Monday, October 13, 2014

Old D&D editions and clones - Swords & Wizardry Core Edition

Back when this whole cloning D&D business started, people felt we needed to have a game like the original. We ended up at least three.

I own the Brave Halfling S&W White Box, Brave Halfling Delving Deeper, S&W Core Edition. I have also put in money for the Champions of ZED crowdfunding about which I have totally given up hope. Curiously enough Delving Deeper from BHP was also a total mess, taking forever to be shipped out. Is there a curse of OD&D clones?

I now took time out to re-read S&W Core, and it was a pleasant read. Matt Finch is repeatedly telling you where there are just some chalk lines on the pavement, and you get to decide if there should be a hole there, or something built up along those lines. It comes across very much as a tool box, and it gave me the same sense of possibilities - that really is the best word - that GURPS always gives me. While GURPS makes me start to wonder where I could plug in that little rule or procedure, S&W is more about laying down groundwork. I do like how Matt suggests things like critical hits and mentions explicitly what common house rules are.

There are some things I really didn't like, and not all of them was things I expected. I have never had any emotional investment in the great AC debate, for example. The AD&D way with negative AC always struck me as typical messy and quirky gygaxism, but nothing I felt that strongly about. Now, on the other hand, it really made me cringe! I looked at it and wondered why on earth they included that, and didn't just stay with the rules in the original three booklets.

The other thing I did find needlessly included, maybe even without being questioned, was the inclusion of so much of the magic items from Supplement I Grayhawk. After almost 40 years those magic items are anything but magical, and feel very cookie cutter. Frankly, they have been for a long time. I own a quirky volume by Rob Kuntz called El Raja Key's Arcane Treasury, and reading that I know there are more to draw from that well. Some of what's in that book really show magical qualities. Magic should be unique.

Anyway, back to S&W Core. There are lot of curious corners of this rules set, like a neat mass battles system! There are discussions about how to design dungeons, and how to reward player characters. All advice is well thought out and since it's all so sensible, and tweakable I almost at once wants to do just that. There's really nothing much in this game that reaches out and grabs you by the throught, but as a basic guideline for OD&D style gaming it's really well written, and engaging. I want to play it, and use it with my own special tweak. This one definitely stands up!

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