Review Let's Read Sword World 2.5!

Iosue

Hero
Continuing the Magic section of the Data chapter...

Holy Magic
This is your typical cleric support and healing magic, in Sword World wielded only by those with the Priest skill package. Although not as distinct as the domains of 5e, depending on which deity the Priest is a devotee of, they get Special Holy Magic: spells unique to that deity.

Level 1: Sanity (removes the effect of spells affecting the mind), Banish (random ill effects for Barboros and undead), Field Protection (area effect; those who receive it take -1 damage for 18 rounds)

Level 2: Awaken (awakens unconscious 0 or negative HP characters with 1 HP), Cure Wounds (medium power healing), Detect Faith (caster learns who a priest is a devotee to, and the characteristics of that deity)

Level 3: Cure Blindness (self-explanatory), Cure Poison (self-explanatory), Field Resist (-3 damage from a specified property), Force (basic damage spell)

Level 4: Sacred Weapon (cast on 1 targer for +1 to-hit, +2 damage vs Barboros and undead), Sacred Shield (-3 physical damage from Barboros and undead), Faith Indicate (suppresses Special Holy Magic)

Level 5: Cure Disease (self-explanatory), Cure Hurt (most powerful healing magic in Rulebook I), Transfer Mana Points (transfers casters own mana points to another), Holy Light (damage spell vs undead)

Level 6: Bless (temporary +6 to one of Dexterity, Agility, Strength, or Constitution), Holy Cradle (target recovers from a 3 hour sleep as much as from a 6 hour sleep), Remove Curse (self-explanatory)

Special Holy Magic
Lyfos, the Ancestor God

Level 2: Search Barbaros (detects Barbaros in a 30 m radius)

Level 4: Mind Sending (telepathy for 10 seconds with 1 target)

Tidan, the Sun God
Level 2: Sunlight (Lights up 20 m radius; the 1st level Sorcerer spell is only 10 m)

Level 4: Ray (damage spell, +3 damage to undead)

Kilhir, the God of Cleverness
Level 2: Penetrate (+2 to one Monster Knowledge Check)

Level 4: Weakpoint (lowers the crit value for damage to the target)

Siene, the Moon Goddess
Level 2: Night Walker (gives darkvision to the target)

Level 4: Blindness (blinds a target for three minutes)

Miltabal, the Nimble-Fingered God
Level 2: Retry (once a day, can re-roll a Skill Check Package check that takes 1 minute or more)

Level 4: Appraisal (gives a +4 to a Treasure Appraisal check)

Eev, God Shield of the Abyss
Level 2: Counter Demon (+2 Life and Spirit Resistance against effects by demons)

Level 4: Sacred Aura (adds demons to monsters affected by Sacred Weapon and Sacred Shield)

Harula, God of the Guide Star
Level 2: Star Guide (shooting star indicates location of nearest church)

Level 4: Disclose Demon (+2 to Monster Knowledge Checks for demons)

Fulsil, Goddess of Wind and Rain
Level 2: Wind Circulation (reduces affect of high or low temperatures within area)

Level 4: Cold Rain (area affect damage spell, reduces Evasion by -1)

Magitec spells come in three general types: the magisphere alters an object (such as bullets), the magisphere alters itself into some kind of device, or rarely, the magisphere acts on a target to provide some kind of buff or nerf.

Level 1: Solid Bullet (increases bullet Impact Rating), Target Sight (magisphere transforms into a gun-sight to improve to-hit +1), Flashlight (magisphere transforms to provide light), Mana Search (magisphere transforms into a magic item detector)

Level 2: Explorer Aid (magisphere transforms into visual and audio sensors to provide +2 to Search and Disable checks), Critical Bullet (increased damage and lower crit value), Healing Bullet (provides low-level healing), Knocker Bomb (transforms object into a lock-disabling bomb)

Level 3: Effect Bullet (high damage with optional damage property), Effect Weapon (gives a weapon a damage property, and boosts damage +1), Jump Boots (magisphere transforms into jump-boosting boots), Shock Bomb (transforms an object into a bomb that reduces target's Agility by -12)

Level 4: Analyze (provides information about magitec and magitec monsters), Quick-loader (loads up to the maximum for ammunition), Automobile (a large magisphere transforms into a motorcycle), Smoke Bomb (blinds any creature using the five senses, even those with darkvision)

Level 5: Shotgun Bullet (medium damage area effect), Grenade (higher damage spell), Wire Anchor (magisphere hook and lead restrains a target)

Level 6: Burst Shot (allows burst of three shots, with +2 to-hit, for medium damage), Create Weapon (magisphere transforms into a normal A-class weapon), Disguise Set (disguises target into known character or creature), Resist Bomb (damage of specified property is reduced by -4).

That concludes the Magic section. We've already looked SCAs in detail, so next time we will take a closer look at Items.
 

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Iosue

Hero
So, Items! I've been looking forward to this because I think this is one of the strengths of Sword World. There is just such a wealth of options.

The Items chapter is split into Weapons, Armor, Common Equipment & Consumables, Living Expenses & Accommodations, Poultices & Potions, Adventurer Skill Package Items, Adventure Tools, and Accoutrements.

Weapons are split into four ranks: B-rank, A-rank, S-rank, and SS-rank. Rulebook I only deals with B- and A-rank weapons. All characters start out able to use B-rank weapons, but need successive levels of Weapon Mastery (for each category of weapon) to get access to the higher ranks. With the exception of guns, weapons are classified as either sharp or blunt, and either one-handed, two-handed (or both). Some provide to-hit bonuses, some provide armor protection, still others provide additional damage.

Because SW uses Power Tables for damage instead of damage dice, they can create a wide variety of weapons: light, medium, heavy, historic, fantastic, Western European, Eastern European, Middle East, North American (the axe list includes the tomahawk), cheap, affordable, expensive, and exhorbitantly expensive. It's just a mash of variety. 25 different swords are listed, 13 kinds of axes, 8 kinds of spears, 10 different maces, 5 kinds of staves, 7 types of flail, 6 types of warhammer, 16 Grappler weapons, 15 different thrown weapons, 7 kinds of bows, 7 kinds of crossbows, and 6 different guns. For ammo, there are regular and silver versions of bullets, arrows, and crossbow bolts, as well as armor piercing arrows and bolts, and "flash-fang" arrows or bolts, which are always retrievable unless they crit.

Here's taste of the variety: the sword lists consists of (in order of strength requirement) knife, fast-spike, stiletto, dagger, kukri, shortsword, épée, Katzbalger, rapier, flyssa, saber, estoc, schiavona, defender, longsword, broadsword, talwar, bastard sword, falchion, steelblade, two-handed sword, shamshir, flamberge, greatsword, and dragonslayer.

Not the slightest attention is paid to historical accuracy or simulation. There's no reason why a shamshir should require more strength than a two-handed sword, and I suspect the image of the longsword and the broadsword are more popular fantasy than expert classification. For the most part, the differences come down to Power Table damage, handedness, and cost. I would say that choice largely comes down to what weapons you have the minimum Strength for, whether you want to go one-handed or two-handed, and then ultimately, what you can afford. From estoc on, the swords get more and more expensive. And, of course, image. Since the game aesthetic is less Lord of the Rings, and more anime/manga/Final Fantasy, just about any sword will go with any look. After all, that oversized monstrosity the Human Fighter sample character is holding is technically supposed to be a bastard sword.

Armor is split into non-metal armor (7 types), metal armor (9 types), and shields (9 types). As you might expect, the heaviest, most protective armor give you penalties to Evasion. But some Grappler-only armor actually raises it. Shields are quite interesting. A buckler provides no armor protection, but gives a +1 to Evasion, a kite shield provides both armor protection and bonus to Evasion. Some A-rank shields can even be used as a weapon.

The Common Equipment & Consumables list is the bog standard D&D equipment list. The very first thing listed is "Adventurer's Set", containing a backpack, waterskin, blanket, six torches, tinder box, 10 m of rope, and a utility knife. Pshaw! Boring. The inclusion of this list feels perfunctory.

The Living Expenses & Accommodations list has prices for rations, meals, drinks, and the like. The price for each item is the minimum, and then the Notes section for each item lists more expensive options. Perhaps the only interesting thing here is the presence of tobacco, cigarettes, and a pipe.

Poultices & Potions covers methods of HP and MP recovery. I write "poultice" for convenience, but according to the book, the use of HP restorative herbs can take many forms: making poultices, burning and inhaling the smoke, or mixing with water or alcohol. The only thing is that takes 10 minutes to prepare and take effect. At 30 G, poultices are the most cost-effective methods of party healing (without using MP), since healing potions cost a minimum of 100 G. There is also Magical Perfume, which is sprinkled on the target to restore MP. Interesting note! The effects of poultices is explicitly marked as having the poison property. Which means that if you have immunity from the poison property, these poultices don't work! In addition to three levels of healing potion, there are awaken potions, which act like a Priest's Awaken magic, and finally poison antidotes. Each item on the Poultices & Potions list has a Power Table to determine its effect. However, if administered by a Ranger, the Ranger's level and Wisdom bonus is added. This is a pretty good reason to have someone with a level or two of Ranger in the party!

Adventurer Skill Package Items are the items pretty essential to each particular Skill Package (aside from weapons and armor for the Warrior Skill Packages). Magical foci, holy symbols, magispheres, Scout tools, and ammo holders like quivers and gunbelts. The Adventure Tools list has just four items, all somewhat expensive magic items. These are ways to reduce damage or boost resistances.

The biggest list, outside Weapons, is Accoutrements. These are items, both mundane and magical, than can be equipped to various locations on the character: head, face, neck, ears, back, arms/hands, waist, and legs. You don't have to buy any of these, but they can be great for creating the image of your character.

For the head, there are 12 items that include various hats, helms and other headdress. None of them have any affect on armor. Among these are also three magic item hair accessories that can be thrown for fire, ice, or lightning damage, and a conical hat that boosts Monster Knowledge Checks.

For the face, 9 items that include masks, glasses (including sunglasses!) and two kinds of magical spectacles (one can be crushed to turn a failed save vs a sleep effect into a success, the other gives bonuses search checks).

For the ears, 5 various kinds of earrings (and a pair of earmuffs). There are two magic items: spotter doll, which is a doll-shaped earring that gives spotting advice when taking an aimed shot, and bat-shaped earrings that provide echolocation when you can't see.

For the neck, 7 items, including scarves, chokers, necklaces, and the like. There are two magic items: a charm that hangs around your neck and gives a +1 to Spoils rolls, and a necklace that gives a +1 to resistance against poison and illness effects.

For the back, 5 items that include a short cloak, a long cloak, a poncho, and two magic items: little wings that reduce falling damage, and a thermal cloak that protects against extreme temperatures.

For the arms/hands, 8 items that include rings, bracelets, gloves, and three kinds of magic rings.

For the waist, 5 items: belt, garter belt, corset, a magic belt that provides armor protection, and a magic buckle that can cast Lightning for 10 MP.

For the legs, 6 items: toe-rings, anklets, fancy shoes, boots, and for magic items, sandals that detect traps underfoot, and silent shoes that give a +2 to stealth checks.

Finally, there are 6 miscellaneous items that can be worn anywhere: scarves, bandanas, piercings, and chains. No magic items here.

I hope that gives you an idea of the rich variety of the Items section. This concludes the Data chapter of Rulebook I. Next, we get into the World of Raxia.
 

The similarities, both to earlier editions of D&D and, oddly enough, sometimes later ones are interesting. The extra spells per god seem like an earlier version of 5e's cleric domains, and rather than knowledge, life, light, nature, tempest, trickery, and war, we've got...ancestor, sun, knowledge, cleverness, nimble-fingered, shield, guide, and wind/rain.

If True Speech=wizard and Divine=cleric, Manipulation is kind of between a druid ('earth heal' etc) and the 'gray magic' we may remember from FF6 or time/space magic from FF5 and FFTactics. Magitec is its own thing.

Sword World adventurers certainly know how to accessorize.

Overall, the game seems to deprioritize any sense of realism in order to prioritize giving as many options as possible--thus the technological character classes and the weapons from around the world. It seems much more gamist and narrativist as opposed to simulationist. I kind of like it.
 

Iosue

Hero
If True Speech=wizard and Divine=cleric, Manipulation is kind of between a druid ('earth heal' etc) and the 'gray magic' we may remember from FF6 or time/space magic from FF5 and FFTactics. Magitec is its own thing.
I've been looking over Rulebooks II and III, and the Manipulation magic-user takes an interesting turn in those. At third level they get access to "Create Golem" and (with GM's approval) "Create Undead." There remains some pseudo-elemental magic and party support magic, but they essentially become Sword World animators and necromancers. In fact, Resurrection is Manipulation magic, rather than Divine/Holy.
Overall, the game seems to deprioritize any sense of realism in order to prioritize giving as many options as possible--thus the technological character classes and the weapons from around the world. It seems much more gamist and narrativist as opposed to simulationist. I kind of like it.
Yes, very much agreed. Its one nod to simulationism is the way martial attacks work (attack yes or no, evade yes or no, then armor ablates damage), which I believe is a legacy mechanic from the first edition, a definitely more gritty, if not more simulationist, type of game. (As I understand it, in 1st edition your HP was set as equal to your Constitution score, so HP went up little, if at all.)

What I find interesting is how it all holds together. Which is a subjective conclusion, to be sure; I would not be surprised if some people found it too much of a hodgepodge. But to me, the artwork helps tie it all together. There is not much art in the book, and unfortunately I could not find much of that online to include in this thread. But you can see it in the sample character artwork. I was listening to a Japanese podcast discussing 2.0, and they made the point: Sword World RPG is Dragon Quest. Sword World 2.0 (and thus 2.5) is Final Fantasy. If you're familiar with, and accepting of, the Final Fantasy design aesthetic, it's very easy to get on board with the "anything goes" vibe of SW 2.5.
 

Iosue

Hero
So what exactly is the World of Sword World?

The original setting of Sword World was Forcelia, which was the setting for Lodoss, Crystania, and a number of other properties across various media. But with the change to a new edition with Sword World 2.0, they made a clean break with Forcelia and introduced an entirely different world: Raxia. Sword World 2.0 focused on the continent of Terastier, and after 10 years of setting supplements covering every region of that, the setting of 2.5 turned to the continent of Alfleim. (Incidentally, I got that spelling by tweeting directly to Kei Kitazawa, the writer/designer of 2.0 and 2.5. Nice guy!)

The World chapter is split into three main parts: Sword World Raxia, which covers the creation, gods, and history of Raxia, Adventurers, which covers how PCs fit into that world, and the Stage for Adventure, which goes into detail about Alfleim, in particular the region of Burlight. The first two parts are essentially ported over directly from the 2.0 rules.

The Three Swords
It seems like in the run-up to 2.0, the designers said to themselves, "Okay, we've got a game called 'Sword World.' But why is it called that? What kind of setting could justifiably be called a sword world?" And the answer is, a world created by swords, of course. In this case, three godlike swords of unknown provenance: Lumiere, Sword of Harmony; Ignis, Sword of Release; and Caldier, Sword of Wisdom. Hoping to be needed by somebody, to be wielded by somebody, these three Swords of Genesis spread life on the barren world. Humans were the first to become aware of the Swords. One human took hold of Lumiere, and made powerful by it, began shaping the world. This human began to be revered by the other humans as one chosen by the Sword, and became Lyfos, the Ancestor God. Lyfos shared the power of Lumiere with others, who in their turn also became as gods, and through their actions the races of the Elves and Dwarves came about.

Another human found Ignis, and because he was self-centered and bellicose, he decided to make war on the other gods. This human became Dalkrem, the God of War. He raised massive armies, and experimented with creating various monsters for his war. Thus began the War of the Gods. However, neither the wielders of Lumiere nor the wielders of Ignis were more powerful than the other, creating a stalemate. Whoever could get Caldier to join their side would get the upper-hand. But Caldier, not wanting to be part of the war, burst itself into millions of pieces scattered around the world. With no way to break the stalemate, the war continued, until Lumiere and Ignis were lost, and the gods went into slumber to heal their wounds. And that left the world to the mortals, "the small people."

Though the gods no longer wage their war, still among the "small people" there is a division between the "good peoples" who desire Harmony (humans, elves, dwarves, etc.) and the "Barbaros" who desire Release, and the battles continue.

The Magic Swords
In the mythic age, copies of Lumiere were made, and then copies of the copies, and copies of those copies, and so on. The magic swords (and other weapons) that can be obtained by adventurers today have but a sliver of the power of the original. It is said that a third-generation copy was enough to bestow godhood onto a human. These lesser swords, though not able to speak, nevertheless had wills, and like the Swords of Genesis, desired to be wielded. So through the centuries, these magic swords would bury themselves in deep labyrinths, awaiting a tested and worthy hand. Various monsters would be summoned to guard the labyrinths, and irrational traps would be set. And adventurers would come to try and obtain the swords. Some of these labyrinths still exist, with magic swords awaiting in their bowels. Others have had their magic sword retrieved long ago, and now new occupants have taken residence in the mazes. Some of these known Magic Sword Labyrinths go down 50 levels or more, and have hundreds of adventurers trying to reach the treasures within. And some towns or cities have sprung up at the site of these labyrinths.

And so, Sword World thus explains why there are crazy dungeons, making no sense, full of monsters to fight and treasures to find. GMs don't even have to try and justify what any particular dungeon once was, why it became the way it is, and why it's designed to defy all logic and reason. "Magic sword," is all they have to say, and the players will go, "Right, sounds legit."

Is this World sword-y enough for you? If not, there's more! Some magic swords are called Guardian Swords, and during the age of the Magitec Civilization, many were of these were made. These swords cannot be approached by those with Impurity in their soul. The more Impurity they have, the stronger the effect. Many of these guardian swords were lost in the Diabolic Triumph, but some still remain, guarding nations and cities from the Barbaros.

But these Guardian Swords need Sword Shards to be maintained. No one knows exactly what they are, but because they are small, sharp metal objects in appearance, they are called this. They are found in the bodies of powerful and leader-level monsters, and they float up and appear after those monsters are defeated. Adventurers retrieve these shards and donate them to their cities (through their guild) in exchange for status and renown.

A Fourth Sword?
Though the most widely believed legends talk of the three Swords of Genesis, some theories say there were actually four, or even more, swords. The fourth sword is said to be called Fortona, and it is also known as the "Sword of Destiny," or the "God-Breaker Sword." If one were to find this Sword, one might even be able to kill a god, or to have one's most earnest wish granted, after which the Sword would again disappear...

At this point, I've typed "sword" so much that the word has practically lost all meaning, so I'll stop here. Next time, we'll take a closer look at the races of Raxia, and its four ages.
 
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Anyone translated the 1st edition Sword World RPG? I guess it would be even more of a niche interest.

The sword thing is kind of funny to me too. Again, realism isn't really a consideration. I wonder how different the cultural symbolism is over there--Americans were obsessed with the magical powers of Japanese katanas a few decades back, but from what I can gather it's just another kind of sword over there. Japan actually sounds more similar to Europe than its neighbor China with the feuding feudal samurai pushing around and occasionally beheading the peasants, rather than a big bureaucracy of scholar-officials (which I am sure was just as bad).

It's interesting they've kept up the division between good and bad races (Barbaros) D&D is backpedaling away from for the past 20 years. My best guess is Japan, being more homogenous, is a lot less worried about the real-life interpretations of such things.
 

Iosue

Hero
Anyone translated the 1st edition Sword World RPG? I guess it would be even more of a niche interest.
I've looked around and have found exactly zero hits for English discussion about 1st edition. Which is a little funny, because it came out in 1989, and there was a whole lotta Internet between that and 2008 when 2.0 came out. But no, a mention by Andy Kitkowski in 2003 blog post, an RPG.net post in 2007 mentioning the Lodoss War connection, but no actual gameplay discussion.

The sword thing is kind of funny to me too. Again, realism isn't really a consideration. I wonder how different the cultural symbolism is over there--Americans were obsessed with the magical powers of Japanese katanas a few decades back, but from what I can gather it's just another kind of sword over there.
The katana is so blase to the designers of Sword World that in three core rulebooks, containing weapons from all over the world, it doesn't get even one mention. But then, there is a veneer of exoticness to the setting. I mean, the book writes "hajimari no ken" for the Three Swords, but says that this is pronounced "Swords of Genesis." (lit. soozu obu jeneshisu). So I can see them refraining from putting clearly Japanese cultural markers in the game, not because of realism, but just for consistency. (In the replay I've read, the characters are naturally completely Japanese, even bowing when saying thanks.)
Japan actually sounds more similar to Europe than its neighbor China with the feuding feudal samurai pushing around and occasionally beheading the peasants, rather than a big bureaucracy of scholar-officials (which I am sure was just as bad).
Okay, this is pretty far afield, so I'm putting it in spoiler blocks, but you've hit on something of a pet peeve with the popular perception of kirisute-gomen, the putative right of samurai to behead commoners. (It's also copy-paste of another post I made long ago on another forum, so please don't take it as directly addressing you, @Blue Orange.)
[A} samurai cutting down a peasant for a slight provocation....never happened. When I say "never" I mean, it wasn't the done thing by law abiding samurai living their lives. Samurai who cut down peasants for no reason were psychopaths and murderers -- they were definitely not sanctioned by the domains and the Shogunate. The kirisute-gomen was permission by the samurai, as a representative of the Shogunate (as all samurai were) to render summary judgment in the event a person challenged the authority of the Shogunate (represented in the person of the samurai). It was not carte blanche to kill commoners at will.

A samurai who did burei-uchi (striking for insult) was required to immediately go to the local authorities and report his action in writing. His sword would then be confiscated as evidence. He would be under house arrest for at least 20 days while the matter was investigated. He required one witness to attest that the matter was grave enough to merit burei-uchi. If he did not fulfill the above conditions, he was beheaded. He was not given the honorable execution of seppuku, but beheaded as a criminal. His property would be confiscated and his family would lose [samurai] status. Even if he did fulfill all the conditions, if the investigation found that burei-uchi was not warranted (because the samurai instigated the altercation, or because it was felt the offense could have been beared, etc), he still faced punishment ranging from demotion from rank, to stripping of [samurai] status, to being ordered to commit seppuku.

If the samurai drew his sword for burei-uchi, but his intended target escaped, he could be charged and punished for needlessly drawing his sword and causing a disturbance. Further, the commoner in question had an absolute right of self-defense, and if he in turn killed the samurai he would not be punished. And in the event that the burei-uchi was successful, and found justified, there was still a chance that the samurai in question would find himself in hot water with the domain in which it happened, and while he might not be punished, there would be non-legal repercussions.

As a result, there are very, very few, if any, records of samurai using the kirisute-gomen.

It's interesting they've kept up the division between good and bad races (Barbaros) D&D is backpedaling away from for the past 20 years. My best guess is Japan, being more homogenous, is a lot less worried about the real-life interpretations of such things.
There is certainly that. And change comes slowly in Japan in any case. But, (and I'm kinda skipping ahead to the next section here), it does say of the "good peoples", "while these people are basically of a warm and peaceful nature, after many long years of war, there are an increasing number of individuals who have warlike personalities." And of the Barbaros, it writes, "While most consider the good peoples as the finest treats, and try to capture and eat them, there are some starting to appear who have warm and peaceful personalities." Monster and monster-adjacent PC races were introduced in supplements late in 2.0's life, and it's expected that similar races will released for 2.5 eventually, as well.

I don't feel this has anything to do with social change, but just comes from the need for content, and player interest asking for it.
 

Iosue

Hero
Further exploration of the World of Sword World...

This next section is called the People and Things that Make Up the World. It starts with a description of the jinzoku. This word is something of a translation trap. I've been translating it as "the good peoples," and occasionally "humankind." Literally, it's a neologism that means "people-tribe", and refers to "the general term for the intelligent lifeforms brought about and guided by Lyfos and the other gods of 'harmony.'" In other words, the PC races. As I noted in the previous post, it says, "While these people are basically of a warm and peaceful nature, after many long years of war, there are an increasing number of individuals who have warlike personalities."

Next are the banzoku, another translation trap. Literally, this means "barbarian tribes." Therefore, the designers thought it would be clever for their in-world name to be "Barbaros," (barubarosu) the Greek word from which "barbarian" comes. Because even if the Japanese audience might know the English word "barbarian", they're not likely to know the Greek word it comes from! Which kinda puts the translator in a tough spot: translate banzoku as "barbarians" and the name "Barbaros" is going to be a bit on-the-nose. (The fan translation translates both banzoku and "Barbaros" as "barbarous", which I dislike because it uses a regular English adjective as a non-capitalized proper noun.) What I've done is just always use "Barbaros," which naturally suggests "barbarian" to English-speakers, for both banzoku and Barubaros, even though in-world the former is humankind's name for them, and the latter is their name for themselves. The game defines this group as "the races, such as bolg, ogres, and drakes, transformed into fiendish forms by the power of the savage gods of 'release' wielding the Second Sword." As a class of monsters, banzoku refers to the monstrous humanoids of that world.

The game next describes "mana" as the magic element scattered through the world when the Third Sword, Caldier, destroyed itself. Mana is all around and cannot be seen, except in that it powers magical effects. Underground, however, it crystalizes. These mana crystals can be used to augment one's personal supply of mana. From this, some believe that the Swords of Genesis were mana crystals of the highest purity.

Next are Runefolk and Generators. Runefolk were created by the Magitec Civilization, using Generators that combined tissue (hair, nails, blood) of living creatures with a special culture solution, magic and technology. If a Generator is working right, the Runefolk can choose their appearance and gender, but if it is malfunctioning, the Runefolk end up resembling their "parents", that is, the people who contributed the tissue. There is not large amounts of the culture solution remaining, so generally one generator only makes one Runefolk in a year. The Runefolk tend to settle around these generators to protect them, and the one's who have been operating them longest become the community leaders. After a few years of education, Runefolk leave to travel and find their own way of life.

Next comes a small passage on "souls" and "Impurity." "Souls" is pretty straightforward, but "impurity" translates kegare, which can mean, along with that, "uncleanliness," or "defilement." (Fan translation calls it "soulscar.") In Sword World, souls were spread among the living things by the gods, and when a soul's body dies, the soul goes to the gods to be a warrior in the coming battle among the gods. But weaker souls are sent back to the world of the living, in order to accrue more power through life experience. So, Sword World cosmology is something of Buddhism through Norse myth: reincarnation, but also dying to became a warrior for the gods.

However, if a soul breaks this cycle by being resurrected, then the soul takes on some amount of "impurity." A small amount of impurity can be washed away by going through the cycle, but a great deal of impurity will require many turns through the cycle to deal with. And if the impurity becomes too much, the soul will become undead. The Barbaros already have a heavy amount of impurity, given to them by the savage gods to "release" their innate power. So if they die, they aren't resurrected, as they will immediately become undead. Because the humankind societies avoid "impurity", they have a tendency to put distance between them and the resurrected and Nightmares.

Astronomically, Raxia is a world like our own, of essentially the same size, with twelve 30-day months, and 24 hours in a day, one sun, one moon, and stars at night. During the Magitec Civilization, it was known that Raxia was one of a number of celestial bodies, but now it's widely believed that there's nothing but a expanse of nothingness outside of Raxia, and its status as a planet is now known only by a few sages.

Raxia history is split into four ages. The Shunelua Age, over 10,000 years ago, was the time of the Divine Civilization. A time of peace when the gods walked the earth, and many wondrous things were made. This civilization ended when Dalkrem started the God War. Then came the Durandil Age, the time of the Magic Civilization. This was when the first advancements in magic as we now know it were begun, and the civilization was ruled by powerful Mage Kings. Many powerful artifacts were created in this age. It fell 3,000 years ago. In most of Raxia, it is not known why, but in Alfleim it is believed that this was when the Abyss was opened. (The Abyss is a portal to another dimension which we will discuss later.) After this civilization came the Al Menas Age, the time of the Magitec Civilization. This civilization fell 300 years ago, with the advent of the Diabolic Triumph.

The Barbaros had been hiding underground for hundreds of years, gathering their strength. Then they suddenly attacked with extreme force and ferocity. There were terrible changes in the weather, lands split apart, the seas were turbulent, and there were great disasters that changed the face of continents. Due to this, it is thought that the king of the Barbaros has obtained Ignis, the Second Sword. Many nations, and much of civilization was destroyed as the Barbaros expanded their domains. Then the war ended when the king of the Barbaros was slain. No one now knows exactly how this happened. The most common theory is that it was done by a single hero wielding a Magic Sword, possibly Lumiere itself, or perhaps Fortona. Another, less widely believed theory is that there is no way this could have been done by a single hero, and it was the result of a surprise counterattack by some nation.

Now, 300 years later, many nations have been lost, and many of the links between surviving nations have been severed. But humankind civilization was barely saved. Now many are hard at work at restoration. There are many projects to excavate ruins, and find the treasures of the old civilization. And then there are still areas where the Barbaros hold sway, or try to invade. It is now an age of adventurers, who are highly valued as they search for old treasures and fight off the invading hordes.

Next time, the role of Adventurers in Sword World.
 

Thanks for clearing that up about random beheadings and kirisute-gomen. I guess it was kind of like 'right of the first night' on this side of the Urals--one of those stories about the aristocracy told by later eras to make themselves look better.

The translation bits are also fascinating--it's really hard to translate a document written by a completely different culture, with completely different cultural touchstones, and find something analogous. Spiritual taint can carry forward into later incarnations, as in Buddhism, rather than giving you a binary (or trinary) outcome at death, as in the West. There's also something amusing about seeing bits of your own culture used as 'exotic flavor'. (Perhaps it's only amusing because my country won WW2, though.)

The four ages seem positively Tolkienian though. The 'lost civilization with advanced technology' trope seems inspired by the old Victorian one (think H. Rider Haggard's 'She' and more familiar to most, Lovecraft's 'At The Mountains of Madness'), but there may be local legends of which I am unaware!

Thanks so much for this fascinating window into a game I will probably never get to play!
 

Iosue

Hero
This post will be mostly about the game's concept of Adventurers, but first a little clean up on the gods.
The gods are split into three groups: Ancient Gods are those who originally wielded one of the Three Swords. They are:
Lyfos (lai-fohs) - the Ancestor--no, wait, really this should be translated as the Progenitor God. As the god of Harmony and Friendship, he promotes peace and conflict avoidance, but is willing to proactively battle the Barbaros and demons.
Tidan (tee-dahn) - the Sun God. Lyfos's right-hand man during the age of the Divine Civilization. Also peace loving, but very much very much against the undead.
Dalkrem - the God of War. Likes war and the breaking of strictures. Mostly worshiped by Barbaros, but with a few humans.
Kilhir - God of Cleverness and Neutrality. The only ancient God to attain godhood by touching Caldier.
Noted in passing but not described in Rulebook I are Asteria, Fairy Goddess and progenitor of the Elves, and Grendahl, Martial Emperor of Fire, a god of destruction and rebuilding worshiped by both Dwarf warriors and Barbaros.

The Major Gods were later gods brought to godhood by the Ancient Gods. Some date back to the Divine Civilization, but others are from later periods. They are:
Siene (seen) - The Moon Goddess. Wife of Tidan, and made a god by him. As goddess of the night, often favored by drinking establishments and brothels.
Miltabal - the Nimble-Fingered God. A god of wisdom and skill, made into a god by Kilhir. Often worshiped by adventurers (who pray to him when trying to detect traps!).
Eev - God Shield of the Abyss. A relatively recent god, since the Abyss was opened only 3,000 years ago. Protects people from the Abyss.
Harula - God of the Guide Star. The younger sister of Eev. Represented by the Pole Star.

The Minor Gods have become gods relatively recently, and as yet only have a few followers, usually tied to a particular region. There is only one mentioned in the book:
Fulsil - Goddess of Wind and Rain. A god local to Burlight region of Alfleim. Thought to be the daughter of Tidan and Siene.

So, the concept of Adventurers. These arose after the Diabolic Triumph, when warriors and armies were busy pushing back the Barbaros hordes, and adventurers took up the slack by becoming freelance troubleshooters. There is a network of Adventurers Guilds throughout Alfleim, which compete with each other while also being tied together by the regional and city Guild Branches. Aspiring adventurers can register with a guild, and get jobs off its job board. (If you feel you've seen this kind of thing in various fantasy anime and light novels, this is where they get it from.)

The origins of this guild network are said to lie in the opening of the Abyss 3,000 years ago. Although the Abyss itself was sealed, it continued to emanate what are called "Shallow Abyss". These are magical zones that can appear anywhere on the continent, and need to be dealt with swiftly before they grow. Thus, from the Wall Guardians (those who guard the Wall of the Abyss) came the Adventurers Guilds network, designed to quickly find and dispose of these Shallow Abyss. But they also take other work as needed, primarily exploring ruins and monster fighting.

There is a code among adventurers, unwritten rules that go as follows:
Adventurers don't fight each other. Because adventurers should work together, fighting with other adventurers is considered the greatest taboo.
No two adventurers (adventurer parties) can take on the same job. Once taken on, a job can be taken on by another adventuring group only if the first one gives up or is killed without completing.
Ruin exploration is first come, first served. If ancient ruins are discovered, the discoverers get the right to explore it. But the discoverers may forfeit this right, or allow other adventuring groups to explore it, something which often happens for large-scale ruins.
Adventurers help other adventurers. Adventurers are encouraged to help other adventurers in need as much as possible, and if they come across fallen adventurers, should bring the bodies home.

We can see that his basic set-up, laid out very clearly in the core rules, plays to the standard style of play in Japan. Among the adult population, at least, on-going weekly games are not really a thing, due to houses being too small to host many people at once, and work schedules being hard to line up, with overtime often required. So what is more common are monthly games of 5+ hours at time, in which one-shots are played. Sometimes characters are carried over from session to session, but it's also not unusual for a GM to just say, "This will be an adventure for X-level adventurers, so bring characters for that level." And then players might make entirely new characters at that level for that session. So these setting conceits fit nicely in with this style. The goals of the adventure come from the guild, you already have a ready-made reason for a diverse group of characters working together, and you can usually wrap up the adventure in one session.
 

Iosue

Hero
So when random bits of a hell dimension show up and menace your post-apocalyptic civilization, what kind of adventurer infrastructure might spring up to deal with that? Here we find out, with Adventurers and Related Organizations. In 2.0, Adventurers Guilds were simply A Thing, common, competing organizations that dealt with the dangers endemic to Terestier. In 2.5, they're given a bit more background and structure.

On Alfleim, Adventurers Guilds are not just independent organizations, but part of a network of guild branches, with the Guild Headquarters located near the Wall of the Abyss. As a result, adventurers can report their successes to their affiliated guild, and this information will be spread out to the other guild branches. Thus any rank and recognition adventurers get from their local guild will transfer to other adventurers guilds as well. However, while guilds are part of an information network, their finances are done by independent accounting. Thus, each guild is responsible for keeping its doors open, and this creates a certain degree of competition among guilds in the bigger cities. There, it's not uncommon to see multiple guilds lining both sides of a street.

Guilds make revenue first by receiving a retaining fee when someone requests guild help. It is from this money that guilds pay adventurers their commissions. They also buy unneeded items or spoils brought in by their adventurers, and resell them to those that want them. Accordingly, adventurers who can frequently bring in valuable items for the guild to redistribute are highly valued. The profits from such transactions allow the guilds to cover adventurer rewards for requests from those in need who can't pay the usual fees. Helping the weak is, after all, the raison d'etre for guilds in the first place.

In many cases, guilds will also operate an in-house tavern/inn for adventurers. That's right. You not only meet in an inn, that inn is your guildhouse! The first floor will be a tavern or eatery where adventurers can trade information as they look at the job board, and then there will be rooms to stay in on the second floor. Guilds offer these services to adventurers at low prices. Guilds also offer basic financial services to adventurers, giving no-collateral, no-interest loans of up to 300 G, or in the case of resurrection, up to the full cost of the resurrection. They have great security for these loans, because repayment is taken straight out of adventurers' rewards. And adventurer can also arrange with the guild for a rescue (or corpse retrieval) party to be sent if they do not return from a job after a set number of days.

After the fall of the Magic Civilization, magic-users, who were the ones in power when the civilization collapsed, began to be persecuted and excluded from communities. Magicians Guilds were then formed to help protect them. They were closed, secret societies until the Diabolic Triumph. By working to help people at that time, and making common cause and networking with the adventurers guilds, they came to be accepted, and even depended on, by the common people...if still a little feared. On each continent, there is also tower called a "Sword of Knowledge", located far away from inhabited areas, where particularly gifted magic-users can train.

Temples to the gods are found in almost all humankind settlements, in particular those of Lyfos and Tidan. Like adventurers guilds, temples do not fight with the temples of other gods, although there does exist some competition and differences of opinion between them. Still the temples of the gods associated with Lumiere do have an adversarial relationship with temples to the savage gods of Ignis, and will often promote the driving off of Barbaros.

Magitec Associations exist to promote and guide the use of magitec, and work for the restoration of much of what lost after the Diabolic Triumph. They often cooperate with and invest in adventurers guilds, and it is not unusual to see them share the same building.

On the surface, Antiquity Guilds exist to collect and redistribute remains collected from the Magic and Magitec Civilizations. In reality, they are fronts for Thieves Guilds. This is typically known by the local authorities, but implicitly allowed because Thieves Guilds are often located in the poor parts of town, and help keep the peace there. Adventurers Guilds are the most stand-up organizations there are, but they have a give-and-take relationship with the Thieves Guilds in order to maintain underground information networks. The Thieves Guilds also send jobs to the Adventure Guilds.

As mentioned in my previous post, aside from helping deal with Shallow Abysses, the two primary jobs of adventurers are ruin exploration and monster fighting. Ruin exploration is the most well-known of adventurers' jobs. Because clearly held territories are relatively small, most ruins are found in extra-territorial areas, and thus finders-keepers rules prevail. Adventurers can keep whatever they find, and anything they don't need they can sell to the Guild. Ruins to be explored are often found and reported to the Guild by people called Finders. Finders are independents who locate the ruins, and may even guide adventurers there, but generally do not enter themselves. They receive a fee of at least 100 G, or even higher if the site looks promising, paid (by the adventurers, through the guild) once the exploration expedition returns.

When it comes to monster fighting, most large settlements are protected by Guardian Swords, which send out a protective magical barrier that keep Barbaros away. But this barrier is stronger the stronger the Barbaros is, so conversely it is not so effective against weaker Barbaros like goblins and bolgs. This is where adventurers come in. Barbaros leaders often have Sword Shards, which if collected after defeating those leaders, can be turned in for money. But more commonly, Sword Shards are simply gifted back to the settlement so that it can maintain its Guardian Sword. In return, adventurers get Prestige.

(Prestige is not really explained in Rulebook I, so a quick summary from Rulebook II. Prestige points are accumulated from turning Sword Shards and Abyss Shards (and at the GM's discretion). They can be turned in purchase ranks within Guild or unique special/magic items.)

That concludes the Adventurers section. Next up, a look at Alfleim, the continent that is the setting of SW 2.5!
 

LOL. They invent rationales for the dungeon, magician, cleric, magitec, and thief guilds (complete with cover story for the last one), the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, and even how you find the dungeon. The creativity on display is amazing. You wonder if these guys could find success running political campaigns.
 

Iosue

Hero
LOL. They invent rationales for the dungeon, magician, cleric, magitec, and thief guilds (complete with cover story for the last one), the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, and even how you find the dungeon. The creativity on display is amazing. You wonder if these guys could find success running political campaigns.
Yeah, it's very Plug-and-Play. Of course, you can always come up with new and innovative ways to get the party together, or feed them plot hooks to get into the game, and the replays do demonstrate this. But, there's always the option of just going, "The guildmaster says a new job's come in. 'Ruin exploration. Possibly a magic sword labyrinth. You four should work together on it. Here's the Finder, he'll guide you there. Pay him 100 G when you get back.'"
 

Iosue

Hero
When I did the brief summary of the gods, it was essentially with the idea that, "OK, gods, some good, some bad, pretty standard for D&D, nothing to see her, let's get to the interesting stuff." But on reflection, I think there's a little more that I should unpack there.

At first glance, SW seems pretty simple. The "good" (player character) races are over here. The bad (monster) races are over there. You have the "good" gods over here, and the "bad" gods over there, and a couple of gods in the middle. And it is that simple. But that doesn't mean that it's not subtle.

Obviously, the Three Swords cosmology is reminiscent of D&D's three-axis alignment system. But here are the sample portfolios given for gods of Lumiere: harmony, creation, fertility, peace, knowledge, arts/crafts.

For gods of Ignis there are: release, destruction, regeneration, freedom, strength, artistic skill

For gods of Caldier, there are: wisdom, thought, exploration, magic, mana.

There are a number of portfolios for the Ignis gods that seem quite good! And there are these subtle little hooks, dropped throughout the text. Like, Grendahl is worshipped by dwarves and some Barbaros. Checking Rulebook II, Grendahl is a god of Lumiere. In the description for Lyfos, after describing how peaceful and harmonious he is, it notes that he is "negative" towards Impurity. Which is okay, but there is an entire "good guy" race whose defining characteristic is that they have Impurity! And it's of course noticeable that rather than pick a side in the cosmic struggle, Caldier chose to blow itself up.

It's not that Sword World sits on some edgy fence, intimating that "Good" is just a different kind of "Bad," and only Grey Jedi understand the truth. Barbaros, on the whole, eat people. They join with demons from a hell dimension to menace the world. You can play it totally straight. But it does have these places to swerve and introduce more nuanced conflict.
 

Iosue

Hero
Let's talk about Alfleim, the Cursed and Blessed Land.

Alfleim is roughly the size of North America, with similar climate zones. The first records of it go back to the middle of the Magic Civilization. Based on the research of Magictec Civilization archaeologists, it was thought that Alfleim was spared much of the ravages of the God War, and so afterward, the peoples of Alfleim, centered on the Lycants, lived in relative peace and prosperity. It is also thought that Alfleim was the site of where Caldier burst itself, and so the continent was rich in mana and magic crystals. But in the middle of the Magic Civilization era, powerful Mage Kings crossed over from another continent, and began taking over.

The Mage Kings enslaved the Lycants, and began engaging in deep magical research. The results of these experiments was the creation of a giant gate to another dimension, from which poured countless demons. The giant Wall of the Abyss was built to seal this gate, but the opening of the Abyss led to the fall of the Magic Civilization.

This gave way to the Magitec Civilization, during which Alfleim flourished again. A great Magitec railroad connected every city and flying ships carried people across the sky. Guardian Swords kept the Barbaros at bay, and protection against the Abyss was strengthened. Then it all fell apart when the Barbaros attacked during the Diabolic Triumph. Coordination between the Adventurers Guilds and the Magicians Guilds barely kept civilization on Alfleim from being completely wiped out. Some of humankind gathered around the heroes of that time to create new kingdoms, while in other regions there are republics, keeping tradition from the time of the Magitec Civilization.

These nations, such as they are, are more like city-states. The lines of travel and communication between them are attenuated, and what trade and communications go on are generally facilitated by merchants and adventurers. Most common people die having never left their birthplace. Even those in armies and knightly orders are concerned mainly with protecting their own nations, and do not often venture out of them.

There are many ruins on Alfleim, containing lost magitec and stores of magic crystals. There are two distinct features: one are the Magitec Colossi. These were once powerful Magitec weapons, but are now non-functional, found lying inert in different areas of Alfleim. They stand 100 meters (roughly 300 feet) tall. These days people mine them for parts, devices, and material. Or, sometimes, the magic sword that once powered them has created a labyrinth within the Colossus. The other feature are floating stones. Among the large amount of magic crystal in Alfleim there is also a mineral called manatite. Manatite reacts against gravity, and thus floats. During the geologic upheavals of the Diabolic Triumph, large deposits of manatite were thrown into the air, where they've continued to float. Some of these floating manatite rocks are the size of small islands, becoming floating magic crystal mines.

But the defining feature of Alfleim, its major contribution to Raxia lore, has to be the Abyss, located in the sea off the extreme north coast of the continent. It is always written with the characters for "Naraku," that is Naraka, the Buddhist concept of hell. But above the characters, syllabary characters indicate it should be pronounced "abisu," IOW, Abyss. The gate to the Abyss was apparently torn open when a large-scale demon summoning ritual went terribly wrong. The Mage Kings of that time gave their lives to seal the Abyss, and erect the Wall of the Abyss. The Wall is 100 meters high, and thousands of kilometers long. The Wall is to protect Alfleim from stray demons who get through the seams and frays in the barrier seal. It is manned by the Wall Guardians, brave, badass warriors who are the shield for humankind, and could be said to be the origins of adventurers.

Though sealed and walled off, the Abyss nevertheless has an effect on the continent. Throughout the continent, bits of Abyss-space will appear. The name for this Abyss-space is written with the characters for "Magic Zone of the Abyss", but the pronunciation is indicated as "Shallow Abyss." When Shallow Abyss first appear, they are like void black balls about 1 meter (3 feet) across. These can be destroyed relatively easily. But if left on its own, the Shallow Abyss begins to expand, sometimes as large as hundreds of meters across. To destroy these larger Shallow Abysses, they must be entered. Inside is a kind of pocket dimension, the form of which is completely variable. Somewhere inside is the Abyss Core, a small sword-shaped crystal of pitch black. When this is destroyed, the Shallow Abyss dissipates, and an Abyss Shard is all that remains. The Abyss Shard can be turned into the guild for money. As a Shallow Abyss grows, it will summon a demon to protect its Core. Often the demon will then pervert whatever kind of environment (forest, mountain, sea, etc.) the Shallow Abyss has taken on. Those of weak wills who happen to enter a Shallow Abyss will be shown whatever they desire, and this will also work to shape the form of the Shallow Abyss.

Once entered, it may be impossible to leave the Shallow Abyss without destroying its Core. Once the Core is destroyed, an exit appears that can be used until the Shallow Abyss dissipates. Failure to leave before then could result being trapped in the pocket dimension forever! However, in addition to the exit that appears when the Core is destroyed, sometimes demons residing in the Shallow Abyss create exits so that they can pass in and out between the Shallow Abyss and the real world. If these are created, the characters can use them, too.

The game helpfully explains these in very clear terms. They are "wilderness dungeons," in contrast to the magic sword dungeons. Enclosed spaces with which GMs may do essentially whatever they like, without much concern for reality or pragmatism. The Shallow Abyss can swallow up objects and structures in the real world, or include various magical strongholds to explore.

As near as I can tell, SW 2.5 has no rules for traveling. Not even distance-traveled rates. This essentially fits the common gaming style in Japan of self-contained one-shots. No need to take too much time traveling to where the action is. So along with urban adventures taking place in the city-states, Shallow Abyss adventures offer an opportunity to explore a wilderness, within constraints, and offer an alternative to the traditional dungeon setting.

Reading this description of Alfleim, I got very strong Wheel of Time vibes (seal of evil in the north, post-apocalyptic city-states) mixed with a bit of Song of Ice and Fire (giant wall against evil to the north, Wall Guardians). Of course the Magitec Colossi are very Nausicaa-esque. And I continue to find it interesting how they marry setting lore with metagame mechanics. The Abyss is not just local color, nor even an adventure hook, it actually creates the conditions around which the GM can structure their scenario.
 

Iosue

Hero
Unlike my Let's Read of Moldvay Basic D&D, where just about any piece of art found therein was available on the net, there's a real dearth of SW 2.5 art. The core ruluboos don't have much in the first place. However, looking at the SW 2.5 page on the publisher's website, I found some art that might be interesting.

Here is the sample character art, in full color:
21842d5288e6307bc793791fb6866cb7.jpg

Left to right, that's Tabbit, Human, Runefolk, Elf, male Dwarf, female Dwarf, Nightmare, and Lycant.

I like this blurb for the new Fellow rules just for the picture in the middle conceptualizing the full-powered Elf Priestess PC becoming a Fellow:
11e8296659fd3ad4ae3dfc757414827c.jpg


Finally, there's this picture, which has the map of the Burlight region I was looking for:
acf69e7afa71dabff6c9e7b0e0b6d352.jpg

Note the illustration of a Shallow Abyss in the lower right corner.

The World chapter ends with some description of the Burlight region of Alfleim. Located on the southern tip of the continent, it has a temperate climate, never getting very cold, but nevertheless having four seasons. (Not surprisingly, this is very much the climate of the Kansai region of Japan, where GroupSNE is located.) This section is split into three parts, South, East, and West, each describing 3 or 4 locales in that region.

We start with the South, where the Kingdom of Harves (har-vess) is located. Harves is the largest, most active nation in the region, with 80,000 people. The book kindly provides a demographic breakdown of the populace: 40% Human and 30% Lycant, with other races making up the remaining 30%. The capital city, also called Harves, is located right where the Walta River splits into four branches before emptying into the sea, giving Harves its nickname, "the Water City." Harves is ruled by young King Weis Harves, 25 years old (practically middle-aged in shonen manga!). Harves and the neighboring kingdoms of Rahjaha and Yusiz are attempting to connect the three kingdoms through a Magitec railroad.

North of Harves lie the southern tip of the Digad Mountains. In better times, there were many mines and quarries for manatite and magic crystals. But the disruption of the Diabolic Triumph tore up the mountains, sending chunks of manatite floating in the air. Many great beasts and Barbaros now make their homes in the resulting cavities and pits, making the Digad Mountains a dangerous area.

South of Harves is the Black Spot Sea, so named because of the frequency of Shallow Abyss occurrences there. Shallow Abysses developing in the water can create whirlpools that suck ships in, and the whole phenomenon creates "Abyss Wind", which blows on Harves. When the wind is especially strong, it can create waves of famine and disease epidemics. Floating above the sea is the Sandokia Temple, about which very little has been revealed to-date.

In the East lies the Magitec Carcass District. This is a community of about 10,000 that has been built around the remains of a Magitec Colossus. The population is tremendously varied, with adventurers, researchers, thieves, fallen nobles, escaped slaves, and missionaries all living together. With no central authority, the town is defacto run by the Antiquities Guild (read=Thieves Guild), and so is considered a wretched hive of scum and villainy. The Colossus is almost completely inert, although sometimes it will still automatically create and send out magitec weapons on attack mode. The locals treat this essentially like another natural disaster to be wary of.

North of the Magitec Carcass District is the Forest of Korolopokka. The forest is filled with dangerous beasts, which grow more intelligent the further into the forest you penetrate. Broken and abandoned magitec can be found throughout the forest. In the middle of the forest is a stream. Nobody who has ever seen the stream can agree on its exact shape or color. Korolopokka is regional dialect for "must not be violated", and it is said that if anyone tries to misuse or contaminate this stream, a beautiful and powerful unicorn will appear to send you back outside the forest.

Beyond the Forest of Korolopokka is the Kingdom of Yusiz. Yusiz is magocracy, ruled by the Magnus. Magnus is the pronunciation given for Japanese characters that mean "Lord Sorcerer." The position of Magnus, however, is by appointment. Currently it is held by Vandelken Magnus, a 330-year old female Elf. Yusiz says that it dates back 3,000 years to the Magic Civilization, but no other country believes this. However, the current Magnus was alive during the Diabolic Triumph, something that adds to her mystery. In other countries, she is called "the Witch," or "the Witch of the East." Yusiz has an academy for learning magic, because Harry Potter. The academy operates on a course credit system, and has six grades, but placement in the grades depends on magical ability, not age.

In the West, there is the Jiniasta Arena. Located on the outskirts of the kingdom of Makajahat, it was built by a consortium of powerful individuals from all the various nations. Despite technically being on Makajahat territory, it is not possessed by any one country. Makajahat receives a kickback in return for leaving it to its own devices (and Makahajat does not want to piss off those who own it, anyway). Once a month, on the day of the full moon, gladiatorial contests are held from dawn to dusk. Mercenaries and adventurers from every country come to compete for prizes and renown among the powerful people who operate the Arena, and who are always in the audience. (Yes, your campaign, too, can have a Tournament Arc.)

Beyond the Arena to the northeast lies the Caslot Desert. It is thought to be the remains of a Magic Civilization country, and indeed relics and artifacts from that time can often be found there. Travel through the desert must be by camel, and it is easy even for experienced travelers to get lost. However, the train line between Harves and Rahjaha will run through here.

North of the Arena is the Rahjaha Empire. It's called an "empire", but it seems to only occupy a lonely oasis in the Caslot Desert. But, it plays a pivotal role in holding off northern Barbaros enclaves from entering into Burlight, so perhaps we can allow its pretensions to grandeur. It is ruled by Emperor Donon IV, a male dwarf. Many are not sure what to make of Rahjaha, since Donon is a strict believer in judgment by merit, and so many of the denizens of Rahjaha and the ranks of its army are made up of Nightmares, Kobolds, and even fallen Drakes. Drakes are the captains of the Barbaros army, dragon-like humanoids who are born with a magic sword. But if they somehow lose this sword, they are outcast from Barbaros society. If they vow to serve Rahjaha, and demonstrate that with their actions, Donon gives them "honorary humankind" status. Rahjaha has recently linked up with the great northern nation of the Kingsray Steel Republic via Magitec railroad, making it one important link between Harves adventurers and the domains to the north.

Finally, east of the Arena is the Kingdom of Makajahat. A kingdom of artists, it is said you can throw a rock without hitting a painter, or turn a corner without bumping into a dancer. The people are passionate and open, and the city is known for its nightlife. It is ruled by a queen named Iicula, a 20 year old Nightmare. Iicula's youth, combined with her optimistic and hedonistic personality, originally earned her such sobriquets as "The Foolish Queen," or even "The Prostitute Queen." But possessing both keen insight, and the ability to bedazzle with her speech and manner, she was soon found to be an accomplished and successful diplomat and ruler. For that, her nickname is now "The Witch of the West."

There are a number of other sites prominent on the map, but not explained in Rulebook I, chief among these being the Kingdom of Gransele to the east of Harves, at the foot of the Digard Mountains. Some of the sites are explained in Rulebook II, or in other supplements. Gransele is covered in a Starter Guide that came out shortly after release of Rulebook I, which covered both Gransele and the changes in the rules from 2.0. Some sites, however, are never explained. The Sandokia Temple being one of them. The designers seem to be looking for a balance between resources for GMs to use for their adventures, and open areas for GMs to expand out as they like. In fact, Rulebook II has a whole continent called Keldion, whose only official information is that there will never be official information for that continent. It is there for each table to use as they like. This is a tradition that goes back to the 1st edition.

Next time, we dive into the Game Mastering chapter of the book, with a look at the Role of the GM, and advice on running Sessions.
 

Iosue

Hero
I've mentioned this before, but historically, playing an ongoing campaign over weekly sessions has not been the usual mode of play for Japanese TRPG players, outside of university clubs. Small apartments with thin walls are not conducive to having 4, 5 or more players over. Even if someone should have a house, actually visiting someone at their house was not something undertaken lightly, and people did not generally hold parties in their homes. Another issue has been work schedules. Even if you were technically supposed to off at 5 or 6 PM, overtime was often expected, or could be suddenly required. All the above is a little better these days, but were particularly an issue in the late 80s and 90s when the Japanese TRPG culture matured. The standard way to play then, was to rent a space, typically at a community center, for about six hours, and try to get all your playing in once a month.

This is all to say, the playstyle of the majority of players is one-shots. Adventures that begin and end in one session. And that is the playstyle that the Sword World 2.5 describes and teaches in the Game Master chapter. So if it seems like the advice is to railroad the players, that's because the expectation is that a GM will prepare an adventure that has a beginning, middle, and end that can be reached in one session, two at the most. Progression of the adventure is an idea that comes up often.

The chapter begins by listing the roles of the GM:
Prepare the "scenario. "Scenario" is the term for what we typically call an "adventure".
Understand the rules and the world. For rules, at the very least, the rules for action checks and combat.
Answer the player's questions.
Share their image with the players. This is advice to carefully describe things so that the GM and players are on the same page. Visual aids are also recommended.
Keep attention on the session. This is advice to keep the game on track, and not get caught up in unrelated digressions.

The next section is called the Session. This is defined as, "represents a single unit of time in which SW2.5 is played. The characters of the adventurers playing one scenario from beginning to end is called 'playing a session.'" Thus, a session is one scenario, from beginning to end. The process is laid out as follows:
Preparing for the session: Before the session, the player prepare their characters, and the GM prepares the scenario. The GM can even have the characters made beforehand and prepare the scenario to fit those characters. A campaign, then, is defined as playing multiple consecutive sessions with the same characters. I would suggest that this differs a bit from our typical conception of a campaign!

Running the session:
Begin the session: The session is commenced by the GM declaring, "Now we'll start the session." The GM explains the background, and the players introduce their characters. They suggest that the GM take notes on the characters Skill Package levels and maximum HP.

Introducing the scenario: Here the GM describes the original set-up that leads into the main part of the scenario. The important thing here is to clearly communicate the scenario's goals, and smoothly transition into the main part.

Progress through the main part of the scenario: Here the players have the freedom to say and do what they want, and the GM listens and responds. However, if the players want to take actions that go against the main idea of the scenario, the GM should softly advise or induce them to get back on the main thread, while also respecting their agency. Or, if the unexpected turn of events look even more interesting, the GM can adjust the scenario on the fly.

Produce the climax: The GM should put effort into creating an exciting climax that's the highlight of the session. They recommend using enemy or enemies that the PCs can just barely beat, to give the climax tension. If the GM is worried about balance, the book recommends that they run a mock battle on their own ahead of time. Which...you know, I don't think I've ever seen that recommended before.

Concluding the scenario: With the goals of the scenario accomplished, the session is concluded. It might be a good for the GM to provide a small coda or epilogue. The PCs are given their XP and rewards. The book recommends the GM and players discuss the session, and exchange their thoughts. Knowing what the players felt during the session will be of reference for making future scenarios, and if the session is part of a campaign, can provide hints for future developments.

There is not much more in the book in terms of advice or procedures for creating a scenario, other than the sample scenario included later. The Starter Sets are much better in teaching this through the scenarios they include, and replays also demonstrate this. Next time, before looking at Playing NPCs and Monsters, we'll take a look at the kind of scenarios these provide.
 

Interesting. You have to lean heavily into a railroaded narrative because time is so precious and you can't waste any. The whole 'beer and pretzels' (sake and Pocky?) atmosphere would be seen as wasting everyone's valuable time. I can also see how 'replays' would be more interesting under those conditions--if you can only play once a month, you might be more willing to spend downtime reading a transcript of someone else's session if you are really into TTRPGs.
 

Iosue

Hero
Interesting. You have to lean heavily into a railroaded narrative because time is so precious and you can't waste any. The whole 'beer and pretzels' (sake and Pocky?) atmosphere would be seen as wasting everyone's valuable time.
Exactly, with the caveat that the general mode of play is really an extension of dungeon play. As I'll explain in my next post, even when doing an urban or wilderness adventure, scenarios are for the most part location-based, with encounters keyed to a map. Thus, during the session player choice is emphasized, but within the constraints of the map. The design and use of these maps are truly varied, and they can contain mini-game elements that add to the diversity of experience.
I can also see how 'replays' would be more interesting under those conditions--if you can only play once a month, you might be more willing to spend downtime reading a transcript of someone else's session if you are really into TTRPGs.
It's an artform, now. Imagine an actual play video tightly edited to only include the necessary GM exposition, role-playing segments, the good jokes made at the table, and then rolls and their results. No fumbling through rulebooks, or players taking time to figure out their turns. When I first heard about replays (before actual play podcasts and streams was really a thing), I was mystified that anybody would find it interesting to read a blow-by-blow account of a game. A novel/short story based off a game, like Dragons of Autumn Twilight? Sure. But a transcript of the actual game? But having a read a few, they're surprisingly compelling. You have dual-storylines: both that of the characters in the game, but also the players at the table. Not to mention that they also contain advice for playing in or running a game, and demonstrations of how certain scenarios can work. It's very much like Critical Role and Acquisitions Inc., only leaner, and in written form instead of video.
 

Iosue

Hero
The sample scenario in Rulebook I is exceedingly linear. So much so that much of what I say here wouldn't apply, and if I hadn't seen some other materials, I would have assumed that SW2.5 truly recommends extremely narrow and linear scenarios. But reading the first official replay, and seeing the 11(!) scenarios included in the Adventurers Guild Box Set has given me a very different understanding of the kind of scenarios SW2.5 promotes as a product line. At least as far as what they recommend to beginning players and GMs.

The first thing that sticks out is the maps. Every adventure is keyed to a map. These are not D&D-style maps: overhead landscapes with hexes or squares on them. These are more akin to overworld maps you might find in video games. Often, they are relatively simplistic and somewhat abstract. (In the replay, they are often drawn on a whiteboard by the GM.) They might be at a three-quarters or proscenium angle. What's important is that the players see where they can go, because this map is typically shown to players at the outset.

The Box Set explains that almost all maps are divided into boxes, and describes three styles: 1) latticework, where a map is split vertically and horizontally with boxes. These are larger scale boxes than the character-size squares of modern D&D, nor are they always uniform, or even square! 2) Room and Corridor boxes, similar to latticework boxes, only each box contains a corridor or a room. Generally, with a latticework map, one can enter and leave a box through any of its sides, but with Room and Corridor Boxes one can only leave through the sides that doors or passageways out of the box. Very akin to D&D-type dungeon crawling, typically the contents of a box in these are not shown to the players until they enter it. Finally, 3) Line-connected boxes (although in the included scenarios these are actually circles rather than boxes.) Essentially a network of encounter locations, some interconnected, while others in isolated branches. An encounter can only be reached from one that it is already connected to. Like this:
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What this does is essentially turn every scenario into a kind of dungeon. At its simplest, it can be a relatively linear "five-room dungeon." Here's the map from the first adventure in the Box Set, a highly simple latticework map.
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Add a little more complexity, and it can look like this:
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This is a map of (a section of) Harves used in the second scenario described in the first official replay. The boxes with pictures in them are encounter areas, where the PCs can gather information. The blank boxes are nondescript parts of town they have to travel through, where they may be subject to random encounters. (In this particular scenario, time is of the essence, and moving through each box costs time. Players can walk and use up a full unit of time, run and use only a half unit of time--but they take damage--or, they can use the canal ferries, which are fast and avoid random encounters, but cost money.)

And when it becomes really complex, it can look like this:
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That's the full, A3-size scenario map of Harves provided in one of the Starter Sets. (The sets also includes various chits and markers to be placed on the map when certain locations are found or events happen.)

Within each location on a map there is either the opportunity to get information by investigation or by talking with an NPC, there could be a trap, there could be a puzzle, or there could be a fight. In the Box Set, most scenarios have 9 locations: the starting location, two traps, two NPC interactions, two exploration/investigation areas, and two combats: the climatic battle at the end, and another sometime before that. That's kind of the standard baseline. Scenarios with more than 9 locations usually add another combat somewhere.

Like in the example above, often there is a complicating aspect, often involving the passage of time, requiring the party to not only gather necessary items and information to defeat the boss bad guy, but to do it efficiently. Puzzles are generally player facing, not character facing.

Hopefully, this gives a better idea of Sword World scenarios, at least as the company see them!
 

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