Home Reviews 3.5 3rd Party Publications SORD (System Operational Reference Digest)
SORD (System Operational Reference Digest) Print E-mail
Written by Ryan. Costello, Jr   
Tuesday, 30 September 2008 19:41

Myth Merchant Press’ aptly acronymed SORD is a rules tool for the 3.5 d20 system. A series of charts and bundles to help the DM run sessions more smoothly.

Publisher: Myth Merchant Press

Expectations

Steve Muchow contacted me by way of our message board in response to our podcast comments on DM screens. Before opening the PDF, I expected this to be about DM screen sized. I was surprised to find a 34 page document. Bigger than expected, but hopefully more useful than the cramped and awkward charts on the DM screen.

At a Glance

No art to speak of per se, but it is worth noting the page layout. With only a few text-heavy pages, the majority of the document has nicely spaced charts breaking up the word chunks.

Highlights

Fits on a Page

In the introduction, it is speculated that one of the reasons grapple is 3.5’s black eye is because it is spread out across multiple pages needlessly. A compelling argument.

The SORD streamlines rules, restricting them to a single page as often as possible. For example, there is an entire page dedicated to Armour Class, outlining how to determine AC, touch AC, and flatfooted AC. How modifiers affect AC in melee and at range. When a character is flat footed. The variety of common (read: OGL) armour. Dexterity and size modifiers. Everything armour related.

This makes referencing rules unbelievably easy. As long as you know what category what you’re looking for likely falls under –such as Conditions, Spell Casting, or Mounted Combat- you can find what you are looking.

Repetitive  

How can repetitiveness be a highlight? Because the SORD is not meant to be read cover to cover and enjoyed as a single rulebook. In the example above, I mentioned that Dexterity and size modifiers are on the armour class page. They are also on the combat page, the grapple page, and anytime such information is pertinent. Each page is designed as a self-contained reference sheet, therefore information that affects multiple aspects of the game appears repeatedly, as it should.

Malleable

Rarely… okay, nowhere else will you find a game designer’s personal e-mail address included in the sourcebook, encouraging players to contact him with comments. As a PDF, the SORD can be altered over multiple versions based on feedback from users. You can reach Steve Muchow with comments at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

Low Points

Redundant

How is being repetitive good and redundant bad? The content is repetitive. The existence of the SORD is redundant. The concept and content are very similar to the Wizards of the Coast released Rules Compendium. Moreover, many of the rules issues the SORD aims to clarify are simplified in Paizo’s Pathfinder or, more commonly, reworked in such a way that makes the SORD inaccurate.

Not every 3.5 player will be switching to Pathfinder and not all of them bought the Rules Compendium. The SORD is a cheaper alternative to players that have not done either.

Strange Bedfellows

 Saving Throws, Actions, and Damage Reduction are bundled together on the same page because they physically fit together rather than thematically. Players accustomed to reading vertically will find themselves occasionally confused. On the Initiative page, Readying to Counterspell would seem to come before an explanation on Readying Actions. Again, this is a reference guide and not a sourcebook, so some flow problems are acceptable. However, someone that wants to know more about Damage Reduction might be confused when they can not find it in the Damage section.

Clarity Issues

What does “Most full-round moves only allow a 5-foot step” mean? It’s the final bullet in the Movement Basics but does not make much sense grammatically and contradicts the actual rules of the game. Combined with about a type-o a page and some inconsistent shorthand, the SORD unfortunately commits reference tool cardinal sin on occassion.

 

Juicy Bits

The Conditions page is concise and complete, a great tool.

The Initiative page provides not just rules but also an interesting Initiative Tracker and a suggestion to laminate the page so that it can be written on and dry erased.

 

Personal Experience

I have only read the SORD, not having the opportunity to use it yet. That said, I expect it to be extremely useful when I do introduce them to my game.

 

Overall

The SORD is more than I expected. Do not underestimate how useful it is to have rules contained on a single page, and how impressive it is that the pages waste so little space. Sadly, even though clarifying Grapple was one of the SORD’s inspirations, it is still complicated no matter how it is laid out. Since grapple is not the only complicated rule in the game, the other pages of the SORD are extremely useful.

 

If You Liked This Book…

The Rules Compendium works in much the same way as the SORD.

 

Date Released: July 13, 2008

Date Reviewed: October 1, 2008