A disclaimerIt might be worth mentioning that I've never really played Dungeons and Dragons. I've dabbled at conventions under the watchful gaze of very understanding RPGA gamesmasters but for a legend such as Dungeons and Dragons, you really need to campaign it. Something I've never done. My myopia stretches just to the degree that I am aware that there are lots of editions and regular verbal fights erupt across the digital landscape regarding love, betrayal and murder but I'm not got a monkey's chance of understanding it. If you read this thinking 'DUH! MUPPET!', assume that I've never read a mainstream roleplaying game before. And you'd be right.
Character CreationThis might all sound very familiar to you but for me, it's something of a revelation. Imagine having toiled over physics studied to discover, years later, Newton's three laws of motion. If you're as fantasy ignorant as I, its like discovering the Rosetta stone and realising all these funny stick men hieroglyphics you've been staring at for years actually mean something. You rolls D6 for a series of Abilities (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution and Intelligence) and the value you roll translates to a plus or minus modifier. Once you have your Abilities and modifiers nailed down, it's off to choose your character class, which determines what sort of things you can do in the game. The classes are Cleric (a god botherer who prefers bashing people's skulls in with blunt instruments and throwing Deus driven magic, unlike my local vicar), The Fighting Man (who enjoys an evening in with Tennyson and cup of cocoa, obviously) and The Magic User (pointy hat, spell book, women's clothing). The Class gives you choice of equipment and skills but also a an advancement table, which plots how much experience you need for each level. After that, you choose a race: Dwarf, Elf, Halfling and Human. Then blow your hard rolled gold on loading up on stuff (20 foot of rope buyers are welcome). Finally, you calculate your Armour Class, which can either be either ascending or descending variants depending on what makes sense to you. Armour Class determines how hard you are to hit.
The systemYou kill stuff. You gain experience points. You go up levels. You get better. Kill bigger stuff. Repeat. When you want to hit something, roll a D20 and then check the ENORMOUS table! I'm not so keen on tables. Turn action runs in order: see if there is a surprise attack, spell chuckers get to say what they're chucking, work out who goes first and then get stuck in. There's some advice on avoiding combat by lying and cheating. If players around the world are anything like mine then lying and cheating in character comes almost as easy as starting combat. So that's 23 of the 82 pages sorted.
ResourcesRoll up! Roll up! Massive spells lists for you to peruse. More tables. More lists. Rule-ettes and a multitude of dice to wield. I know many people salivate at the thought of pouring over 30 pages of spellitude so I'll take a brief pause for those to collect themselves. Of course, this is a delightful hypocrisy coming from a man obsessed with pages of guns and phallic space craft. The game master section is a nod to game master sections. Blink and you'll miss it before ploughing into Monsters! Loads and loads of monsters. There's an entire ecosystem. From dragons to mould. Yes, mould. For those who have never played fantasy before, this might come as a shock. Mould. Yellow mould. A guide to making your own is also included. A brief guide to setting the right level of challenge is given before ploughing onto Treasure! Tables galore. Then some magical items.
The book and communityThe book itself is 82 page PDF and is well laid with a profusion of
Joyously, Swords and Wizardry is new. Odd that might seem but the publish date is 2008. There is a forum that appears to have a reasonable amount of activity for a single game. It's heart warming that a niche old-school game has its own community with enthusiastic types chatting about all aspects of the game. Worth a look.