[Review] Swords and Wizardry

Another birthday, so that means…

That’s right–treating myself to another OSR  free pdf printed and bound in a binder and plastic page pockets, in this case Swords & Wizardry by Matthew J. Finch, who also wrote “A Quick Primer to Old School Gaming.”  This goes into my collection along with Basic Fantasy RPG and Labyrinth Lord.

Review after the break

I don’t want to play a game that doesn’t have rogues.

read in a chat room I went to today

I was sent a copy of S&W by Matthew Finch, the author, after writing about what a frugal guy I am.  S&W comes from the “Old School Renaissance” movement that seems to believe that, the earlier the edition of D&D, the better.  I’m not wholly convinced that its true, but I’m gaining an appreciation of what the deconstructive nature of earlier editions has to offer.

The one most marked difference between S&W and say, LL, is that there is no thief (or rogue) class available.  S&W has “Fighting Men,” clerics, wizards, dwarfs and elves.  Halflings are also absent, but it wouldn’t be difficult to port those in for the odd person who wants to play one.

Like my friend said above, thieves are a popular class, perhaps one of the most popular classes out there, and its absence here can be attributed to two things, I think.  First, its absence in the earlier manifestations of D&D.  But second, because of Finch’s philosophy regarding roleplaying games.  It’s a philosophy that isn’t explicitly spelled out in S&W, but is alluded to in his “Quick Primer” essay.

Thieves are popular, in my opinion, because in “typical” D&D games, thieves do stuff.  Fighters hurt things and get hurt.  Clerics heal people (usually fighters).  Wizards are the wild card, usually with limited effectivenss.  But thieves steal.  They listen at doors.  They lie to people.  They are interesting people usually straddling lines of good and evil.  They’re Han Solo, or Mal Reynolds, or James Bond.  They’re cool and they are clever, and they tend to be played by clever people, like your average gamer.

But now every one has to be clever, because all the players need to be thinking about traps and wondering what’s behind the door and all that good stuff.  And S&W has flanking and backstabbing bonuses for everyone.  “But what about sneaking around?” I hear you ask?  Well, just put a modifer based on the armor the person is wearing against the surprised/not surprised roll.

I’m not sure I’m totally won over on no thieves at all.  They have become so iconic in the D&D ethos and all the fantasy tropes that have derived from it.  But it is an intriguing idea to kick around, especially when celebrating a birthday.

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