Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Frog, The Finch, and The Boy

When I first fell into the spiked pit trap that is the OSR, I found myself pondering which clone to play.  It came down to one of two choices - Labyrinth Lord or Sword & Wizardry.  After some investigation, Labyrinth Lord looked comfy and familiar - a lovely Moldvay clone.  Sword & Wizardry just looked kind of weird.  It seemed off, somehow.  So I bought Labyrinth Lord and ran with it.

Fast forward half a year later, and I'm at the 2011 North Texas Role playing convention with the Boy.  It was my first role playing convention - the culmination of the 30 year old dream that blossomed when I peeked in the back of Holmes and saw the ad for GENCON.

I saw Swords & Wizardry Complete in the dealer's room and bought a copy, then crammed it into my bag with my other loot.  I was glad I did, because the game I had signed up for Saturday night had fallen through, and the only game available was this Mythrus Tower thing being run by Matt Finch.  Whatdayaknow?

It was a packed, raucous room.  There were no pregens.  Matt expected us to sit down and roll up characters.  Odd concept, eh?  So I started looking through S&W Complete, trying to figure out what was going on in the book - having never seen the inside before.

By this point, the Boy was tired of waiting for me to figure out what page clerics were on, and began to grumble.  Three days into a con can frazzle even the most hyped up ten year olds. :)

Suddenly, Bill Webb, head of Frog God Games, pulled out a copy of S&W Complete, signed it, had Matt sign it, and then handed it to my son.  I opened my mouth, but Bill spoke first.

"What?" he grinned.  "He needs a book of his own."

The Boy beamed and his grumpiness melted away.

Matt then proceeded to take us on an adventure in the never-ending bowels of Myths Tower, where we encountered screaming fungi and ogre chefs that insisted on feeding us dumplings.  I had never been in such a big game before.  There were 14 players.  But Matt - and the other players - were professionals.  They knew how to pull off such a big game.  There was a caller.  A real caller - who called.  And Bill played a thief like nobody's business.

It got loud - really loud, so Matt stood up on a chair and yelled through part of the game, having one player marking important things down on a giant whiteboard.  Rather than being distracting - it worked remarkably well.

After the game I got to talk to Matt a bit, and told him that I played Labyrinth Lord.  He smiled and said he didn't care what people played, as long as they played something.

Later, I got to sit down and read Swords & Wizardry Complete, and realized what it was.  It's not a clone of AD&D.  It's not a clone of Basic.  It's all those little manila pamphlets that I could never make heads or tails of - rewritten in a format that is understandable.  There are notes about the ever evolving game, and some alternate mechanics included - like ascending and descending AC - to make different audiences feel at home.

In some ways, Swords & Wizardry Complete, is like an archaeological dig into the D&D that existed before I got involved.  In some ways, it's an alternate version of AD&D - a leaner, meaner, clearer version than Gary envisioned.  I was very impressed.

That Christmas, I picked up a copies of the Swords & Wizardry Whitebox rules for the whole gang.  I had downloaded the pdf and was impressed, yet again, with it's clarity and simplicity in purpose.  I gave them all copies, not so I could DM them in a game - but so they could DM their own games with other people and spread the Old School message.  And they have been doing just that. :)

- Ark

PS - As this is Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day, there is a 25% off sale going on today at Frog God Games with a coupon code of SWApprDay and D20PFSRD with a coupon of SWAD252013.  Pretty nifty!


  1. That was a great session. Are you guys coming to the next NTRPGCon? I didn't see you at the last one.

    1. Hey Matt. We were at last year's - I ran by you in the hall and screamed 'Hi Matt!' but you probably just saw the streak go by. Busy con that year. This year we will be moving during that time frame, so our attendance will be sketchy at best. It's a bummer. But good luck at the con!

      - Ark

  2. Awesome. Love hearing about introducing kids to this hobby of ours!

    My Swords & Wizardry posts, The S&W Witch and The Ördög

  3. great story and nice pics . . . will you be at NTxRPGcon this June?

    1. Hey Clovis - My attendance will be iffy due to moving to a new house, etc. I am hoping to get in at least one day.

      - Ark