Josh over at Grimmhaus is doing what looks like it will be a multi-part review of the Swords & Wizardry Core Rules. Josh is a particularly good person to be doing this in terms of comparing the earlier versions to the newest version because he is a long-time fan of the earlier Core Rules. Hence, if there's a critique, he'll have it ... fortunately for my peace of mind he's sounding satisfied so far.
People who use the original D&D rules should find that this printing represents a much closer clone than the earlier printings, too. I think that for most people with this objection it's not theoretically or legally possible to ever satisfy them with a clone game at all -- which is fine. The last thing in the world I want to do is to tell someone who truly plays OD&D that he's "doing it wrong" or that I've got a better alternative. Swords & Wizardry is a tool for OD&D, not vice versa. My real reason for nudging it closer isn't to satisfy criticisms about how close or far the clone comes to the original, it's to satisfy my own view of how the game needs to orient around the source material.
I see it as a host of options and possibilities that surround a "Basic book" which offers a fairly clear and easily understandable "pathway" to get a new player started easily. You have to get started with the basic pathway before you can appreciate what those options permit. And once you're ready to start tweaking and building, you're off the basic pathway and into the real spirit of OD&D. I think one weakness of the original OD&D books was that they didn't take the novice reader very well into account, and given the goal of S&W, to spread the word, I've tried to do that a bit more clearly in S&W.
So hopefully I've managed to create an improvement over the earlier printings in terms of presenting the original game as a pathway with a host of rich options branching out from the main path. I'm eagerly awaiting Josh's views on this, and I'm interested to see (since that whole "pathway" thing is a big deal for me) how he thinks it compares to actual OD&D as a starter booklet for a new player. He might not be planning on covering that, but I'd like to hear how well this printing functions as a Basic book for OD&D, compared to how the last printing did.
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