Wherein your humble scribe presents a by-the-book adventuring party for Swords & Wizardry (WhiteBox). Pretty much just for the hell of it.
Sister Magda / Cleric 2 / Lawful
STR 8 INT 11 WIS 15 DEX 12 CON 6 CHR 9
HP 7 AC 4  Save 13
Spells: Cure Light Wounds
Items: 7 gp, Morning Star (1d6), Sling (1d6), Pouch w/ 20 stones, Holy Symbol (Silver), Chain Mail, Shield
Reldon Mald / Fighter 2 / Neutral
STR 16 INT 10 WIS 9 DEX 11 CON 13 CHR 6
HP 9 AC 6  Save 14
Items: 19 gp, Spear (1d6), Hand Axe (1d6), Short Bow (1d6-1), Quiver w/ 20 arrows, Leather, Shield
Ardiel Ghostmoon / Elf (Variant) 2 / Neutral
STR 14 INT 16 WIS 7 DEX 13 CON 11 CHR 16
HP 7 AC 4  Save 13
Items: 11 gp, Long Sword (1d6), Dagger (1d6-1), Long Bow (1d6), Quiver w/ 20 arrows, Chain Mail, Shield
Jaeg Lurnal / Magic-User 2 / Chaotic
STR 8 INT 15 WIS 9 DEX 14 CON 12 CHR 10
HP 4 AC 9  Save 13
Spells: Light, Read Magic
Items: 39 gp, Staff (1d6), 3 Daggers (1d6-1)
This, my friends, was difficult for me. Rolling up a straight, by-the-book, Swords & Wizardry (WhiteBox) party when you come from a heavily AD&D background is hard on the brain. The power level is so, so low. I can understand why some folks prefer this, but as much as I love my WhiteBox box (and my OCE box before it) I don’t think I could actually play this way. I’ve just got too much of the supplements (and later versions of the rules) in my blood.
Still, it was edifying and under the right circumstances I’d happily give this kind of game a try as a player. I’d try it as a GM, too, but I’d never in a million years get my normal player group to go along with it. They’re too enamored of the power levels associated with later iterations of old school play.
For the record, what I think I miss the most is the broader range of attribute modifiers. And the beauty of S&W is that I could easily add those in if I wanted to. Still, if I’m going to do that, and then start adding in spells (hey there, Magic MIssile) and other things that I’m also missing I’m reaching a point where I might as well be playing a different game. One that has what I’m looking for already in it (LL/AEC comes to mind).
In any case, though it may not be what I’m likely to play, I’m damn glad S&W exists. So please don’t take my personal observations as anything negative about the game itself. I’m just realizing how it relates to what I’m looking for.
And, of course, I do like designing for S&W (Core more than WB, though) – in no small part because it is so very small and free in scope.
Not a bad looking, starting out, party though.
From my experiences with S&S: they’ll die very quickly. Well, that seems to be my experience: we roll up pcs, we trek into the wilderness, we fight, we find some ancient, ruined tower, we fight, we die.
Days later a bloodied and naked man staggers back to camp only to mutter gibberish until the end of his days…
They came out alright (if destined for doom), but as I was putting them together I just found them… dull? I’m not quite sure that’s the right word, but I think it is. They’re not very differentiated from each other, mechanically. I just never thought that such things mattered to me as much as they apparently do. And that’s shocking.
What I really can’t imagine is rolling up 1/2 a dozen fighters and trying to find the differences among them. Especially with nearly all weapons doing 1d6 damage and all of them having, at best, a +1 to hit and/or damage.
I mean, I’ve been at this a looooong time now and I know that the differences in RPG characters really do come from the RP part (as opposed to the G part), but still, S&W WhiteBox just seems a bit too light on the differentiation front. Oh well, that’s one of the reasons we have all these different games to play, after all 🙂
Finding a happy medium isn’t always easy. When we last made LL/AEC characters a couple of them really came out heavy, the dwarf ranger (I allow a sub-class of an accepted class), rolling 4d6 and dropping the lowest and adjusting to taste was really devastating, straight out of the gate. This doesn’t daunt me that much, I mess with the players enough that they are scrambling before too long anyway. 🙂
I saw you reference that somewhere else and I wondered if it would dovetail with this discussion.
And I think that’s why the overall power level of LL/AEC (or OSRIC, other their various source materials, etc.) doesn’t bother me. As a GM I’m bound to wind up challenging the players regardless of how tough they are out of the gate.
There’s another lesson here, too. I once played a ridiculously powerful 1st level fighter (STR 18/94 INT 15 WIS 13 DEX 18 CON 18 CHR 17 naturally rolled in front of the GM’s eyes) in AD&D. His AC was 0 at 1st level; his HP were 14. He effing slayed everything in sight and was untouchable by almost everything for several levels. Kobolds, giant weasels, goblins, orcs. You name it, they fell before the might of Hassan and everyone loved it. I was the most experienced player by far in the group and that meant that the character and I both made a natural leader. It just worked.
And then, somewhere around 5th level, Hassan’s arrogance (built up by his experience as being untouchable, and a little bit of mine) marched straight into the breath weapon of a black dragon and died on the spot. The effect on the campaign was amazing. Two players who had previously been somewhat withdrawn became very engaged, in a struggle to see who would lead the party. Everyone else joined in mightily. And I reentered the campaign with an entirely different character (a much weaker, MU/TH who was certainly no leader of men). It was one of the best campaigns I’ve ever been in. And yes, some of that has to do with having been the guy playing the uber-powerful character. But actually, most of it doesn’t.
So there you go. A case for strong first level characters has been made 🙂
You have a point with the whole “very weak 1st level pcs suck” – you often get pcs that are so underpowered the players are unwilling to get them into a scrap, lest they die.
there’s nothing worse than having a 1st level MU, because all he/she seems to be good for is hanging back and throwing the occasional dart or shooting off a crossbow bolt.
“Sir Lysor, Mistress Kellar – you seem to be doing very well with those orce – would you like me to cast “read magic” soon?”
And that’s what kills me. To me, the best part of the game is really in that range between 1st and 6th level. So if your characters are weak in that range, well, damn, that takes a chunk of fun out of the game for me.
I’ve never played a low-level MU, but I’m really beginning to understand why so many people I know avoided them like the plague (and went for multi-classed demi-human spell casters instead).
Great humorous example, by the way 🙂
I do like that hightower powered pc had an effect on the storytelling like that. Good stuff!
It’s an odd example, but it’s true.
Actually on another note- I disagree on that last point of yours pao.
I love that feeling early on, esp in a sandbox game: you gather a brave band of misfits, never do wells and sell swords and go and stick your heads in ruins. You’re going to die! Of course you are! It’s all part and parcel of what the setting should be
Oh don’t get me wrong, amigo. There should be plenty of challenge and danger in a game. I just don’t think the best way to get there is by stripping the characters down to the low, low power levels of S&W WhiteBox (and, by extension, OD&D) is the way to get there.
That said, I don’t want superheroes at first level, either. OD&D plus the supplements, or AD&D, or Moldvay D&D are all about in line with the power levels I like. And that’s all I’m really saying here.