What’s Swords & Wizardry? It’s a retro-clone of Dungeon & Dragons, specifically the booklets that came out in the 1970s.
Swords & Wizardry Complete is an expansion of the Swords & Wizardry Core Rules.
From a modern perspective, those rules were a mess, needed cleaned up, clarified. The creators of Swords & Wizardry did just that under the Open Gaming License.
Its one of the founding set of rules behind the Old School Renaissance.
Everything published for D&D before the year 2000 is compatible with Swords & Wizardry. Everything. Seriously. Even post-2000 retro-clone material (OSRIC, Basic Fantasy, etc.) can be converted to Swords & Wizardry.
“I wanna use stuff from the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide.” Fine. You can.
“Can I play a specialist wizard from AD&D 2e Player’s Handbook?” Yes. Sure.
“Do we have to use combat tables or THAC0?” No. Swords & Wizardry has rules for attack bonuses and ascending Armor Class.
“I wanna play a bard.” Right, but which version? Strategic Review, AD&D, or AD&D 2e?
“What about the Anti-Paladin from Dragon Magazine #39?” Well, not in our campaign but okay.
How is Swords & Wizardry able to do this? What’s the secret?
Swords & Wizardry is not a complete set of rules. It’s a rules template.
(We wonder if the designers knew this all along).
Swords & Wizardry is Dungeons & Dragons broken down into its basic elements.
Yes, it says “Swords & Wizardry complete rulebook” on the cover. The rules explain character creation, equipment, spells, adventure design, monster descriptions, combat (by land, sea, and air), and even has a simple guidelines for mass combat and sieges.
Yet the rules are complete enough just to get you started. The rest is up to you and your Game Master to tailor the game to your preferences. Or, you can play the game “as is.”
In actual play, Swords & Wizardry Complete works. Players grasp the system with ease. You can roll up characters and be playing in 15 minutes.
It may take time, however, for players used to newer, rules-heavy, systems to adapt. (“Where’s my ‘spot check’?” “Do I get an attack of opportunity?” etc. )
The biggest upside: Swords & Wizardry can be a breath of fresh air for a Game Master to run.
Get this if: You want to play an “old school” RPG. You have the original D&D books from the 1970s, but would like a common reference point. You’re a game master who wants a “rules lite” system that can customized to your tastes.
Don’t get this if: You prefer games with rules that try to cover every eventuality, game balance, or you like lots of rules for character building. You’re a rules lawyer.