So, here is my latest scheme to kick off a campaign with my boys. It will be centered around the Swords & Wizardry module Grimmsgate and have sandbox elements.
The background will be that 1000 years ago, the combined forces of humans, elves and dwarves defeated the Dark Lord™ and his minions. In the process, however, the kingdoms were shattered, barbarians invaded, chaos reigned and the world fell into a Dark Age™. The world pulling itself out darkness but, unbeknownst to most, new threats have appeared and chaos is once again encroaching upon the newly re-civilized lands.
One who can see the new darkness is the mysterious wizard Eduran. He will ask the characters to meet him at Grimmhold, the village near Grimmhold Keep. Grimmhold Keep is the base of Lord Wulfric Grimmson, whose barony is the closest to Grimmsgate. Eduran will tell the players he wants to speak with them for two reasons. The first is that one of them has inherited a house in Grimmsgate from a previously unknown great uncle. His second reason will be the encroaching darkness as explained in the beginning of the module. This will be writ large however. He will ask the characters to act as his agents and to fight the darkness and push it back. The kings and rulers of the land are blind to the threats so until he can convince them otherwise he needs to work through freelancers, mercenaries and adventurers. If the characters are successful they can then use a reviving Grimmsgate as a base of operations for other adventures I will plug into the surrounding area. Eduran will also say he will send along other adventurers in a few days to supplement the party (as there will only be two players.) He will send one of his apprentices to assist them also. It will turn out, though, that this apprentice is an agent of chaos and will at some dramatically appropriate point betray the party. This will be further down the line though.
So, that's my idea. Once again riddled with cliches.
The first decision I need to make is which version of Swords & Wizardry to use. Unfortunately, I think S&W White Box is out. My players will want more choices, particularly for classes. So that leaves S&W Core or S&W Complete. However, I've really been grooving on the The Heroes Journey Fantasy Roleplaying by +James Spahn and would like to use that. I'm going to do a mini-review of it soon but succinctly put it is a greatly modified version of S&W White Box intended for, well, heroic role-playing à la The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. The drawback to The Heroes Journey in this context is that I would have to do some conversion work. And frankly I'm lazy.
So, any feedback on the setting idea or on which system to run would be appreciated.
I have recently become enamored with the Swords & Wizardry White Box rules-set due to a nifty little game called White Star. White Star led me to the White Box rules-set which introduced me to a plethora of White Box derivatives, offspring and cousins. Over the next several weeks (hopefully) I plan on taking a look at at least three White Box based games and giving a brief overview of each, pointing out similarities and, particularly, differences from the base rules-set. Also, if a game has a stated goal, I plan on looking at if, in my opinion, the rules fulfill that goal. These will not be comprehensive reviews but just highlights and thoughts.
First up is White Box: Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game authored by +Charlie Mason of Seattle Hill Games. To be frank, I bought this game because of the cover. I don't buy hard copies of games frequently but I loved the Red Dragon cover by Eric Lofgren so much and the price point was so low that I did in this case. If you don't want to buy a copy you can still get the rules because the PDF is free through DriveThru and LULU. Hard copies are available through LULU and Amazon.
Of the derivatives I have perused, White Box hews closest to the source material. It is not a straight copy of Swords & Wizardry White Box but it takes the bases rules and then adds modifications and clarifications. For example, it has the same unified Saving Throw and Base Hit Bonus for ascending armor class as S&WWB, both of which I like for their simplicity.
The first noticeable addition is the inclusion of the Thief class. The Thief caps at 10th level as the other base classes do and has a single Thievery ability for all thief-like actions. Everything from filching items to disarming traps is resolved with a single d6 roll equal to or under a number ranging from 2 to 5, which is determined by the thief's level.
Prices for goods and services appear to be the same as in S&WWB. I still think armor is woefully under priced, particularly plate. (Can you guess what one of my house-rules will be?)
Expansions include a page long discussion of dungeon doors and the difficulties one may face finding them and trying to open them. This section also includes a discussion of traps. I particularly like the paragraph later in the book concisely detailing how magic is prepared and used without being overly technical. Additions like these are helpful to the new gamer in a way the bare-bones nature of S&WWB isn't.
I like the physical book itself. It is 6"x9" and the text is single column and, unlike some other books I have in this format, the text is large and thus easier for my aging eyes to read. The internal artwork is black and white and to me very reminiscent of the artwork I have seen from the early days of RPGs. One thing I particularly like about the PDF is that the margin on the side of the page that is bound is larger. I often print PDFs and bind them with a comb-binding machine and this means I don't lose any text to the binding.