Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Behold the might of Swords & Wizardry!

The inspiration begins with the cover...
Swords & Wizardry got me back into roleplaying. Period. It was the first retro-clone I picked up. Not because it was the first one I encountered (that honor goes to OSRIC), but because it was the most persuasive. Reading Matt Finch's words was (and still is) pure inspiration. And I'm just talking about the Swords & Wizardry rules themselves. Let's not forget about his Quick Primer for Old School Gaming...but that's a whole other discussion.

Confession: I never cared about the fabled Little Brown Books. Not at all. But Swords & Wizardry (hereafter referred to as S&W) made me want to care. It made me care about the mutable simplicity of Original D&D mechanics, and more importantly, it made me fall in love again with the old-school way of roleplaying.
BTW: What I still don't care about, and never will, is that S&W is not as close to the OD&D rules as it could be. Who cares?! I, for one, am GLAD it isn't! It takes those old rules and makes them alive again, something vital and fresh, thanks to Mr. Finch's take on those original rules.

What sets Swords & Wizardry apart in my view? Here are some major points for me (based on my favorite flavor of the rules, the May 2011 printing):
Matt Finch's writing is welcoming and flavorful. When reading it, I feel like I'm being guided through the rules by a friendly narrator.

Also, the suggestion boxes that give alternate rules are awesome, such as the "Continued Level Advancement Options for Non-Human Characters" and his historical notes on how S&W differs from the original rules.

Then there's even more options. Options for combat sequence. Options for spellcasting. Options, options, options! What I'm saying is, S&W has flexibility, but it also gives you suggestions on how that flexibility can manifest itself! That's what this particular busy adult roleplayer needs!
Wanna create your own creatures to throw at hapless players? It's easy, and not just because of the "lightness" of the rules. Matt Finch has, again, conveniently given you some suggested guidelines for creating monsters. Here's a monster for you:


HD: 1
AC: 5 [14]
Atk: 2 claws (1d6)
Move: 6 (Jump 12)
Save: 16
CL/XP: 3/100
Special: Attach/blood drain (1d4/round), paralysis

There are cyclopean cliffs that rise above the ocean, riddled with caverns of unknown depth. Adventurers who have died plumbing these sodden depths have had their remains defiled by the aberrations that dwell where the ocean sucks at the land. One such creature is the skullcrab, a type of mutated mollusk that uses the skulls of the dead as protective shells. When not hiding in a skull, the creature resembles a large snail with crab-like claws and beaked mouth.

Those who discover the bones of the fallen should be wary when searching through the remains. A skullcrab inhabiting a skull will more often than not surprise the unwary, using its muscular body to leap at a victim. The creatures are surprisingly quick, and victims will not soon forget the sight of a death's head hurtling towards them.

A player must make a saving throw if a skullcrab makes two successful claw attacks against a character in a round. An unsuccessful save means the skullcrab has attached to the victim, and will begin to drain blood using a needle-like proboscis that extends from its beak (1d4 damage per round) until it is killed and releases its grip.

After one round of blood draining, the victim must make another save. If unsuccessful, they become paralyzed by the skullcrab's anesthetizing saliva. The victim will stay paralyzed if the creature is not removed; once removed, the victim will come out of the paralysis after 1 turn.
Voila! Light on stat block, heavy on description/ it should be when it comes to old-school roleplaying!

I might just post another S&W creature later tonight...I'll keep you all in suspense!

Yes, I love me some Swords & Wizardry, and I know you will too, if you give it a read. Come, join usssss... 

P.S. A final musing I wanted to run past you, dear readers: if OSRIC was the "first retro-clone" (as seems to be the case based on publication dates and OSR lore I've read on blogs), then S&W was the second. I wonder if it's a coincidence that WotC's first premium reprint was AD&D (which OSRIC emulates), followed by that fancy OD&D box (covered by Swords & Wizardy). Is WotC mimicking the publication order of the retro-clones? may sound far-fetched, and I do so love a good conspiracy theory, never know!

UPDATE: Well, it looks like Labyrinth Lord was published after OSRIC, and last came S&W. Oh well, so much for my cockamamie theory!


  1. Well they also published the 3.5E reprint, but I guess that's following on the tail of Pathfinder, which is a different beast entirely. Also doesn't explain the 2E reprints, not that I mind.

  2. I added this to the list of reviews on the Giant List of Swords & Wizardry Stuff. Love the skullcrab! :)

    1. Thanks, Matt! I would like to give you the skullcrab for Knockspell, as well as the other creature I'm going to post in a little while. I'll rewrite something that includes both creatures and send to you, per instructions on your blog.

  3. One slight correction, I believe Labyrinth Lord was the 2nd popular retro-clone released.

    1. Ditto to this. Although I wouldn't bet my life on it.

    2. Ah, poop, I just checked, and I think you guys are right. Ah well, I let my love of a good conspiracy theory blind me to the facts! Argh.

  4. Great post Anthony. The skullcrab is creepy good.