Why I like Original D&D, even though it wasn’t my first D&D

I like Original D&D (aka OD&D or Zero Edition D&D) with all the supplements, as gathered together in the Swords and Wizardry retroclone. It’s nice and simple, so I can easily hold its rulings in my head and easily expandable. It was also the system that all my favourite adventures from White Dwarf used originally. Adventures like the Lichway and The Halls of Tizun Thane. Although I encountered them in the Best of White Dwarf reprints in the late 80s, when they had been updated to AD&D 1st with a rather embarrassed note from the editor that they had only done it to keep up with the current rules.

My own gaming history is that I got B/EX D&D first, picked up AD&D 1st next. So when I got S&W in the early 2000s that was my first exposure to OD&D the game my inspirations (Ian Livingstone, Steve Jackson, Albie Florie, Graham Davis, Graham Morris etc) were playing and being inspired by.

OD&D inspires and guides, not directs like later editions, which I think is important.

My  haul from the Swords and Wizardry Kickstarter

There will be Fires from the Deep

Things are hotting up on the Tales from the Sorcerer Under Mountain Kickstarter, since Paul Mitchener’s adventure for OSR/5th Edition has now funded.

Something came from the underworld in a jet of hellfire. Something unique and valuable. More than one group seeks to retrieve it. Naturally, the player characters are one such group. A dangerous wilderness trek with an uncertain goal, and all sorts of room for complications, but hey, the job pays well.

Its available to all backers at no extra cost, and is the first of three adventures currently funding on the campaign.

Jon Hodgson is doing the covers for the adventures and has just sent me the final gorgeous wrap round cover for Fires From Below, of which this is a detail.

Happy 10th Birthday AKRATIC WIZARDRY!!

Blain Neufeld’s AKRATIC WIZARDRY blog was one of a handful of blogs that I followed in the early days of me reading about the OSR via its blogsphere. Unfortunately, the others have disappeared due to their owners discounting them or in one case dying 🙁 He’s always had nice things to say about OpenQuest, and without his Swords and Wizardry S&S house rules, there would have been no Crypts and Things.

So happy 10th. Here’s to another decade! 🙂

The Road to Hell Now Available to Pre-Order

The Road to Hell is a Halloween themed adventure for early editions of D&D/OSR using the Swords and Wizardry ruleset.

The year is 1604 and a group of Elizabethan adventurers travel the road from the medieval city Chester to join the employ of Dr John Dee, the famous former court Astrologer know Warden of Christ’s Church College in Manchester. Little do they now that this journey that starts the night before Halloween is fated to be dangerous and full of the supernatural.

The Road to Hell, cover by Jon Hodgson

Swords & Wizardry Light – D&D in two pages!

Erik Tenkar of Tenkar’s Tavern fame has put together a slimmed down version of Swords & Wizardry, the OD&D retroclone, that covers levels 1-3. The game is basically a 4 pager, that is laid out (very colorfully and professionally in this release) as a player’s side and a DMs (Playing the Game) side.

Swords & Wizardry Light Logo

Why Swords & Wizardry is my Retroclone of choice

As part of Swords &Wizardry Appreciation Day. This post is an attempt to explain briefly why Swords &Wizardry is my Retro clone (a reversed engineered version of one of the earlier editions of D&D using the D20 Systems Resource Document) of choice.

My recent haul from the Swords and Wizardry Kickstarter

My recent haul from the Swords and Wizardry Kickstarter

Reason 1. ITS FREE!

You can down load the rules at the games website, Lulu.com or view them online at the Swords and Wizardry Systems Resource Document. This gives you the option to try before you buy, the internet equivalent of a good browse through the book.

When I first came across the Old School Renaissance via a recommendation from a friend, I had the immediate concerns of:

  • Is this Old School Thing for me after 20 or so years not playing any version of D&D?
  • Is it still fun?
  • Was it ever fun?

It took a lot of convincing and easing in for me to return after such a long time away, having a zero cost version that was well laid out and clear, helped me immensely.


Next I really wanted a book in my hot little hands. Fortuitously the Black Blade Publishing Edition of the Core Rules just showed up for about 5 minutes in one of my local gaming shops. I made sure I was there in those five minutes and it was mine! I was impressed, with its no-nonsense approach. This was the Core version of the rules, which I like as a tight little version of the Game.

So it was abundantly clear that this is not just some free role-playing thing, which for some people strangely enough is a big turn off. Care and attention to detail was being spent on producing something that was a serious professional product.

For those of you not in the know there are three versions of Swords and Wizardry.

  • White Box – just the three original D&D books , a short concise version of the game.
  • Core – adds more of the rules from the OD&D supplements, not as bare bones as WB. Classes are the nice ‘core’ of Fighter- Cleric – Thief – Magic User
  • Complete – All the rules from OD&D + supplements, so you get all the subclasses (Paladin, Bard, Monk etc). So sort of a striped down AD&D.

Publishers (current)

  • Mythmere games (via Lulu) –  This is the game’s author , Matt Finch’s, Publish Core/Whitebox + some scenario support. – supports the Community at a grass roots level. POD printing via Lulu.com
  • Frog God Games – Complete + a vast selection of S&W modules. Still very community friendly but this is the more commercial side.


In my opinion this is the Game before it suffered rules bloat. The classes are manageable, the spells are straight forward and not too numerous ( a big deal for me when the players expect me to carry the details in my head), there’s enough treasure and monsters in the main rule book with enough detail to get stuck in an designing a dungeon quickly. Its easy to teach to newcomers, yet still instantly recognisable to old hands (like a bike you never forget how to ride). I like games that don’t get in the way of my role-playing and S&W serves that up in spades.


As well as the usual site and forum, there were numerous Blogger sites, collectively known as the OSR Blogsphere, supporting the game (and other Retroclones) with new content and reviews. Throw Google Plus into the mix, which supports Hangout games (some of which are recorded), you’ve got a friendly, open minded, active group of players and Gamesmasters all buzzing away 24/7.


Due to it being completely Open Gaming Content, with a non-nonsense rules focused on the OD&D rules its very easy to take it and release your own House rules,Supplements,Adventures and even completely New Games (such as Crypts and Things, Woodland Warriors etc )

As a publisher this was a very attractive proposition. One which I took up by writing Crypts and Things, a variant of the rules with a focus on UK Old School rules and attitude , with a definite Swords and Sorcery Flavour. Without Swords and Wizardry, and Araskia’s Swords and Sorcery House Rules I would have never written the game.


Even without my Crypts and Things variant that tunes in that vibe directly, S&W invokes nicely the early days of 80s UK gaming. Stuff like the early White Dwarf issues, which had mad DIY stuff in like the Halls of Tizun Thun (adventure), the Barbarian (Class), not to mention regular columns like Fiend Factory and Treasure chest, and of course the early Fighting Fantasy. In many ways this is the most important thing about S&W, and even though I never played OD&D it inspired much of my early gaming sources.

Related Links

12 Days of UK OSR: Day 5 Woodland Warriors

Hootin’ Heck is it June already? Then I better press on with the 12 Days of the UK OSR, with day 5.

Based off Swords and Wizardry, WoodLand Warriors is a nice little book by Simon Washbourne published by his Beyond Belief Games. It’s introductory D&D for Kids and big Kids of all ages. Substituting Orcs n Elves for Stoats and Mice and dungeons for wild woods and meadows.  Six is the magic number in Woodland Warriors, as in 6 being the max level and D6 replacing D20s and the other standard polyhedrals.

It  packs alot into its 96 pages*.  A complete system, GM guidance, Bestiary a small setting “The Alder Vale” and an introductory adventure.  If you are familiar with the Swords and Wizardry rules alot of the text will be immediately familiar, seeing as the game like Crypts and Things is built on those rules, but copious modifications to model the genre its emulating and be much more accessible version of D&D.  In my view it achieves both these goals admirably.

Why this book is important to the UK OSR?

It carries on the fine UK traditions of innovation and approachability.  Coming after the grandmasters of the Hobby, Gygax et al, early UK writers built on what had gone before taking the Fantasy milieu in new directions away from a pure dungeon bashing.  Also there was a strong introductory stream of rpgs, mainly based of Fighting Fantasy, but even in  Warhammer 1st Ed and other Games Workshop RPGs there was a strong ethos of keeping systems and straightforward, taking time to explain fully at every stage of the book what was going on to the newcomers.

Its an OSR product we can point people to who don’t want a pure Dungeon Bashing game based off typical fantasy troupes.  This the game I can play with my missus (a non gamer who likes animal stories ) and my children when they grow up in four-three years (currently they are nearly 3 and 5 respectively).

Overall can’t recommend this one highly enough:)

Also worth noting Simon is highly prolific and the following games from his ever growing portfolio are of direct interest to the Old School Gamer:


*I’m reviewing the standard edition here. There is a Complete version which includes all the  supplements that Simon has put out since the game’s initial release.