The Tragic Tale of Swords Without Master

I’ve hit that spot with Swords Without Master where I have to decide if I want it done for GenCon or if I want it done right. And that’s not a real decision. So, alas, there will be no Sw/oM at the Design Matters booth this year.

As it got closer and closer to the wire, I just found myself making more and more compromises. And at some point it drifted too far from my original vision in a way I became less and less comfortable with. So I’ve moved the deadline to November of 2010 to give me time to uncompromise it and making the game I want.

If you’re at GenCon and looking for Swords Without Master, please do stop by the Design Matters booth (#2100). We’ll have a small preview of the game there to browse. And I’ll be handing out coupons for a discount on the November release of the Sw/oM book.

It’s not all bad news. Dread House is done and will be at GenCon along with more physical copies of Time & Temp. So there’s plenty to be had from Dig a Thousand Holes at the Design Matters booth this year.

So let’s talk about this game.

What is Swords Without Master?

  • It’s a sword & sorcery game, with a focus on the short story end of the genre particularly inspired by Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd & Gray Mouser series.
  • It is very prep-flexible. Swords requires absolutely no prep whatsoever, but is able to accommodate those lovingly detailed maps, carefully constructed NPC communities and a well designed monsters you’ve sunk all that time into.
  • It’s a fast playing game. Like a short story, it covers a lot of ground in very little time. Typical Swords games take about two to three hours, but can cover years of the characters’ adventures or the longest night of their lives.
  • It’s a descendant of the game MonkeyDome. You should check it out, it’s free. Swords Without Master greatly expands upon the MonkeyDome foundation, but it is still firmly set in it.

What will be in the book?

There will be six main chapters and a ton of appendices.

  • Tale Yet Untold Of–An introductory chapter to get you familiar with key concepts and a word of advice for experienced role-players as well as advice for those coming at it with more of a story game background.
  • The City of Fire & Coin–An introductory adventure that will teach you the rules as you go along. It’s designed for you and three friends to just open the book and go.
  • The Basic Game–The complete game presented in a manner that’s easy to reference during a game if need be.
  • Crows at the Crossroads–An example of play of an entire session from beginning to end, covering all the major rules.
  • The Advance Game–Supplementary rules that aren’t necessary to the game, but can be useful at times.
  • The Book of Thunder & Storm–A collection of monsters, villains, traps and other perils that can be encountered in the world of Swords Without Master.
  • The Appendices–Lots and lots of additional material that can help you get your game together, including how to play it on the road, how to play it without an Overplayer (something akin to a GM), and several types of random adventure generation.

When will it be available?

November 2010.


  1. Jay · August 2, 2010

    Sw/oM sounds very cool! I’ll be looking forward to it in November.

  2. Ryan Macklin · August 2, 2010


    Man, I for one applaud your decision. It’s hard to fight against the desire to have something for GenCon. But it’s also hard to fight against having a reputation for putting out unfinished shit at GenCon. Rock on, brother. I’ll toast to Sw/oM’s good health at the show.

    – Ryan

  3. Jason Morningstar · August 3, 2010

    Right on, dude. I wish everyone had your attitude about releasing stuff when it was ready, rather than when it was Gen Con.

  4. Saif · August 3, 2010

    Man, I’m excited to play this! I’ve been waiting for something like this for a long, long time! 🙂

  5. Matthew D. Gandy · August 3, 2010

    You know I’m really looking forward to Sw/oM, but I want it done right. I hope I can give you money for it before my birthday (Nov 12). Best of luck, and let Mark Causey and I know if there’s anything we can do to help!

  6. Rafu · August 4, 2010

    You made the right non-choice and we love you even more for it.

  7. Scott LeMien · August 10, 2010

    very cool album-cover art direction!

  8. dimitkan · October 15, 2010

    Hello from Greece,

    We ‘re checking everyday to read news about Swords without Master. Is it going to be released in November or at least before Christmas?

  9. Epidiah · October 15, 2010

    November is still the projected release date. Though I can’t say when in November. Very soon now I’ll have an update for you all. A delicious, delicious update.

  10. dimitkan · November 2, 2010

    November is here. Any preview yet?

  11. Scott LeMien · November 23, 2010

    Update plz?

  12. Lupo · November 26, 2010

    Hello from Italy!

    Update! Update! Update! 😉

    Please, say us something about the release date.

  13. Pingback: The Taste for Gratuitous Difficulty « The Mule Abides

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