Thursday, October 28, 2010

S&W White Box: An Appreciation

In the midst of my work on the Dwimmermount book I'm trying to finish up for publication early next year, I often find myself idly flipping through the books and games I have close at hand. Recently, I've found myself spending a lot of time re-reading the Brave Halfling edition of Swords & Wizardry: White Box. Over the last few weeks, I've come to think that it's probably the most under-appreciated product of the old school renaissance, which is why it's a pity that it wasn't released more widely.

Marv Breig's redaction of Matt Finch's original rules was well done to begin with, but Jesse Rothacher's layout for the BHP edition makes it shine in a way that the initial Lulu.com version did not. Likewise, the artwork, from Mark Allen's covers to the interior pieces by Matt Finch, Edward M. Kann, Jeff Preston, and Chad Thorson, add to what's already a terrific (and reasonably priced) introduction to old school gaming -- probably the best one there is.

I'm often critical of the ways that Swords & Wizardry deviates from OD&D and I won't deny that they still bug me a lot, particularly given the way the game is advertised as "0e," but the fact remains that White Box is an amazing piece of work nonetheless. It's a wonderful, unpretentious, and accessible little game and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to someone who's never roleplayed before. So, my hat's off to everyone involved in its creation. Here's hoping Brave Halfling is successful enough to get it back into print again soon. It'd make a great Christmas gift for friends and family interested in finding out more about this crazy hobby we all love.

13 comments:

  1. My sole quibble would have to be my personal dislike of the bow fire rate.

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  2. My own contributions to it were very small, but thank you for the mention and the positive critique. :)

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  3. The White Box is my go to game nowadays. I find it's perfect for the kind of "build your own D&D" that many in the OSR advocate.

    There are days when I wish for something with more AD&D style buttons and whistles, but for the most part S&W: WB serves my gaming needs perfectly.

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  4. Also: the Mark Allen covers are rad.

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  5. I have both the White Box and Labyrinth Lord, and I favour the latter over the former. Partly because of the production values, and partly because I appreciate just that little bit of extra system that LL seems to provide. My order of preference at the moment is LL, then Allston's Rules Cyclopaedia (the reason I favour LL over Allston's is the pared down nature of the rules), and then the White Box. This likely means that the White Box, although I appreciate what it's trying to do, while likely never see my gaming table and will stay in pristine condition on my bookshelf.

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  6. Personally, I like Peter Mullens Whitebox pdf cover a bit better but that's not to say I didn't like the one Mark Allen did. Infact, I think it fits perfectly to use in the books interior or even put on the back of the box.

    BTW, are they still going to used that new cover for the FrogGod release of S&W?

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  7. I'm glad to see you still like my WB, James. I'll admit that it's not perfect. Heck, I don't actually play by quite those same rules, either and if there are a few things you don't like just change 'em. That's the way I've played OD&D since the 70's and that's what I suggest to anyone who doesn't like parts of the WB rules set.

    I do think it's a nice and simple toolkit that encourages folks to customize and make the game their own, however, and am glad that some people have gotten enjoyment out of it.

    - Marv / Fin

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  8. BHP's White box is an amazing product. Alot of people quibble about the cover, but I have to agree with you that is an amazing work as a whole (to be honest I prefer the box set cover over the Mullens anyways.) It saddens me that my gamers have become so loyal to LL, I think S&WWB is superior in many ways. At least it looks amazing on a shelf next to my Carcosa Box set, and Swordplay and Spellcraft box set.

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  9. Thanks, James. :)

    Jesse is currently up-dating the word file and I hope to have WB Boxed Sets ready to ship by Thanksgiving (US).

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  10. I adore the S&W WB - I bought the Lulu softback version as it was the closest I could get to OD&D at the time (I've since acquired some PDFs of OD&D). A bargain as well (but yes, I understand that the actual box set is a good visual simulacrum/tribute to OD&D, and probably drool worthy).
    It's a very liberating ruleset, whilst also allowing players and readers alike to reflect upon the heritage of modern gaming mechanics.

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  11. BTW, are they still going to used that new cover for the FrogGod release of S&W?

    I have heard nothing suggesting otherwise.

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  12. I'm glad to see you still like my WB, James.

    It's a great piece of work, Fin, and you have every reason to be proud of it. Of all the clone that I don't play, White Box is the one I still regularly look to for inspiration.

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  13. Jesse is currently up-dating the word file and I hope to have WB Boxed Sets ready to ship by Thanksgiving (US).

    Glad to hear this. Be sure to let me know so that I can do my best to promote it. I'd like to see you sell through your next print run as quickly as the earlier ones :)

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