WhiteBox Rules! Plus a mini-adventure for Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day
I own the Swords & Wizardry Core Rules and, thanks to the recent Frog God Kickstarter project, the Erol Otus-covered Complete Rules too. But today I’d like to talk about their Little Billy Goat brother, the Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox Rules.
Three things I love about WhiteBox:
1. The cover
It’s hard to compete with Otus but if anyone can… well, Peter Mullen is that man. His cover for the Core Rules is a thing to inspire awe, but the WhiteBox cover, with a pair of snaggle-toothed hill giants (one of whom is wearing what appears to be a whole bearskin as a hat) about to drop a rock on the trio of adventurers tracking them to their lair, just knocks my socks off. The crisp colour scheme… the wintry landscape (it’s WhiteBox, remember) with that fantastic, snow-laden tree… the spindly, hooded figures, vaguely reminiscent of Bruegel’s Hunters in the Snow… the tension, the dramatic irony, the humour. It’s bloody marvellous.
2. The format
I have the hardback edition. I think it’s what Americans call “digest” size – i.e., like A5 (my favourite format) but a tad taller. It weighs in at 122 pages, ten more than the OD&D “Little Brown Books”. It’s eminently portable, which is a boon for someone like me. I commute to work by bus, about 40 minutes each way. That’s 400 minutes per week – over six and a half hours! – and it’s prime reading time. I’m never going to carry Gygax’s DMG with me on the bus, nor even Swords & Wizardry Core, but the wee WhiteBox book fits right in a (large) pocket, and is easy to take out and browse on the move*. I’ve even taken it camping.
3. The content
WhiteBox strips S&W right down to its essential components, producing an approximation (though not an exact replica) of OD&D sans supplements. The layout is clear and unfussy. The rules are presented as guidelines and the reader is positively encouraged to modify them and create house rules as required. It’s playable as-is (I ran a game last weekend) but, for me, its greatest utility is as a chassis or armature on which to build your own rule set, tailored to the needs of your campaign. That’s what I’m doing with my ongoing project, Alien Orifice. It’s a job made even easier by the text file of WhiteBox available free from the Mythmere Games site, here. (You can also download WhiteBox in PDF, and find a link to the hardback edition available to buy from Lulu.) In summary, S&W WhiteBox requires – and inspires – the reader/player/referee to get creative.
Anyway, here’s the adventure I ran last weekend. A couple of weeks ago, over at Tenkar’s Tavern, Erik asked what kind of adventures his readers liked: “one-sheets”, full-blown adventures, or something in-between. Most of those who replied said, “We want mini-adventures!” That got me thinking. Some time ago I made a map of a dungeon level in five minutes flat. Then I made two more likewise. For Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day I decided to stock the resulting “15-minute dungeon” using an assortment of random tables and generators. This daft wee adventure is the result. Remember it’s written for Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox, which uses d6 for monsters’ hit dice, so if you’re using a post-Supplement I: Greyhawk rule set, add 1 hit point per die or reroll using d8.
Now go and check out all the other fine bloggers participating in Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day. The blogroll is here.
*The same goes for the likes of Weird Adventures and Dyson’s Delves, and it goes double for A5 books like Vornheim and Bandits & Battlecruisers. My hat is off to all of them.