S&W is better than D&D

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S&W is better than D&D

Postby ClawCarver » Thu Jun 16, 2016 3:42 pm

Controversial? Probably.

Clickbait? Heh. Maybe.

I love Dungeons & Dragons. We all do. But here are four ways I think S&W actually improves on the original rules it emulates:

1. Ascending AC
I admit, I was sceptical at first. I took one look at D&D in the 3e era and bleurgh, I hated it. I grew up with B/X and AD&D 1e, and I never had a problem with descending AC. Nevertheless, after trying both, I have to say that I find AAC more intuitive and faster at the table. So much so that even when I'm running B/X now, I mentally "swap" every AC to its ascending equivalent on the fly.

2. The single saving throw category
Saving throw targets are (more or less) arbitrary numbers. How many of those do you really need? Five? Three? Why not just one? Easy to remember. No pausing the game because someone used the wand of polymorphing against the 9th-level evil cleric and wait a minute while I look that up. Also, the single saving throw is usable for all sorts of other things. Thieves' skills, for example.

3. No level titles
I know some people love them, but I never liked the level titles in any version of D&D. They just seemed muddled. For example, why is a Curate (5th-level cleric) higher than a Village Priest (3rd-level cleric)? In the Church of England, at least, a Curate is usually an assistant to a Priest. Moreover, a Priest may well be called a Vicar (4th-level Cleric). So those are just synonyms, not different "levels" of anything. As for Lama, whoa, Gygax, hold it right there! What religion is this supposed to be, exactly? OK, let's look at thieves instead. They get to be Burglars (4th level), Cutpurses (5th), then Sharpers (6th). What's that about? Those are just different dodgy vocations; there's no hierarchy involved. Anyway, rant over. I never saw the point of level titles, and I was happy when AD&D 2e ditched them. Some of the retro-clones out there use them; I'm glad S&W doesn't.

4. The name Swords & Wizardry
It's unimaginable now that the original fantasy roleplaying game could have been called anything other than Dungeons & Dragons, though of course it could. And "D&D" trips nicely off the tongue. However, not all sessions of D&D contain dungeons. (Some games are wilderness hexcrawls, or city-based adventures, or multiversal plane-hopping quests.) Certainly not every session involves dragons. But Swords (fighting! done by fighters!) & Wizardry (magic! used by magic-users!) are surely right there at the conceptual core of the game. Moreover, Swords & Wizardry sounds a bit like "sword-and-sorcery" (the subgenre of fantasy that largely inspired D&D) and a lot like Fritz Leiber's Swords Against Wizardry, with the significant difference that the swords aren't necessarily pitted against the wizardry; perhaps they are, but also perhaps they might team up and fight side-by-side. You know, like in a party of adventurers or something.

Thoughts? Arguments? Any other things about S&W that make you happy because - finally! - someone got the game "right"? ;)
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Re: S&W is better than D&D

Postby merias » Thu Jun 16, 2016 4:52 pm

When I saw the title I thought, hey there is some controversy for sure! :)

I agree AAC is faster. I do like descending for one reason, however, that being you can ask the player what they rolled and just tell them if they hit or not. AAC is much more of them asking "What is the monster's AC?" and rolling from there, so it's a bit less mysterious as to how hard the bad guy is to hit.

I love the single save, for the same reasons.

I like level titles. Arbitrary, yes, but I think it adds a bit of flavor. Read the Rythlondar chronicles to see what I mean.

The name! Yeah that one is purely subjective, as you say, what else could D&D be called? I routinely say "I'm playing D&D tonight", even if it is some other, unrelated role-playing game.
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Re: S&W is better than D&D

Postby Wouter » Thu Jun 16, 2016 9:20 pm

merias wrote:... I do like descending for one reason, however, that being you can ask the player what they rolled and just tell them if they hit or not. AAC is much more of them asking "What is the monster's AC?" and rolling from there, so it's a bit less mysterious as to how hard the bad guy is to hit.


Hmm, I don't really see how that's any different! In both cases a player rolls a d20 and asks if he hit or not, right? In the descending AC case the referee has to consult the table relevant to the PC class/level and look up the target's corresponding AC, in the ascending AC case you'll have to look up the target AC and add the relevant class/level attack bonus.

Other than that, the statement that S&W > D&D is interesting an arguably true :)
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Re: S&W is better than D&D

Postby jcftao » Fri Jun 17, 2016 3:35 am

Personally, I don't think it is controversial at all.

I started with Moldvay basic and then went on to 1st edition and hung in there all the way to 4th edition. That's where I just couldn't stand to support a game that grew into something i didn't want. It was way too cumbersome, too many pauses during play to look up something, and worst of all--character sheets with four or more pages!

I am a steadfast believer in keeping my character stats on an index card...more than that is a bridge too far for me!

The funny thing is that it shouldn't be about the rules...but it should be about the game...all the fun and crazy things we would have our characters do in the game. Those great moments when we've conquered our enemies or failed in a dramatic way.

I think it's great people that make this game so worthwhile. I don't care so much about the rules...
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Re: S&W is better than D&D

Postby ClawCarver » Fri Jun 17, 2016 10:22 am

merias wrote:When I saw the title I thought, hey there is some controversy for sure! :)


Heh, yes. I was being deliberately mischievous. Sometimes it's a good way to provoke a response. It seems to have worked, though I'm a bit surprised no one's trained a flamethrower on me... yet. Luckily, this is a S&W forum, so I'm probably safer than I would be if I'd started the same thread at ODD74, for example. I fear the fury of Mornard would be unleashed! :)

merias wrote:I agree AAC is faster. I do like descending for one reason, however, that being you can ask the player what they rolled and just tell them if they hit or not. AAC is much more of them asking "What is the monster's AC?" and rolling from there, so it's a bit less mysterious as to how hard the bad guy is to hit.


I'm not sure it makes much difference to the players. I have three regular players. One is a diehard descending AC grognard, one agrees with me that ascending AC is better/easier, while the third couldn't really care less. They can write it however they like on their character sheets. If I ask Craig what his fighter's AC is and he says 3, then I immediately convert it in my head (19-3=16) and go from there. (Gnoll, 2 HD, +2 to hit, needs 14+ to hit.) It takes no more than a nanosecond.

I rarely tell the players what number they need to hit. They roll the dice and I tell them if they do any damage. If they roll 13 and miss, then 14 and hit, then yes, of course they can establish their opponent's AC. But if they roll 5 and miss, then 17 and hit, they're still largely in the dark.

merias wrote:I like level titles. Arbitrary, yes, but I think it adds a bit of flavor. Read the Rythlondar chronicles to see what I mean.


My players seem to like them too. It's probably something to do with the old-school flavour you mention. I get that, but for whatever reason they just niggle at the pedantic part of my mind. I started reading the Rythlondar material ages ago but got distracted and never finished it. It's wonderful stuff. Thanks for reminding me!
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Re: S&W is better than D&D

Postby ClawCarver » Fri Jun 17, 2016 10:29 am

jcftao wrote:The funny thing is that it shouldn't be about the rules...but it should be about the game...all the fun and crazy things we would have our characters do in the game. Those great moments when we've conquered our enemies or failed in a dramatic way.


Agreed, absolutely. Which is why, although it's not about the rules per se, I like a ruleset that's quick and easy and flexible for me to use at the table. Where the mechanical aspects of the game get out of the way and let the players do their wild and crazy stuff. For me, that ruleset has long been B/X - my first love! - but much to my surprise I'm increasingly coming to think that I actually prefer S&W.
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Re: S&W is better than D&D

Postby Wouter » Fri Jun 17, 2016 9:09 pm

ClawCarver wrote:Agreed, absolutely. Which is why, although it's not about the rules per se, I like a ruleset that's quick and easy and flexible for me to use at the table. Where the mechanical aspects of the game get out of the way and let the players do their wild and crazy stuff. For me, that ruleset has long been B/X - my first love! - but much to my surprise I'm increasingly coming to think that I actually prefer S&W.

Which "flavor" of S&W do you prefer? WhiteBox, Core or Complete? I suppose Core would be closest to B/X, but I find myself leaning more and more towards a more minimal ruleset, so for me it's WhiteBox :)
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Re: S&W is better than D&D

Postby jcftao » Fri Jun 17, 2016 10:34 pm

When think about Whitebox, I think of a framework to build upon with my own houserules. It begs to be fleshed out. Maybe that's why there are versions of S&W out there that have done so...like White Star. At the moment, I like the Complete ruleset. It feels like something familiar and so far it works for me.
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Re: S&W is better than D&D

Postby ClawCarver » Sat Jun 18, 2016 12:53 am

S&W Complete has an Erol Otus cover and my name listed in the back, so by rights it should be my favourite. :) However, when I retreated from AD&D to B/X several years ago, it was partly because I didn't want assassins, paladins, monks, etc., cluttering up my games. Especially monks. Can't stand 'em. No, I like my character classes archetypal. I have nothing against Complete, but what it offers (mostly extra class options) just doesn't appeal to me.

I like S&W Core as a generic ruleset for running any vaguely "standard" D&D-type game. It has a solid, chunky, heroic feel to it, much like B/X. I can imagine using it to run The Isle of Dread, Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, Dragon Mountain, Dwimmermount, Rappan Athuk, etc. Or using it to run games based on Norse sagas, LOTR, Ray Harryhausen monster movies, Robin of Sherwood, or Xena: Warrior Princess. It's almost like "default D&D" to me.

WhiteBox... What can I say? It's inspiring. It gives you the classic game chassis, plus a toolkit to construct your own customised D&D. I've already used it to make my Alien Orifice rules and setting, and I've been thinking about using it as the skeleton of a simplified retroclone of AD&D 2e. Because I think that would be fun and interesting.

Talking of skeletons, that's another thing about S&W WhiteBox: I think it might be the only iteration of D&D ever published that gets skeletons and zombies "right". By which I mean, of course, it does them how I like them: skeletons with 1/2 a HD and a movement rate of 12 (walk and run as per Harryhausen), zombies with 1 HD and a movement rate of 6 (shuffle as per, well... you know... zombies). I know, it seems like a trivial little thing, but it pleases me, and as a wise man once said, "All the pieces matter." :)
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Re: S&W is better than D&D

Postby jcftao » Sat Jun 18, 2016 5:11 am

I think my favorite cover is the Whitebox cover...Mullens, I believe. The little guys in the snow with the hill giants chucking rocks...wonderful!

All of the iterations of S&W scratch someone's itch. I think I am playing two or three pbp games right now, all different versions!
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