Hall of Bones

Hall of Bones (Free RPG Day)
From: Frog God Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung


Hall of Bones (Free RPG Day) is a new Swords & Wizardry Free RPG Day Adventure from Frog God Games.

The old school movement continues with another entry into the mix that I had not heard of before – Swords & Wizardry RPG.  This is not to say these guys are brand new to the market – it’s just new to me.  Their Free RPG Day offering is the Hall of Bones, and it contains all you need to run and play it.

From the back cover:
“Frog God Games is pleased to present a short handling of our rules set, game theory and a short adventure of the award winning Swords & Wizardry game.”

Hall of Bones is a simple adventure to introduce you to the Swords & Wizardry game system.  The booklet contains a “short handling” of the Swords & Wizardry rules, an old school primer on game theory, the Hall of Bones adventure and 4 pre-generated characters.  This is a complete Free RPG Day booklet and what I would expect out of it.

The Swords & Wizardry core rules are downloadable for free from the Frog God web site or you can purchase them in print from them.  In 2009, the game won an ENnie award at GenCon and it has proven to be very popular on the internet.  In the basic sense, it is a “re-printing/re-imagining” of the classic first edition D&D, taking advantage of what Wizards of the Coast was willing to open license, with a few minor changes.

I got involved in gaming in 1983 and probably played this version of D&D once.  I don’t remember a lot about it so this is basically new to me.  For those not familiar with D&D 1e, it set the foundation for what was to become the d20 system but on a much less heroic level.  The system was pretty stingy with experience, was very restrictive on magic items and in general much less epic that its successors.  It uses a lot of tables in combat (a different Attack vs. Armor Class table for each class) and does not have feats or class abilities, so to speak.  Each class is slightly different and has their own progression table but multi-classing is highly restricted.

A future review of these rules will soon appear on The Gamers Codex.

Much of that does not matter for this Free RPG Day one-shot.  In this, the adventure is strictly to illustrate the system.  One interesting modification of the paired down version is that it doesn’t use the default AC rules – which is the classic descending value (lower is better).  Instead, these quick start rules use the more d20-esque ascending scale for AC.  Otherwise, there are many familiar d20 tropes that most would recognize – attack bonus, the 6 abilities score and their bonuses, hit dice and hit points, for example.

The section entitled “An Old-School Primer” delves into the author’s philosophy as to why he prefers this kind of system over more modern ones in the same genre and part of the same line.  For instance, characters’ ability scores have less effect to avoid the uber-powerful character too early.  He shares a vision with many other old-schoolers that less is more, and power-gaming is in part what has lead to much of what see today in the more modern version of D&D.  At least that’s the way I interpret his opinions.  I’m not saying he is wrong and I am not saying he’s entirely right either.  That debate could go on and on and have no result.  But it is a refreshing approach to today’s fantasy role playing games.

It is also interesting that they added this to a Free RPG Day supplement.  It’s like the old school movement needs evangelizing.

From back cover:
“This game is similar to very old school editions of the game, dating back to 1974.”

The four pre-generated characters are a dwarf fighter, human cleric, human magic user, and an elf thief.  Include the henchman and his animal follower introduced at the start of the booklet (that easily can be converted to a character), the party is complete.

The adventure itself is a basic dungeon crawl, giving the character the best reason to explore it – evil lurking inside and great riches to be found.  Through the standard character recruitment method of a tavern, the find out there is an evil necromancer lurking in some ruins and rumors of a dungeon beneath containing great treasure.  The players are lead through a perilous dungeon with traps, tricks and treasure all along the way. Also they encounter a few monsters too, including ghouls, giant spiders and giant rates.

There is very little preparation for this game, if a GM wants to run this at a Free RPG Game Day.  Just a simple read through of the rules, which are familiar enough to anyone familiar with d20 or Pathfinder that they could easily grasp it.  On the flip side of that, this can easily be converted to something else if the GM so wishes.  However, I would highly recommend giving this a try using the Sword & Wizardry system.

In conclusion, I feel like these guys grasp the essence of what Free RPG Day is meant to be.  They give you all you need up front and if that’s not enough, they give you the free option to download their rulebook.  You can tell they are passionate about their love for classic D&D 1e.  This is a great intro product to a great game.

For more details on Frog God Games and their new Sword & Wizardry Free RPG Day AdventureHall of Bones (Free RPG Day)” check them out at their website http://tsathogga.blogspot.com.

Codex Rating: 18

Product Summary

Hall of Bones (Free RPG Day)
From: Frog God Games
Type of Game: Sword & Wizardry Free RPG Day Adventure
Written by: Bill Webb
Contributing Authors: Aaron Zirkelbach
Game Design by: Bill Webb
Cover Art by: Chris Mcfann
Additional Art by: Brian LaBlanc, MKUltra Studios, Claudio Pazos, James Stowe, Richard Thomas
Number of Pages: 20
Game Components Included: Rules overview, adventure, pre-generated characters.
Website: http://tsathogga.blogspot.com/

Reviewed by: Ron McClung