Sword World 2.5: An Overview, Part Seven

Sword World 2.5

(Chapter the Last in my exhausting — er, exhaustive — series of Sword World 2.5 articles, picking the bones of the English version by the Sword World Translation Project. Download their translationjoin their Discord, or peruse their sub-Reddit. And gyre and gimble in the wabe.)

The Translation

Biting the hand

Before TSR released the first Japanese version of D&D in 1985, unpaid Japanese game enthusiasts would receive copies of the English books and painstakingly translate them in their spare time. Bootleg copies of these translations were photocopied and mailed around between college campuses for groups to play this cool new thing from the States.

Sword World 2.5 is currently published by Fujimi Shobo, an imprint of Kadokawa Publishing. Anime and manga likers will instantly know that name, because they’re a juggernaut with their fingers in practically every media pie in Japan. TTRPG enthusiasts have been trying for years to get them to sell us SW in English, but the publishers apparently don’t really see the crowded US RPG market as anything worth competing in. So now we have the Sword World Translation Project, a group of unpaid English-speaking game enthusiasts who have received copies of the Japanese books and are painstakingly translating them in their spare time … hmm, this sounds familiar somehow.

I have zero affiliation with the SWTP besides greedily consuming their output and lurking on their Discord. It feels petty to criticize this whole entire mad project they’re slaving away on, laying books out in front of me free of charge. It’s really a fine translation and I have no qualms about recommending it.


This is not a professional, sponsored, paid translation, and it shows. The layout is occasionally janky. Sometimes items have the wrong title or text because the format’s been obviously copy-pasted from somewhere else. The phrasing is sometimes odd and unclear and would benefit from another editing pass or two. I wish they’d chosen a different body font than Baskerville Old Face, which always reminds me of a 1950’s schoolbook. Their kerning is a bit too tight, which makes the spacing stand out. I want someone to go through and add some frickin’ padding to the frickin’ boxes for the LOVE OF PETE.

But (again), I’ve been watching how they work on Discord, and they’re pretty good about fixing mistakes. They recommend waiting a few weeks after a book or supplement gets translated before downloading the PDF as a permanent copy, since they’ll be changing it constantly to iron out the mistakes. They claim they’ve picked up a sub-team of competent copy editors, so maybe some of my complaints about phrasing will clear up. Auquid, the SW2.5 main translator, is so responsive and prolific that I wonder what they do for a living. The text isn’t Engrish-y or anything. I’ve certainly seen worse design skills, on paid products even.

And they’re doing it for free, so, yeah. Worth every penny you’ll spend on it and more.

The Game Itself

Just gnawing away on that hand, really getting into it

There is a lot to Sword World 2.5. The three core books alone are around 1,300 pages of pure uncut content. (The books are physically small, so that’s not as much content as 1,300 pages would be in D&D-style books. It’s still a lot of pages to flip through.)

The game’s conceit of escalating complexity from Book I -> Book II -> Book III has consequences. For instance, Book I introduces Sorcerers, Conjurers, and Priests, with level 1-5 spell lists for each one. Fine. Book II adds Bards, Enhancers, and Fairy Tamers, and includes their full lists from levels 1-10, while only having the levels 6-10 lists for the other traditions. Book III adds Alchemists and Riders, with their full list of abilities from 1-15, but only has levels 11-15 for everything else.

This trickles down in other places too. Level 1 combat feats for Bards sit aside level 6 feats for everyone else in Book II. Low-level Alchemist items are in tables with the highest-level magic items. A level 3 monster meant to be an opponent for Riders resides in Book III next to all the level 10 critters. It makes sense in its way, but it can be a pain to keep everything straight, especially for GMs.

Supplements like Epic Treasury, Magus Arts, and Monstrous Lore alleviate all of this with their comprehensive lists of what’s in the core books, plus more. This comes at the expense of having more books to refer to (and buy, if you’re not reading an unofficial translation, heh heh, tug collar).

The GM has to work to keep encounters tuned to the party’s strength, since the 2d6 mechanic has a smallish challenge-to-pain window and monsters start hitting hard quickly. Getting new armor and equipment is sometimes more important than leveling up. It’s also easy for a character to spread their XP out too much and fall behind other, more specialized heroes. Players need to consult with one another when they level up to make sure the whole party stays in tune.

Some supplements add new classes and races, so the players and GM need to stay up on what everyone else has access to. If someone comes in wanting to play a Soleil Druid/Tactician, a GM with only the core books will either have to educate themselves quick or be ready to say no. It’s not quite splatbook-level but it’s reminiscent.

(I love the Soleil, by the way. They’re a race of big bronze himbos who are possibly direct mortal descendants of the Sun God.)

You’re welcome

The game plays quickly once the players and GM have their feet under them. It’s not as crufty as OSR but not as loose as 5e either. The structure of combat reminds me of Pathfinder a bit, but not quite as clockwork-regimented. The rules are mostly unambiguous. Monsters aren’t just bags of HP, and often take actual strategies to defeat. Side initiative makes every fight feel like a slugfest.

It’s fun despite its peccadilloes, is what I’m saying.


It is finished

Sword World 2.5 is a very robust game. The GM should definitely take the time to skim all three volumes before playing, and you should expect some minor jank in your first session or two until everybody can internalize the basics. Once everyone gets it, it’s pretty easy.

It’s also a surprisingly social game which emphasizes teamwork and synergy. As long as players make sure their characters cover everyone else’s gaps, the game works great. It’s also possible to make silly characters that don’t contribute, so some level of GM counsel may be needed. This is a difficult game to bring your one weird character to a new table and fit right in. The GM can find Fellows to bridge the gaps, but there’s a danger of them overshadowing the players and/or becoming a crutch for bad party structure, and that’s no fun.

The rudimentary tactical combat rules are a bummer. That may change in the future but there hasn’t been any indication of that from the publisher. The tactical systems it does have range from ehh to okay. If you love your miniatures and maps, prepare either to put in some elbow grease, or move along.

Sword World 2.5 has had nearly 40 years of refinement, and it shows. I wouldn’t write so much about it if I didn’t recommend it. It’s good and you should play it.

Review Index

Part 1: Intro to Sword World/Thumbnail History of Raxia
Part 2: Races and Classes
Part 3: Combat
Part 4: Gods and Spells
Part 5: Fellows
Part 6: Guilds and Monsters
Part 7: Conclusion

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