B/X Essentials: Adventures and Treasures -- Draft Text v0.1.0!

Illustration by Michael Clarke
What with B/X Essentials: Monsters being close to wrapping up, my thoughts are beginning to turn vaguely to the fifth book: Adventures and Treasures. This, by the way, will be the final book in the initial "classic" series, completing the core B/X rules reference.

The document is currently just a very basic outline, with only the wilderness encounter charts and NPC party generators being at all fleshed out.

You can view (and comment on!) progress here online.

B/X Essentials: Monsters -- Art & Layout Preview 2

I just got some pieces in from Matt Ray, and wanted to share another spread. I love that gelatinous cube!


About the Dolmenwood Campaign Book


So I've mentioned this thing before called the Dolmenwood Campaign Book, but I realise that its exact nature has not been laid out particularly clearly. Here goes... a sort of general FAQ!

Dolmenwood
Is a weird fairy-tale hex-crawl setting for B/X (and pals), invented by myself and Greg Gorgonmilk. To date, all information on the setting has appeared in serialized (and somewhat randomized) form in the zine Wormskin.

Wormskin
Each issue of Wormskin details fairly arbitrarily selected aspects of the setting: player character classes, descriptions of clusters of hexes, new monsters, historical exposition, optional rules for forest hex crawling, and so on. By its nature, however, the zine does not reveal the setting in any logical order. It is, essentially, a partwork.

All issues of Wormskin are available here.

Dolmenwood Hardcovers
Since its inception, the plan for Dolmenwood has always been to release the setting in its finished form as a set of full-size hardcover books: a player's guide (with all the new classes), a book of hexes, a book of monsters, and so on. The vagaries of life have meant that the process of writing these books has not been forthcoming. Until now!

The Dolmenwood Campaign Book
Will be the first Dolmenwood hardcover to be published. It is currently being written, and is about 50% done.

What will this book contain?

  • Background information on the setting: the forest's history, the various sentient races that inhabit it, the magical energies that permeate it, etc.
  • Details on the various regions of Dolmenwood and their unique features.
  • Descriptions of the factions that lurk in the forest, their aims and goals, and how they relate to each other.
  • Descriptions of all 184 hexes on the campaign map.

When Will It Be Published?
The plan is to publish it in 2019. We're looking into doing a Kickstarter to get enough funding for a fancy print run and lush artwork. It's looking like the book will clock in at 180+ pages, once finished.

Will It Include Content That's Already Appeared In Wormskin?
Some of the content of the Campaign Book has already appeared in Wormskin. For example, about 50 of the 184 hexes have been described in the zine, and detailed articles on two factions have been published. All of this information will be collated in the Campaign Book, where it will be re-edited into a cohesive whole.

What Content Will It Include That's Not Appeared in Wormskin?
Absolutely loads of stuff. Wormksin has just scratched the surface, really. For starters, there'll be over 120 new hex descriptions. This will be a complete campaign setting, with a detailed, adventure-packed hex-crawl, and fully fleshed out background information. And it will all be organised in a logical fashion, naturally.

Will It Include All Content From Wormskin?
Anything that doesn't relate to the setting background and the hex descriptions will not be included in the Campaign Book. It will not contain any PC classes or adventures, for example.

Will Wormskin Continue?
Once the Campaign Book is published, yes, the plan is for Wormskin to continue. Its role will be somewhat different, as there will be no further articles with hex descriptions or setting background. I'd imagine the zine's focus switching to support materials like adventures, encounters, NPCs, and general setting ephemera.


B/X Essentials: Monsters -- First Layout Preview!

Due to the incredible illustrating alacrity of Alex Mayo, I am able to show the first preview of a laid out and illustrated spread from B/X Essentials: Monsters today! The spread isn't 100% in its final form -- there's still a round of proofreading and fine-grained layout tweaking to come, but it gives a very good indication of how the finished book will look.

Beetles to Caecilia:

Caecilia illustration (c) Alex Mayo

B/X Essentials: Monsters -- Introductory Text

Close-up of the cyclops from the cover, by Andrew Walter

A major milestone has been reached: thanks to the assistance of my wonderful wife, Rachel, the layout of B/X Essentials: Monsters is complete! The next step is that I'll be commissioning illustrations from the usual rogues' gallery of artistic ne'er-do-wells. Publication is planned for mid to late July.

As a little taster of the book, I thought it'd be nice to present the introductory text, which provides a glimpse into the ideas behind my retelling of the classic B/X monsters. So, here you go:

Foreword
This book contains all the standard Basic/Expert monsters, retold in a new format. As with all of the other books in the B/X Essentials line, the focus of the writing and layout is on ease of use at the table. This principle, when applied to monster descriptions, led to a format that is rather different to the standard. The main points of note are:

  • The basic description of a monster (what it looks like, how big it is, where it lives, etc.) is separated from other elements.
  • Other abilities and points of note are broken out in a series of bullet points, for easy reference. (Compare to the standard “wall of text” monster presentation in the original Basic/Expert books.)
  • Beyond the definition of the basic stat block (see adjacent), everything the referee needs to run a monster is gathered together in one place. There are no “see page X” references and no mentions of abilities that are described elsewhere.
  • In the stat blocks, the need to look up information in other places is also virtually removed: the full saving throw values for each monster are listed (instead of just the class and level of the chart to be consulted), and the attack roll needed to hit AC 0 is provided, allowing referees who are not averse to a little mental arithmetic to do away with the monster attack chart.

As always, I hope that this book plays a part in the furtherance of this timeless and beloved game and prove useful as a reference for those already familiar with its charms.

Gavin Norman, Spring 2018, Berlin.

Notes
Infravision
All non-human monsters have 60’ infravision. (See B/X Essentials: Core Rules, p16.)

Persons
Spells such as charm person, hold person, etc. only affect humanoids (including humans and demihumans) of up to 4+1HD. Monsters in this book that are affected by these spells are: acolyte, bandit, berserker, brigand, buccaneer, bugbear, dervish, dwarf, elf, gnoll, gnome, goblin, halfling, hobgoblin, kobold, lizard man, medium, merchant, neanderthal, nixie, noble, normal human, ogre, orc, pirate, pixie, sprite, trader, troglodyte, veteran. Other monsters may be affected at the referee’s judgement.

Saving Throws Above 14th Level
Some powerful monsters save as a fighter of greater than 14th level. In these cases, the monster’s save values have been calculated by extrapolating the progression of the fighter saving throw chart to higher levels.

XP Value of NPCs
Some monster entries make reference to NPCs with levels in a specific character class. The XP values for such characters are not precalculated, as the exact value depends on several variable factors.
When awarding XP for defeated NPCs, the referee may use the following guidelines:

  • The Hit Dice of the character are equal to his or her experience level.
  • Spell casters are treated as having one special ability per two levels of spells they can cast (rounded up). For example, a character able to cast 1st, 2nd, and 3rd level spells would count as having two special abilities.
  • Magic items in the possession of the character may be counted as special abilities, if they play a direct role in combat.

Stat Block Format
AC: Armour Class.

HD: Hit Dice. Roll this number of d8s to determine each individual’s hit points. Followed by the average hit point value, in parentheses.
  • Asterisks after the HD number indicate that the monster has special abilities, for the purpose of XP calculation.
  • Modifiers to the HD (e.g. +3, -1) are applied to the hit point total, after rolling the appropriate number of d8s.
  • Some monsters are listed as having less than one HD, either as ½ (roll 1d4) or as a fixed number of hit points.
Att: Attacks usable each round. Square brackets are used to distinguish between alternative attack routines that a monster may choose from.

SV: The monster’s saving throw values. The equivalent character class and level are listed in parentheses afterwards (C=Cleric, D=Dwarf, E=Elf, F=Fighter, H=Halfling, MU=Magic-User, NH=Normal Human, T=Thief).

THAC0: Value required “to hit AC0”. This value may optionally be used to resolve the monster’s attack rolls, instead of referring to the attack chart based on its HD. To calculate the AC hit by an attack, subtract the result of the attack roll from the THAC0 score. For example, if a monster with THAC0 12 makes an attack roll of 9, it hits AC 3 (12 - 9).

MV: Base movement rate; encounter movement rate in parentheses. If the monster has multiple modes of movement, they are listed individually, separated by slashes.

ML: Morale rating.

AL: Alignment. If “any” is listed, the referee may roll randomly or choose the creature’s alignment.

XP: Precalculated XP award for defeating the monster.

NA: Number appearing. Two values are listed, the second in parentheses. These values are used as follows:
  • Wandering (dungeon): The first value indicates the number of monsters encountered roaming in a dungeon level equal to their HD. If the listed value is zero, these monsters are not usually encountered in dungeons. If the monster is encountered on a level greater than its HD, the number appearing may be increased; if encountered on a level less than its HD, the number appearing should be reduced.
  • Lair (dungeon): The second value lists the number of monsters found in a lair in a dungeon. If the listed value is zero, these monsters do not usually have lairs.
  • Wandering (wilderness): The second value indicates the number of monsters encountered roaming in the wilderness. If the listed value is zero, these monsters are not usually encountered in the wilderness.
  • Lair (wilderness): The second value multiplied by 5 indicates the number of monsters found in a lair in the wilderness. If the listed value is zero, these monsters are not usually encountered in the wilderness.
TT: Treasure type. The letter code used to determine the amount and type of treasure possessed by the monster(s) (see B/X Essentials: Adventures and Treasures). The letters listed are used as follows:
  • A to O: Indicate a hoard: the sum wealth of a large monster or a community of smaller monsters. Such hoards are usually hidden in the lair. For monsters with a lair encounter size (see NA, above) of greater than 1d4, the amount of treasure in the hoard may be reduced, if the number of monsters is below average.
  • P to V: If listed for an intelligent monster, indicate treasure carried by individuals. If listed for an unintelligent monster, indicates treasure from the bodies of its former victims.

Dolmenwood Campaign Book: Progress Report

Image by Orioto

I made a short post about the Dolmenwood Campaign Book last year. Several months have passed since then, and work has continued. Some info:

  • The draft text now stands at just over 50,000 words.
  • Of the 184 hexes to be detailed on the campaign map, 90 have now been written up. This means we're almost exactly at the 50% mark, in terms of the hex descriptions.
  • I've been working with a group of writers who have trodden the paths of Dolmenwood: Brian Richmond (of the superb Goatman's Goblet blog), Andrew Walter (Wormskin illustrator supremo), Glynn Seal (author of the Midderlands campaign setting), and Kyle Hettinger (author of one of the Dolmenwood adventures-in-the-works).
  • I'm in contact with a few more writers, who will hopefully also be contributing some hex descriptions to the setting.
  • The book currently comes in at 128 pages. This is in a single-column, dumb layout, of course. But this indicates that it's going to be a very nice, chunky book when it's all finished! I'd anticipate a final page count of 190-256 pages.
  • A bit more info on my ideas for the physical book: hardcover, full size, full colour, lavishly illustrated, professionally edited, traditional print run (i.e. not print-on-demand), fancy production (sturdy binding, ribbons, etc). All to be determined, of course, but I want to go all out on making this a beautiful book.

And an update on the table of contents:

Part 1: Dolmenwood

  • Introduction
  • Themes
  • Sentient folk
    • Mortals
    • Fairies
    • Demi-Fey
  • Regions of Dolmenwood
  • The Otherwold
    • Fairy Dominions
    • Paths and Doors to Fairy
    • Ley Lines
    • The Witching Ring
  • History
  • The Brackenwold Calendar
  • Languages
  • Religion
  • Magic
    • Geomancy
    • Magic Items
  • Commerce
    • Banking
    • Merchants
    • Peddlers
    • The River Trade
  • Ecology
    • Flora
    • Fauna
    • Fungi
  • Comestibles
    • Food
    • Drink
    • Pipeweed
    • Psychedelics
  • Factions and Powers
  • Faction Relationships
  • Campaigns
  • Rumours and Quests
Part 2: Hex Descriptions

Appendices
  1. Monsters of Dolmenwood
  2. New Spells
  3. Gunpowder Weapons

B/X Essentials: Monsters: Cover!

Hot off Andrew Walter's trans-dimensional press -- the cover of the upcoming B/X Essentials book!


Dolmenwood: Trolls and Ogres


I've known for a long time that both trolls and ogres lurk in the Dolmenwood. I've also known that these beasts are somewhat different to their standard D&D cousins. New research has now revealed the following details about them -- adventurers beware! (Stats to be determined some time in the future.)

Trolls
A race of hulking, obese monstrosities native to Fairy. In height, they are two to three times as large as a human, and many times greater in bulk. Their flesh is like clay and utterly hairless. If a limb is severed, it can be reattached without harm. The teeth in their great maws are flat, grinding molars. They do not eat flesh, but subsist solely on mosses. The profusion of moss in Dolmenwood -- and especially the prevalence of varieties infused with arcane energies -- attracts them to graze in the mortal world. Their most favourite delicacy is the flavour of moss that has grown on the corpses of sentient beings. This leads them to murder. The mere touch of a troll causes moss to take root and sprout in mortal flesh. Trolls are creatures of the dank and dark. Their greatest weakness, in the mortal world, is direct exposure to daylight, which turns them into stone within 3 rounds. Trolls are thus found lurking in shaded regions of the wood, often taking shelter in caves or beneath bridges during the daytime. They are slow-witted but devious creatures, whose voices carry the power of suggestion.

Ogres
Likewise, are hulking and obese, similar in size to trolls. Ogres, however, are a twisted race of mortals. They are grotesquely hairy and exceedingly ugly. Fangs jut higgeldy-piggeldy from their wide mouths. Their heads are adorned with horns that vary from individual to individual: they may number one, two, three, or four, and may be stunted, twisted, or curled like rams'. Ogres are carnivores specialising in the digestion of humanoid flesh. They hunt mercilessly, delighting in rending sentients of lesser stature limb from limb, or in capturing them alive, to be later roasted over bonfires or boiled in great cauldrons. Their hateful and wicked nature makes them favoured servants of the Nag-Lord, in Dolmenwood.

B/X Essentials: Monsters -- Writing Complete!


It's been a long, hard haul, but I'm delighted to announce that my completely fresh Open Game Content rendition of the classic Basic / Expert monsters is complete!

The complete text is online here.

What's new about this?
Haven't there been a zillion rewrites of these monsters for all different editions of D&D since the dawn of time? Indeed there have! But my new rendition is a bit different. The major focus is on usability as a reference during play:
  • Bullet points formatting: The original B/X monsters are written up in a "wall of text" style, making it rather difficult to pick out all the pertinent information quickly during play. My new write-ups break down each monster's description into a set of bullet points, making it much simpler to get an overview of the creature's abilities, at a glance, and much quicker to jump to the text for the appropriate ability, as needed.
  • Everything in one place: There are no "see X" references to be seen. Everything you need to run each monster is right there in one place. This means that you never need to flip back and forth between pages to look up rules for monsters' abilities. (For example, the description of the rules for monsters' swallow whole ability is repeated in the description of each monster that has that ability.)
  • Terse writing: Phrasing is kept minimal, for rapid reading during play.
  • Full detail: And yet these are full write-ups, not merely super minimal stat blocks. The full information is presented, including descriptions of the monsters' appearance, habitat, behaviour, and so on.

So what's next?
Proofreading is beginning, then it'll be onto layout, illustration, and then publication as the fourth book in the B/X Essentials product line. (More information on B/X Essentials.)

Necrotic Gnome One Page Dungeon Contest Prizes



Necrotic Gnome Productions is proud to sponsor the esteemed One Page Dungeon Contest in its tenth year!

Necrotic prizes in the treasure hoard:

  • 1 print-on-demand collection of B/X Essentials. (Core Rules, Classes and Equipment, Cleric and Magic-User Spells.)
  • 5 PDF collections of B/X Essentials.

Forthcoming Adventures in Dolmenwood


As I mentioned last year, there are several new adventures set in Dolmenwood in the works. My own adventure (the one about a fairy banquet, market, and ball) has unfortunately fallen by the wayside, as I've had to focus on other things. However, two other cats have come up with the goods. Here's what we have in the works.

(Both adventures are suitable for 1st - 2nd level adventurers, and are expected to come in at around 40-45 pages. To be published in digest-size print and PDF.)

The Fungus That Came To Blackeswell
By Yves Geens

What's that you say? Doesn't an adventure with that name already exist? Didn't Bryce Lynch write a glowing review of it and include it in his "the best" category? Why yes, you are correct! This adventure was published some years back as part of the Psychedelic Fantasies line. I read it at the time and it immediately shouted "this could be set in Dolmenwood!" to me. I suggested this to the author, Yves Geens, and he obliged by coming up with a new edition of the adventure, specifically set in Dolmenwood.

Check out Bryce's review of the original version of this adventure here.

Synopsis: An isolated village in the sodden lowlands of Dolmenwood is overrun by fungus of a wildly varied and nefarious nature. The inhabitants are reduced to either vicious fungal drones or cowering shut-ins. Can YOU save the day (should you care to)? How can YOU profit from the unfortunate situation (should this be your thing)?

Status: Draft layout almost finished. Play testing to begin soon.


The Wicked Child of Swynethorp
By Kyle Hettinger

Synopsis: A young lad, the son of a minor lord, has gone insane, running amok in the local village. Rewards are offered, doctors and priests are consulted, but none can figure out what ails the boy. The sinister truth will take adventurers into a strange mirror world, ruled by a fairy lordling dubbed The Prince of Looking Glasses. Can YOU restore the lad to sanity and claim the reward (should you care to)? How can YOU profit from the unfortunate situation (should this be your thing)?

Status: Draft layout in progress. Play testing to begin semi-soon.

Looking for Dolmenwood Play Testers!


Edit: I also posted this on google+, and the response has been swift and vigorous! The need for play testers has now been met :)

Looking for play testers!

There are two Dolmenwood adventures in the works, and both are nearing the stage where they'll be in need of some play testing. I'm looking for a few DMs who would like to run these adventures and give feedback. I'm looking for detailed feedback (on how the adventures work in play, along with any suggestions for things that could be tweaked), more than just a simple "it was fun".

In return for your help, you'll be credited in the module and will get a free PDF copy and at-cost print-on-demand copy of the finished thing.

If you're interested, send me a line (comment here, email, g+).

B/X Essentials: Monsters -- 70% of the way!

I've not written an update on the next B/X Essentials book (the book of monsters) in a while, but it's progressing slowly in the background. I've created a list of all the B/X monsters now, including sub-types: it comes in at 207 monsters. I've currently finished write-ups for 148 of them, so am around 70% of the way through.

The end is now coming vaguely into sight!

The work-in-progress document is shared online here.