men.

I have spend an enormous amount of time over the last 6 months or so preparing the rulebooks (with especial thanks to Red Priest, Finarvyn, Philotomy Jurament, and Jerry Mapes) and building up a body of supplemental resources such as new spells, city encounters, etc). The intro module is just around the corner, and an expanded monster book for 0E is getting close to being done. My goal here is to assure those who want to be playing a living game that 0E is once again a living game supported by an active publisher.
I had a very small hand in the production of Swords & Wizardry, acting as editor of the core rules, so I'm to blame for any grammatical or spelling errors in the text. I've also agreed to oversee Knockspell, an upcoming magazine to support S&W, as well as any other retro-clone for which we get permission to provide support. The first issue has been simmering in the background until completion of the Core Rules. Now that they're done, expect to hear -- and see -- more of Knockspell in the near future.

As a personal aside, any old school products I create will use Swords & Wizardry as their rules, both because they're simple and straightforward but also because they're easily adaptable to any pre-WotC edition of D&D (and their spin-offs). Expect to see quite a few Grognardia-related S&W products over the coming months.

25 comments:

  1. Sounds very interesting, as does the magazine. I'll check it out this evening. Is it being done under the OGL?

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  2. Going to pick up that PDF straight-away. I love this part:

    If it's not in the rules, it's not in the game; if it doesn't fit into the rules, it's not in the game; if the rules aren't completely specific, they're bad rules...

    I think that describes one of the biggest losses in RPGs since their conception, -the view of the game as an immutable product.

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  3. Cover is very good (not as good as 3LBB, but... ;) ). Anyway - all sounds fine. I just downloaded it and starting to read.

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  4. Is it being done under the OGL?

    Yes.

    There is also a S&W trademark license, if you wish to indicate compatibility with the Core Rules by name.

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  5. I think MK nailed it. I downloaded it and am going to dig out all my OD&D stuff for my peeps here.

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  6. Very Cool...

    Took about a 1/2 hour to read thru.
    If I can convince my group to give it a try I will.

    Unless of course my imagination has atrophied somehow from years of playing "modern" RPG's.
    Seriously, I get it, by the third time I came across a snarky reference to how modern games stifle creativity with too many rules I started to get ticked off. My Imagination is not that fragile thank you...

    But still, Very Cool.

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  7. Sweet! Just in time for the Carcosa campaign my friend is going to be starting up. :)

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  8. It probably does sound like I'm busting on modern games, but actually I don't have a bad opinion of them. They're another genre of game, that's all. Mainly I'm trying to point out what the looser, old school, "DM fiat" style looks like. By making the comparisons, and also saying how great the retro style is, it comes across as a snark at modern gaming. I do happen to hate heavy-rules systems, but I enjoy True20, for example, and I really like Savage Worlds.

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  9. re. Matt: I'm prolly projecting a little because I'm pretty sure I'll never get the group I play with to play it. As long time Champions players, 3rd edition is "rules light" to us!

    Still, I like the product and might buy it in HC just to show to my guys.

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  10. Very, very cool. I'm especially interested in Knockspell, seeing as my company is going to be producing an old-school style RPG that could greatly benefit from a magazine of that nature.

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  11. Very nicely done! Though I'm not a player of retro DnD clones, or DM (GM a lot of WFRP these days), I'm very impressed!

    Kudos! It makes me want to play the game.

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  12. I've been eager to see the final version; I've got the no-frills .doc and I like the core of what I see.

    One thing that I'm really curious about is the single save. I always applied houserules to the five saves, because I thought the categories were pretty arbitrary and I wanted them to apply more broadly to other hazards in an adventure. However, I generally kept the numbers because I felt they helped to define the strengths and weaknesses of the different classes.

    Obviously Matt Finch is well aware that many of us will be plugging in our own versions of the saves, but I'm curious about the single-save system in actual play. Is it a noticeable difference? Does it have any advantages to the play experience apart from being a trifle simpler? Will I be missing out on something if I don't try it out of the book before cramming the traditional method (or my own variant) in its place?

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  13. I have playtested this a number of times and the system is fun as heck. so simple to run.

    But I also want to remind everyone Matt will be releasing the White Box version soon. It is geared even more to us old farts that grew up on the WB and never used the supplements. Where the S&W Core uses the supplements the upcoming WB Only edition doesn't. So IMNSHO will be one kick butt addition to the package for us old Grogs and new soon to be Grogs that for example prefer a straight D6 for all damage regardless of weapon.

    It's gonna be very cool.

    The only problem I see with both games...

    It's gonna be darn hard to decide which version to use since they both are excellent choices, are easy to run, and fun to play.

    Jerry Mapes

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  14. Congratulations Fitch and company! I think I have already found my niche in the retro-clone world (planning to run BFRPG), but I like the goals and I'm always up for another source for rule-hacking inspiration.

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  15. One of the key differences, I think, is that using Whitebox you have more of the original wonkiness built in. With the Core Rules, you've got a system where you build in your own wonkiness. Because the core rules use a wider "power range" in terms of hit points and damages (using Supplement I instead of the LBBs), there is a bit more scope not only for house ruling but for creating a greater variety of monsters. It also makes the Core Rules more compatible with other existing material.

    On the other hand, the Whitebox rules (when taken alone) have a distinct feel to them, with the non-variable weapon damage and the small range of monster damage. I can't describe well what happens with it, but it does definitely feel different.

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  16. Zweihander: you'll be interested in the fact that S&W resources have the ascending AC built into them alongside the descending AC. That should make them more easily used for your game.

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  17. Congrats on the pdf release Matt (and company). I had downloaded it in .doc form earlier and had read through it then, and was quite impressed. The pdf though is very nicely done.

    Funny, first thing I paged to was the description of the "Haste" spell. I don't know why but for some reason that's my first checkpoint for that 'old school' feel. I suppose that it's one of those things that's been nerfed in modern versions in the name of "balance"...

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  18. I'm curious about the single-save system in actual play. Is it a noticeable difference? Does it have any advantages to the play experience apart from being a trifle simpler?

    Whilst I have not playtested Swords & Wizardry, I do use a single save system in my house ruled games of AD&D. My experience of it is as you surmise, a trade off, simplicity against diversity. Being simpler, it is also somewhat easier to predict how house rules will interact with saving throws, which I think could be described as an additional play experience advantage.

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  19. Zweihander: you'll be interested in the fact that S&W resources have the ascending AC built into them alongside the descending AC. That should make them more easily used for your game.

    Thanks for letting me know. I'll be sure to look into it, not that I needed any extra prodding :)

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  20. Yeah, I saw the ascending AND descending AC charts and was impressed. After that i noticed a .doc version and I was in love. What a genius idea.

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  21. What are some other noteworthy differences between the Core and White Box versions? I'm intrigued by the d6 damage, the idea is very appealing to me. But what else can we expect?

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  22. Ben,

    Knockspell will be dedicated to providing support for old school games that share a certain "genetic" affinity, in that they're all descended (via the OGL) from D&D, even if each one has its own unique flavor and approach. It's not a "general" old school magazine except in the sense that it'll provide lots of good material built upon old school principles.

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  23. Obviously Matt Finch is well aware that many of us will be plugging in our own versions of the saves, but I'm curious about the single-save system in actual play. Is it a noticeable difference? Does it have any advantages to the play experience apart from being a trifle simpler? Will I be missing out on something if I don't try it out of the book before cramming the traditional method (or my own variant) in its place?

    I'm currently toying with providing each class/race with some bonuses/penalties to the basic Saving Throw, partly in order to emulate the traditional OD&D approach and partly to add a little more variation to the classes. This is exactly the sort of thing that S&W encourages and my guess is that, unless you're obsessing about "balance" and so forth, such changes won't make a huge difference in play, even if they do add color.

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  24. Funny, first thing I paged to was the description of the "Haste" spell. I don't know why but for some reason that's my first checkpoint for that 'old school' feel.

    Haste has been the locus of much mischief over the years, both by gamers looking to abuse it and by game designers looking to emasculate it.

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  25. Being simpler, it is also somewhat easier to predict how house rules will interact with saving throws, which I think could be described as an additional play experience advantage.

    Correct. One of the foundations on which S&W is built is the notion that house ruling is an integral part of the experience of hobby gaming. That's not to say that you must house rule, but the game is written in such a way as to be very conducive to house ruling; that, in my opinion, is one of S&W's most important features.

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