The following is an interview I did with the fan translators of the Japanese table-top RPG, Sword World.
Q: What is Sword World?
Aniodia: So Sword World, specifically the game we’re talking about here being Sword World 2.0, is a Japanese Tabletop RPG (JTRPG from here on out) that was originally released in 2008, then was revised around 2012-2013. The wiki (swordworld.shoutwiki.com) is based off of this revised edition, as the creators, Group SNE, took time to find errata and make changes in gameplay in order to make the game function better and flow more smoothly. The game itself is high fantasy, much in the same vein as Dungeons and Dragons, though it runs off of a fairly unique 2d6 system (at least, for western audiences). Where D&D tends to keep to the medieval ages, though, Sword World has no problem playing with the tropes of ancient technological civilizations, and so stuff like magitech, guns and robots are not exactly commonplace, but exist within the world of the game.
Momo: Sword World is a Japanese tabletop RPG series, starting with Sword World 1.0 (I think it was just called Sword World back then) in 1989.
It is currently in its 3rd iteration with SW2.5, and one of the biggest games over there, always floating around in the top 10 most played TTRPGs.
Auquid: Sword World RPG is a Japanese RPG system created in the 90s. It’s a mix of BECMI D&D edition with many unique twists. I translate Sword World 2.0 which is the 2nd edition of this game released in 2008.
Momo: I would call it more inspired by BECMI than based on it, though. Mechanically, it really barely shares any DNA with any edition of D&D.
Q: How did you come to find it?
Aniodia: Honestly, I forget exactly how I came across it, but in the late aughts I’d found that there was a game based off of the old 80’s anime Record of Lodoss War, called Sword World. Now, I’m an old fart, and Record of Lodoss War was one of the first anime I’d seen in my young years back on the Sci-Fi Channel when they did their Saturday morning anime (also among those were OVAs like Akira, Iria: Zeiram the Animation, Ghost in the Shell, Project A-Ko, and others). I had been introduced to Dungeons and Dragons (specifically, Mentzer Basic D&D) by a friend from Cub Scouts having the books from his father, and playing some games with those rules, and Lodoss was astounding to my young mind, as holy shit there’s a cartoon about D&D? Eventually, I’d found that there was not only anime, but also RPGs related to the setting, and ordered what was the most recent core rulebooks the game had to offer to my apartment from the Kinokuniya bookstore.
Momo: Oh god I don’t really remember all the details…
As bad as it sounds, 4chan’s /tg/ board was where I came across the translation project, and
Sword World as such. We had a Japanese TRPG thread there for the longest time, in which I often participated. 4chan might be the internet’s very own hive of scum and villainy, but /tg/ can be a very nice place (sometimes). The JTRPG threads were always pretty clean and fun, though.
Anyways, since the topic of these threads were centred on JTRPG and Sword World being one of the biggest over in japan, naturally it was brought up. I wasn’t even interested at first, but other anons who wanted an alternative to DnD sure were. I helped translate the Advanced Combat rules for other anons and really only looked at the rules when I did that. I think someone gave me a sales pitch on the system around that time? Maybe.
But yeah, I sort of only read the rules to do a better translation job, and now SW is one of my favourite systems.
Auquid: I came across it when I was watching Rune Soldier anime and then googled about it and found out about Sword World RPG. I was already familiar with many TTRPG systems and became curious. My playgroup at the time was looking for a new system to play in. Then I came across Aniodia translation of Sword World 2.0 Core Rulebooks on Reddit and decided to make pdf versions of them with the addition of some missing stuff.
Q: What does Rune Soldier Louie have to do with Sword World?
Aniodia: Rune Soldier Louie was another series by Ryo Mizuno, the writer for Record of Lodoss War, that was set in the same setting of Forcelia, just on the continent of Alecrast north of Lodoss Island. It’s much more of a slapstick comedy compared to how serious Lodoss War was, but it’s still within that same high fantasy genre.
Momo: Runesoldier (and other fantasy anime around the time, not least of which being Lodoss) were based on the setting of SW1.0, yes.
Q: What are the differences between editions of Sword World?
Aniodia: Now, I can’t say as I’m terribly familiar with 1st Ed Sword World, but from what I’ve been able to gather, it was much closer to Dungeons and Dragons, in that characters tended to be a single class, and was much closer to western fantasy than later editions. Sword World 2.0 changed a lot, completely moving the setting away from Lodoss and Forcelia to a new one called Raxia, and had much more ancient technology in the setting. Much more of a Phantasy Star Online than Dragon Quest, with regards to technology. Mechanics-wise, it’s almost like a completely different game, in that there’s a bigger focus on creating a unique character through multi-classing, as well as having taken significant influence from more modern JTRPGs of the time. The 2.5 edition, from Group SNE’s own words, is meant to be backwards compatible with the majority of 2.0 information and supplements, but does have some changes. Perhaps the biggest change is the addition of the Fellows rules, essentially allowing player characters to have hired followers akin to hirelings from early editions of D&D.
Momo: I would actually say that Raxia has more in common with classic Final Fantasy games (in particular II, III, IV, VI, IX, XI and XIV) because of its mix of magic, vaguely medieval fantasy aesthetic mixed with high-tech stuff from an ancient civilization. I have not read much about Sword World 1.0, it is kind of hard to get a hand on, so I can’t really say what changed myself either, except that the setting is very different and they made changes to the mechanics.
Now 2.5 is a revision/condensation of SW2.0 and it’s supplements into a more unified and revised form. It is set in Raxia, same as 2.0, but on a distant continent. 2.5 is (almost) entirely backwards compatible with 2.0 material as far as I’m aware and has some Supplements released for itself.
Q: Why play Sword World over D&D?
Auquid: I’m not the best person to answer this question, I run multiple systems and like many of them…
Aniodia: I mean, why not? Seriously, though, there’s a lot to be said about the current edition of D&D and Wizards of the Coast as a whole that does put a bad taste in people’s mouths, so I find that having another way to get that high fantasy fix without dealing with WotC and Hasbro is never a terrible thing. However, unlike a lot of other game creators trying to find the “next D&D killer” and ending up with a fantasy heartbreaker (A fantasy heartbreaker is a type of RPG game that is essentially a knock-off of Dungeons & Dragons), Sword World is a tried and true proven success in Japan, with a lot of support in the various supplements.
Momo: I feel quite passionate about this, so I apologize if I get a bit rambly here. I’m sort of infamous for my disdain of advanced dungeons and dragons, but I will try to keep it brief. While Sword World and D&D both shoot for a similar thing (both being high fantasy games with class mechanics and a focus on adventure, discovery and dungeon delving), I feel like Sword World does a lot of things better. That is my personal opinion though, so let me put it like this.
Sword World 2.0 is a game with a relatively simple but deep system that has been tried and true in Japan for over 10 years and stood its own in it’s native homeland against both D&D5e and Pathfinder. It has a very flexible class system focused on multi-classing and allows for a very wide range of character concepts, without needing a ton of rules.
If you are at all unhappy with how Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast have been running D&D, or just want to try a game with a similar vibe, a system that is of a nice medium crunchiness level and a more flexible class system, go check out Sword World. I have already converted some of the more staunch defenders of 5e in my group with it, maybe you’ll join the chorus (lol).
Q: Do you run other JTRPGs?
Aniodia: Honestly, I’m only a few years off the big 4-0, so I don’t really have much time to even do the stuff I’d like to do outside of work.
Auquid: Nope, I ran D&D 5e, Call of Cthulhu, Star Wars Saga, Genesys, and other systems. About SW2.0 I like the creative process of translating a TTRPG. Creating a complete product, a PDF to print on demand and for people to use and play with. And I like the setting of SW2.0 and for many reasons that Momo mentioned
Momo: Not currently, but I have run a fair share of JTRPGs. I sort of fell in love with them to be quite honest.
Currently, I’m playing two games with my group. One being Sword World (run by me) and the other being Shadowrun (run by another person in the group). We have just finished our Shadowrun campaign however and are currently switching Systems.
In the past I have read/ran among others: MAID RPG, Nechronica, Dracorouge, Danmaku Yuugi Flowers, Konosuba TRPG and Log Horizon TRPG (yes, both are based on the light novel/anime series they take their name from), Sword World and Kamigakari. I largely only ran MAID at conventions or for friends when the opportunity arose, until I decided that I had enough of two Shadowrun games going on alongside each other and picked up Kamigakari. It was weird at first for us to play something so different from Shadowrun, but in the end it won my group over and we played a very fun and successful campaign in Kamigakari. That probably paved the way for me to get my group into Sword World too, in a sense.
Q: How do other JTRPGs compare to Sword World/Do other RPGs like Double Cross copy Sword World?
Aniodia: From what I’ve seen, and I’ve flipped through a few pdfs of games like Ryuutama and MAID, they all still tend to stick with 2d6 as the basis for any sort of conflict resolution, despite the modern availability of polyhedral dice in Japan. However, unlike the big d20 system (ab)use in the West, Japanese games tend to all have different ways to go about making their games feel different. For example, MAID uses a lot of d66 rolls (using 1d6 as a tens and 1d6 as a ones), while Ryuutama does use polyhedral dice, and is just straight adding them together, compared to Sword World’s Power tables for weapons and spells.
Momo: From my experience, each game I have read has something very unique. I haven’t played or read double cross yet, though. Outside of superficial similarities, such as them using d6’s a lot and what is often referred to by /tg/ (their words, not mine) “power card autism”. To explain, it is when the game is based on power. Each has a unified structure (having things on them such as cost, timing, effect, target, etc.) and each fitting neatly on a card. Since you will be juggling a bunch of these cards, it’s often referred to as “power card autism”, which is just 4chan being 4chan. Outside of these common tropes (that not all games adhere to, mind you. Nechronica uses D10s and Sword World has no such thing as Power Cards, for example), they are all fairly unique.
In general, I feel that JTRPGs have a very different design philosophy compared to western games. Games are often heavily tied to settings and have mechanics that are custom built for that setting. That isn’t to say there aren’t more generic systems, but generally I’d say this holds true. In the west you have some of that, but I would say generally speaking western games are more system agnostic.
Western games also often fall into a certain “simulationism” design, where they try to simulate a sort of ‘realistic’ world. Japanese games rarely ever step into any sort of attempt at realism. Their mechanics usually serve to reinforce the feel and tone of the game, and nothing else.
As a result, they are making games for any sort of thing imaginable.
Want to be a vaguely homoerotic vampire aristocrat living in a world ruled by vampires after Dracula destroyed the sun? Dracorouge.
Want to play ace attorney in mad max but court battles are fought in giant mechs on top of a mountain? Giant Allege.
Want to be zombie Lolis at the end of the world and get scarred for life? Nechronica.
Want to be a god damn house maid? MAID RPG.
I could go on. The scene is extremely colourful. I mean there is a game about shrine maiden vtubers that stream to appease dragons. I am not making that up. What is not to love about Japanese tabletop rpgs and their brand of whacky bullshit.
The other thing is that Japanese games are often focused on short sessions and one-shots. That’s not to say they aren’t playing long campaigns too, but it definitely is a noticeable trend in the design of many of these games. They are all fairly streamlined and built to be run in short 2-4 hour sessions, in contrast to the usual 6-8 hours western games often expect. While there are more crunchy systems (Power Card games that go for a more tactical experience such as Log Horizon or Kamigakari come to mind), Japanese Systems tend also to be on the light-weight side. As previously stated, they don’t have any hangups about realism, so their mechanics really focus on the essence of what the game *really* wants to be.
I love that about them.
Q: Is there something explicitly Japanese about Sword World other than the art?
Aniodia: Honestly, I would have to say that it doesn’t have the same roots in wargaming that D&D does, and that gives it a totally different feel than D&D. Where the original little brown books from Arneson and Gygax were ways to take their wargaming figures and shrink the scope down to a single character a la R.E. Howard’s Conan books, Sword World had its roots in Tunnels & Trolls, Wizardry, and other video games at the time in order to get that western fantasy feeling without stepping on the toes of TSR. In my eyes, having to filter things into Japanese meant that certain influences on D&D, like Tolkien and Vance, never really took off over there and so they never had as big an influence on their gaming as they did in the West.
Momo: The rules certainly are. As I explained previously about general design trends in JTRPGs, they tend to be fairly tied to their setting and feature relatively light-weight rules that enforce and underline this setting.
Sword World is very much this.
Raxia would also make for a kick ass Final Fantasy Setting. If you replaced Swords with Crystals and Horses with Chocobos, maybe Tabbit with Moogles, you are basically there. But yeah, outside of that I think Sword World isn’t anything the west couldn’t possibly have produced.
There aren’t any big cultural barriers in the game that only a Japanese person could understand. It is very, very friendly towards westerners (outside of it never releasing in the west, that is).
Q: What does the system entail?
Aniodia: As mentioned above, it’s a 2d6 system at its core, so every player will need two six-sided dice. Characters are created through a combination of choosing a race and buying levels in classes using the starting experience given to them through their background (which can either be randomly determined through a 2d6 roll or chosen by hand). Starting characters in Sword World are expected to have a level of competency in their given class choices that starting characters in D&D don’t. Skills, including those used in combat like Accuracy and Evasion, are simply found by adding the character’s levels in an appropriate class to their ability score modifier, then adding that to a 2d6 roll. Some rolls are opposed by others, while some just need to meet or beat a target number given by the GM.
Spell-casting is fairly unique, in that not only is it a magic point system (as opposed to D&D’s spell slots), but characters learn every spell of a given level upon purchasing that class level. For example, a character advancing from 3rd level to 4th level in Sorcerer will automatically learn all of the 4th level Sorcerer spells, on top of the previous three levels of spells they’ve already learned. While this may seem like a lot of information, classes tend to have anywhere from 2-4 spells per level, so even at higher levels it is still a manageable number of spells to have available.
Combat can come in a few different flavours, depending upon whether or not supplemental rules are used. In the core rulebooks, two styles of combat are given, Simple and Standard. Simple combat is akin to a “Final Fantasy” or “Etrian Odyssey” style of fighting, where there’s a frontline where melee combat happens, and then a back line (called a Rearguard) for each side, which is where the squishy people tend to fight from. It’s fairly abstract, but not very complex, and is typically recommended for new players. Standard combat, on the other hand, has everyone involved in combat fighting along a straight line, similar to the “Tales of X” games, and positioning themselves relative to the center of the battlefield, as opposed to each other. There is a third type of combat gameplay, Advanced combat, introduced in the supplemental book Cardia Grace, that is more or less the full 2d grid based combat players may be familiar with from D&D. In all honesty, it is quite possible to play a full campaign only using the Simple combat rules, but for those groups that would like more complexity in their combat the options are there.
Momo: Beautifully put.
Though, Advanced Combat doesn’t actually use grids. You can (and I do in my game), but you can also absolutely just play it on a whiteboard or a sheet of paper. In fact, the rules sort of recommend it. However, using figurines and a grid (or a measuring tape) to judge distances is a very viable option, I can attest to that.
To add to what Aniodia said before, and what I said earlier, Sword World might have a class System, but it is very different from class systems found in games like D&D. Sword World classes aren’t meant to stand on their own, they are meant to be played in tandem. Where a class can define an entire character in D&D, in Sword World a class is really only a fragment of what makes the character. Characters often have 3 or 4 or even more classes and build their character concept out of that. Everyone starts with one free level in a class (as given by their background), but they also get EXP to start out with to buy more levels in different classes. It is a really fun and cool way of doing it.
So to reiterate, Sword World is a 2d6 based game with a very flexible multi-classing system and multiple combat systems that range from simple to in depth. So, look out for that.
Q: How complex is it for newbies?
Aniodia: Once players understand the idea of buying class levels and that multi-classing is not only encouraged, but essential to gameplay, it is really quite easy to play. There have been a few games run by people in the discord channel, and there is a general consensus that is it is much easier to pick up than D&D 5e, and there is even commentary from the creators given in the first supplemental book, Alchemist Works, regarding character class selection and what classes will typically work with others and which tend to be at odds with each other.
Momo: Yes, hello, I’m one of the people currently playing Sword World and compared to 5e, this game is leagues easier to learn AND play.
Granted, I am quite well-versed in RPGs and have run my players through a couple of systems before, so they are also far from new to the hobby, but I would say it is still a very good first choice of RPG, for multiple reasons.
Let’s look at it this way.
All you really need is 2 six-sided dice, pen and paper, a few choice friends and the first Core Rulebook to start out with. The core set consists of 3 books, each being roughly the size of a manga volume with around 400 pages each. That might sound like a lot, but the pages are small and the print is fairly big, and you also don’t have to read everything because a lot is just spells and monsters and Items and that sort of thing. I think the contents of all three would all fit in roughly the same space as the D&D 5e Player’s Handbook.
They are also a lot cheaper to pick up than D&D 5e, each book only running you around 10 bucks, which is a steal if you ask me.
Of course, if you are a western player and don’t know Japanese, you have our fan translation to play. It doesn’t come in a nice book, but Auquid made a nice PDF and the wiki has an all in one section that includes everything found in the core rules.
The other thing is that the rules are quite simple, intuitive and straight-forward. Like I said, it is a much easier game to learn and play than D&D, and many agree.
Q: Is it complex enough for old timers?
Aniodia: It depends upon what is meant when asking about complexity. The rules themselves seem complex at first glance, but are quite intuitive to run once people get comfortable with the game. Admittedly, if someone is coming in looking for a game similar to D&D 4e with its tactical grid combat and varied character builds, Sword World will come up short on that, but even then it will put up a good fight, especially with the alternate Advanced combat rules. Not only that, but there’s a wide variety of classes to mix and match, as well as quite a few Combat Feats to play around with, so even characters with the same classes can be totally different depending upon which Combat Feats they take, what equipment they’re able to find, and what spells they have access to.
Momo: I wouldn’t say the rules really seem all that complex. They might be unusual to someone unfamiliar with Japanese TRPGs, I would say they are pretty simple. I will concede that if you were looking for something that has more the feel of a skirmish game with RPG stuff, then you will probably be disappointed. But I would say that complexity isn’t what people usually want. What they want is depth. Complexity is just usually the easiest way to get depth.
Sword World 2.0 is relatively simple. It’s no MAIDs or Risus or Fate, but it is still more on the light side of things. However, the amount of different character concepts and play styles you can have offer you a lot. If you take supplemental material (such as the advanced combat rules and additional classes) into account, there is a lot there for even the most seasoned player and GM.
Q: Does it fix long standing D&D issues/Does Sword World have “linear fighters quadratic wizards“? What about ablative HP/vancian casting/other sacred cows of D&D?
Aniodia: I’m combining a couple of these into the same question, as there’s a lot of similarity here. Considering there isn’t anywhere near the same background between Sword World and D&D, much of the baggage that D&D has isn’t shared with Sword World. Not only that, but the way classes work in Sword World means there isn’t anything similar to the LFQW problem. Now technically, if you want to get particular about things, yes, Fighters and the other Warrior-type classes (Grappler, Fencer and Marksman) don’t have access to spells, and don’t have all of the options in combat that a Wizard-type class would. At the same time, though, classes aren’t meant to be looked at in a vacuum, but are meant to be combined and used together. In Sword World, you would never see a player play a character that is just a Fighter, but would instead be a Fighter/Scout, or a Fighter/Alchemist, or a Fighter/Sage. Also, characters can easily pick up entirely new classes mid-campaign, and unlike D&D 5e where there’s only 20 levels to advance in a character’s lifetime, a Sword World character can advance to 15th level in every class, given enough experience.
Momo: The short answer is still no. The slightly longer answer is: It’s only a problem if you make it a problem.
If you think of a class in sword world as just the class, then yes, linear fighter quadratic wizards is absolutely true. However, that is if you only look at a class in isolation and that is just not how the system works.
The game is built on multi classing and encourages you to pick multiple classes, so this problem is only a thing if you make it a thing. You can have all the utility you want, you just gotta pick a utility class alongside your fighter.
Best example being how my party has two fighters, but one also picked up sorcerer and scout, thus having access to spells like sleep and open lock, and sneaking skills through scout.
The other fighter meanwhile picked up warlord and sage to have party buffs through warlord and knowledge skills through sage.
Aniodia: As for some of the other specifically called out worries, such as “ablative HP ”. Yes, there is still HP in the game, but armour does add to a character’s Defence (which flat subtracts incoming damage from physical attacks), and healing is fairly abundant between mundane potions and herbs as well as magical spells. Now, if you’re referring to the concept that “the only HP that matters is the last one”, then yeah, that does exist, and there’s no death spiral where the more you’re wounded the worse you do in combat or anything. At the same time, though, even high level characters don’t have gobs of HP, with most of the level 10 premade characters from Rulebook 3 having around 40-50ish. D&D 5e characters have far more than that, as even a Wizard or Sorcerer (the classes with the lowest size of Hit Dice) can choose to take 4 HP per level instead of rolling, giving them 40 HP at level 10 without any Constitution bonuses.
Momo: Yeah, from experience, Player Characters aren’t really HP sponges. HP values are relatively low and when they get hurt, they get hurt. A few attacks from a level appropriate monster will down even the most armoured of fighters. Hell, even Level 1 monsters can mess you up depending on the situation.
I had our de facto tank go down in one hit because a couple of Level 1 Spider Robots tased him.
Of course, armour helps, but magic attacks still manage to mess you up. There is this sort of Rock Paper Scissors thing going on, where martials can down a mage really quickly when they get in range, but mages can down a martial fighter in armor just as quickly if they keep their range. An Archer or something similar is somewhere in the middle usually. It makes for very interesting dynamics in combat.
There is no death spiral, but I don’t think that is that big of an issue. It fits the theme and because of how damage and armour works, every HP left means you are one step further away from rolling death saves.
You could always homebrew something like a death spiral really easily.
Aniodia: As for Vancian casting, the system is MP based, and is quite neat in that the more levels of spell-casting classes the character has, the more MP they have access to. Why this is interesting is that all of the spell-casting classes (Sorcerer, Conjurer and the like) are what are called “Major” classes, in that the amount of experience needed to purchase a level in that class is much more than “Minor” classes like the Fencer, Scout and Sage. So while a character aiming to be a spellcaster should want to have as much MP as possible in order to keep casting spells, there is a trade-off in they might just not have enough experience to purchase more class levels for a while, and so might need to branch out into other non-spellcasting classes in order to keep contributing to the party effectively.
Momo: Yeah, very much not a thing. You just use MP, which you can get back from potions (relatively pricey potions, to be fair) or resting. You get back like 50% of your MP back from 3 Hours of resting, so you don’t even have to take that long of a break.
The game is balanced around this sort of getting into fights and then contemplating whether you can push onward or have to find a place to rest for a few hours gameplay, and it offers quite a bit of tension if you are deep in a dungeon and don’t know whether it’s safe to take a rest or not.
What he said also ties into the “Linear Fighter, Quadratic Wizard” problem from earlier, so let me get back on that.
Fighters and Grappler are both Major classes, just like Sorcerer and Conjurer and the other spell casters. Fighter and Grappler are, however, not the only two martial classes. There are also Fencer and Marksman. Major classes usually have more stuff going on, like combat feats or spells, while minor classes are meant to supplement these Major classes. You can, however, absolutely build a character with nothing but major classes, or nothing but minor classes. For example Scout/Fencer would be a great approximation of your typical sneaky and backstabby rogue while Marksman/Ranger would make for a good hunter. Ranger provides nature survival and first aid skills, while Marksman allows you to shoot bows, crossbows and guns better. If you want to get closer to a D&D Ranger, add Conjurer or Fairy Tamer to the mix. No one is stopping you from playing the character you want to play. Of course there is always the trade-off that you have a limited amount of EXP, but that is not to say that you can really waste your levels.
I have a little anecdote from my game about this, actually. We had this Kobold Rogue in our party. Kobolds are kind of a terrible race to play, they are weak and have some bad racial traits, but I think that is sort of on purpose. They are meant to be shitty, for those who really want this type of thing. The character had some Levels in Ranger, Scout and Fencer and generally was built to crit often and get damage from there. The character intentionally stayed away from magic, because D&D casters had put that player off from ever wanting to play one.
The player soon realized, however, that kobolds are quite squishy. So after the first dungeon and getting almost one shot twice in the same session, the kobold player thought “maybe I should actually go more into support and get some healing magic”. So the little fellow wandered into a temple and became a priest. I offered the player to refund all the previously spent EXP to respec, but they said no. That character is still very much viable and can keep up with the party, despite the weird shift from backstabbing to healing magic.
It’s a sort of give and take with these class combinations. Almost anything is viable, outside of some edge cases like Fighter and Grappler, maybe.
Q: What about the JTRPG scene?
Aniodia: Honestly, what little I know comes from the /jttrpg/ discord, when someone bothers to post the top X games over in Japan. From the last one I’m aware of, Call of Cthulhu was the top RPG, followed by Double Cross, Skynauts of the Tower of Gears (which I don’t know what that is, but sounds neat enough), Shinobigami, and then Sword World 2.5. Buddy Suspense TRPG – Futari Sousa (again, not entirely sure what this is) takes the tenth slot, but the rest of the top 30 includes stuff like inSANe (horror, iirc), Stellar Knights (I’ve seen it described as an RPG inspired by Revolutionary Girl Utena), Nechronica and Konosuba. While the big names like CoC, Double Cross and SW2.5 are popular, there’s still a good amount of diversity when it comes to books being sold, especially compared to the West where the same chart would undoubtedly be mostly D&D and Pathfinder, maybe with something spicy like Cyberpunk or one of the Powered by the Apocalypse games on there as well.
Momo: There are definitely some JTRPGs made for Anime franchises, like Goblin Slayer, Konosuba or Log Horizon, for example.
I think the majority are original games, though, I would say.
As for system reuse, there is some of that, yes. SRS in particular (A system developed by F.E.A.R., short for Standard Roleplaying System I think) is used in many of F.E.A.R.s games I believe.
SRS is sort of like the OGL D20 stuff, but obviously a very different system from D20. From what I have read of SRS games, they still have some degree of customization to fit the setting.
Generally, I would say the Japanese RPG scene is alive and well.
As for the western side of things, There are only 10 or so Japanese games that got an official translation, but there are a lot of passionate souls out there that put in the effort to translate things.
It’s a lot like the anime fansub scene of the 90’s and 00’s.
Right off the top of my head, only MAID, Kamigakari, Tenra Bansho Zero, Double Cross, Golden Sky Stories, Ryuutama, Summon Skates, Floria and Shinobigami have gotten the English treatment yet.
However, there are some like Konosuba, Goblin Slayer and whatever Silver Vine Publishing is currently brewing up on the horizon.
Maybe we will see more Japanese games come to the west in the near future. I would be very happy about that.
On the fan translation side of things, there are some I’m aware of. Nechronica never really stopped, getting new supplemental stuff every now and then. Recently they also started working on the creators new game, Ventangle.
Our newest contributor to Sword World, Borp, also works on various games. I think his current pet projects involve Card Ranker, Dark Souls TRPG and SW1.0. I hope he can make some headway, seeing as how he cut his work out for himself (lol).
Q: What’s the translation status? Has everything necessary to play been translated?
Aniodia: As it stands as of today, February 20, 2022, the entire core rules have been translated 100%, and the game is playable in its entirety. There are a number of supplemental books in various stages of “done”, my own project being Alchemist Works (the first actual supplement), while I know Momo has bounced around translating most of the races and classes across the various books, and Auquid is an absolute madlad and just cranks fully translated pdfs out, like the most recent supplement/replay Baumgart’s Castle Labyrinth [A replay is a transcript of a play session].
Momo: The translation is still in the works. A lot of play material has been translated, but there is still a mountain of content to climb.
Especially because there are a lot of replays and other materials that might have some extra supplemental stuff we just don’t know about. SW2.0 had a lot of material released, after all.
As of now, 31/32 races have been translated.
21/24 classes have been translated (counting new fairy tamer and wizard in Wizards Tome as their own class).
A whole assortment of additional and optional rules have also been translated.
Fairy Garden, a campaign setting set in the land of fairies, has also been translated.
The Dagnia Region Book has been translated as well.
A replay/mini supplement geared for beginners called Baumgart’s Castle Labyrinth, was also recently translated.
Not all of this translated material has been added to the wiki yet, but it is slowly all coming together.
The most important part, however, the Core Rules, are entirely translated and on the wiki. If you are interested, please take a look.
Only missing things from the core rules are sample characters and a few unimportant text bits are missing on the wiki. They are, however, absolutely found in Auquid’s PDFs. The sample characters are slowly being added to the wiki, however. Only CR3 Premades are still missing.
My personal goal of having all the races, classes, items and optional rules translated is only really halfway there, but I’ll be continuing to do my best in that regard.
Q: What if there was an official translation?
Aniodia: There’s not likely to be one, in all honesty. At one point a couple years ago, I’d gotten in contact with Kei Kitazawa, one of the writers at Group SNE and the designer of the game and world for Sword World 2.0, over Twitter and asked a couple questions regarding the game. At that point, he had mentioned that there were no plans for an English Translation, and to date none have been announced. Personal thoughts on the subject are that there never will be, because despite how popular Sword World may be over in Japan, they would have to fight to take on D&D and Pathfinder on their home turf, and between licensing, translating, and marketing for a small foothold in a niche market, I don’t think the money’s there for them to do that. Most of the JTRPG Kickstarters only get like, $80k-90k, with Tenra Bansho Zero pulling in just shy of $130k. Then again, pretty much every one of them has also had significant issues, so…
Regardless, IF there was ever an official translation, and it wasn’t horribly botched in some manner, then yeah, I’d support it. No better way to show companies that their work is appreciated by keeping people employed.
Momo: That will (probably) not be happening. Not any time soon, not with how things are right now.
The creators have gone on record to say that they aren’t interested in an official western release, because they would have to compete with D&D and Pathfinder on their home turf and that’s not a battle they think they can win.
Maybe if D&D’s stranglehold on the western market wanes we will get a western release. Maybe if Konosuba makes big waves, and/or if SW2.5 gets some anime adaptation that gets popular (similar to how Lodoss and Runesoldier were for SW1.0), but I would not count on it in the near future. A girl can only dream.
For now, western fans have to make due with our fan translation.
If there is an official translation, we might cut our losses and call it quits. Although, that being said, an official translation will most likely be of SW2.5 or maybe 3.0 if that is out, and not 2.0. Translating the 2.0 Material would still be a good thing, since 2.5 is backwards compatible with 2.0.
We haven’t really thought about it, to be honest.
In any case, I will always give my support to Sword World. If they are planning to bring it over here, I will throw money at them, no questions asked.
Q: How popular is Sword World in Japan now?
Aniodia: As I mentioned above, there’s at least four books from the 2.5 edition in the top ten best sellers, so it’s selling pretty darn well from what I see.
Momo: Very popular. Even marketing powerhouse D&D hasn’t managed to dethrone it. That is saying a lot.
Q: How popular is it on /tg/?
Aniodia: There’s definitely a couple of people who have asked over the years, while I was dealing with my own stuff going on, so there’s been a small but faithful contingent keeping an eye out. At the same time, though, there’s rarely a /jttrpg/ thread on the board, especially compared to, say, any of the Warhams/Magic/D&D threads, so it doesn’t really get talked about a whole lot. It is what it is, I guess.
Momo: I think a lot of people just don’t know about it yet, because it is still relatively new in the western scene (only really going out public last year) and I think it being in a fan translation doesn’t help. I have been relentlessly shilling the game and I know I’m not the only one. Small and faithful contingent is probably the best term for it, yes.
Whenever there is a thread where someone complains about D&D and they want to play something that is *like* D&D but not quite like D&D, I’ll be there to recommend Sword World. You can count on it.
Q: Why did you think it was worth translating?
Aniodia: An interesting question. As I’d mentioned above, I got into tabletop gaming in general through Mentzer Basic D&D, and still do appreciate BECMI D&D, even above and beyond the OSR scene and their love for B/X D&D. So I’d always spent some time trying to homebrew and hack the game to fit whatever thoughts I’d had at the time, and never truly be happy with what I’d made, as it was always untested, and (in my mind) would take significant testing to make sure it was balanced with the rest of the game. However, Sword World covered a large chunk of the stuff I’d been trying to homebrew into D&D while also providing a functional system, and the best part is it’s all been tested quite heavily and found to be in working order, unlike the various homebrew rules I’d been coming up with. So rather than try and kludge together stuff that would require testing and may end up not functional, I may as well put my time and effort into translating a system that’s already been known to work and getting it into a playable state.
Momo: Honestly, with the animosity and disdain certain people have for D&D’s stranglehold on the hobby (me being one of them), many ask if there is a good alternative. I think Sword World is a good alternative.
To be quite honest, my main motivation came more from compassion than spite. I mean I started with translating to help other anons find the game that was right for them, and in the process noticed that this game was exactly what I’ve been looking for in a fantasy rpg. The two biggest drives for me now are to improve my Japanese and provide my group with as many options as I can.
We decided to play Sword World shortly after I had discovered it. Well, I convinced my group to show some of them an alternative to 5e. They agreed, so there we go. One of my players asked if there were centaurs in the game pretty soon after, which sent me down a rabbit hole of translating races, classes and other play material.
I regret nothing. Sword World is amazing. Raxia is awesome. I want more people to give this game a fair shot, so translating play material became a big thing for me.
Q: What tends to be in the supplements?
Aniodia: Sword World supplements are much like D&D supplements; there’s new rules, new classes, monsters, items, magic, etc. For example, Alchemist Works introduces the Alchemist class, who can turn monster parts into pseudo-magical cards that they can then use to create various buffs and debuffs, while Barbarous Book adds rules for playing as one of the many Barbarous races. Ignis Blaze has more Combat Feats and Cardia Grace has rules for Advanced combat, while Fortuna Code is an Epic Level Handbook and gives rules for advancing to levels 16 & 17. All of these rules are technically optional, and the game can be played without any of them. At the same time, it’s always neat to introduce a new class or race to the game, in case the players want to pick one for their next character.
Momo: Yeah, what he said. Races, Classes, Monsters, Items, Spells, Lore, Optional Rules, Campaign material… that sort of thing.
They are quite diverse, honestly. We have a list of all the supplements on the wiki in the introduction page. Go check that out if you want to know more.
Q: Who is Andy Kitkowski?
Aniodia: Andy Kitkowski, also known as Andy K. or Diamond Sutra, is one of the more well-known translators of JTRPGs. Dude started with Tenra Bansho Zero, then also did Ryuutama and most recently Shinobigami. As a person, dude seems alright, doesn’t come across as a douchebag or anything, might be chill, who knows. Professionally, though, I can’t say as I’m really a big fan. Sure, the work he’s put out so far is fine, and it’s never really a bad thing to get more eyes on JTRPGs and all their weirdness (and TBZ is capital-W WEIRD). At the same time, though, there are numerous stretch goals on every single one of the kickstarters he’s created that haven’t been fulfilled. Yes, that includes the TBZ kickstarter, which ran back in 2012 and has the most recent update in 2018, and still has a good probably half the stretch goals just… not even attempted to be started.
I understand stuff happens, life gets in the way, money runs out, etc., but at least let people know you’re gonna stiff them, geez. Even the absolute dumpster fire of the Kamigakari translation kickstarter just came out and said they’re not able to do the actual print run of the rulebook, and good god that campaign was run about as well as Mighty No. 9. Backers of his stuff don’t even have that, which again, I’m not a fan of.
Momo: If you go on youtube and look up Sword World, there is also an interview with him on Sword World, D&D and the RPG scene in japan in general. It’s an interesting watch. Other than that, I barely ever heard of the guy.
Q: How and where can someone interested in Sword World join a game as a player?
Auquid: There were several attempts to gather people on the server for the game, but it seems to have failed in the end. You could ask around again, I guess.
I (and Moni as far as I’m aware of) have no time for parallel games because of existing ones.
And Aniodia doesn’t run games.
Honestly, I have two games right now (one being Sword World, the other being Shadowrun but we are currently switching to Numenera), I don’t have the time to run any more games. There have been talks about running a play by post Sword World game on the discord, as of now nobody has stepped up to run it. I would be down for playing in that, though. Obviously finding a Sword World game you can join will be more difficult than, say, a 5e game just by it being more of an obscure game that only exists in either Japanese or an English fan translation.
There are quite a few people on our discord, though, and if you want to spearhead a discord game, you can just come here and ask.
If you have a local group and maybe want to check out Sword World with them, there are excellent sample adventures made for characters of 1st, 6th and 10th level found in the GM Sections of the core rules (or alternatively in the All-in-One section on the wiki).
I personally ran my players and my younger siblings through the first one, Bartou’s Mansion, and they all had a blast with that.
The rules are freely available on the wiki or in the translated PDFs found on the subreddit. It’s a relatively short read and easy to understand even for first time GMs, so have a go and have fun in Raxia with your buddies.
Alternatively, you can read the recently translated replay “Baumgart’s Castle Labyrinth” (BCL for short) and maybe get people into the game from there. The story of the replay is centred around a group of adventurer’s battling the debt they owe to a loan shark. There is also a little mini supplement attached to it that allows you to roll up randomly generating dungeons and gives the rules used in the replay. It’s a great thing to yeet at someone who might be interested in Sword World.
Oh, and if you have any questions about rules and how to run Sword World, then me and the others here in the discord or on the subreddit will gladly help. The translation of Sword World RPG can be found on the wiki.
End of Interview.
I conducted this interview in the hopes of finding more about Sword World RPG. A resource that wasn’t available at the time I conducted this interview is the Guided by Cardia Youtube Channel created by two Sword World fan translators, Auquid and Momo.