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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Other P&P RPGs #1: Backswords & Bucklers

Backswords & Bucklers
Adventuring in Gloriana's Britain
Book One: Basic Rules
By Christopher Cale
Published by Tied To A Kite

Backswords & Bucklers is based upon the Swords & Wizardry Whitebox Rules, but although born of the retro-clone genre, B&B evolves into its own game. This is Elizabethan Fantasy set in the Britain of Gloriana, quite different than your standard fantasy RPG filled with elves and dwarves and orcs.

Inspired by classic archetypes, the three character classes take a fresh, campaign specific flavor: Fighting Men, Scoundrels, and Wise Women/Cunning Men. Generally a low magic and no humanoid setting, with many throwbacks to that first of fantasy RPGs, including the six standard attributes, and a return to 1d6 damage for all weapons. Saving throws are class based, and each class has a single score to cover all possibilities, making the system easy to use.

The setting and flavor of the game is especially unique, with characters tavern trawling instead of dungeon delving. In essence, characters haunt their local tavern (the focal point of most games) in search of work, legitimate or otherwise. The different character types earn XP in different ways, specific to their archetypes, quite a nice touch for a scoundrel to earn XP by spending money! There are no monster lists, and it is encouraged that if monsters are used, they should be infrequent and quite terrifyingly evil, and supernatural in nature.

I think this setting shows a lot of potential for a good time role playing. I think adventures will be quite a challenge, both for the GM to write and the players to conquer. The book promises over half a dozen future supplements offering expanded rules, for those who want more than the basic all-in-one rules. The game being heavily inspired by Michael Moorcock's novel Gloriana, I found myself immediately going to Amazon and ordering a copy of the novel, which I have not yet read. I just may tackle writing an adventure for B&B after reading the novel.

Rounded off with a sample tavern, online resources, very nice character sheets, and a map of Old London, B&B stays rules lite, and complete in one book, my favorite type of game. Add the fact you can get a free pdf of it, and you can't go wrong.

ADDED 11/16: It occurs to me, Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane stories would also make for a rich alternate setting or source for adventure seeds for B&B. The period, as expressed by Howard, is correct, and Christopher's interpretation of the period fits the model pretty closely. Kane himself would be a Fighting Man archetype, his arms all found within B&Bs charts, and his monstrous foes are certainly terrifying and generally of a supernatural nature. Kane's world is generally low magic in terms of amount, but what magic does exist can be powerful. If you are into B&B, you MUST check out some of Howard's Solomon Kane stories, you will definitely find inspiration. If you are interested in a complete collection of the Kane tales, track down The Savage Tales Of Solomon Kane.

Check out the Tied to a Kite homepage:

or go right to Lulu and order your print or free pdf copy right now:

I look forward to checking out the future supplements for B&B. Hopefully they will continue the simple, rules lite approach.

Other P&P RPGs will cover current RPGs, generally small, independent releases, all-in-one rules sets, and freely available pdf copies. Do you have a rules set you would like to see discussed here? Submit a pdf copy to

Copyright © 2010, Paul Ingrassia


  1. I quite agree with you Paul. This game is a little gem. Rough and unpolished in places and more than a few blank spaces on the map.

    One of things I continue to like about the early RPGs is the way they encourage players to make the game their own. B&B is very much encouraging of this, and the basic game is open enough that it should be easy to add house rules for whatever is desired.

  2. Thanks for bringing my attention back to this, Dave. I just went and checked, B&B Book 2 is now available. I'll have to download it later and check it out.

  3. Wow! What a fantastic idea! I am going to try this for sure.