White Box Wednesday: What the hell is White Box?

I’m seeing this question start to pop up. I figured I’d do a post specifically on it then. So if someone asks, you can just point to here.

Basically, it’s a style of play that uses rules based on Original D&D: Three Little Brown Books that came in a White Box. Like anything, there’s debate about it. Should the first supplements be included? (Greyhawk; Blackmoor; Eldritch Wizardry; Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes; and Swords & Spells.) These introduced additional classes, races, monsters, and treasure that later would become iconic. They also introduced variable weapon damage and HD by die types. Remember folks. This is even before Basic came out.

There are many little rules oddities And here’s the low down:

  • To play the game, you only use d20’s and d6’s. The GM may use the other dice (d4, d8, d10, d12) for a random chart or table. But to actually play, you only need two dice. Your character’s Hit Dice: d6. Weapon Damage: d6. Modifiers are used generally to give them variations.
  • A character’s attribute modifier range is only -1 to +1. You’re below average, average, or above average.
  • Skills are usually handled with x in d6 chance

That’s it. If you’ve played any other edition of D&D then all of the familiar things are there; Armor Class, Hit Dice, Hit Points etc. You won’t see lots of attacks by characters or monsters. You won’t find overly detailed rules as much of the minutia is left to the GM. You won’t see a long list of skills, feats and so on.

Of course, like many of the old rules, they are nearly impossible to decipher. That means lots of folks may own copies of these but hardly use them. Yes, some still do. But thanks to the Open Gaming License, we’ve got retroclones. And there’s two main one’s that most people to go to.

First, there’s Swords & Wizardry White Box by Matt Finch. This is pretty much considered the original clone. Available on Lulu and Mythmere Games. Simple rules and everything you need in one small book. It does stick to the original three classe (Fighter, Magic-User, Cleric). Yes, there were originally only three classes plus the racial classes. While technically not supported it still has a decent fan following.

But it was eventually replaced as fan favorite by White Box Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game. These are basically the same game. WBFMAG does add the Thief and a few other rules additions. It’s available on DrivethruRPG, Amazon, and Lulu. Yes there are different covers, and no knows why there’s weird pricing across the platforms.

Yes, there are other core books out there but these two IMHO are the most common. And yes there are supplements out there. And takes for different genres. It’s whole new world of old style gaming.

If this is your first time here then just hit the White Box Tag and see other posts and rants.

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