A Review of the Role Playing Game Supplement Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook

Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook by Matt Finch is a role playing game system published by Frog God Games. This is a different edition to the Swords & Wizardry White Box, also by Matt Finch, and is based on the Original Dungeons & Dragons system. It is covered by the Open Game License and, as such, some of it is considered to be Open Game Content.

The supplement is available as a 144 page Pay What You Want PDF from RPGNow and is also available in a printed version, from sites such as Amazon. The PDF version is the one reviewed. One page is the front cover, one page the front matter, one page the Table of Contents, one page an index of all the tables in the PDF, one page is a character sheet, one page the Legal Appendix including the Open Game License, two pages are the Index, six pages are the Kickstarter backers, two pages are ads and one blank page is Notes.

The Foreword and Introduction are quite brief and mention the original game. There is also a section on Getting Started, which will probably be familiar to anyone who has played any role playing game.

The book is essentially divided into two sections, the first being for everyone, particularly players, and the second being For the Referee.

For Players

Swords & Wizardry Complete RulebookCreating a Character is character creation, naturally enough, and starts with rolling attribute scores – a process that will seem odd to those familiar with later systems, as only 3d6 are rolled, rather than more dice to get higher results. The attributes themselves are familiar enough. Also in this section are the character classes, again mostly familiar, and character races. Races will likely be different for those familiar with more recent D&D based games, as there are less of them – elves, half elves, dwarves and halflings – and they are more restricted in classes. There is a section on multi-classing, alignment (only Law, Neutral and Chaos) and finally equipment. Armour Class, weight and travelling are the final sections.

How to Play is essentially the rest of the section for everyone, but it is divided into several major parts. Experience (which can be gained by treasure), time and saving throws are in this initial part. The saving throw uses a single roll, rather than multiple categories as in the original game, but a table for the latter is also provided.

Combat covers combat of course. Those familiar with D&D 3.x/Pathfinder will find this quite simple by comparison. It has attack tables, the combat sequence, turning the undead, damage, death and morale.

Gameplay Example has an example of players entering a dungeon, with combat, treasure and traps.

High Level Adventuring considers what characters will do at higher levels. This covers building a stronghold (something Bill Webb mentions in his Book of Dirty Tricks as being a great way of separating characters willingly from wealth) and hiring followers.

Magic covers magic, magical research and an alternative approach to high level spells, which weren’t in the original version.

Spell Lists and Spell Descriptions has lists and descriptions of magic-user, cleric and druid spells. There are only a comparatively small number of spells and players of later editions will notice that cleric and druid spells only go up to 7th level.

For the Referee

This section is for the Referee, or GameMaster, only.

It starts off with adventure design, initially a dungeon adventure, this being the original D&D adventure trope. Challenge Levels are also in this section, something that were not in the original game, but which will help balance encounters, as well as a dungeon monster list.

Next is Wilderness Adventures, which tend to be more dangerous than dungeons, with various encounter tables.

Special Combat Rules has combat in different situations. Mass Combat is a simplified system for combat between large numbers of troops (the original game had its origin in war games, and had more complex rules). Siege Combat is not so much siege as castle assault. Aerial Combat is for combat between flying creatures – which has the inherent danger of crashing. Finally, Ship Combat is naval battles.

Monsters is the bestiary. This has a fair few monsters in it, most of which will be recognisable, as they have been in pretty much every version of the game.

Treasure covers creating treasure hoards for monsters, starting with coins, gems and jewellery and continuing on to magic items; potions, scrolls, armour and weapons, unique swords, unusual items and cursed items.

Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook in Review

The PDF is decently bookmarked, with by the looks of it the various major and minor sections linked. The Table of Contents is not quite as thorough. Navigation is above average.

The text maintains a two column black and white format and no errors were noticed. There are a number of black and white illustrations, up to a full page in size. Whether or not these are custom for the supplement isn’t clear; by its nature as a core rulebook the various illustrations are pretty generic.

Those whose only experience with Dungeons & Dragons is with more complicated modern systems, such as D&D 3.x/Pathfinder will probably find this system very simplistic in comparison. There are a lot less rules; modern games tend to have rules for everything. This doesn’t. Even skills had not been introduced at this point. Older versions of the game – and this is, after all, based on the oldest – didn’t really consider how to make magic items. Characters would normally get them from looting monsters they have killed. There are therefore no rules on creating them.

This is, as is pointed out, not a true clone of the original system, but one with a few later changes made or included, intended to simplify things to a degree. Anyone familiar with older versions, including the revised Basic versions, should find a lot that is quite familiar. There are also quite a few sidebars for optional rules and alternative ways of running things, which is helpful. Perhaps some more depth could be introduced, such as by adding spells and magic items, but there are plenty of supplements out there having such and adapting such material to a simpler system is going to be easier than vice versa.

This is a nicely done version of the original game, with some tweaks that remove some of the less efficient parts of the original game. It is also a lot simpler to learn than some modern games, which makes it a useful introduction to role playing (or a step up from Hero Kids, if that game has been played). In other words, it’s a great way to get new players without confusing the heck out of them. An entire game in a single rulebook that is a lot, lot smaller than the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook – and the latter doesn’t even include monsters. Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook is a nice OSR game that is not just nostalgic and it can be checked out for free by clicking here.


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