Archive for category Swords and Wizardry

S&W Appreciation Day – Son of S&W Appreciation Day

When I first ran an S&W game, I did so using a bookmarked copy of the 4th printing of Swords and Wizardry, the Stickies application on my computer and a whole lot of flying by my pants. While it went well, and the book marks made jumping from chart to information very easy, I quickly found myself wishing I had a GM screen for Swords and Wizardry. Ultimately, I didn’t stick with the S&W game I started long enough for that desire to turn into a desire to make one myself. Eventually I did make one for Labyrinth Lord (which I should post some time) which worked out pretty well, but I never made one for Swords and Wizardry. For todays festivities I’ve decided to correct that failing, so without further ado I present a Swords and Wizardry GM screen:

GM Screen


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S&W Appreciation Day – Part the First

Welcome to the Swords and Wizardry Appreciation Day at iDungeon Crawl. In case you wandered here without knowing what’s going on, today across the OSR community we’re showing our appreciation for Swords and Wizardry, a retro clone published by Mythmere Games. If you don’t have it yet, you can download a free copy of the core rules from the previous link. You can also find more information about what S&W is, but the short version is S&W is a cleaned up clone of an early version of D&D. S&W and other retro clones can exist legally due to the existence of the OGL and some various functions of copyright law. More reading on the OSR in general, and retro-clones in particular can be found elsewhere on the web, but are outside the scope of today’s events. For more Swords and Wizardry appreciation today check the list of participating blogs over at Tenkar’s Tavern.

Swords and Wizardry was the very first game that brought the OSR and it’s related community to my attention. Some years ago (2009 if the timestamp on the file is any indication), I was browsing the web searching for information about the older editions of D&D. I’m not entirely sure why or what path led me there, though it might have had something to do with the death of D&D creators Gary Gygax (2008) and Dave Arneson (2009). Regardless I soon stumbled upon the Swords and Wizardry core rules, which had just had their 3rd printing. Here was a chance for me to play original D&D and give it a try without dropping a bundle of hard earned cash on some books from a collector. Ultimately, the core rules make some (very handy) changes to the original rules that made it “less pure” than I was aiming for at the time, and that “impurity” sent me on a hunt through out the rest of the OSR in search of more “pure” versions. This caused me to discover such great games as Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, Dark Dungeons and many of the blogs and links listed in the side bar. I still had though a soft spot for S&W and eventually returned to it (in its 4th printing, with my custom bookmarks) as my go to game for my first attempt at DMing a game.

Unfortunately, there was one thing that appeared in that 3rd printing of the rules that were subsequently eliminated from the 4th printing, which were the race-as-class versions of the Dwarf and Elf classes. While I’m generally ambivalent about race-as-class, I very much enjoyed the 3rd printing S&W interpretation of the Elf, which was a dual classed fighter / magic user that could switch classes each day as the need arose. A similar version of the class is preserved in the Whitebox version of the S&W rules, but I still liked the original. So to kick off today’s festivities, here’s the advancement chart for the elf variant as it appeared in the 3rd printing:

3rd Printing Swords and Wizardry Elf

3rd Printing Swords and Wizardry Elf

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Pre-Swords and Wizardry Appreciation Day

If you haven’t heard about it yet, Erik over at Tenkar’s Tavern is putting together an Appreciation Day for Swords and Wizardry on the 17th of this month. In anticipation of that day, I decided to post some revisits to some of my older swords and wizardry related posts:

The Corpse Crow post introduces a new monster. Looking back on it now, I notice that it’s a very Stirge like monster, which leads me to wonder if I might have over estimated its CL. The stirge is listed as a CL 1 monster, though if you follow the monster creation guidelines, it appears that it should be a CL 2 monster (1HD + Auto Damage). The corpse crow works in a very similar way, attacking and then dealing auto damage, though the crow then gains the ability to possess the corpse of its victim. The question is, does that possession ability make the crow 3-4 challenge levels tougher? I’m honestly not sure.

My post on the Repeating Crossbow introduced a new weapon that on reflection I think I did poorly. The basic concept is fine, but I think it might do too much damage. A user of a repeating crossbow gets 4 chances to hit per round, and each does damage and a chance to inflict poison even with the +4 save. Were I doing this again, I think I might say that a repeating cross bow user has two choices of ammunition. The first is the ordinary 1d3 bolt. The second choice is poisoned, but rather than doing damage and poison, I think I would say that a hit deals poison damage only (no save) and that the effect of the poison damage is 1/2 hp (or even 1hp) per round cumulative.

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Using Game Master to Run a Game

Friday night was the first time I had a chance to run a game using my Game Master software. We ran Level 1 of Dyson’s Delve with a party of 3 characters, a Dwarven Fighter, a Halfling Cleric and an Elven Mage (yes, I know that violates some class / race restrictions, but I’m the GM and I say it’s all good). Prep for game was pretty easy. I started with a new .dungeon file for each level of the Delve, and a new area for each numbered room in the delve. Flavor text and player knowledge goes in the yellow description box, while notes about traps, treasures and other non player knowledge goes in the green GM notes box. Monster stat blocks and the individual HPs are tracked in the blue box, and overarching information like wandering monster charts, general level info and session XP / GP totals go in the pink box. Of course, nothing prevents you from filling in anything into any box, but that was the intended layout when I wrote the program.

Running the game went fairly smoothly. Most of the information I needed was always in that one screen, the only exception being the map itself, which I just kept open in another window. I did notice that despite the default size setting, Game Master definitely works best run at full screen. I plan to implement a new version in the future that takes advantage of the full screen capabilities of Lion. So what needs to change? Well, one thing I did notice was a need for some scratch space. In theory I could probably use the general notes section at the bottom to include notes on for example how many rounds before the zombie isn’t turned  and how many turns have elapsed for that torch, but for some reason I found myself simply using extra dice as counters. I’m thinking about possibly implementing a round/turn counter program, that would let you tick by the rounds or turns and allow you to set up flags for items.

Other than that though, the Game Master program worked well, as it should have, given that I wrote it for my work flow, so I officially declare Game Master a rousing success.

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Monster of the Day: Corpse Crow

Inspired by a creature in InuYasha, the corpse crow would probably make a great addition to your next undead / horror encounter.

Corpse Crow

Hit Dice: 1
Armor Class: 8 [11]
Attacks: Bite (1d6), Burrow (1d4)
Saving Throw: 17
Special: Possession (see below), Immunities
Move: 4/18 (flying)
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 5/240

Though not very tough, these creatures of nightmares are deadly foes and not to be taken lightly. Corpse crows survive by feasting on the corpses of their victims. A hit from a crow requires a saving throw to avoid having the crow burrow into the victim’s chest, consuming the heart. It will take a corpse crow 1 round per level or HD of the victim to burrow to the heart, and the burrowing can only be stopped by killing the crow. If the crow completes its painful advance or kills its victim before completion, the corpse crow gains possession and control over the victim’s body at half HP and -2 to attacks. If the body a corpse crow inhabits is destroyed, the crow will escape the body and seek a new victim.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License except where included material is licensed under the OGL in which case that material remains licensed under the OGL.

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Rate of Fire in Swords and Wizardry

My post yesterday regarding repeating crossbows got me thinking about the rate of fire rules in S&W and  two things came to my mind. The first is the questions of when should additional attacks occur for missiles? If we look at S&W, a combat round is supposed to be 1 minute long, and if you’re using Option 1 combat, is divided into 3 main segments: Winning Initiative, Losing Initiative and Held Initiative. Each of these segments is probably then 20 seconds long give or take. Remember that RPGs are not combat simulators (unless they are designed for that, which OD&D and by extension S&W was not) so when your fighter gets his 1 attack it represents the culmination of a full minute of fighting, parrying and trading blows. Similarly, the initiative round when your character acts is not the only 20 seconds that he was active, but the 20 seconds where he or she, well … held the initiative. If you watch any fight or sparring, combat ebbs and flows and someone who was on the attack may be suddenly on the defense moments later, even if they’re still winning. The abstract initiative orders make that ebb and flow really come alive.

So that being the case, how does 2 or even 3 attacks in a round play into this? We could stack them all together in the same initiative segment, after all, I just said that 1 attack did not necessarily correspond to 1 swing of the sword, so it’s not unreasonable for all the attacks to occur in the same segment. On the other hand, I really like the simultaneous attacks / damage that some initiative systems allow for. So in my games, I ruled that for ranged weapons with multiple attacks, each attack occurs during a different initiative segment. In the case of two attacks, they always occur during the Winning the Losing Initiative phases, and in the case of 3 attacks, the third occurs in the held initiative segment. It does add a lot of book-keeping and it makes things a little more interesting.

If you read my post from yesterday though, you will have discovered the flaw in my perfect plan. While the basic S&W equipment list only includes weapons with a maximum of 3 firing per round fitting nicely into the 3 segment initiative, my new repeating crossbow allows 4 firings in a round. I think I’m just going to rule that the 4th attack occurs during the player’s initiative round. Like I said, it’s all abstract anyway.

Additionally this doesn’t apply to the multiple attacks that fighters get. My ruling on this is that fighters are a sort of whirling ball of death and so they get their multiple attacks all on their initiative segment.

Which segues nicely into the second thought that crossed my mind. Do fighters with multiple attacks get to do full firing volleys for each attack as well? That is, does a 3rd level fighter wielding a short bow vs 1HD creatures get 2 arrows off, 3, or 6? I’m tempted to say that the fighters multiple attacks only occur when he’s wielding a melee weapon, and otherwise is by the fire rate chart since the fire rate is in part a function of the weapon. On the other hand, fighters are indeed whirling balls of death, and given them the option to be Rambo with their short bows also gives them a reason to be more than just a big guy with a sword.

I’m not sure which way I want to go with this one. Anyone have any thoughts?

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Weekend Quickie: Repeating Crossbow

An interesting invention from ancient china, the repeating crossbow was designed to allow high rates of fire at the expense of accuracy. Mostly used as a defensive weapon or from under the cover of shields, a team of repeating crossbowmen could rain down nearly 4 times the number of bolts at their enemies as compared to a standard crossbow. Unfortunately the repeating crossbow had little penetrating power, and it’s design and firing position made it less accurate. For this reason the bolts were often tipped with poison, to maximize the lethality of the weapon. Sounds like the perfect addition to any RPG’s arsenal, so here it is in Swords and Wizardry stats:

Crossbow, Repeating :
Damage: See Bolts, Poison
Rate of Fire: 4
Range: 50ft
Weight: 5#
Cost: 10gp
Bolts, Poison (20) :
Damage: 1d3 + Poison (+4 save)
Rate of File: By Weapon
Range: By Weapon
Weight: 1#
Cost: 4gp

Design Thoughts:

The repeating crossbow needs a shorter range than the standard crossbow, but equally something longer than a sling I think, so 50′ puts it at the same range as a short bow. At 4d3 damage per round (assuming the player chooses to fire all 4 bolts) the average damage should be 8. This is just slightly higher than the expected 7 from a short or long bow, which to my mind is a good representation of the lower fire power but higher rate of fire effect. The slightly cheaper cost reflects that this was apparently a common weapon among peasants to defend their homes. On the other hand, the more expensive bolt costs reflects the added costs of obtaining a poisoned tipped bolt.

The poison gives a +4 to save, mostly because giving 4 chances per round to poison a target seems to me like a huge advantage to the player. The effects of the poison are left to the game master, but my thought is 1/2 ongoing damage per round per bolt. This makes the poison relatively ineffective with just a single bolt, but can add up if the player (or monster) can land multiple hits to the same target. An alternative might be a higher ongoing damage, but no multiplier for multiple hits or simply declaring that the poison will cause death in 2d6 rounds.

Other alternatives a game master might wish to include is a negative penalty to hit with the repeating crossbow to reflect its inaccuracy.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License except where included material is licensed under the OGL in which case that material remains licensed under the OGL.

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Swords and Wizardry Bookmarks

If you downloaded the older printings of S&W, you probably enjoyed (as I did) the fact that the PDF had chapter bookmarks for easy navigation. Unfortunately, the most current PDF does not. After spending a few hours last week working on it, I finally have a bookmarked PDF of S&W 4th printing. I used a wonderful program called JPDFBookmarks to create the bookmarks. The program also allows me to dump the bookmarks as a text file so that other people can apply them to their file. If you’d like to bookmark your copy, download the program and then download this file and apply it to your PDF. Enjoy.

Changes from the PDF layout to the bookmarks:

  • The index of tables are bookmarked in alphabetical order
  • Spell descriptions are bookmarked both alphabetically and by class/level
  • Monsters are bookmarked alphabetically and by challenge level
  • All the little side note boxes are bookmarked in their own section at the end
  • Attack tables, encounter tables, equipment tables, stat tables and treasure tables are also all in their own sections at the end of the bookmarks list. They are bookmarked in their standard positions, but grouping them together like this was also useful for me, and I assume will be useful for you.


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Beneath the Twisted Moon Inn

So aside from a few minor attempts, friday was my first proper GMing of a game. Ran the game using Swords and Wizardry Core. I’ve wanted to run a game for a while, but up until this point, never really had the opportunity. Either not enough players, or I wasn’t comfortable with any of the systems. S&W was simple and light weight enough to be run without needing a huge book of rules by my side. And while I enjoy aspects of D&D 4th Edition, it’s definitely a heavy system and I’ve seen it drag down some new players before. Besides, there’s something about the language of the older D&D systems that evokes a different feeling. So S&W it is.

Since it was a new game at level 1, I wanted something short and simple and of course a classic inn to get the party together. I spent some time digging through the dungeons in the One Page Dungeon archives and eventually came across a map by James Carr in the 2010 collection called Woodland Ruins. Just the right size at 6 rooms and the background he wrote provided an excellent jumping off point. Instead of a mere cave in the woods, Room 1 becomes the cellar of the Twisted Moon in and the remaining rooms have been carved out by the remnants of a goblin tribe, who sneak into the cellar by way of a secret door. They’re sneaking in because they need to steal food, they need to steal food because their leader found a couple of magical relics (really just a few minor magic items) and has gone mad with power. Not the greatest or most original premise to be sure, but hey give me a break.

The party consisted of Dorval the Dwarven Fighter, Misha the Halfling Cleric and EPAD (Eternal Pain and Death) the emo Magic User. Not having much experience with how old D&D works, I wasn’t sure how dangerous this might be for a mere 3 characters. Though there were only 9 goblins total, I was a afraid it might prove dangerous for just 3 level 1 players. As a result, I built in a chance for the players to convert up to 3 goblins to their side. They did, and with how quickly things went, they probably didn’t need it. Ah well, lesson learned.

Speaking of lessons learned, holy cow does 0e play quickly. Our 4e games can take up to 6 hours to get through just 2 encounters. Granted we’re a bit higher level in that game, but it does seem to be so amazingly faster.

In the end, the party took out the leader before he or his body guard could get any good shots in. In fact, total the party took 4 HP worth of damage, and dealt 3 of that to themselves.

In the last room, they found themselves a tattered an burned map to the first level of Dyson’s Delve, which is where they’ll be heading next. [Note to my players: Spoilers at that link]

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