Saturday, August 13, 2022

Maximum Mayhem Dungeons: Reprints Special #2

Another fun Kickstarter I am following is a reprint collection of OSR modules (9 for OSR, 1 for 5E) that look fun and have a lot of classic art and inspiration inside them.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/marktaormino/maximum-mayhem-dungeons-reprints-special-2

These look super fun, sort of a cross between OSR and Dungeon Crawl Classics crazy and zany, and the art and presentation are spot-on with some classic fantasy artists in the books.

I am always on the lookout for great OSR adventures, and these look perfect.

The project is backed and I put a link in the sidebar.

Does This Come in an OSR Version?

I love OSR versions of products. It makes me wish I could go back in time for half of the 3rd-party Pathfinder 1e books I own and have OSR versions of all of those great books. I can pick up a book written for Labyrinth Lord, Old School Essentials, Swords & Wizardry, and most any other OSR game and use it with any one of the others. All of my old D&D and AD&D modules are usable as they are written.

Sure the above was written for Labyrinth Lord, but I can play this with anything from Swords & Wizardry to Castles & Crusades. Old School Essentials. Crypts & Things. Hyperborea. White Box. Basic Fantasy. The list goes on and on.

Why not play the AD&D or D&D Rules Cyclopedia reprints? I choose to support indie creators and communities. The more OSR games we have out there, the better the entire OSR community gets. This is about supporting diversity and choice, everyone should be able to play the game of their choice, or even create a game that captures their imagination. While having the original books is nice, ultimately they are limited and games that will never really expand or thrive with new adventures and experiences.

I can go to DriveThruRPG and find hundreds of OSR modules written for dozens of OSR games, written by small and indie creators with a love of the game. The original D&D and AD&D are still very closed-source games, and I support open-source projects because they benefit the world and help the individual over the corporation. I can buy a $60 mega-dungeon hardcover and have it be good forever, and usable with dozens of games.

My D&D 3.5, Pathfinder 1e or 2e, D&D 4, and even the few D&D 5 books I have are all tied to one game system. When I box up a game for storage, these books go with them. My OSR books stay out and they are always ready for whatever game I choose to play.

I know creating space for OSR stats in 5E books takes space and the market isn't that big, but it means a lot to us OSR enthusiasts. It also means I can use the book after D&D moves on an edition or two. The few 5e books I have I know will likely need updates when the game changes again, and I like a set of rules that really stays the same.

I did the "big consumerist" thing with Pathfinder 1e and collected all the books. To force me to collect another edition and double the size of my library feels wasteful. I would rather have OSR books I can use with many games than a book written for a specific edition of one game.

While I love my Pathfinder 1e books, there are books I can say "they were just trying to sell you another book" in that collection. There is a ton of waste in there, repeated classes and feats, same-enough spells, and really a sell-sell-sell mentality took over the line when it got hot. I can say the same about 5E these days, a lot of books, even from Wizards, you do not need and they reduce your enjoyment of the game.

If someone in the community writes the OSR game "Bad Dungeon" and it takes off huge, all my OSR books still work fine. When 5E or Pathfinder 2e go away, they go away, and you need to buy an updated book or hope things convert well enough. The old books do not go in a closet.

They stay out, ready to be played.

And also from an environmental perspective, having books that work forever and with each other is way better than supporting a consumerist model. Traditional books do not need electricity, and storing PDFs on phones or in the cloud takes electricity and resources. You are not reprinting the same content in "an updated version" and reselling those every 10 years with all the damage printing, transporting, selling, and tossing out an old edition books causes. I get tired of this "Amazon culture" of continuously selling you books, and then continuously replacing them with a new edition. Multiple starter sets. Reprinting monster manuals. Toss out the old, buy the new. Constantly consume. More, more, more. Bigger games! More options! More books!

Especially when there are a ton of single-book OSR games that just do it better with less.

It is funny, I go back and look at a lot of these games and see how the OSR is superior. If I want mages to do alchemy, I just house-rule how it works if it makes sense. In other games, I have to buy a book, read how it works, slow down the game to sort through dozens of pages of rules, often make one die roll and say it takes "X weeks and Y gold to make Z potion" and guess what?

If I would have house-ruled it I would have had an answer in 5 seconds, save $40, and keep my game streamlined without another book of rules to reference or carry around. All for an edge-case situation.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

OSR: Weak Cleric? Strong Church.

Most OSR games have clerics who get zero spells at level one. That is a tough life for the cleric, even compared to AD&D, which gives clerics one level one spell at level one. You may have players who don't like this and want to gravitate towards games that are a little more generous.

Actually, I love the OSR cleric since it opens the door to a little world-building for me.


The Setup

So let's say you have a group of players in Old School Essentials or any other game where clerics get the "bag of rocks" at level one, no healing spells, no cure light wounds, no nothing. So you send them straight to the dungeon, and all the cleric prays for is reaching level 2?

Not exactly.

I would have a messenger from the cleric character's temple show up, and say, "Could you come to the temple before you go? We wish to speak with you a moment."

And leave it at that.

When they go, have the person in charge of the temple give the spell-less cleric three healing potions to use, just because they want to be sure their follower gets back safely. Normally, I would go with scrolls, but since scrolls depend on spell levels you can cast, it has to be healing potions at level one. No price, no charge, just free.

There is your level one healing.

Now, why do this? Well, churches are typically charitable organizations, and you can use this to your benefit. Every so often, throw a few potions or cleric scrolls every so often to make up for the difference. Does the temple want to see the cleric grow into a powerful here? You bet they do, but within means and resources, of course. If the rest of the party starts pulling ahead in magic gear, have the church give the character a few items to help them keep up.

Yes, for free.


The Payoff

After a while, the church starts making requests of the cleric and the party of adventurers. We heard of trouble at a farm, reports of a desecrated shrine, or evil creatures spotted on a hill. This is a perfect way to deliver adventure hooks to the party, and it gives them a source of missions and good deeds to do.

Now you have a cool way to deliver information and adventure starts to the party.

As the good deeds pile up, the church increases in power and influence, and the missions become higher stakes. Not all the party's time should be spent on church tasks, but it should come up every so often - especially during slow times or when the party has no next adventure to go on. The stronger the local temple, the more they can offer the party.

Don't overdo it! The party should not feel hassled by the local temple, just every once in a while and don't pile things on with multiple requests while other big things are going on.

And, of course, if the party has unwanted magic items or extra treasure to donate, that would be appreciated too. The church could sell the party higher-level parties cleric scrolls and potions at a discount, and that would also be a good way for the group to spend money and keep the cleric's power on the higher end of the curve with plenty of healing spells tucked away in a prayer book and enough healing potions to pass out in a pinch.

The "weak" OSR cleric is easily fixed by making up for it with world-building and roleplaying, and, in fact, the cleric with benefits is probably stronger than their "go it alone" counterparts in more generous games.


Doctor Jones...?

Also, place some important objects, statues, books, icons, and other holy items as "treasure" in a dungeon that are worth gold, but worth a lot more if returned to the church. Recovering relics and other artifacts is very important and would generate greater favors for the party. Sure, this 3,000-year-old gold statue of the goddess is worth 5,000gp if sold for the metal, but do you know how valuable it is to the temple?

Yes, I know the thief says to sell it and split the money, but please have faith!

Returning that may just be repaid by allowing your party's healer to upgrade from +1 chainmail to a brand-new +2 set. You don't need to put the treasure the cleric wants in the dungeon, just put a relic and let the character pray for the new gear when the item is returned. The player has complete gear choice, and you don't have to guess what the player wants and leave it in a 10x10 room somewhere.


Worldbuilding Solves a Lot of Problems

Any time you have a perceived "weakness" in a game or set of rules, it is very easy to patch with just a little bit of careful thought. In this case, I like the weaker OSR clerics better since it lets me start the game by getting players used to helping their local temple and followers. I started a lot of games with strong clerics and never gave them a second thought, please go it alone! You have that cure light wounds, you are good to go!

This is even doable with druids and the area's druidic order. Paladins too. In a pinch, thieves or mages could have organizations that can provide help for a little later assistance.

And with cleric scrolls, the difference between the number of spells cast at a particular level is a minor problem. Creating those takes money, and just be a little more generous to make up for that and have the cleric spend downtime crafting scrolls or crafting potions. Maybe even donate your unused ones to the church or the scrolls that are too low-level to matter anymore.

Maybe another level party of level one adventurers could use them.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Mail Room: Lost Lands Campaign Setting

Why do we need all these world settings? Well, for one, they are a unique brand of fiction, especially if they are someone's campaign world for 40 years. It is almost as if you get to sit at someone's table and read through decades of their gaming history, and somehow, across space and time, join in the fun and get to play with them.

The Lost Lands is the Frog God Games and a system-neutral setting, though 5E and Swords & Wizardry seem the best supported in the adventures they publish.

Since this is someone's home game world, they had to pull a few things out that would break copyright, possibly other campaigns and places puled from fiction, other games, and movies, and put in their game world. All of them I am sure replaced with suitable and copyright-free alternatives, but borrowing and expanding is what all of us did back in the day - so I get it. The world as it feels like a lot of material was made system neutral (and the adventures converted from Pathfinder 1e to 5E and S&W), and it feels like a classic AD&D-style world.

This world has all of the AD&D-style standards running about. We have drow, demons, strange extra-dimensional aliens, dragons, elves, dwarves, halflings, and all your favorites as big players and important parts of the world. Some worlds feel more human-centric, such as Forgotten Realms for my group always felt more human-centric and tied to the AD&D 2e lore and style of play. The Realms also felt more like "a world built as a fantasy novel series setting" than a place that focused on dungeons, which is why I bet the huge GMNPC problem cropped up there.

The modules of Lost Lands are old-school and great, and the world is home to the Rappan Athuk mega-dungeon. It is a world that feels like it could house many mega-dungeons. The best thing about Greyhawk is the classic modules, but this is also the worst thing about this world since they stopped making them. If all you are going to do is reboot them and ride off nostalgia, I am not interested. Sorry, I love them, but there is a point where reboots deny us the chance to see a new creator's Tomb of Horrors or Temple of Elemental Evil for this generation.

Put those dungeons in the Hall of Fame, please.

Time for new stuff.

Which is what we get here. Since I skipped all the original Pathfinder 1e adventures from Frog God (sorry!) I am experiencing them for the first time as OSR adventures, and they are great. The company converted them all over from an unsupported system and rebuilt them for S&W and 5E, which is a bold move that I support. Having the OSR versions makes them good forever since OSR games will always be with us, and games like Pathfinder and D&D will not always be the same year after year.

I know they promised 6E will be 5E compatible, but things do change, and big corporations do what they want to do regardless and expect you to follow along with your money because of the chains of nostalgia. 7E will likely be something completely different when we get to it, and we will see it in our lifetimes. Pathfinder 2e is already dramatically different, a great game but way too much for me to handle (not in math, but the number of choices plus the complexity of the rules runs counter to why I play games).

So I buy the S&W versions of these adventures and I am free to use them with the OSR system de-jour that is hot this year. This is sort of how the OSR works, you get a dominant system that lasts for a few years, it fades but never really goes away, and you get a new community darling that captures everyone's imagination for a while - and it may go huge or it may not and we are onto the next one. People buy everything since it all works together anyways, so there really isn't a strong "us versus them" system wars thing going on, and no money is wasted if a game falls out of favor.

My Labyrinth Lord adventures can still be played and are still valuable. All of these new S&W adventures can be played with anything from Old School Essentials to Castles & Crusades. Or even Labyrinth Lord. Or whatever else comes out from the OSR in the future, it will all work with very little modification. Or with a tiny bit of work, convert it to 5E.

There really isn't a comparable world with so many OSR adventures outside of Goodman Games and DCC. But this is more of a traditional AD&D-style fantasy set of rules than it is gonzo Appendix N, so Lost Lands feels grounded and classic.

And the Lost Lands setting is home to all these adventures and feels like the version of Greyhawk they promised us but we never got. The one where adventures would continue to be written, the system supported for years, and a place where your players could call home and know that somewhere out there adventure is waiting. The world is built for old-school dungeons and adventures, and it does not care for being a homer for a grand fantasy adventure novel series and assorted author GMNPCs.

More on this soon!

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Swords & Wizardry: Monsters


I swear Swords & Wizardry has every other B/X version beat for monster types and statistics. The basic game comes with a standard assortment of the classics, but when you start to add the volumes of bestiaries Frog God and Mythmere Games put out?

You have a game that is unmatched in variety, types, and support for the various bad guys and creepy crawly things in the world. You have a collection that arguably matches Pathfinder 1e in just choice, with all the classics you expect, plus hundreds of others players have never seen before.

Frog God also has permission to print a few monsters outside the OSR in these books, so you are getting a few classic monsters, not in the OSR but with stats and printed here for your use.

And given these monsters all have the needed stats for running in any B/X game, including entries for ascending AC, you have an invaluable resource for any B/X game you run, from Old School Essentials to Castles & Crusades. All of them are 95% compatible and ready to use.

This is really a great level of support I have not seen since Labyrinth Lord in terms of the books you can buy, use, and collect. And since these use S&W stats, they have the magic resistance numbers that AD&D, ACKS, S&W, and C&C support.

I know OSE gets a lot of attention and some of the newer games like Hyperborea and Crypts & Things, but whatever you play, these books are a great resource for them all.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Encumbrance Battle!

People generally hate encumbrance systems. Very few of us love creating per-pound loadouts and carefully tracking weight carried. Encumbrance is a staple of OSR play since there is typically a difference between the lightly loaded weights of a party going into a dungeon, and the weights when the party is trying to haul hundreds of pounds or loot out of the dungeon when wounded, exhausted of spells and resources, with monsters sometimes in pursuit and wandering monsters lurking about.

Let's say a party needs to walk 600' to get to the final room of a dungeon. At 90' per turn that is about 7 turns of movement, but when entering that is going to take much longer due to exploration and combat. Walking out of the dungeon through "cleared rooms" let's say the party is loaded down and can only move 30' per turn. That is 20 turns of movement. At a 1 in 6 chance per turn of wandering monsters that is a difference of (on average) one wandering monster encounter walking out unencumbered and three walking out encumbered.

Can your party handle those three extra encounters when walking out? How many resources do you save to get out of there? Will you get lucky and not have one encounter? Can you avoid contact (or parlay) with the encounters you do have? Do you throw down food to distract wild animals? Can you get a good reaction roll with intelligent creatures and possibly pay them to let you be?

This is one of the fundamental differences between modern roleplaying games and old-school ones, and this can drive some players crazy who have their expectations set by newer games. In an old-school game, beating the boss in the last room is not typically the end of the story. Modern games have this "movie mentality" where the boss fight happens and not much happens after that, and tripping random encounters after that fight can feel "mean and unfair" to some players.

And let's not get into why you can't really "rest" in a dungeon. We will get to that later. Short rests just took the "travel back to town" part out of the 15-minute adventuring day trope.

In an old-school game, when your party decides "people, we are leaving!" then an entirely new survival game begins. Hauling that loot out and surviving becomes a mission in itself. You can do the newer stories in old-school games and assume "everyone gets out okay," but the "endgame" of hauling loot out and surviving is also a classic experience that adds to the drama and tension of a dungeon run. People tend to skip this part of the mission since typically as the night goes on people need to go home, but saving a little session time for escaping with the loot is well worth the time and effort to try to make room for.

That said, here is a summary of encumbrance rules in various OSR games and my thoughts on them.


Old School Essentials

Please do not make me track gear weight! Only count my weapons and armor! Everything else is the coins of treasure I am carrying!

OSE exists in a post-encumbrance world, and they do not even give you the option to do detailed weight tracking. No equipment weights are given, and strength does not modify carrying capacity (which feels wrong). OSE is a great system that simplifies a lot to just the essential concepts, but at times I wish I had more options to play the way I want to and do detailed weight tracking.

OSE's encumbrance system feels a bit oversimplified, sort of like a video game, but I get it - a lot of people hate tracking weight. The only improvement I would make is adding a strength mod for carrying capacity, since some players may expect this and wonder why their 18 STR dwarf can carry as much as the STR 8 wizard.

  • Weights in coins.
  • Weapon and armor weights only.
  • No gear weight.
  • Basic encumbrance: Based on armor and if carrying treasure.
  • Detailed encumbrance: Based on total coins carried of weapons, armor, and treasure (no gear).
  • Strength does not modify carrying capacity.


Swords & Wizardry

Please do not make me track gear weight! Only count my weapons and armor! Everything else is the coins of treasure I am carrying! And yes, strength modifies carrying capacity!

Swords & Wizardry is a lot like OSE, but there is a 10-pound assumed gear weight for the "everything else" an adventurer wants to carry. They also track weight in pounds. I do miss having gear weights still, even if they are not used they are nice to have. In these ultra-simplified systems, they omit gear weight since they want to avoid confusion.

  • Weight in pounds.
  • Weapon and armor weights only.
  • No gear weight.
  • Basic gear weight assumed to be 10 pounds.
  • Encumbrance is calculated on total pounds carried.
  • Strength modifies carrying capacity.


Basic Fantasy

I am fine tracking weight!

Basic Fantasy does old-school weight tracking, which is cool. Every item you can buy has a weight. You put together a basic load. The big difference here is carrying capacity is tied to race, dwarfs, humans, and elves have a higher carrying capacity than halflings.

I can see how players unused to encumbrance tracking would be a little intimidated by a system like this, though you could easily house-rule it to the Swords & Wizardry "armor and weapons only" standard, and assume a weight for random gear, and let the rest be for treasure.

  • Weight in pounds.
  • All items have weights.
  • Strength and race set weight category (light or heavy load).
  • Strength modifies carrying capacity.

Iron Falcon

I am fine tracking weight! But please let's do it in coins!

Iron Falcon is just like Basic Fantasy, except the race modifiers to carrying capacity are gone and the game just uses one chart, modified by strength.

  • Weights in coins.
  • All items have weights.
  • Encumbrance calculated on total coins is carried.
  • Strength modifies carrying capacity.


Labyrinth Lord

I am fine tracking weight! But please keep everyone the same!

Another simple weight tracking system, but this time not modified by strength. A great equipment list in this book makes it a great resource.

  • Weight in pounds.
  • All items have weights.
  • Encumbrance is calculated on total pounds carried.
  • Strength does not modify carrying capacity.

Adventurer Conqueror King System

Please make weight tracking simple! And I mean simple!

ACKS does an abstract encumbrance system where nothing has listed weight but everything is converted into "stones" of weight. Random items are tracked six per stone.

  • Abstract encumbrance system.
  • No items have weights.
  • Item weights in "stones" (10 lbs.).
    • 1 stone per point of AC
    • 1 stone per 6 items carried
    • 1 stone per heavy item (8-14 lbs.)
    • 1 stone per 1000 coins
  • Encumbrance based on stones carried.
  • Strength only modifies maximum capacity.


OSRIC

Please make encumbrance as old-school as possible!

ORSIC is another hardcore system for encumbrance and gear weights. The game uses a single chart, but "carried" weight can have an amount subtracted from it depending on strength.

  • Weight in pounds.
  • All items have weights.
  • Encumbrance is calculated on total pounds carried.
  • Strength modifies weight carried.
    • Strength bonus subtracted from weight carried to determine encumbrance.


Castles & Crusades

I want an abstract encumbrance system with no guesswork!

C&C reminds me a lot of the old Aftermath encumbrance system, where items all have individual encumbrance values, and those are added up to get a carried total.  What you can carry is equal to strength, plus bonuses for having primary scores in either STR or CON. It is a simple, elegant system and one I am a fan of.

  • Abstract encumbrance system
  • All items have weights.
  • Item weights in "encumbrance value"
    • EV based on size and weight or item.
    • 10 lbs. or 160 coins = 1 EV
  • Strength modifies weight carried.
    • Base ER limit = STR score
    • STR and/or CON add + 3 to max ER
    • ER based on categories (1x, 3x, more than 3x)
  • Overburdened characters lose DEX bonus to AC.

Dungeon Crawl Classics

Encumbrance? I should be worried about surviving!

Toss the encumbrance system out the window, we are in DCC. Heavy items, such as armor, slow movement and give penalties to actions. There is a carrying capacity of "half body weight" and that is good enough.

  • Casual encumbrance system.
  • No items have weight.
  • Armor slows movement.
  • Maximum pounds carried is equal to half body weight.
  • Strength does not modify carrying capacity (but will factor into referee decisions).


What a Load!

Wow! A lot of work, and I hope all of that is right. Every game does encumbrance differently, no surprise. The expectations they put on players are different enough to matter, and I can see how some games are a reaction against the old per-pound system of the older games. The thing is, you go back far enough to games that take inspiration from pre-AD&D sources (S&W), and they were not that concerned about encumbrance either.

There was this time when "advanced" meant "more record-keeping" and even we felt it was a bit too much when we played AD&D. I thought S&W would differ dramatically from OSE, but really the two games are nearly identical with the only real difference being tracking weight in coins instead of pounds (OSE), and strength modifying carrying capacity (S&W)

Of all the games on this list, I like C&C and S&W the best. C&C does the best abstract encumbrance system and it is based on ability scores. S&W is the OSE modern standard, but it adds a STR mod to maximum load, which I can see house ruling into OSE easily. If I had to pick one game, despite OSE's options and organization, it would be S&W just because the game plays and feels tighter, and it retains the AD&D rules options that I feel are critical for playing a game that feels like the original.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Swords & Wizardry: Just, Good

Reading through Swords & Wizardry (S&W), I can see why there is a desire to go back to the original 1970s versions of dungeon gaming. I see a lot of house-ruling in B/X and BECMI that frankly, I started with and feel normal to me. There are some changes in B/X I feel are a bit too generous to hand out to everyone, and I can see why S&W does not give hit and damage bonuses for STR to any other class but fighters.

Just because everyone has house-ruled something does not always make it the best choice. Putting money in a pot for landing on Monopoly's Free Parking space is a popular house rule, but it imbalances the game and is not official.

You see the damage later on, when AD&D introduced a special 18/01-00 STR system, just for fighter classes, and this rule tried to bring the original bonus back but just made an 18 STR a requirement for fighters and inflated statistic generation. It is funny because at times I feel the changes made in later versions of the game were trying to patch mistakes or issues that existed as time went on, and we have OSR games emulating the patch instead of going back and cleaning up the mistake and unifying the experience.

With that hit and damage bonus, fighters feel interesting again. This bonus applies to ranged weapons. Combine that with attacking creatures with less than 1 HD at one per character level, and you have a really cool fighter. I read some B/X games and it feels like fighters do not have that much to them. I get this feeling with thieves and a straight double-damage backstab modifier.


Other Games

Some games do things better. I like Labyrinth Lord's (LL) equipment lists, especially in the advanced book. Old School Essentials (OSE) and Swords & Wizardry omit weight values for a few items, like crowbars, backpacks, and the like (S&W assumes a 10-pound "other" gear load). I picked up an OSR equipment list called the Adventurer's Catalog, and that works nicely (but there are a few differences between LL damage and S&W damage).

Castles & Crusades (C&C) does a nice job simplifying saving throws, class abilities, attribute checks, and skills into the Siege Engine. I like the system a lot, and they also do a great job with equipment and gear with an abstract encumbrance system. C&C is admittedly a simplified D&D 3 retro-clone since the class power unlocks feel very modern in design, but it remains OSR compatible with its AC, hit point, and damage scales. Like D&D 3 and AD&D, you are a step more heroic in C&C than the 1970s flavor of the game.

I don't like the loss of a unified attribute modifier table in S&W, but the STR to-hit modifier one works fine. A lot is left up to you like the original 1970s rules, and how you check abilities is also left to you, or if you even do it at all. You can use saving throws modified by ability score modifiers. You are supposed to make a lot up, not roll dice for roleplaying, and just wing it outside of combat. A lot of OSR games tell you to roll-under ability or give you no guidance at all.

If you need the structure of the ability and skill checks, play C&C.

Oh yeah, and clerics get no spells at level 1. This is the old school, and the price you pay for having a character that can bring others back to life.

LL & OSE do not have an AD&D-style magic resistance mechanic for monsters, and I miss this. S&W and C&C have this. In the base ACKS book, only the lammasu has a MR value (and some cacodemons have it in the heroic book). I consider magic resistance a core mechanic, so my two go-to games as S&W and C&C.


Improv Needed

S&W requires a high level of rules improvisation. I can see why a lot of the B/X games today emphasize structure and organization since people coming from modern games feel more comfortable when every rule is spelled out and easily referenced. S&W does magic, classes, and combat and leaves most of the rest up to you. A lot of gamers and referees can't handle that much freedom, so we want guidance and systems to help guide our actions.

An S&W referee could rule anyone with an INT higher than a 14 can decipher a rune. Or allow a roll-under check. Or just allow a spellcaster to read it. Or everyone rolls a d6 and hopes for a 6. Or just tell them what it is. Or not. Or require reading magic or comprehending languages. Or if you speak elf. Make a saving throw modified by INT. Whatever. You have complete freedom in handling this.

Frog God Games also has one of the best collections of S&W OSR modules and adventures around, designed like the classic dungeon modules of AD&D, and all very cool. They are still producing new ones, and you could play these with OSE, LL, S&W, C&C, or whatever game you love.

I hear the S&W license is moving to Mythmere Games, and they are already moving things over to their own store. I hope they do POD reprints of the adventures, but I am not sure what is being moved from Frog God to Mythmere. Whoever has the rights, please make POD copies available for some of these old adventures, please.

Some said that S&W is a Rosetta Stone-style game, like C&C, meaning it can play anything and everything converts out of it well. I can see the truth in that. Where the games are different is in the adventures written for them. C&C has a lot of story adventures, with good-sized dungeons and a lot of story encounters, more like an AD&D 2e or Forgotten Realms feeling. With S&W, you get lots of hardcore dungeon content written in that OSR style.


Style & Emulation

Some games are more emulators, where they emulate mistakes and design inconsistencies. If a class was weak in the original game, it will be weak in emulation.

Other games are more curated experiences, where they are not so faithful to the source but focus on delivering the best experience. Labyrinth Lord is a great example where it pulls in material from many games to deliver the homebrew experience of playing back in the day.

S&W is a rollback to the original rules that takes it forward in areas that make the game playable, such as the original rules not having a combat turn structure, or offering ascending AC as an option. S&W is technically an emulator, but it goes back to the original source and avoids the changes made in later versions.

It is funny since the different versions of D&D back in the day had different target markets, changes for legal reasons, and presentations of the same material. The base D&D game was more targeted at kids, while AD&D was created to change the rules enough to avoid royalties and the game was targeted at an older audience. Some rules felt like they tried to roll back bad decisions. Other changes felt too broad and weakened some classes. Some changes simplified things too much or tried to add detail that wasn't needed. All of the older market targets were rolled back to AD&D 2e, which went 100% all-in on making the game for a younger audience due to controversies in the media.

So we have emulation games emulating less-than-ideal choices and version changes that change the game, some not even for gameplay reasons.

There are lots of great games in the OSR world, and really anything you choose is great. Different games have different source inspirations and styles or presentations, little differences, and they all make choices depending on the goal of the game and the source material they are trying to emulate.