I always love to see how other DMs operate; what charts they use?, do they use minis? what kind of houserules are being used? It's always insightful to see someone else's tools and techniques. The one great thing about blogging and the 'OSR' is that many people share their experiences, sessions, methods, etc. with ideas and creativity running rampant!
So I thought I'd share some of my methods and tools in running my sandbox campaign that we've been running for a year now.
So I'll start at the beginning with the foundation of any game, the rules.
I chose to go with Swords & Wizardry core rules as my foundation. I could've gone with Holmes' Blue Book or Moldvay's Red but I went with S&W because I liked the openness of the rules as well as the 'newness' and availability of the rules/product (a plus to using the retro-clones). I felt that, right or wrong, I might be able to find players to join in a session or two if the game wasn't grounded in the past; if it seemed like something new. As it turned out I had no problem finding players, in fact, the group has kept growing until there are now nine of us.
Let's face it, the rules for all 3 versions that I mentioned are pretty much the same with only minor variations between them. Subtle variations yet enough to give the games a different feel from each other. Moldvay has a clear and unambiguous description of the rules but, IMO, leaves the PCs stronger than I was looking for. Holmes and S&W, on the other hand, are a bit more rough on the PCs and pulpy in terms of that subtle nature called atmosphere. A pretty good match to 'cut and paste'.
Swords & Wizardry is quite open in it's rules, very much a broad-stroke that begs for the DM and the players to fill in some of the blanks. Not as much as OD&D mind you but, nonetheless, some thought needs to be put into it. Since I've been a huge fan of Holmes' version of the game, I used that as a starting point to help fill in the blanks, so to speak.
From there I sprinkled in some Labyrinth Lord & LL Advanced Edition, a little Basic Fantasy RPG plus a number of ideas from the Swords & Wizardry site itself and other blogs and forums. I put all these additions together into a type of Player's Handbook of the House-Rules.
Along with the Player's Handbook for the House-Rules, I also put together two reference spell books, one for Magic-users and the other for Clerics and Druids. These are quick reference guide for various spells that the players use as well as I. These are available as a free pdf download from Lulu or a pay for print version from Lulu as well and are digest sized. A perfect fit for the already cluttered table.
To round things out, I use the S&W Monster Compendium.
So on any given night, I have out on the table, the Swords & Wizardry Core Rules, the Player's House-rule Handbook, The Book of Wizardry and the Book of the Divine, as well as the Monster Compendium. I also keep a version of Labyrinth Lord around just for quick reference on some odd rule that may need a quick judgment on.
And speaking of rule judgments, I don't hesitate to discuss tweaking rules with the players if it comes up. Usually we get to a pretty good consensus quickly without any delays in gameplay or arguments. After all, S&W is a rules-lite system and we mostly just want to have a good time having adventures and killing things. As you can see from our recaps, I think we have succeeded pretty well.
Next, I'll chat about every DM's crutch, the DM Screen.