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D&D General Swords & Wizardry & Mythmere Games & Matt Finch

It’s the 50th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons and the 16th anniversary of Mythmere Games’ ENNIE award-winning original D&D retro-clone, Swords & Wizardry.

It’s the 50th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons and the 16th anniversary of Mythmere Games ENNIE award-winning original D&D retro-clone, Swords & Wizardry. With a new sourcebook coming to Kickstarter titled Swords & Wizardry: Expansions, Monsters, and More! (Swords & Wizardry: Book of Options), I spoke with Matt Finch of Mythmere about Swords & Wizardry and this sourcebook. He shared what's coming with this book, what options would make the most sense with third-party publishers, and his take on the upcoming history book, The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons: 1970-1977.

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EGG EMBRY (EGG): Because this subject comes up from time to time let’s discuss the category that your TTRPG falls into. Retro-clones can be difficult for some gamers to parse, for the uninitiated, what is Swords & Wizardry?
: As you mention, it’s a retro-clone, which is basically a re-written version of a game, sticking as closely as legally possible to the original rules. The original purpose of the retro-clones (OSRIC, Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, etc.) was twofold: to keep the rules in print, since in 2005 there weren’t any legally-available PDFs of out-of-print versions of D&D, and secondly to make it possible for people to publish adventures and resources for those out-of-print editions. People soon discovered, though, that many of these retro-clones were significantly easier to use than the originals. The organization is more modern, and the retro-clone authors had years of hindsight and experience to guide the writing, editing, and layout. Swords & Wizardry is a retro-clone of the very first edition of D&D, usually called Original D&D, which was actively published from 1974 to 1978, when it was replaced by Advanced D&D (1E). The Swords & Wizardry Complete Revised Rulebook covers all the official rulebooks from OD&D, and also contains popular material from Strategic Review and Dragon Magazine. It’s like a snapshot of D&D right before the release of AD&D, and the scope of it is surprising to a lot of people who encounter it for the first time. It’s a simpler system than AD&D, but it covers a tremendous amount of ground.

EGG: Mythmere Games is offering a new Swords & Wizardry sourcebook on Kickstarter. What can fans expect from Swords & Wizardry: Expansions, Monsters, and More! (Swords & Wizardry: Book of Options)?
: Where the Swords & Wizardry Complete Revised Rulebook is pure retro-clone, sticking as closely as possible to the rules of OD&D, the Book of Options departs from that objective and starts to offer some variations. Some of those are fairly minor; the gnomes of OD&D weren’t different from dwarves, but the gnomes of Swords & Wizardry are more fey in nature. Some are brand-new; the Demon Hunter character class has a bit of a Warhammer flair to it, and the Warlock is an entirely new approach (although it’s grounded in the idea of a supernatural pact). There’s also a book of 300 monsters, an adventure (Tomb of the Iron God), and the start of a sandbox world setting (The Domain of Heryngard).

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EGG: Around this time last year, you ran the Swords & Wizardry Complete Revised Kickstarter, which reached 2,800 backers. What did Complete Revised update about the S&W ruleset?
: The major revision was probably the inclusion of morale rules and a steepening of the XP rewards for higher-level monsters, but there were lots of minor adjustments to bring things better in line with the OD&D rules. SWCR is still entirely compatible with the earlier versions of the game. An overriding consideration was completely external; we decided to use a different license than the OGL, which necessitated a new version of the game.

EGG: I’ll ask more about the OGL in a bit. Would you say the book offered in the Swords & Wizardry: Expansions, Monsters, and More! campaign is to S&W Complete Revised what Old-School Essentials: Advanced Fantasy is to Old-School Essentials: Classic Fantasy as in OSE: Advanced Fantasy brought AD&D options to the OSE B/X ruleset?
: No, it’s a bit different. Most of the AD&D options already existed in Swords & Wizardry, even before this last version. A tremendous amount of the AD&D material was floated in Strategic Review and Dragon, and thus found its way into SWCR – usually in a simpler form than it eventually developed as AD&D, but as I mentioned before, the SCOPE of OD&D in 1977 was much broader than most people realize, almost as broad as AD&D. What Swords & Wizardry: The Book of Options does is basically to go over the top. There’s probably too much material in the combined books for a gaming group to really assimilate, but we don’t intend for anyone to use ALL of it. The idea is that you can pick and choose the bits that match your gaming group. Some of it is very traditional: gnomes, chivalric knights, and fey creatures. And some of it is very sword and sorcery: demon-hunters, plane-shifting, and weird spells. It’s a toolbox, not a rulebox.

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EGG: S&W is OGL-free, and offers a third party license. What types of third-party products are you eager to see being created through this license?
: Psionics are the main area where the legalities just don’t permit any useful reproduction of the original rules, so that’s always first on the list. Since Swords & Wizardry has been around since 2008, there is already a huge amount of supporting resources already written. Those are mostly under the OGL, but still usable with the post-OGL rules of SWCR.

EGG: Who is working with you on this project?
: Suzy Moseby is the other owner of Mythmere Games, and she handles everything to do with the physical appearance of what I write, from typography to art direction. James Spahn wrote a lot of the material for the Book of Options, and then I wanted to change things, and we re-wrote and revised until we were both pleased with the results. Our artists have been a major part of the effort as well: Del Teigeler, Brett Barkley, James Shields, Kennon James, and Chris Arneson have added visual depth to the writing which in some cases caused me to back up and re-write something to fit their visions when it turned out to be better than what I’d originally described.

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EGG: That’s a great way to work. 2024 is the 50th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons. In June of this year, Wizards of the Coast is publishing The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons: 1970-1977 (more details here and here, including the fact that it will reprint the original D&D script from Gary’s typewriter). As a fan of the original, are you getting this history book?
: I’ll probably get a copy, although the fact of the matter is that I’m not really much of a historian of D&D, not when compared to many other people out there. I know some things about early D&D, but not the kind of sweeping understanding that the real historians have. I just like the early rules, and I’ve read them more closely than most people since I was actually re-writing them, but I’m no expert.

EGG: As a creator, are you hoping to find something new in The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons: 1970-1977 that might make its way into Swords & Wizardry?
: Oh god I hope not. I really want to write more adventures, not more errata.

EGG: I laughed at your D&D history book answers. Right on! Thank you for talking with me about Swords & Wizardry: Expansions, Monsters, and More! Where can fans learn more about Swords & Wizardry?
: Probably the first place is our website. We have a Discord server (invite), and the Swords & Wizardry Official Group on Facebook, plus we can be found on DriveThruRPG (search for Mythmere Games).

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Swords & Wizardry: Expansions, Monsters, and More! from Mythmere Games
  • “Optional supplemental rules for S&W (and other OSR games), a book of new monsters, an adventure, and much more!”
Egg Embry participates in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program, Noble Knight Games’ Affiliate Program, and is an Amazon Associate. These programs provide advertising fees by linking to DriveThruRPG, Noble Knight Games, and Amazon.

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Egg Embry

Egg Embry


Backed!! S&W is so amazing… this is my kind of D&D!!!
S&W is my favourite retroclone. I'm thinking of crossing it with Bucky the Blackball's Dark Dungeons to provide better high-level support. I heard we might also get a new edition of OSRIC later this year too. It's a great time to support old-school gaming...

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Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
I'm most interested in the sandbox setting book. Glad they have the option just to back the ones you need and it's clearly laid out on how to do it! Bravo
I was looking at being a late backer on two different campaigns I missed and there's literally no way to just buy the books I want; I'd have to instead drop $140+ to get everything just to get those books, which is hilariously stupid. I'll just wait for retail, thanks.

I'm sure there's business reasons to behave this way, but it's a huge turnoff and doesn't exactly endear me to those brands.

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