It’s been quite awhile that I’ve looked at Swords & Wizardry. With so many other OSR games available these days, it can actually be easy to forget the ones that kicked off the whole thing, especially one that has so many variations and printings. I had joined the Kickstarter for the 2nd printing of S&W Complete, but didn’t really pay attention to the one for the 3rd printing. However now it’s available (at least through Frog God Games’ site), and with the PDF only being $1 (the 2nd printing PDF is still available for free) I figured I’d take a look and see how the game is, in its current supported state.
First off course is the new cover. The cover for the 1st printing wasn’t that great, while the 2nd printing had the great Erol Otus cover; for 3rd the artist is Kaos Nest, and it’s quite a drastic change. It’s the most abstract RPG cover I’ve ever seen, and my first reaction was mixed. The more I look at it, the more it does grow on me. Looking at her other work, this still feels like an incomplete work however; her other works have far more color, and the plain black background feels like a cop-out. I also think the S&W logo should be a darker and/or different color, it definitely shouldn’t be transparent.
Along with the new cover, there is a new design and layout in this printing, and mostly new interior artwork to go along with that. While I liked the artwork that was previously in Complete, much of it was either too dark and/or pixelated; in comparison the artwork in the 3rd printing is much better. I’m still on the fence on the new design/layout. The page borders don’t bother me (and having the section/chapter name at the bottom is a really nice touch), but the text is still too small for my eyes. I like the latest character sheet as well. The increased amount of artwork does make this a heavy PDF, as both Adobe Reader and Chrome both had problems scrolling through it.
As far as the system goes, it hasn’t changed at all for this new printing. I still don’t like equipment being listed as fragments of a gp. While it may be more realistic compared to classic D&D’s “everything is 1 gp or higher”, I wish it would just list items cheaper than 1 gp in terms of sp, cp, etc. I also really don’t like that both descending and ascending AC is used/listed; S&W has the balls to replace the classic 5-save system with a single save, so it should’ve done the same and just gone with ascending AC. I do like S&W’s treasure system a bit more than classic D&D and most other OSR RPGs, and there is a nice variety of monsters and treasure.
So looking once again at the available OSR RPGs and Classic D&D, would I choose Swords & Wizardry now? I think it would be a very tough choice between Swords & Wizardry and Labyrinth Lord, so I would be happy to own and play both of them. This printing of S&W Complete is the best release of S&W so far, so I will likely have to eventually order a hardback copy. As a way to showcase the talents of women, most of them newcomers to the RPG industry, I say well-done to them and to Frog God Games for giving them this chance!