Monday, June 13, 2011

Epées & Sorcellerie in English

Thanks to the efforts of David Macauley, Nicolas Dessaux's old school fantasy game, Epées & Sorcellerie is now available to those unschooled in la belle langue. I reviewed the original over two years ago and liked it very much. It's not exactly a retro-clone, as the term is usually employed, since it's not attempting to faithfully reproduce the mechanics of a previous game. However, E&S is strongly inspired by LBB-only OD&D with a goodly dash of Chainmail to boot and so ought to be of interest to many readers of this blog.


  1. I like how it makes AC either Dex or Armor, lending credence to the trope of the "bare-skinned barbarian" and others that would benefit more for not wearing armor at all.

    The particular version "combat dominance" of the fighter in this is one I think I've seen elsewhere, but is definitely my favorite interpretation (where the relation between the fighter's level and the targets' HD determine the number of attacks made against them, but all must be "within reach" which dictates the inability to move between attacks).

  2. There are so many great ideas here. I'm not very familiar with Chainmail, so I don't know what part of these rules have been inspired by it, but I do know that this rule set really jives with my mojo. Other designers should take notice of another excellent example of how to keep your rules explanation short, confident, well-laid-out, good humored, and clear.

    A number of my favorite concepts from the OSR have been included, like Shields Shall Be Splintered (in this version, it only activates to preserve your life from what would otherwise be a mortal blow), and that rule - the name escapes me - allowing a wizard with, say, Fireball memorized to manifest minor fire-based magics. The combat system includes parrying of a sort - is this how Chainmail does it? Anyway I like it, and I especially like how it neatly opens the way for this clever missile-weapon shield parry that I, for one, have not seen before.

    Overall it's a beautiful, simple but elegant layout complemented by a classy woodcut art style you've rightfully praised. Everything I want to simplify about D&D has been simplified (spell lists, saving throws, weapon damage) without sacrificing color and what I would call 'essential D&Dness.' There are no thieves, but a simple 'skill test' system (not properly called a skill system) allows the other classes to engage in thief-like activities. Plus the AC/Dex thing Nick mentioned looks like it may be an (again) elegant way to allow lightly armored fighters (i.e. swashbucklers, barbarians, thieves) to sit comfortably smack in the middle of in the core rules. No special feats required.

    I know you just had the Open Friday post about weird dice... I love the 'weird dice', but I think, more than that, I love the simplicity of this 2d6 system. The granularity suits me. I was just contemplating, with great reluctance, finally compiling my own highly house-ruled version of Labyrinth Lord for personal use, but now I think I'll just use this. Thanks for the post, and much thanks to Dessaux. I see a print copy arriving in my very near future...

  3. Thanks for the shout out James, and for the kind comments Nick and Jesse. When I translated this I found that I loved so many of Nicolas' rules interpretations, that it was hard to take it all in. It seems a rare thing these days to get an old school game that has less than 100 pages, but Nico has definitely succeeded at combining brevity and completeness.

  4. A really wonderful game. Thanks for the translation.

    I love the way "Epees et Sorcellerie" differs from most retro-clones and still manages to keep the "old school" flavor.

    It is definitely worth trying.