Rules, House Rules, and Rulings


We'll be using Swords and Wizardry White Box (third printing), which offers many alternate and variant rules. The first list below indicates which variants we'll be using. Below that you will find a short list of true house rules (additions or changes to rules as written).

Players will be provided with a pdf copy of the rules with the unused options blanked out (to avoid confusion).


Official rules-as-written variants and options to be used
(page numbers in parentheses)

1. Attributes (6-7): Ignore the "Alternate Rule: Universal Attribute Bonus."
2. Hit Points (8): PCs get maximum hit points at first level. They then roll for hit points at each subsequent level.
3. Character Retirement (9): Retirement is optional; but advancement stops at lesser of level 10 or race limit.
4. The Elf (17-18): Use the variant rules on page 18 ("fighter-magic user blend" + "chainmail restriction").
5. Weapon Damage (22-23): use the variable weapon damage indicated in the tables.
6. Calculating Armor Class (24): use Ascending AC.
7. Combat (27): use the standard combat sequence as described on page 27.
8. Initiative (28): tied initiative will be re-rolled.
9. Damage and Death (30): characters die at 0 hp.
10. Binding Wounds (30): this rule is in effect.
11. Saving Throws (32): the standard "unified" saving throw will be used.
12. Turning the Undead (34): the standard rule will be used (an ability, not a spell).
13. Ascending AC Combat (35): the Quick Method will be used.


True House Rules

1. Dice Rolls: all dice rolls are made by the GM.

2. Attributes: players will be given six attribute scores in order but may swap any two scores.

3. "Unauthorized" Weapons: PCs and NPCs may use weapons not "authorized" by their chosen class. However, clerics do 1d6 damage with any "unauthorized" weapon, and magic-users do 1d6-1 damage (minimum of 1 damage on any hit) with any "unauthorized" weapon.

4. Attribute Checks: The rules as written make little use of PC attributes. When a PC takes an action whose outcome is unsure, and for which there is no existing rule, the GM will make an attribute check against the most appropriate attribute score, by rolling 3d6 (moderate), 4d6 (hard), 5d6 (very hard), or 6d6 (near impossible). If the result is less than or equal to the PC's attribute, the PC's action is a success. If not, the action fails.

5. Cost of Living: Basic living expenses in town are 1 gp per character level per day.

6. Experience Points: XP will be awarded for monsters defeated and treasure spent. As you spend gp, remember to convert them on a one-to-one basis on your character sheet (and remember to include your xp bonus as you do). In addition to standard, by-the-book equipment purchases, PCs can opt to make abstracted "major expenditures" in any of the following ways: donations to the church, magical research, martial training, carousing, luxury. The expenditures need not be of the same type every time. Expenditures may be made little-by-little, or as a single lump expense just before leveling up. Some class/alignment restrictions apply. In addition to simply receiving XP for the expenditure, there are potential "side benefits" for each expenditure type. To reap a side benefit, the player is allowed to declare a maximum of one "primary" and one "secondary" expenditure type. For an expenditure to count as "primary" the PC must spend, since last leveling up, a cumulative sum of gp exceeding 50% of the xp required to reach the next level. A PC is guaranteed to receive the side benefit for a primary area of expenditure. For an expenditure to count as "secondary," it must be the second highest area of major expenditure since the PC last leveled up. A PC has a chance of receiving the side benefit for a secondary area of expenditure. Any side benefit is received at the first narratively logical opportunity at, or immediately after, leveling up. For example, someone who spends gold on martial training would need to spend at least two weeks in town with a trainer after leveling up. Someone who has been donating to the church would have to be in town after leveling up (where an emissary of the church would likely seek out the PC to reward his/her significant and/or repeated generosity with a gift). The restrictions and side benefits for each type of major expenditure are:

a. Donations to the Church (lawful or neutral only, open to any class). Side benefit: The PC receives a gift from the church.
b. Magical Research (magic-users and elves only, any alignment). Side benefit: the spellcaster gets to choose any one legal spell allowed to him/her upon leveling up, instead of simply relying on random scrolls found. It is assumed the character will spend at least two weeks completing the research.
c. Martial Training (any class except magic-users, any alignment). The PC gets +1 to his/her hp roll upon leveling. It is assumed the character will spend at least two weeks in training.
d. Carousing (no clerics). Side benefit: Hireling loyalty is increased by +1 for the duration of the player's new level (for all hirelings invited to participate in any of the carousing).
e. Luxury (open to all). Side benefit: Increased chance, for the duration of the PC's new level, of attracting hirelings and, if applicable, a chance that hireling candidates will be of better than average quality or level.

Calculation: To calculate 50% of the xp required for the next level, subtract the minimum xp required for the current level, from the minimum xp required for the next level, and divide by two. To clarify, exceeding 50% means spending at least 1 gp over 50%.

Keeping Records: In addition to converting gp spent to XP, players spending as they go will need to keep track, on their character sheets of "Major Expenditures, Level X" (where X is the current level of the PC, and whose total resets to "0" each time the PC levels up), showing the type and amount of the expense. Players opting to simply make a "lump sum" expenditure just before leveling need not keep any such record on their sheets. All players will also need to list relevant certain side benefits and their duration on their character sheet under "Spells/Abilities" for example "+1 hireling loyalty while PC is level two."

7. New Characters: When a character dies, the player's new character will start with xp equal to 67% of the average xp in the party.

8. Hirelings: There are two types of hirelings available to accompany PCs on adventures – unskilled laborers, and mercenaries. Unskilled laborers are torchbearers, porters, etc. Mercenaries are first-level fighters (on rare occasions level two or higher), who lack the initiative to run their own adventuring expeditions, but who are good in a fight and willing to sign on to others' dungeon and wilderness forays. For both types a sum of money must be laid out to search for candidates (an abstracted set sum that represents standard practices of posting notices, hiring criers and/or frequenting taverns). Each type has a per week wage which must be paid up front, at the start of each week. They will arrive with some minimal equipment of their own, though PCs may offer to upgrade their equipment for them. PCs will always have to supply them with rations, and will have to pay for their food and lodging in towns. Hirelings do not get xp and do not level up. While they are not entitled to a share of the treasure, small bonuses and gifts will help to ensure hireling loyalty.

A. Unskilled Laborers (torchbearers, porters, etc.).
Search Cost: 10 gp, drawing 0-3 candidates over 1-4 days.
Weekly Wage: 2 gp per week.
Starting Equipment: Dagger, Backpack, Water skin

B. Mercenaries (first-level fighters, rarely higher).
Search Cost: 20 gp, drawing 0-2 candidates over 1-6 days.
Weekly Wage: 5 gp per week.
Starting Equipment: Leather Armor (sometimes Chainmail), Weapon and Shield (or two weapons and no shield), Backpack, Water skin

Other more specialized hireling types are available (see rulebook p. 25 for examples), whose searching and hiring costs and procedures will vary by individual and circumstance.

9. Henchmen: Henchmen can on occasion be acquired through the course of the game narrative as circumstances allow them to meet the PCs and, for one reason or another, become attached to them. In effect, they are sidekicks. Henchmen, unlike hirelings, get no wage, but generally expect a half share of treasure (failing which they will likely become disillusioned and disloyal, and are likely to leave the PCs). They also get xp (half the amount earned by the PCs for monsters defeated). They level up, just like PCs, though obviously at a slower rate due to the fact they receive fewer XP. Henchmen come fully equipped according to their level and class.



Charm Person Spell

1. Every individual has certain traits at the very core of his being that prevent him in acting in certain ways, even when charmed. These are typically rooted in deep emotions – self-preservation, intense fear, intense love, intense loyalty, etc. Any command that would contradict such a core trait will not be obeyed, and may actually dispel the charm.

2. Apart from these core traits, the charm spell is controlling in the extreme. As a result:
a. The charmed individual will appear in an almost trance-like state. Those who know him may remark that something is "off" about his behavior, though they may not be able to put their finger on precisely what it is.
b. Beyond the core nature of the individual (see #1), the charm strips away much of the charmed person's will and personal initiative. Assuming a command does not contradict his "core nature" (see #1) the charmed person will make every attempt to execute all of the M-U's commands to the letter. (Be careful how you phrase things!)
c. Not having much will or initiative, the charmed individual will not be able to improvise or adapt the meaning of the command to new circumstances without the M-U directly instructing him how to do so.

3. When not executing any particular command, the charmed individual will go about the basic mundane trivial routines of life (such as feeding and cleaning himself normally). He won't starve to death because you forget to give him the command to eat. He will be quite passive.

4. The charm is dispelled:
a. any time the M-U simply wishes it.
b. by a Dispel Magic spell.
c. (potentially) by a command contrary to the individual's core nature.
d. by the death of the M-U.


Daggers can be thrown, range is same as throwing axe, ROF = 2 per round.


Charging does extra damage if a hit is scored. Spears/Polearms can be set to receive a charge; if so, receiver automatically has initiative over charger; if receiver hits, he does extra damage.

Defining "main towns" vs. "smaller villages and hamlets"

Many types of equipment, services, expenditures noted in the house rules/rulings are available in the "main towns" but not in "smaller villages and hamlets." The main towns in the vicinity of Fairbrook are: Fairbrook, Stag Hollow, Woodfield, Brewer's Mill, Ham's Fork.

Resale value of equipment

Unless otherwise noted by the GM, the resale value of all equipment appearing on the rule book lists will be 50% the book value. This applies to equipment looted and any old equipment of your own you simply intend to replace.

Rounds of drinks

Cost is 1 gp per round, flat fee, regardless of how many people are in the tavern or inn (this is based on an estimated average number of clients that should even out over time).

Superior Workmanship Weapons and Gear

For the purposes of narrative color and/or to add to gp-to-xp spending, PCs can purchase "luxury" or "superior workmanship" versions of any weapon or piece of gear. The "superior workmanship" is primarily aesthetic in nature, and has no advantage in terms of game mechanics when the equipment or gear is used. The player is free to choose exactly how much his character will spend on the item (i.e. workmanship level of the item), anywhere up to 10 times the standard book cost of the item. Resale value is always based on the standard book cost, regardless of the "workmanship value" paid by the PC. Such items are always available in main towns. As a rule, they are not available in smaller villages and hamlets.

Silvered Weapons

Any weapon can be purchased in a "silvered" variety. The cost of any such weapon is 20 times the book value of a normal weapon. These are available in main towns. As a rule they are not available in smaller villages and hamlets.


Banking institutions do not charge for keeping PC money safe, or for converting one form of currency to another (including conversions of coins to gems in 100 gp, 200 gp, 300 gp, 400 gp and 500 gp sizes). Banks do not pay interest to the PCs. The banking institutions profit from the service of storing funds securely by investing and lending a portion of the money entrusted to them by all their clients. As a rule, PCs will have no trouble drawing on their accounts for expenses in any of the main towns. The one exception to this is for withdrawals involving more than one thousand gp, in which case there will be a delay in delivery of the sum. Banking services are generally not available in any of the smaller villages and hamlets.

Copying Scrolls

It takes one day per level of the spell, but only requires normal parchment and ink. There is no cost to copying the scroll, but the M-U will need to lock him-/herself in a quiet room and remain mostly undisturbed while copying. Simply copying (or otherwise reading silently) does not destroy the scroll. After copying the scroll, the M-U can use it as a one-shot spell beyond those slots available in his/her memory. When the scroll is used to actually cast the spell (speaking the words aloud and making required gestures), the writing is burned away by the magical energy.

Additional Magic-User Spell: Magic Missile 

Range: 150'
Duration: Instant
Glowing projectile conjured and shot by magic, automatically hitting any visible target of the magic-user's choice for 1d6+1 damage. When the caster reaches fourth level, the spell allows the shooting of two missiles simultaneously; upon reaching seventh level, three missiles can be shot simultaneously. The caster can choose to send multiple missiles at the same or at different targets.

Read Magic

When magic-users get their basic training, they learn to read a variety of common magical languages. So most "normal" scrolls don't require "read magic" to use. However, many ancient or obscure magical writings, as well as  certain carvings, warnings, wards, glyphs, runes, etc. that adventurers discover while adventuring may very well require it.

Magic Item Identification

Any item can be identified as simply being magical (or not) by means of a "detect magic" spell. This does not reveal the specific type of magic, or if the item has useful magic or is cursed. Note that poisons are (generally) not magic (so you'll know that a potion is (very probably) not poison if "detect magic" shows it to be magical).

Potions can be sampled with a sip. If the potion is magical, its nature will be known, and enough of the potion will remain for a full dose. If the potion is poison, the poison is just as deadly from a sip as from drinking the full dose.

Any item whose use is obvious (armor, weapon, wand, ring) need only be picked up and worn/handled normally (i.e., grabbing a weapon by its handle, putting a ring on a finger etc.). If this is done and the item is magical, it is immediately identified. If it is cursed, the person wearing/handling the item is immediately cursed.

For scrolls, see previous ruling on "Read Magic" above.

Specialists. Some NPCs (e.g. Cosmo) are specialists in magic item identification. They can identify nearly any magic item for a price. Some magic items may be complex enough that they can only be identified by a specialist.


  1. Re: "6. Experience Points: XP will be awarded for monsters defeated and treasure spent. In addition to standard, by-the-book equipment purchases, PCs can opt, once per level, to make a "major expenditure" in any one or, at a maximum two, ways..."

    Does this expenditure have to be all at once or can it be spread out over time?

    For example, Conan is a level 1 fighter who loves carousing. Does he need to spend 1000 gp all on one giant bender or can he spend 100 gp each time he is in town 10 times to receive the benefit?

    1. Good question. I had originally thought up the "once-per-level rule" largely as an abstraction to simplify book-keeping really, in addition to defining the starting and ending point for the benefits of the expenditures. It's true that for the expenditures other than carousing, the once-per-level rule makes a lot more sense; for carousing maybe not so much (though wouldn't a 1000gp bender be epic?). What we might do is allow carousing expenditures to be made in smaller increments, but, in terms of benefit, make a note of when the "critical mass" of expenditure is reached (i.e. >50% of xp needed for next level), or, if the player is opting for a lesser sum (with merely the chance of a benefit), the player could simply declare when he wants to make his attempt at the benefit (likely right before leveling up I would assume).