I’ve been an on-again off-again reader of an OSR gaming blog called Tenkar’s Tavern for close to two years now. Erik Tankar, the proprietor of Tenkar’s Tavern came to my attention due to his blogging about ACKS or Adventurer Conqueror King System, one of my favorite rulesets based loosely on Labyrinth Lord and rewritten to create a world building end-game that previous versions of D&D always aspired to but never really achieved. Like me, he really seemed to like the game. In reading his thoughts on that ruleset, and finding them similar to my own, I realized we had many gaming ideas in common. He also commented quite postively on another ruleset close to my heart, Castles & Crusades. And thus, a bookmark was born. Over the last 2 years, I’ve read ruminations on so many aspects of the OSR. Tenkar’s Tavern really does walk the walk, supporting multitudes of OSR Kickstarters and keeping readers up to date on many of the happenings in the community and around the web.
One of those happenings was one I really thought sounded like a great idea. It was the Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day Blogfest. Basically, just a way to maintain momentum for the OSR in general and Swords & Wizardry in particular, the blogfest seemed like a good opportunity for me to contribute and participate in something I’ve enjoyed for quite a while now.
A couple of years ago, I wasn’t even sure what Swords & Wizardry was, but I heard it mentioned quite a bit. A little googling later and I started to see what had helped give shape to the first generation of OSR products. Swords & Wizardry or S&W as the cool kids say is a retroclone of the very first iteration of the first fantasy RPG. It seeks to replicate, through the OGL, the look and feel of OD&D as released in the little booklets from the mid 70s. While I’ve not actually played much D&D based on those, the slimmest of D&D rulesets, I have it on high authority that S&W does a great job.
So, if I haven’t played much S&W, then why am I eager to blog about it? There are a couple answers to that question. First, as I become exposed to the OSR, and to S&W, I came to realize that it was quite a bit more than just a clone of an earlier ruleset. S&W and other similar retroclones were doing much more by bringing back support for long lost games and communities. They offered newly published compatible materials, adventures, settings, and even better, forums and other places for gamers, faithful, fans and the curious to gather and discuss antique games rereleased in a modern era.
Some of the best OSR materials have been coming out of publishers looking to support S&W. Take for instance, my personal favorite, Tome of Horrors Complete. Tome of Horrors was initially published as a three part compendium of monsters for 3rd Edition D&D by Necromancer Games. It took all the monsters from the early days of the game, plus a huge helping of new and original monsters and compiled them all in large hardbound books. The Tome of Horrors Complete takes the contents of all 3 of those volumes and condenses them into a single MEGA! volume. It was originally published for Pathfinder RPG and eventually converted to S&W. The S&W version, due to having significantly smaller stat blocks took advantage of the freed up page space by adding encounter information, more ecology and adventure hooks for using the creatures. It’s truly inspired and almost enough to get me to use the ruleset.
So, who is behind Swords & Wizardry? Well, that answer is two fold. Matt Finch is credited with authoring (cloning) the earliest ruleset. But now, S&W has grown many times. Frog God Games is the standard bearer for S&W with some names at the helm, whose work you may have seen. If you’ve not heard of Bill Webb or Greg A. Vaughan, it might not be a bad idea to look them up.
Fueled by a vague rejection of the modernization of the game in 3E and 4E, and perhaps moreso by a desire to return to the simple joy of the earliest RPG, the OSR has been swelling its ranks over the past few years. As the availability of retroclones has increased and more people have found their way back to classic gaming, S&W has grown, and along with it, the entire OSR community. There now exists a “Swords & Wizardry Complete“, which is not only the first 3 booklets of D&D’s earliest edition, but includes cloned content from the seven supplements for that edition as well. The foreward is written by Tim Kask, TSRs first employee and editor of several of those original supplements when they were released in the 70s.
Thanks to S&W, its supporters and the retroclone genre it has helped to create, classic gaming is alive and well. Old fogies like me can now find communities in support of games I played in my youth. We can now comment and analyze as adults what made those games so rewarding in their heyday and rather than eulogize them, we can celebrate their rebirth. Which is really what this appreciation day and blogfest is all about.
So, let’s get out there and play some classic RPGs. The easy answer is S&W. The core rules are free of charge at the S&W website. Why not download a copy now, take a look and see what all the fuss is about. You might just find a game worth playing. And, to help you do so on the cheap, Frog God Games and The SRD Store are providing some discount codes especially for readers of this blog and those participating in Swords & Wizardry Appreciation day. Take a look and go buy something!
Frog God Games has discounted their entire line of Swords & Wizardry products for 1 day only in celebration of Swords & Wizardry appreciation day (April 17th 2013). The discount is good for 25% off S&W Products but you must use coupon* code SWApprDay on April 17th 2013 at check out.
*The coupon excludes items less than $1, S&W Cards, Pre-Orders, and Subscriptions.
For similar discounts on The SRD Store use code SWAD252013 at check out! Here you can get PDFs only but they do help support The SRD Store.