01 October 2010

Swords and Wizardry

I don't think I've made a secret of my love for Swords and Wizardry and in fact, with Jeff staying up at my place for a while I've been thinking about trying it out. There's just something about it that's terribly attractive to me. Maybe it's the cover art?

Might be the cover art.

Regardless, I've been wondering what, exactly, the differences between Swords and Wizardry, S&W Whitebox, and Labyrinth Lord are. I've heard that the differences between LL and S&W are minimal, and if that's true, what difference would the Whitebox make? It says that it only uses the material from the 3LBB, which is nice, but on a practical level, what does that mean? Would I gain more from trying out the Whitebox version than trying out "core" S&W?

Questions, questions.


  1. I've DMed whitebox OD&D, S&W Core, and LL. In action they're all pretty much the same thing. In my experience the biggest difference that affects actual play at the table is that S&W only has a single saving throw. All the other differences are trivial IMO, and are on the scale of minor home-ruling you would do anyway.

    My personal preference is for OD&D simply for aesthetic reasons - I love the dungeon mojo waves emanating from the old white box.

    I say choose the one with the cover art you like best!

  2. PS: On further thought, I guess a very nice thing about LL is how you can "adjust" its complexity using the Advanced Edition Characters or Original Edition Characters supplements. In truth, out of all the clones I've played LL the most (around 16 sessions, without AEC or OEC) and it's great.

  3. I mostly play LL, but I have dipped my toes in S&W Core. I'm not a fan of S&W's single saving throw, but it's hardly a big deal.

    Unless you want that oldest-of-the-Old-School gaming experience, I'm not sure White Box has a lot to recommend it, especially if you've already got S&W Core in hand.

    In may experience, all the retro-clones, including the official stuff from TSR up through 2e, is pretty interchangeable with minimal tweaking. My current LL game uses Moldvay/Cook rules and monsters, a BECMI monster book and all three of the 1e monster hardbacks, the 1e DMG, stuff swiped from the DRAGON cd archive, the first four issues of Fight On! and Taichara's Hamsterish Hoard blog. Usually, I can just plop stuff from any of those sources in without even adjusting a single thing.

  4. There's always the free S&W Companion if you're looking for expanded classes (druid, assassin, etc) and don't want to bother writing them up yourself.

    I'm with you on the cover art... damn shame it's going away imo.

  5. @ze bulette - The Mullen covers are awesome of course, but the new S&W cover looks very very cool as well.

  6. Labyrinth Lord hues closer to the red box basic set (e.g., race-as-class; clerics get spells at first level). Experience bonus is based solely on prime requisite(s). Ability-based modifiers are shaded +/- 1-3.

    Swords & Wizardry is more flexible/fuzzy as to race (one suggested option for elves is picking either fighter or magic-user before each session). Experience bonus is based on a combination of prime requisite and the "dump stats" (wisdom & charisma). Ability modifiers are only +/- 1.

    Differences between S&W Core vs Whitebox include that it's harder to get the +/- 1 ability modifier in Whitebox (ability scores are 3-6 & 15-18 vs 3-8 & 13-18). Also, there's no magic missile in Whitebox.

  7. Anthony is mostly correct, but the White Box also makes all hit dice some variant on a d6, as well as all damage dice. It also, rather oddly, explains racial abilities more than core.

    Go figure.

  8. @cyclopeatron: I figured that the different games were more-or-less equivalent, so its good to hear that I'm not the only one to see that. And you bring up a good point- the Advanced Edition Companion is a good read, and for some reason I haven't bothered to crack open the OEC. Certainly food for thought!

    @trollsymth: The single saving throw is actually the reason I was looking into S&W in the first place. It's interesting, and original if nothing else.

    And I totally agree- if you're not looking into the ideas and thoughts of all the brilliant minds around you, you're letting your group down. There's too much cool stuff not to steal it all and mix it together into a beautiful goulash.

    @ze bulette: I wasn't aware of the S&W Companion- I'll have to give it a look! It might be exactly what I need.

    And it really is a shame that the covers changed. The new cover is ok, but the old covers are where it's at.

    @Anthony: I appreciate the concise writeup! I might just stick with LL, since the slightly wider bonus attributes. The notion that Wisdom and Charisma should be useful to everybody is cool, especially in regards to Wisdom. I hold that Charisma is extremely useful regardless of class, but Wisdom reall is a "dump stat" for most classes.

  9. @Evan: We seem to have cross-posted. But lemme just say that the d6 continuity is a plus in my book. I'd have to look into it more to see if I like it in practice, but the idea is certainly sound.

  10. Another notable Whitebox difference has to do with rolling hit dice: You re-roll *all* hit dice with each level, keeping your old hit points if the new rolls would leave you with less. Also, not every new level gains you a new hit die (sometimes you just go from X to X+1).

  11. @Anthony: Very interesting! I like that, actually- it gives the low-rollers a chance to "fix" their rolls without giving away "free" powerups. Very neat.