Monday, December 20, 2010

Swords and Wizardry, Complete Edition: SQUEEEEE!, the introductory comments.

Okay, confession time.

 I never really bought into AD&D. 

"Hello, my name is Doc Grognard, and I've been playing the same damn rules since 1976." "Hello, Doc"

See, what I and most of my ilk (or caribou) played at the time was a bastard stepchild that had evolved from the raggedy assed initial release schedule of AD&D. It was this: The three books, plus Greyhawk (almost entirely, Wep v Armor being a hit and miss inclusion, no pun intended) & odds and sods of the other supplements (Druids= YES, Psionics, Monks =NO, Assassins = MAYBE) plus the monsters from the first Monster Manual (with the wondrous Bumper book of all Monsters cover), some of the players handbook, and the combat tables from the Dragon issue that previewed them. An unholy mélange, with odd interaction effects: AC10 messed up all the earlier combat tables a bit, and took some on-the fly-modification; the races and classes were all in the same place (finally) and this was a big help, although the stats, requirements and class abilities differed enough to cause some problems; generally, the PH was used, except for rolling up stats (by purists) ; spells, not all that scattered, weren’t really altered much , and the VSM bits were always ignored except in extreme situations :
”Mage, you’re gagged, tied up, and stripped naked what do you do?”

“Uhhhh…..Cry? “
“Okay, roll for effect”
“That’s not a spell”
“I know…you're checking to see if the orcs think you look cute.."
(Okay, this was the Deep South. The dm actually said “t'see if the orcs think y' cry purdy”)

DMG? Never came out forever, it seemed, so its influence was minimal. The rules question letter to TSR that came back with (among other things) news that they were “reworking the entire system” (in red ink, no less) touched off a lunchtime bitch session worthy of any online forum (which probably says more about online forums than us, I suspect).

Dammit, we liked the version of D&D we cobbled together, and were not only pissed that finally the “all in one” Holmes came out as crippleware (Max level three ? Are we to be forever playing victims ?), but also that it was (to us cynical 16 year olds) sanitized and altered for no good reason (race as class? Yuck)and...kiddified . Basic? Pheh. Basic is for the slow kids, not us advanced students…….

So, really, for me (and my bunch) the main advantage of AD&D was that it put lots of the scattered D&D stuff in one place, even if it still required a fair amount of patching and juggling to make the numbers match (in either direction); no biggie, really – less books (magazines, Xeroxes and hand copied articles) was better than seamless rules in the day. It must also be realized that access, not simply convenience was a big deal; as this was way, way pre internet and barely post copier, some stuff , lots of stuff actually, was absolutely unavailable except as tantalizing rumors….we had one copy of the ranger class specs, handwritten and that from a guy who came to the games maybe twice a year (he had moved away for collage). Illusionists ….who? Bards? fergettit.

That said, this is why I have fallen unashamedly in love with complete edition Swords and Wizardry: It’s all there.

From about 1980 and back, it's the version of D&D I played all in one place, and in one system.

Now, let me hastily add this is not just another nostalgia wank. No indeed; this is unswerving refusal to move onwards. I’ve played almost all editions of D&D, but I’ve never run anything other than the 1979 MD&D (mélange D&D, my new term for the style –you read it here first). I’ve taken breaks from running D&D (Grad school, say, for instance) but it's always been that set of documents defining mashed-together rules, and mainly the same frikking campaign (see earlier posts about the antique wilderness).

Swords and Wizardry Complete is the damned rules set we wanted in 1980. This THIS THIS ! Three books + Greyhawk+ a bit of the other supplements, plus Dragon article classes and such with no need to shift back and forth from AD&D or shuffle a pile of paper, books and notes and with no added complexity or self indulgent fluff (see: Nomenclature of polearms) . YES ! SHOOT SCORE WIN !

 This is without a doubt the most helpful book for my campaign in, yes, about thirty years. The Majestic wilderness came close, as did several other attempts, but ! This actually allows me to use one book and port all the old characters NPC’s and etc over seamlessly. This is AD&D for those of us who didn't need help with the details of the rules mechanics, just with their organization and availability. Which is pretty much the opposite of what AD&D (and all later versions) did. This is The Traveller Book version of D&D !
So. Here I am, dancing around with my copies of S&W Complete (Hardback, and softback, plus printed out the PDF), all fired up to run some games, dude.
And to some of you, I’ll point out that it has THIEVES ! (got that Jeff and James ?) Wonderful petty sneaky self justifying, anti-heroic thieves. So, NYAAA to all you thief haters.
More to come, say, maybe an actual review, as time permits.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind praise. Guys like you are why we do this. I was very happy with this work..Matt did a fantastic job, and I am looking forward to the supporting modules as well.

Its nice to be able to make books for the game I play for a change!


Al said...

So, you like it? ;)

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