Sunday, April 17, 2016

What I like about Swords & Wizardry

It's Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day.

Here are four things I like about S&W.

It's free.

This is a big deal in getting me to try a game. I've played in a lot more "campaigns" or "regular gaming meetups" and so on that worked out to be one session, two tops. Maybe three. Do I really want to plunk down even $5 for a rulebook for a game that might not keep going?

A free copy of the rulebook in PDF means it's easy to get me to play it with other people. I'll print out copies and give them to people who might like gaming. I'll recommend it widely - it's free, may as well take a look. And I won't worry that by saying we'll play S&W I'm saying, "everyone shell out $35 for the book or just pester me with questions."

And yeah, I like the free version so much I bought a hardcover copy.

It's many things to many people, not trying to be all to all.

S&W Complete is a great version of the earlier editions of D&D. It's got a real feel of the old days of gaming, as we played even if the books didn't exactly say to do it that way. It doesn't try to cover every possibility but it gives you options. If you want a playable old school D&D-based game that doesn't make you wrestle with vagueness and wargamer-to-wargamer writing assumptions (white box) or incomprehensible and overly specific rules (AD&D), this is a good choice.

It's got boxed text.

I come from the world of GURPS, where sidebars and boxed text help move things along. Specific cases, optional rules, under-the-hood peeks at why things are the way they are - it's there but set alongside the text. It's not jumbling up the rules but giving you options and explanations. I love that about S&W, too. Want to know why multi-classed characters work the way they do? Want to choose between ascending and descending AC? Want to get a peek at decisions were made?

Read the boxed text.

It's easy to read.

Poorly edited books drive me crazy. Bad layout makes it hard for me to use books. I've got books that are very attractive but so crammed with text it's more "how much can I fit in to a tiny space?" and less "couldn't I just use a bigger page and make it easier to read?"

Admittedly, my sibling is a designer. I'm not, and I'm not good at design. I've just learned to appreciate when a book is easy on the eyes, easier to flip through and use, and has words spelled correctly.*

S&W Complete is all of those. It's got good solid technical writing. It's got enough white space and has readable typefaces and font sizes. I genuinely like to read the book. I've read other games - OSR and not - that just don't have that. Where for all of the good ideas I find reading the books a chore. Or where the writing is good but the grammar and spelling errors are not. Or where rules are written multiple times in multiple places and the wording varies between them enough to cause confusion. Not S&W - it's remarkably consistent and good.

There are bits about it I don't like, but today's most a day to appreciate what the game brings to the table in a positive way. And it does bring a lot. Go download it and you can appreciate it, too.

* Yes, I know I make spelling errors on this blog. I spot them when I look back and edit them. But fairly or unfairly, I hold published works to a higher standard than blog posts.

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