In 1974, Gary Gygax (1938-2008) and Dave Arneson wrote the world’s first fantasy role-playing game, a simple and very flexible set of rules that launched an entirely new genre of gaming. In 1976, the first supplement to these rules was published, with Rob Kuntz as Mr. Gygax’s co-author. Many years later, in the year 2000, Wizards of the Coast allowed the use of most of the material from that game under a license called the Open Game License. What you’re reading is an approximate re-creation of the Gygax-Arneson original fantasy role-playing game, created using the Open Game License. The re-creation isn’t exact—it’s not allowed to be, and we have treated the original copyright with utmost respect. But while the language in this book may be a little bit less magical than in the original, we believe the rules and system are close enough to reproduce the “lightning in a bottle” of that original edition (often called 0e). In fact, we think swords & wizardry is actually a bit better organized and easier to learn than the original. Since the original rules were supplemented with several later books, it’s impossible to nail down any “canon” set of rules for 0e. This is our interpretation of the game, using rules and systems from only the original set of rulebooks and some selected rules-material from the later supplements.
Swords & Wizardry is a fantasy role-playing game. The rules are extremely short, compared to the multi-paged rule-libraries required to play most modern role-playing games. Yet this game contains within itself all the seeds and soul of mythic fantasy, the building blocks of vast complexity, the kindling of wonder. The game is so powerful because it’s encapsulated in a small formula, like a genie kept imprisoned in the small compass of an unremarkable lamp. It’s also, for that matter, the ultimate tool for the expert Referee who customizes his worlds with variant rules and non-Tolkienesque visions of theSword & Sorcery genre. The customizability of a small system is very powerful.
Because the rules and system of 0e was the foundation for many later fantasy role-playing games, you will find that Swords & Wizardry is more than just a simulacrum of 0e. It is also designed to be compatible with a number of other fantasy games, both in their original forms or created using the Open Game License. You will find that this game is compatible with First Edition (Gary Gygax), Second Edition, Basic (Moldvay), Basic (Holmes), OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, and others. Modules created for these games will be usable (to a greater or lesser degree) with Swords & Wizardry, and Swords & Wizardry modules are playable using the rules for any of these other games.
Also, you can publish your own adventures, house rules, and other materials for this game. Guidelines and requirements are in the back of the book right before the Open Game License.
SWORDS & WIZARDRY uses several different kinds of dice, and we abbreviate them according to how many sides they have. So, the four-sided die is called a d4, and if we’re telling you to roll 3 of them, we say to roll 3d4. The six-sided die is a d6, the eight-sided die is a d8, the ten-sided die is a d10, the twelve-sided die is a d12, and the twenty-sided die is a d20. There is no die with 100 sides—what you do to roll a d100 is to roll two ten-sided dice, treating the first roll as the “tens” and the second roll as the “ones.” So, if you were to roll a 7 and then a 3, that would mean a 73. A roll of 0 and 0 means a result of “100.”