17 December 2010

In Praise of the Original Swords and Wizardry Cover

I recently received the PDF for the Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook, and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the three physical copies that I recently ordered (two softcover, one hardcover). Sadly, it is exceedingly unlikely that I will receive them before the (exhausting and family-intensive) annual Saturnalia and Festivus activities.

Unsurprisingly, I think that the S&W Complete rules are great (I already was a huge fan of the original S&W Core rules, so much so that I penned a few S&W articles for Knockspell). I have some very, very minor quibbles about some of the rules choices that Matt Finch made for his interpretation of the 'Ye Olde Game' (which I may outline in a future post, time permitting). Nonetheless, overall, S&W remains my favourite incarnation of D&D around these days -- the 'Complete' rules only add to what already was a great game, without creating any unpleasant bloat.

My one real complaint with this new version of S&W is that the wonderful picture created by Pete Mullen (displayed above) no longer graces the cover. Now, don't get me wrong -- I think that the new cover by Rick Sardinha is excellent (and I am, in general, a fan of Sardinha's work). However, the new cover simply lacks the distinctive, quirky charm of Mullen's work. I'm not sure why Frog God Games thought it necessary to abandon the original cover.

That complaint aside, though, I urge you to check out S&W Complete. It's full of great stuff. Fight On!

17 comments:

  1. Well, just know that you're definitely not alone!

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  2. I love the core and WB covers. Mullen's style was a perfect match for the game as far as I was concerned.

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  3. The lack of a Mullen cover dampens my enthusiasm over the complete rules. With the core and WB covers, I could imagine a unique and appealing D&D world that was part sword & sorcery and part Tokien. I loved them for that.

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  4. The Mullen cover is hands down better than the current one--which smacks of newer edition aesthetic.

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  5. Sadly, the current (BHP) version of the 'White Box' rules no longer uses the earlier (and much superior, in my opinion) Mullen cover.

    It is unfortunate (and, I think, somewhat strange) that Mullen's work, which helped give S&W such a distinctive look, is no longer used for either version of the game.

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  6. I prefer the Mullen covers too. The core cover especially; always had the folks I showed it to excited to play the game!

    Not a deal breaker, mind you, but my first choice would have been an all-new Mullen cover. Imo, Mullen is the iconic "look" of the game.

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  7. To me, S&W Core and LL are close clones of the 3 LBBs and B/X D&D respectively. Their cover and internal artwork transmit this theme very well and I am happy with these products as they are.

    S&W Complete, LL AEC and OSRIC all seem to be vying for the spot of 1e AD&D-lite which makes me think that that niche is getting a bit crowded. I feel neither LL AEC nor OSRIC provides adequate rules for high level adventures, be it the planar adventures of AD&D or the dominion and conquest gameplay of BECMI. Its unfortunate that S&W Complete doesn't overtly transmit that it seeks to fill these gaps by having more appropriate cover art but if the matter is addressed adequately in the rules then I'm willing to overlook the oversight. The question in my mind right now is, does it?

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  8. Akrasia said: It is unfortunate (and, I think, somewhat strange) that Mullen's work, which helped give S&W such a distinctive look, is no longer used for either version of the game.

    My take exactly! Mullen is the face and the soul of S&W.

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  9. But this is not a "new" cover. It's the cover for Complete.
    Complete is not the 'new version'.
    Complete has nothing to do with Core. Core still does and still will exist and thus will still have the wonderful Mullen art.

    -MachFront

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  10. Agreed, much prefer the old cover.

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  11. Count me in as another fan of the original Mullen cover.

    When Whitebox moved away from Mullen I was saddened. The new "complete" thing abandoning Mullen also saddens, but there's a faint tinge of anger to the sadness. If the Core rules (I'll avoid barking about having three versions of what are essentially the same rules) moves away from Mullen in the future, that'll turn into real anger.

    One of the early strengths I felt S&W had over Labyrinth Lord and OSRIC was the professional and unified art and design they showed the world. It was a lot easier to get players interested in S&W with the Mullen covers than it was with the cute but crappy LL cover or the dark and also crappy OSRIC cover. It's too bad that branding and identity has been reduced with the parting out of the system to different publishers.

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  12. @machfront1: While I know -- and am grateful -- that the SW Core PDF will continue to be available for download, I was under the impression that the print version of SW Core no longer would be for sale, and that SW Complete will be the version that appears in gamestores, etc.

    (I believe that BHP is also trying to get their SW WB into stores, but that version also lacks the superior, earlier Mullen cover.)

    @strangestones: While I obviously am not happy with FGG's decision to change the SW cover, the new cover is still superior (IMO, of course) to those of LL and OSRIC (both games that I very much like).

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  13. That Mullen cover hit the balance between encapsulating what was, with the idea of revisiting it with new eyes so well that it seems like a stroke of luck it even happened.

    The fact that that cover was then abandoned is symbolic of all the other weird decisions being made regarding S&W in my opinion. I'll look on the bright side and just be glad the first core hardcover got me excited about D&D again.

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  14. Akrasia wrote: While I obviously am not happy with FGG's decision to change the SW cover, the new cover is still superior (IMO, of course) to those of LL and OSRIC

    That's true.

    I very much like the cover design of the newest version of LL - the b/w with red logo is very distinctive and has its own charm. It's old school without imitating the TSR layout/design.

    Just like Mullen's Core cover (which has the bonus of being a clever nod to the red idol).

    But even I have to agree that the new Complete Edition cover (combined with the superb interior layout) is better suited for a wider, more modern audience.

    Telecanter wrote: and just be glad the first core hardcover got me excited about D&D again.

    Hell, yes!

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  15. @Akrasia I whole-heartedly agree that the new S&W cover (dislike it though I may) is superior to the OSRIC cover and the old LL cover(s). But I actually think the execution on the new LL covers is better (from a personal taste point of view) and leads to a stronger brand identity (from a marketing point of view).

    In any case, as the kids say, "It is what it is." And if it sells more copies then all of my thoughts are worth even less than the electrons I used to express them :)

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  16. I would love nothing more than to have a game book filled with nothing but Mullen's artwork.

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who divides his time between Milwaukee and Toronto.