Let's Talk About Starter Sets in Sword World 2.5


This was originally going to be part of my Let's Read of Sword World 2.5, but I thought this might be of interest even to people who haven't read that thread all the way through. Because Sword World 2.5 has some incredible starter sets that I think RPG publishers could learn from.

SW 2.5 has two official "Start Sets." The Star-Catching Labyrinth and Darkness Sinking into the City of Water.

There is actually an unboxing video of Star-Catching Labyrinth, which you can view here. But it's about 30 minutes long, so here's a summary.

In the upper right are four booklets. These are a Start Book, which contains an explanation of what an RPG is and a little solo tutorial for playing SW 2.5 and using the contents of this box. A Rule Book, which is just a condensed basic reference of the rules from Part 2 of Core Rulebook I. And three Scenario Books, each containing one session's worth of an adventure. On the back of each book is a battle map using the Basic Combat Zones. While they are functionally the same, the background image representing the terrain are all different.

There are 20 monster cards, providing two of each of 10 different monsters that show up in the scenarios. There are also 8 magic cards, which provide an explanation of Priest and Sorcerer magic, as well as spells up to Level 3 for those kinds of magic. Finally there are some cards with messages used in the scenarios. These cards are all 9 x 9 cm (3.5 x 3.5 in.)

There are four pregenerated characters included in the set. Each gets an A4-size "Guild Registry Sheet", which essentially describes their background and personalities, as well as tips for how to play them effectively. Each character then gets three 12 x 12 cm (4.7 x 4.7 in.) PC cards, such as can be seen in the lower middle of the picture. There is an initial card, which has their stats on the front and their equipment and other notes on the back. Then there are two double-faced cards that represent two paths of improvement. You use the initial card for Scenario 1, either 2A or 2B for Scenario 2, and then the respective 3A or 3B for Scenario 3. The four PCs are Dwarf Fighter 1/Priest 2, Human Fighter 2/Scout 1, Elf Sorcerer 2/Sage 1, and Lycant Shooter 2/Scout 2.

Along with these are about 40 item cards, the long, narrow cards that can placed at the bottom or the side of the PC card for quick reference and calculation. There are 9 weapons, 4 shields, 4 armors, 6 scenario specific items, and then multiple consumables such as healing potions, awaken potions, and mana crystals.

There are also two 12 x 12 cm cards that are completely blank and white on both sides. These are for the five dry-erase markers, with erasers in their caps that are also included. These markers can be used to write on the the blank, PC, and monster cards, to keep track of hit points, note any buffs/debuffs, and draw little diagrams.

There are also punch-out sheets containing tokens for each of the PCs, as well as generic "monster" tokens, and 68 dungeon tiles. Now, these dungeon tiles are not to scale with the stand-up tokens. They are just for creating maps where the players can see where their characters are. Any combat, of course, goes on the battle mats mentioned above. There is also a large fold-out that shows the GM how to arrange the tiles for the various dungeons in the scenarios.

Finally, the box set comes with 5 multicolored sets of 2d6, so each player can get a different color.

That's the Star-Catching Labyrinth. It's focused on dungeon exploration. The second Start Set, Darkness Sinking into the City of Water, focuses on city adventures. It contains essentially the same contents, except with new PCs, and instead of dungeon tiles, it comes with a huge map of the city of Harvess.

Now, here's what blew my mind. All the PC cards, the items cards, the tiles, the chits, the tokens, the maps, and the monster art, all of that is available in PNG form for free from the GroupSNE website. Basically, anything that is player-facing. And this is so people can play online. There are no licensed VTT versions of these adventures (or really any adventures). As far as GroupSNE is concerned, the GM will buy the physical set. They are then happy to provide, at absolutely no charge, all the image assets that that GM will need to put in front of the players so that they can play online.

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B/X Known World
I started checking out the Sword World 2.5 fan translations because of your other thread. Thank you for posting that one and this one. It's really fascinating to see the similarities and differences between the common assumptions games like D&D and Sword World have.


I started checking out the Sword World 2.5 fan translations because of your other thread. Thank you for posting that one and this one. It's really fascinating to see the similarities and differences between the common assumptions games like D&D and Sword World have.
Thanks. Glad to know that these threads and the fan translations are getting SW2.5 a little more well-known outside of Japan.

One thing I forgot in the above post is the price point. The Start Sets retail for 3,300 yen, including tax. With the current weak yen, that's about $22, but even with the stronger yen in 2019 when it was released, it's about $30. SW2.5 is just super affordable.


GroupSNE released the Adventurers Guild Box Set in 2020. It is essentially another Start Kit and contains many of the same kinds of content: PC cards, Magic cards, and Monster Cards. But more of each! There’s an unboxing video here if you want to see what it looks like.

For PC cards, it introduces 4 more PCs: a Human Fencer/Scout, a Meria Fairy Tamer/Sage, a Lildraken Fighter/Conjurer, and a Runefolk Grappler/Ranger/Enhancer. Each PC comes with a Initial card, a commentary card, and 3 double-sided cards for two paths of advancement. But, not only that, it includes commentary cards and 3 double-sided cards for all the PCs included in the previous two Start Sets, so you can take those characters through the scenarios in the box, as well. Accordingly, it also comes with 99 item cards, covering various weapons, armors, shields, consumables and other items, with duplicates.

For monsters, there are 68 cards representing 34 monsters are included in the set, with two cards for each. Most monsters get the typical 9 x 9 cm card, but boss-level monsters get 12 x 12 cm cards.

The previous sets contained magic cards only for the magic used by the pre-gens, but this one contains 33 cards covering magic for Sorcerers, Conjurers, Priests, Fairy-Tamers, and Enhancers.

As usual, it comes with battlemats, five dry-erase markers, and five sets of colored 2d6s. In contrast to the pog tokens of the previous sets, it now provides stand-up tokens, and comes with 10 stands.

So far, more (a lot more) of the same. But what is new?

Well, there’s a 24-page Rulebook covering how to read the cards, how to do Action Checks, how to run Combat, how to run Fellows, and so on. Then there are four Scenario Books. These combine for 11 different scenarios, which can be combined to run 3 distinct campaigns. Scenario Book 1 covers a tutorial adventure, the first scenario of the campaign, and the final scenario of the campaign. After completing the first scenario, the GM can send the party through a series of three scenarios from one of the other Scenario Books. Then they can do the climatic final scenario. You can also take the other Start Set parties through the remaining scenarios, or replay the whole campaign going a different route.

As mentioned in previous post, the scenarios follow a pattern of having at least 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. Scenarios with more than 9 locations usually add another combat somewhere. Some are dungeon-based, others are city-based, and others take place in the wilderness or in Shallow Abysses.

The players get a “Memory Book.” For each adventure, there is a page with a partial map, and spaces for further information. The GM has a sheet of stickers to give to the players to fill out the map, note clues, NPCs met, and items found.

Finally, the set includes punch-out sheets with 23 guild interior tiles (explained below), 24 PC & NPC tokens, 9 generic monster tokens of different size and shape, 24 bonus chits, and 12 1-zoro chits. You get a 1-zoro chit when you roll double 1's (an auto-fail), and it has an encouraging message on it. You can turn in two of these chits to get a one-time bonus.

What makes the Adventurers Guild Box particularly unique is the “Build Your Own Guild” aspect. The top cover of the 20 x 27 x 6 cm (7.9 x 10.6 x 2.3 in.) box has the image of an empty guild house on the inside. At the beginning of the first scenario, you start out with the party, Oscar the Guildmaster, 1 desk, and Hilda the receptionist. When you complete a scenario, you 2 or 3 stars. You then trade in these stars for items in the Interior Catalog.

The catalog is split into 4 colors: Red, Blue, Yellow, and Green. All items cost 2, 3, or 4 stars to purchase. For each Red interior item you purchase, all guild members get a +2 to their max HP. For each Blue interior item, they get a +2 to max MP. For each Yellow item, a +1 to weapon damage. For each Green item, a +1 Armor Point. When you complete a set (that is get a 2-star, 3-star, and 4-star item) of Red or Yellow items, you get a +1 to Life Resistance, complete a set of Blue or Gree, and you get a +1 to Spiritual Resistance. If you get a 4-star item in each color, you get a +1 to both your To-hit Bonus and your Magic Bonus.

Here are the items:
Red: 2 stars – Oil lamp, Arm-wrestling barrel; 3 stars – Dining set, Sofa & Fireplace; 4 stars – Training room, Kitchen

Blue: 2 stars – Regional map, Goddess shaped water faucet; 3 stars – Painting of the party, Aquarium; 4 stars – Private meeting room & Jail, 2nd Floor research room

Yellow: 2 stars – Job board, Dart board; 3 stars – Bar counter, Performance stage; 4 stars – Changing room & Shower room, Horse stables

Green: 2 stars – Guild cat, Monster skull; 3 stars – Home garden set, Monster pelt rug; 4 stars – Exterior garden, Bedroom

Some items include mini-games. You can play one of these mini-games at the start of the session for money, items, or a 1-session bonus.

While the Adventurers Guild Box Set says it is for Ages 12 and up, like the previous Start Sets, some things do indicate it’s somewhat meant for younger kids, or at least, something a parent my use to get their kids into the game. The character designs on the new PC cards and on the stand-up tokens are in a chibi style, unlike in the previous Start Sets. And as mentioned, the tutorial adventure is all about retrieving a teddy bear. That said, the scenarios themselves are not exactly kiddy-fied, but seem broadly within the shonen manga genre expectations. As with the previous Start Sets, all art assests, maps, tiles, PC cards, and Item cards were made available for free by GroupSNE for use in online play.

Price point for all this is 5,940 yen, tax included. About $55 at the time of release, and $40 today. This post is already getting so long, I didn’t want to embed photos, but for a closer look see, here, here, and here.

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