Sword World 2.5: New Supplements

Sword log: supplemental

Since my original set of Sword World 2.5 reviews, several more books have been translated by the Sword World Translation Project. Collectively, these books help mitigate what I thought was the biggest problem in the original rulebooks: useful information split up among several rulebooks. Now, with these supplements, useful information is split up in a different way among several other rulebooks. That’s progress.

Of course, these supplements do more than re-Balkanize the rules. They also offer more. More spells, more items, more monsters, more options, more feats, more classes, more races. More. More.

This time I’ll be doing an orbital review of five of these supplements: Magus Arts (MA), Epic Treasury (ET), Monstrous Lore (ML), The Character Building Book (CBB), and the Outlaw Profile Book (OPB), plus how they synergize with the original rulebooks.

The Compendia

Ooh, five-dollar word

MA, ET, and ML are primarily books of listings, which take up about 50% of each volume. MA, for instance, contains lists of every spell for every magical tradition that had been released at the time, including all the extra divine spells for all the gods of Raxia. That’s something like 480 spells in total! All unique! It’s enough to make you puke!

MA also tries to mitigate a problem with the Artificer class. Y’see, Artificers are the only class that can fire guns, since bullets are Magitech items. However, guns are effectively useless without the Marksman minor class. So there was always an “Artificer tax” in that you also had to grab a few levels of Marksman or else ignore half your spells.

In response, MA expands the Artificer spell list to give them extra utility without guns. The downside is that most of these new spells are a bit … lame. For instance, [Sound Bomb] lets you throw a ball of magic that makes one loud sound of the user’s choice. Oh joy, a less useful version of the Minor Illusion cantrip. I mean, it’s nice when you need it, but it’s not really a bread-and-butter spell, you know?

Oh well. They tried, bless ‘em.

In the same vein, ET contains every weapons table, plus a big ol’ encyclopedia of potions, accessories, and adventuring items, magic and otherwise. ML has nearly 400 distinct monster listings, many brand new to the system. And they’re all right there, in single volumes, top to bottom, without the original rulebooks’ level splitting. No more trying to remember which book Basilisks are in. It’s a completionist GM’s wet dream.

Each book also contains a world-building chapter or two. Magus Arts has several pages of information about magic: where the different magical traditions came from, how the common people tend to feel about them, how the Barbarous monsters have integrated magic in their society, and so on. Epic Treasury discusses adventurers’ social status, what the Adventurer’s Guild does exactly, and deep dives into the origins of each character class and how they synergize with each other. Monstrous Lore examines the history of Humanoid/monster interactions and how non-human intelligences generally fit in the world.

I’m a lorehound, so naturally I love these chapters. If you aren’t, they’re definitely skippable. The huge data chapters are the meat. This is the mustard.

New Classes

A new pleasure, a new pleasure

ET and ML together introduce four new classes into Sword World.

Tactician (Minor Class): Shout orders at people. Tacticians use Stratagems to provide minor bonuses to their own side or hindrances to their enemies. Each successful Stratagem builds up a resource called Edge, which you can then spend on Maneuvers which give the caster a bigger bonus on their own actions. This class synergizes very well with Bard, to the point of including Stratagems specifically intended to power up Bard Spellsongs.

Druid (Major Class): Not quite what you’re thinking. Druids use Nature Magic to summon spirits of the wild to attack their enemies. The way it’s described, I get the mental image of the Druid calling up giant glowing 1980’s-style special effects versions of eagles and tigers and stuff. Druids can also create Symbols of Beneficence for other characters, which allow them to cast extremely powerful boosts or protective spells upon their friends.

And I shall call him “Rearprojectiony”

Warlocks (Major Class): Sword-World-brand Warlocks have made a contract with a mostly harmless Daemon called a “Gate Imp,” who can open a portal and summon bigger badder Daemons to fight for you. A Gate Imp will constantly look for ways to break or at least change their contract to their own benefit. Warlocks should also either have special sacrificial items ready to banish the Daemons they summon, or be prepared to fight them if their Banish check fails. It’s also possible (with several very bad rolls) to lose control of the summoning portal itself and unleash a new Shallow Abyss on the world.

As mentioned in an earlier review, this class is extremely frowned upon in polite society. Probably not a great idea to go advertising. Summoned Daemons are very effective in a fight, though, so other adventurers are generally more tolerant of the class.

Geomancer (Minor Class): All right, let’s get weird. Geomancers can deploy a magic item called a Geograph, which accumulates essential Qi from the surrounding area. They can then expend this energy to cast Aspects (essentially spells). Using a Geograph doesn’t require MP, can be used as a Minor Action, and can confer some fairly powerful buffs/debuffs …


Yes, nearly every Aspect affects one randomly chosen character within range, friend or foe. This makes the Geomancer’s exact position on the battlefield extremely important, and sometimes requires playing the odds. Thankfully Aspects can be canceled if needed, but the spent Qi is still lost, and the Geomancer can’t cast another Aspect that turn.

Stand back, I don’t know how it works!

The Geomancer class is good for gamblers and people who like serendipitous results. It doesn’t use up your own resources, which is a bonus. Since it only uses a Minor Action, it doesn’t really get in your way if you want to try something else.

Yeah. Ehh. Not for me.

New Races

We don’t much cotton to your kind ‘round here

The Outlaw Profile Book (OPB) adds a handful of new races to Raxia.

Alv: Pale-skinned Goth Elf-types who must occasionally absorb a handful of MP from people around them or die. Possibly vampires reincarnated by the grace of the goddess Harula, the Guiding Star, for a second chance at a decent life. Rare enough that normies often confuse them with Nightmares or Undead. Abilities include Darkvison and Spirit Drain.

Shadow: Tall Humanoids with gray skin and white or silver hair. Their defining feature is a small third eye in the center of their foreheads, and all three of their eyes glitter like a cat’s in the dark. Historically, Shadows were often used as assassins, and they still carry that reputation. Their language is so complex as to be nearly impossible for non-Shadows to learn, so they’re good couriers for secret information. Abilities include Darkvision and Moonlight’s Protection, giving them a permanent +4 bonus to Willpower.

Soleil: My guys. My guys. Soleils are big bronzed muscular himbos (even the women). They hate to wear a lot of clothes and tattoo sun imagery all over their bodies. Their big ability is Radiant Physique, whereby they can make their bodies glow dazzlingly once per day to blind enemies. They can also recover HP by laying out in the sun for a few minutes, and gain a big bonus to Willpower and Fortitude checks during daylight hours. Unfortunately, they also receive a big penalty to those same checks at night. The Soleilian language is made up entirely of poses and gestures.

Huh hah HYAH!

Weaklings: You may recall that the Humanoid races of Raxia can literally get scars on their souls. Soulscarred beings will become slowly more twisted and monstrous until they hit 5 Soulscars and become Undead. The Nightmare race is born with one Soulscar, which makes them pale-skinned and horned.

So since it’s possible to be born with more Soulscars than usual, what happens when the rare Barbarous is born with fewer Soulscars? Well, they become Weaklings.

Hey hey, we’re the Weaklings! People say we Weakling around!

Weaklings have a more Humanoid appearance than their parents. That doesn’t mean they look Humanoid; Garuda Weaklings have small wings, Tannoz Weaklings have a claw on one hand, Minotaur Weaklings have big ol’ horns, etc. But they’re not instantly recognizable as monsters and can disguise themselves with minimal effort. Weaklings know first-hand what it’s like to be really oppressed by society, and tend to be motivated to help Humanoids change things for the better. Or at least not let things get worse.

Each variety of Weakling gets a healthy one-stat bonus and a weakness to an elemental type. They also get special powers depending on their species, like the Basilisk’s Poisonous Blood or the Minotaur’s Herculean Strength.

New Ways to Make Friends

And influence Tabbits

The CBB and OPB add a table-based way to create characters in Sword World. All you have to do is choose a Course (Basic, Intermediate, or Advanced, each of which opens up more races and classes), then a race based on the Course you chose, then a character category (Warrior, Spy, Remote Support, or Magic Warrior). Then you just start rolling on tables.

So. Many. Tables.

I think the idea behind the CBB character generator is to provide role-playing prompts and give your character an actual background. Which is a fine idea. However, this method has so many tables that even the flowchart that describes the procedure is pretty intimidating.

Ye gads

Once you decide on your race and category, you’ll receive the character’s basic ability scores just like during regular character generation.

Just for grins, I’ll create a Dwarf Warrior. Looking on the Warrior page, I see that nets this new character a Skill/Body/Mind of 4/11/5. I’ll add that to the character sheet.

Then we get to rollin’. Many of the tables are d66, giving numbers from 11 to 66.

The Environment table (of which there’s one per race) describes the circumstances of your birth/origin. I roll 34 on the Dwarf Environment table, netting me “Blacksmith’s Family (Weapons)”. The description is “You were born and raised in a family of armorers who make swords, axes, spears, hammers, and a variety of other weapons. You were raised in the blacksmithing environment. Whatever path you choose, you will know a certain amount about weapons.” All right! Role-playing hooks, gotta love them.

Now for my Childhood Experience roll. I had to flip through the book to find the table for Dwarves, discovering that there are FOUR tables, one for each character category. The amount of data in this book is seriously impressive/daunting. Anyway, I rolled 31 on the Dwarven Warrior table: “An Eye for Value (Generic Search): As an artisan and armorer, it is important to have an eye for things. You have been trained or blessed with the opportunity to see the fine works and treasures of your ancestors and predecessors.” The roll also gives me my adjusted ability score values, which I shall duly enter.

Looks like a fairly prosaic “Dwarf raised by weaponsmiths to take over the family business” background so far. Let’s see if we can interject some drama with the First Happening. This time I just roll 1d on a simple forking table: “1-2: roll on the Tragedy Table, 3-4: nothing, 5-6: roll on the Fortune Table.” Aaand of course I roll a 2. One quick roll on the Tragedy Table later, and

Okay, but life goes on, right? Next we roll on the Juvenile Experiences Table. In this case there’s just one table for all Warriors, Spies, and Magic Warriors, which simplifies things. I rolled 15, which gives me “Learned the Adventurer’s Basics” and one level of Scout, costing 500 XP. “Hearing the sounds beyond the door, avoiding unexpected dangers, and finding what is hidden. These are true qualities of an adventurer.”

Ehh, Scout’s a worthwhile class to have, I’ll take it. I still have 2,500 XP to spend, plenty to build whatever I want.

Okay, Second Happening, and I roll … 1. Another Tragedy. Great. I roll 15: “Caught in a Disaster.” This kid’s life, I swear.

For Adolescent Experiences, there are three tables to choose from, including one that mentions “Generic Search” from my Childhood Experiences, so I should use that. I roll “Conviction to Meet Expectations,” which gets me the [Power Strike] combat feat. This is an excellent first feat for a Warrior, so I’m good with it.

Third Happening! What horrors await me now? Roll … another 1! Excellent! I am Wednesday’s child. So I roll 32: “Spent Time as a Slave.” Just a wonderful life I’m leading, here.

Now let’s get out of here with the “Why I Started Adventuring” table. Roll 46: “Your hometown was destroyed.”

… figures.

But now, finally, I’m beyond all that. Sure, I’m fleeing the burning, collapsing hulk of my previous life, but that’s no reason to be downcast. I’ll pick up a couple levels of Fighter, grab some gear, and my character is ready to go work out their aggressions by kicking Barbarous ass.

Oh! There’s also a character name generator at the back of the book. So let’s roll to name our tragic Dwarf:

Nismo Yurtrum.

No wonder his life was crap.

So how is this process? Tedious, to be honest. Your character comes out of it full of role-playing hooks, which is good, but you have to jump all around in a book and roll a lot of dice, which is bad. There’s also the whole deal with “giving up your character-building autonomy,” though all it really does is push one class level and your first feat on you. Even then, it’s more a suggestion than an edict.

The OPB has this entire process over again, but adds the new races and classes. The characters it creates are a bit rougher around the edges, too, since the book describes a wilder, more lawless campaign at the frontier.

In Sum

Dim sum

If you already liked Sword World, this is all just more to love. It’s a great convenience to have all the spells/items/monsters in single lists, and the new races and classes are (mostly) worthy expansions on the game. There’s plenty of lore subtly added as well.

The CBB/OPB character building method is an interesting way to toss together a character already seething with angst. Or it can make characters who have pleasantly bland upbringings, depending on how you roll. It may be fun for the sort of people who like to be handed pre-gens and enjoy busting out their improv chops at the table. If you already have a concept in mind, just build it normally.

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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