Let's Read Sword World 2.5!


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!

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Blue Orange

Gone to Texas
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.


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.'"


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.


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.


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:

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:

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

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.


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.

Blue Orange

Gone to Texas
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.


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.


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:

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.

Add a little more complexity, and it can look like this:

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:

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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