Comparing Swords & Wizardry and ACKS

I have been poking around in other OSR systems while working on mine and I have been interested in these two systems quite a bit. However, I noticed that these systems do things a little bit differently.

Swords & Wizardry focuses on dungeon crawling, pure and simple. If you need a simple and flexible OSR system to run a convention game, or a short campaign, use Swords & Wizardry! If you don’t want to waste an hour creating a character and go straight into the dungeon, trust me, this is the system for you!

There are a couple of games based on Swords & Wizardry that I would recommend if you are doing a one-shot game. Shitlord: The Triggering or Swords & Wizardy: Light. These games distill the Swords & Wizardry even further, for even faster character creation / play.

Now ACKS…oh ACKS, what don’t you do? Compared to Swords & Wizardry, this game is a little more complex in the dungeon crawling aspect, but not quite as complex as certain newer systems. Yet, it covers all kinds of other aspects of the game that may come up.

Want to build your own kingdom and collect taxes from peasant farmers?
ACKS has you covered.

Want to commission a sweet Viking longship to go pillage in and need to know the price Barry the Boat Builder will charge?
ACKS has you covered.

Want to start a thieves’ guild and need detailed rules for the shenanigans you can cause?
ACKS has you covered.

Want to hire mercenary troops to go to war with a neighboring kingdom with wargame rules?
ACKS has you covered.

As a GM, want a usable system to create a new character class that is somewhat balanced with the pre-existing classes? ACKS. HAS. YOU. COVERED.

Now you can argue that a GM ruling can cover all this, and I would agree, most of the time. However, these systems are well-thought out and truly allow the players to make big impacts on the world in non-combat ways. Also, as far as I can tell, these systems are fairly balanced. If your players want to do some of the activities listed above or you want to have a looooooooooooong term campaign, go with ACKS.

After saying all this, I want to remind you of the strengths of OSR games: they can work together. You can easily adapt material from one game for another. You are not bound to just one rule book, these games work together with a lot less elbow grease than say…4th Edition D&D and 5th Edition D&D.


3 thoughts on “Comparing Swords & Wizardry and ACKS

  1. searchingfordragonsblog

    Absolutely spot on. I have dropped DCC 66.5 into S&W and AS&SH with zero problems. Try to do that with 3.0 to 4 to fifth edition. It’s a mathematical irritant. Hell I can wing modules in the OSR community from one system to another and have zero lag time while running it.

    Also, I love ACKS. We are spoiled with damn fine RPG’s now. The hard part is deciding who gets your coin.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. searchingfordragonsblog

        I know. Which is why I’m considering sticking to what I LOVE in gaming products and expanding my shelves for additional historical books. So I can produce quality content for people such as us. History is just as fun, as is poetry and prose. We need it, like sci-fi we should not give up the fight for what is good for the mind.


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