Getting started with S&W

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Getting started with S&W

Postby under_score » Fri Dec 02, 2016 3:08 pm

Hey guys, new here. I've only gotten back into playing RPGs over the past year. Although I grew up with AD&D 2e, I knew I didn't want to go back to that, mostly remembering it as an unwieldy system full of bloat. So I tried out various systems and mostly settled on Dungeon Crawl Classics, which I've been running for a few months now. It's great fun and my players never miss a session, but lately I've had the urge to get back to basics even further. I've always read Keep on the Borderlands play reports with a sense of fascination. I never played OD&D, but the parties complemented by a host of hirelings, polearms attacking from the second rank, bows firing twice per round, all seem strange and endearing to me. The tactical possibilities just seem so much more interesting than deciding which feat you're going to use this round.
So, how do I get started here? I've been reading through Core and Complete, and kind of favor complete just cause the combat order (particularly having movement and missile take turns before melee) seems to present an interesting flow. But I've never run this sort of game, nor have my players played in it. I'm half tempted to just buy Rappan Athuk and let the bloodbath commence. But maybe I should ease into it a bit more. Any advice?
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Re: Getting started with S&W

Postby merias » Fri Dec 02, 2016 3:51 pm

Welcome to the forums, under_score! I think you've stated nicely what most of us find appealing about OD&D and its clones. I wouldn't worry too much about jumping in, go for it! I also don't think you need to start with a commercial product, unless you want to of course. There are loads of free resources for S&W and the other clones that can be adapted pretty easily, and of course you can always grab a free dungeon map online and try stocking it yourself.

The S&W quickstart is a great intro to the OD&D style of play, I have a link to it in the free resources section of these forums. Some of us are also working on a new quickstart that will be more up-to-date (the original was written for the first iteration of the core rules, they have changed quite a bit), but it is still full of great advice and is a fun, quick dungeon crawl.

Speaking for myself, I notice our group's sessions tend to be the most fun when we embrace the rules-light aspect and rely more on tactics and whatever crazy action we think is appropriate at that moment. Usually a simple die roll determines success or failure (whether that be a saving throw, or attribute check, or modified attack roll), but the failures can be just as fun. Death is pretty common also, so if you have a small group you can have them run 2 or 3 characters each and/or hire some meatshields. We have had some pretty memorable PC deaths from our sessions.
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Re: Getting started with S&W

Postby The Wanderer » Fri Dec 02, 2016 4:49 pm

I second everything Merias said!

I would just grab the Complete rules and jump right in. Make note of things that work and don't work and then make changes for the next session. Tell your players up front that maybe things wont go smoothly at the start, as you adjust to the play style, but that you will constantly make adjustments to make it the most fun possible.
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Re: Getting started with S&W

Postby foxroe » Fri Dec 02, 2016 6:14 pm

Welcome to the Forum!

I'll start by third-ing what was said already. ;)

Some more advice:

== S&W, as a reimagining/resurrection/clone/[insert descriptor here] of OD&D, can be off-putting to some folks due to the "quirky" nature of the rules (if looking through the lens of later editions). The key is to always remember that it's a game meant to entertain and enjoy, and not simulate every conceivable reality or possibility (that's your job as a DM or player). Think of a game like Monopoly: it's rules are silly, mundane, and have little bearing on the reality of making money... but it's fun, folks that play it don't complain about its lack of options or realism, and the rules haven't changed much in the decades it's been around. OD&D/S&W is kind of the same way, but...

== There's plenty of room for interpretation and "house ruling". Don't be afraid to do this! The creators of these games expect you to do it! And it's way easier to accomplish when the rule system is light as a feather. The founders of the hobby were wargamers for the most part. They were used to playing with short codified sets of rules, and when situations came up in play that were not covered by the rules, they'd make stuff up on the fly. This was almost by design and was certainly part of the fun.

== Now ignore all that crap I just spouted and check out Matt Finch's Old School game primer:
http://www.lulu.com/shop/matthew-finch/quick-primer-for-old-school-gaming/ebook/product-3159558.html
Good stuff and it's free. As in beer.
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Re: Getting started with S&W

Postby under_score » Fri Dec 02, 2016 6:38 pm

Thanks for the responses. I've read through the Core and Complete rules, and Matt Finch's Old School Primer. That has been very influential in the way I run my DCC game.

I'm not too concerned with the quirks of the rules. I'm comfortable with making rulings on the fly and put the enjoyment of the game over having specific rules for everything. I think my hesitation in running S&W is more to do with the change in tone. Even DCC, with its old school stylings, is very much a game about powerful characters doing epic stuff (it just has lots of epic backfire mechanics to maintain lethality). When I read about S&W, or any old school play reports, there are new aspects of gaming that seem significant that we're not used to, but I'd love to incorporate. Managing followers, morale and loyalty, resources, encumbrance (assuming gold=XP, encumbrance becomes a lot more important). The ability to get lost in a dungeon. How do you run a game like that without turning it into a load of book keeping?
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Re: Getting started with S&W

Postby Wouter » Fri Dec 02, 2016 6:50 pm

I think the DM bears much more of the weight in old style games, that is: there is in fact quite a bit of book keeping, but the players don't have to deal with that. I keep a spreadsheet to track turns, ammunition, torches, oil, rations, water, loot, encumbrance, etc. for each PC that the players don't ever get to see. It's my job to inform them that if, for example, their character wishes to drag along that extra bag of gold it will slow him/her down significantly.
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Re: Getting started with S&W

Postby under_score » Fri Dec 02, 2016 7:17 pm

That's interesting Wouter, I hadn't though of tracking that stuff myself. Do you have an example spreadsheet of what you track you could share?
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Re: Getting started with S&W

Postby Wouter » Sat Dec 03, 2016 1:17 pm

Sure, you can find a snapshot of the resource tracking sheet I use in my Call of the Xul game right here. On the left I keep track of turns, time and wandering monster encounters, the middle part is about tracking XP and the part on the right is for keeping track of the party's resources.
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Re: Getting started with S&W

Postby foxroe » Sun Dec 04, 2016 6:54 am

Wouter wrote:Sure, you can find a snapshot of the resource tracking sheet I use in my Call of the Xul game right here. On the left I keep track of turns, time and wandering monster encounters, the middle part is about tracking XP and the part on the right is for keeping track of the party's resources.

Dracoharpies :shock:
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Re: Getting started with S&W

Postby under_score » Sun Dec 04, 2016 3:19 pm

That's very cool Wouter, thanks for sharing
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