B/X: High Level Spells


A commonly known quirk of the B/X system is that the game only goes up to 14th level. This means that clerics top out at 5th level spells, and magic-users at 6th level spells.

I love the experience level cap in B/X, but I'm kind of ambivalent about the cap on spell levels. I love me some spells (especially magic-user ones), and there are indubitably some very cool spells at 7th, 8th, and 9th level. We probably all have books full of them.

So I've been thinking for a while about a way to (potentially) bring the higher level spells into B/X, without increasing the maximum level attainable by magic-users. Here's one idea. (Not tested in play.)

High Level Spells (Optional Rule)

A magic-user of 11th level or higher is able to cast spells of 7th, 8th, and 9th level.

Acquiring High Level Spells

Spells of 7th, 8th, and 9th level may be added to a magic-user's spell book by the following means:
  • The normal spell research procedure (see B/X Essentials: Core Rules, p31).
  • By studying the description of the spell in another magic-user's spell book (using read magic). This takes half as much time and money as spell research (i.e. 500gp and one week per level of the spell).

Maximum High Level Spells

Each magic-user may have at most two 7th level, two 8th level, and one 9th level spell in his or her spell book.

Casting High Level Spells

Spells of 7th, 8th, or 9th level cannot be memorized. This means that, while a character may have such spells in his or her spell book, they cannot be cast in the same way as spells of lower levels. High level spells may only be cast as follows:
  • A special ritual chamber is required. This must be constructed as part of the magic-user's stronghold (upon reaching 11th level or higher). It is not possible to cast spells in the ritual chamber of another magic-user.
  • Each time the spell is cast, 500gp worth of rare ingredients per level of the spell are consumed. The magic-user must acquire these ingredients before casting the spell. (The referee may wish to specify the nature of these ingredients, possibly tailored to the nature of the spell to be cast.)
  • Casting the spell also requires time: 1 hour for a 7th level spell, 4 hours for an 8th level spell, and 8 hours for a 9th level spell. If the magic-user is disturbed during this time, the casting of the spell fails.
  • At the culmination of the ritual, the magic-user may choose how the spell manifests, selecting one of the following options:
    1. The spell takes effect immediately.
    2. The spell's effect is woven into a staff. At any time in the future, the magic-user (and the magic-user alone!) may break the staff, releasing the stored spell effect. The magic-user may only have a single staff enchanted with a high level spell at any one time.

B/X Essentials: Adventuring Mode "Control Panels"

In his recent review of B/X Essentials, Ben Milton noted that the way the books are laid out, the reader is provided with super easy to use "control panels" for certain topics in the game. That is, two-page spreads that provide all the information relevant to a specific topic.

This was certainly one of the layout goals of the books, and is evidenced especially in the Core Rules and Classes and Equipment books. The following "control panel" spreads are good examples:
  • The basic rules for combat.
  • The character classes (all info on 1 or 2 pages).
  • The rules for character creation.
  • The rules around ability scores.
  • The basic equipment lists (including combat info for all weapons).
Looking back at Core Rules, one thing that I've been considering for a long time is whether the rules for adventuring would be better laid out by "mode" (i.e. dungeon / wilderness / seafaring), as opposed to alphabetically by rules topic. Ben's mention of "control panels" made me think about this again.

In working on the text for the all-in-one B/X Essentials tome, I'm taking the opportunity to reassess some of the decisions I made in the books to this point, and have been trying out some new approaches. So it felt like a good time to try out the alternative structure of presenting the adventuring rules by "mode".

You can see the results of my experiments below. Note that they're just rough renditions, and will be further refined in the final book.

Interested to hear what people think! Are these "control panels" more usable than the way these rules are currently presented in B/X Essentials: Core Rules?


The Dreamlands

Map of the Dreamlands, by Jason Thompson

This morning, I spent some time browsing the first issue of Ben Laurence's zine Through Ultan's Door. Naturally, it is fantastic. Ben is a talented writer, with a delectably vivid imagination. I always love his stuff.

You can purchase copies of the zine (print and/or PDF) here.

Reading Ben's description of the entrance to Zyan (the city that floats above the Dreamlands) that appeared unbidden beneath the stairs of a printmaker, I found myself catapulted back into the fantastic realm of dreams. Like Ben, the Dreamlands are a campaign setting (genre?) that has long captivated my imagination, and that I have also spent time exploring in games.

This brought my mind back to some material that I was writing for what was intended to be the second issue of my (thus far) one-shot zine Wizardzine. (Issue 1 available here.) The theme of the second issue was to be the magic of dreams, including guidelines to planar travel in the Dreamlands. (Ben and I even discussed collaborating on the material.)

I have lots of half-finished projects, but this Dreamlands material is one of the projects that I most yearn to complete and publish. Maybe once my work on the Dolmenwood Campaign Book is over, I'll have time to return to it.

For now, though, I thought it'd be fun to share a couple of extracts.

The Levels of Dream

Those who concern themselves with the study and classification of the world of dreams delineate several levels or realms to which a dreamer may gain access. These intersect variously with the dreamer's own psyche, with the real world, and with an independent reality known as the Dreamlands. The most commonly discussed levels are as follows:

  1. The hyperreal realm: Only accessible by powerful magic, dreams within the hyperreal realm have the power to change the real world.
  2. The hypnagogic realm: Existing at an intersection between the mind of the dreamer and the astral plane, dreams in the hypnagogic realm begin to overlap with reality. Prescient dreams and dream scrying are possible from this realm.
  3. The upper levels of dream: Where everyday dreams and nightmares take place. This realm is tied to the psyche of the individual dreamer and has no overlap with other worlds.
  4. The deeper levels of dream: Wherein the subconscious depths of the psyche become manifest and may be explored.
  5. The Dreamlands: An independent plane of existence which can be entered by magical means. Some mortals also have the natural ability to enter the Dreamlands via special gateways discovered in dreams.

Some Spells of Dream

Somnambulism

Level: 2nd
Duration: 1 turn per level
Range: Sight
Schools: Charms, Dreams

Cast upon a sleeping subject, this spell allows the magic-user to insinuate his will into the subject's dreams and exercise control of their body. If a save versus spells is failed, the subject is caused to rise and walk under the caster's control. Two means of command are possible:
  1. Direct marionette-like control, as long as the subject remains within view. This requires concentration on the part of the caster.
  2. A series of instructions to be carried out. Once given, the instructions are followed mindlessly. A somnambulist has no capacity for independent decision making.
Initially, the caster's control of the subject is limited to direction to walk a certain route or to a specific location, but as the caster advances in level, more complex commands are possible:
  • From 5th level, the subject may be instructed to manipulate large objects such as opening doors, moving furniture, or carrying a pack.
  • From 7th level, the control extends to the manipulation of fine objects, including writing. The subject may also be caused to speak.
  • From 10th level, the subject may be commanded to fight, attacking using the caster's to-hit probability.
While under the spell's effect, the subject moves in a sluggish, drowsy manner -- it is usually clear to onlookers that the subject is sleepwalking. Loud noises do not awaken the subject, but a physical shock such as being slapped or shaken does.

When the spell expires, the subject lies down and continues sleeping, wherever he or she may be. No memory of the somnambulistic activities remains, but a vague feeling of having dreamed of a malevolent presence pervades. One time in ten, the subject has a clear memory of the controlling magic-user's face.

Note that the spell's range includes subjects who are viewed by magical means such as scrying.

Hyperreal Awakening

Level: 5th
Duration: Instant
Range: Self
Schools: Dimensions, Dreams, Translocation

Among those who study the lore and metaphysics of dreams, it is well known that the real world (indeed, the whole multiverse) is but another level of dream, and that it is possible to awake from this dream into another world, about which nothing is known. This infamous spell provides the means of awakening. One who casts it vanishes immediately and permanently from reality, waking up in a dimension whose nature cannot be speculated. If a player character casts this spell, the referee may choose to play out the character’s adventures in this other reality, which may be radically different in nature to that of the world in which the character originates.

The awakening into higher reality which this spell brings about is absolutely permanent -- not even wish has any power to reverse it. Legends speak of one arch-mage who, by means of intervention by the god of dreams, returned from the higher reality; his mind was void and utterly insane.

Some Saints of Dolmenwood


Work on the Dolmenwood Campaign Book continues apace! Today I have finished the write-ups for the 34 primary saints in Dolmenwood, each of which has a dedicated shrine or chapel somewhere within the forest (though many are now lost).

Here's a small sample:

St Abthius, Ever-Lustrous
Feast day: 22nd of Harchment
Associated spell: Resist cold
Major patronages: Ambassadors, righteous vengeance
Minor patronages: Courtly dances, seamstresses, springtime
Shrine: Hex 0406
Miracle: Abthius came to Dolmenwood at the command of King Thaldred II of Brackenwold, as an ambassador to the Cold Prince, who had newly returned his frigid gaze to the mortal world. Gaining an audience with the fairy court, the saint proceeded to preach the virtues of the One True God and His host of angels. The fairies responded only with jeers and mocking laughter, and their liege pointed his crystal wand at the saint, casting a spell of ice about him. The saint’s radiant beauty melted the fey frost, and he turned his back on the Prince, damning him to be vapourised in the flames of perdition.

St Cornice of the Angels
Feast day: 16th of Chysting
Associated spell: Insect swarm
Major patronages: Chastity, beetles
Minor patronages: Scullery maids
Shrine: Hex 1505
Miracle: As a maiden, Cornice worked scrubbing the kitchens of a cruel lord. The lord was accustomed to having his way with all of the scullery maids, but Cornice rebuffed his advances, quoting passages of scripture at him whenever he came near. One day, the lord cornered the saint-to-be in an isolated cellar and began to ravage her. Cornice bit the lord’s lower lip and tore it off, preserving her chastity, but was subsequently imprisoned for her insolence. In the dungeons, she whispered to the beetles that crawled across the floor, beseeching them in the name of the One True God to aid her. The insects obeyed, fetching ever more of their kind, until the cellars and dungeons of the lord’s castle were overrun. When the swarm encroached upon the lord’s bedchambers, he relented and had Cornice released.

St Eggort, the Troglodyte
Feast day: 28th of Lymevald
Associated spell: Continual light
Major patronages: Chandlers
Minor patronages: Undertakers
Shrine: Hex 0703
Miracle: Devoted his life to prayer in a minor chapel in the crypt of the monastery where he dwelt. Spending his days alone in the darkness, Eggort's devotion manifested, over many years, as a flickering glow upon the altar. This light grew and grew until, at the time of Eggort's death, the crypt was lit as bright as day, as if by the light of a thousand glimmering candles.

St Elsa, balm-gusher
Feast day: 19th of Grimvold
Associated spell: Commune
Major patronage: Floods, towers, and hunters of sea monsters
Minor patronage: Follies
Miracle: As the vicar of a small, coastal village called Hawksworth, Elsa had nightly visions of a great flood. Heeding this prophecy, she insisted that a high tower be built, with enough space to house the inhabitants of the village and their livestock. The project was regarded by many as a folly, but the saint's visions proved to be true when a great sea dragon, hunted by the famed knight Sir Willowthorn, was beached and slain at the village of Hawksworth, opening a sea bay which engulfed the village. To this day, the saint's tower is the sole surviving element of the original village.


As I mentioned above, each saint has a shrine or chapel in Dolmenwood. Here's my rough map showing which hex these shrines are located in:

Note: The marked location of the shrine of St Signis is wrong. It should be
in Castle Brackenwold.

B/X Essentials: Rebranding?


For some time, I’ve been pondering the name B/X Essentials and what it means to different types of people.

I chose the name in the early days of the project and I think it does a great job of expressing the content of the core books: the first five books form a clone / rules reference of B/X (the essentials of the B/X game, if you will). B/X Essentials has now become a (to some degree) known name in the OSR scene, and I’m delighted that my work has played some part in bringing B/X back into the limelight.

However, over time, I've had a growing awareness that the name is pretty obscure. This was reinforced by my experience last week at the SPIEL convention in Essen, selling B/X Essentials and Wormskin. I met three types of potential customers:

  1. People who are completely new to role-playing, but are interested in the hobby.
  2. People who are experienced role-players, but have never played B/X and aren't part of the OSR scene.
  3. People who are familiar with the OSR and B/X Essentials. (This group was by far the smallest.)
As you can probably guess, people in the first two groups were mystified by the name B/X Essentials. They don't know what B/X means, they don't know what a retro-clone is, they don't (for the most part) even know anything about old-school D&D. The name, in and of itself, isn't evocative. (If anything, I guess it sounds mathematical?)

I didn't have an easy time selling the game to them.

And I think this is a real shame. Of course, it's not good for my personal business interests, in terms of being able to sell the books I've produced, but more so I think it's a shame for the name to scare off people who would potentially get a great deal of enjoyment from the game.

Expanding the Reach

One of my core personal aims with the B/X Essentials line has always been to expand the reach of the classic rules set by improving the ease of use. The B/X rules, especially when presented in the new, streamlined form of B/X Essentials, are a great way for a novice to jump into the role-playing hobby.

To that end, in my work building up to the Kickstarter next year (the BXE boxed set and all-in-one hardback), I've been making a few tweaks to improve the accessibility of the game:
  • I've added a proper introduction, explaining what the game is, why it's split into modules, and giving some links and suggestions for how to learn about role-playing. (I don't feel there's any need to actually include a "What is a Role-Playing Game?" section, in this day and age. I've just linked to info online.)
  • I've included a section talking about what other products the game is compatible with. (I think the massive cross-compatibility of most retro-clones and TSR editions of D&D is a bit of a hidden secret in the OSR. It's obvious to most of us hardcore old-schoolers that you can grab a book of Labyrinth Lord classes, an old TSR adventure, and run a game with BXE, but I think it's really non-obvious to those outside the scene.)
  • I've added an extra section before the character creation rules, laying out all the different stats that make up a player character. (Such information was implicit in BXE before.)

Rebranding

Additionally, I've been considering rebranding the game. My goals for this are:
  1. Casual gamers who don't know what B/X and the OSR are should be able to recognise it as a simple to learn RPG.
  2. Experienced role-players who aren't directly in the OSR scene should be able to recognise it as an old-school game.
  3. OSR folks should be able to recognise it as being 100% compatible with B/X.
It's a challenge to come up with something that covers all of those different goals!

My current thoughts on the matter are as follows:
  1. The overall product line should have a new name. B/X Essentials is too obscure. I have a few thoughts on potential names, but nothing that I'm totally convinced about yet. Hex & Ruin is the current front-runner that I'll use in the example below.
  2. The game will probably need a subtitle that makes it obvious what it is.
  3. Each individual book will need a title (obviously).
  4. Some kind of "corner band" or "sticker" will indicate the game's compatibility with B/X.
So, we might have something like this:
  • Brand name: Hex & Ruin
  • Brand subtitle: Classic Adventure Role-Playing
  • Book title: Core Rules
  • Corner band: 100% B/X
The actual names there are all just rough ideas right now, but I feel like the general scheme is the right way to go to achieve the aims laid out above.

I'm posting about this now as I'd love to hear what people think about all this. If anyone has any suggestions for names, please let me know! The larger the pool of possible ideas, the better.

B/X: Unearthed Arcana Illusionist Spells

Illustration by Laura Sava

I recently announced the B/X Essentials: Druid and Illusionist Spells book, which includes a B/X-sized selection of spells adapted from the AD&D Players Handbook and Unearthed Arcana.

Working on this book has been a delightful opportunity for me to get back to my favourite pastime of writing up spells. I thought I'd share a few. These come from the Unearthed Arcana illusionist spell list -- spells that aren't so commonly converted to B/X.

Fascinate
Range: 30’
Duration: See below

This glamour causes a single creature to perceive the illusionist -- whatever his or her normal appearance -- as utterly captivating.

  • Creatures of less than animal intelligence are not affected.
  • Creatures of more than 4HD are not affected.
  • The subject may save versus spells to avoid coming under the power of the spell.

A subject affected by the spell behaves as follows:

  • The subject follows the illusionist wherever he or she goes, as if besotted, unless doing so would present a serious danger.
  • If the illusionist can communicate with the subject (even if only by gestures), it may obey requests. Each time a request is made of the subject, the illusionist must make a CHA check (possibly penalised, if the request is against the nature or best interests of the subject). If the check fails, the spell is broken and the target’s perception of the illusionist becomes one of horror, rage, and hate.
  • An animal remains fascinated for 1d4 days, after which it may either attack the illusionist (if it has been mistreated) or simply leave. If the illusionist treated the animal well, there is a percentage chance equal to his or her CHA that the animal will henceforth remain by the character’s side of its own free will.

Quasimorph
(aka alter self)
Duration: 3d4 rounds, +2 per level
Range: The illusionist

The impression that the illusionist’s physical form makes on the world is warped, effecting an apparent change in form.

  • The new form is chosen by the illusionist.
  • The form of any creature may be adopted.
  • The new form may be at most 50% larger or smaller than the illusionist’s normal size.

The physical capabilities of the new form are granted to the illusionist to a limited degree:

  • If the new form can fly, the illusionist is able to fly at one-quarter of its flying movement rate.
  • If the new form is able to breathe underwater, the illusionist may also do so.
  • When attacking, the illusionist may appear to use the attacks of the new form, but cannot make more attack rolls or inflict more damage than he or she is normally able to.
  • The illusionist does not gain any special or magical attacks possessed by the new form (e.g. breath weapons, poison, charm, etc).

Whispering Wind
Range: 1 mile per level
Duration: Special

This spell allows the illusionist to send a message or other sound via the wind to a distant location within range.
  • The destination must be known to the illusionist.
  • The message travels on the wind, unnoticed, at a speed of up to 10 miles per hour.
  • Once it reaches the designated destination, the wind delivers the illusionist’s message -- up to 100 words or one minute of other sound.
  • The message is whisper quiet, relayed by the susurrations of the air, but can be heard by all within 30' of the destination.
  • Even if no one is present to hear it, the message is automatically delivered.

B/X Essentials: Classic Fantasy Tome

Tome still life by Tom McNemar

I've discussed the modular approach of the B/X Essentials series before -- how the books (excepting the Core Rules) are designed to be able to swapped out with alternatives. For example, the standard Cleric and Magic-User Spells could be swapped out with a book of Pagan and Elemental Spells, or the standard Monsters book could be swapped out (or augmented with) a book of Planar Monsters.

This design approach makes the system extremely extensible. Based on the Core Rules, the B/X Essentials line will grow in many directions, encompassing any number of different adventuring styles, genres, and campaign settings. All completely cross-compatible, in a mix and match way, and all without having to reprint elements of the core rules of the game in every new genre book.

However, there are people who prefer to have everything in one book. I'm not one of those people -- I've become rather smitten with the flexibility and usability of having chunks of content split into separate booklets -- but I completely respect the opinion of the people who just want a single book to take to their games.

So, work has begun on an all-in-one, non-modular B/X Essentials tome. I have given this the working title of "Classic Fantasy Tome", as it contains all of the classic, Basic/Expert rules for fantasy gaming. The plan is to run a Kickstarter for this early next year. (All going well, there may well be further B/X Essentials "tomes" in the future. For example, once the Advanced booklets are complete, I may produce an "Advanced Fantasy Tome".)

As the first step, I've been figuring out the structure of the book. The lazy way of structuring it would be to simply slap the five existing B/X Essentials books back to back and call it a day. Fans of all-in-one RPG books will probably be pleased to hear that I am not lazy! I'm restructuring the material into an order that makes more sense for a combined book.

Here's the current plan for the structure:

Introduction
  • About B/X Essentials
  • Adventure Gaming
  • Terminology
Player Characters
  • Game Statistics
  • Creating a Character
  • Ability Scores
  • Classes
  • Alignment
  • Languages
  • Experience and Gaining Levels
  • Wealth
Equipment, Services, and Strongholds
  • Equipment
  • Land Transportation
  • Water Transportation
  • Mercenaries
  • Specialists
  • Strongholds
Adventuring
  • Adventuring Basics
  • Hired Help
  • Hazards and Challenges
  • Dungeon Adventures
  • Wilderness Adventures
  • Waterborne Adventures
  • Encounters
  • Chases
  • Combat
  • Other Combat Issues
Magic
  • Types of Magic
  • Spells
  • Magical Research
  • Cleric Spells
  • Magic-User Spells
Monsters and NPCs
  • Monsters (General Notes)
  • Monster Descriptions
  • Normal Humans
  • NPC Adventurers
  • Strongholds
  • Combat Tables
  • Dungeon Encounter Tables
  • Wilderness Encounter Tables
Adventures
  • Adventure Scenarios
  • Designing a Dungeon
  • Random Dungeon Room Contents
  • Designing a Wilderness
  • Designing a Base Town
  • Awarding Experience
Treasure
  • Placing Treasure
  • Treasure Types
  • Gems and Jewellery
  • Magic Items
  • General Notes
  • Armour and Shields
  • Miscellaneous Items
  • Potions
  • Rings
  • Rods, Staves, and Wands
  • Scrolls
  • Weapons
  • Treasure Maps

B/X Essentials: Druid and Illusionist Spells


As I mentioned a while back, a book of AD&D-inspired character classes is in the works for B/X Essentials. Included in this book (among many others) are the following classes: bard, druid, gnome, illusionist. Now, what do these classes have in common? New spells! (They're all spell casters who don't use the standard cleric or magic-user spells lists.)

So, naturally, a second book is also in the works (though only in the very beginning stages): B/X Essentials: Druid and Illusionist Spells.

I thought it'd be interesting to share the spell lists that I'm working from. Note that these have been carefully cut down to B/X size. That is, the druid has the same number of spells as the cleric, and the illusionist has the same number of spells as the magic-user. And naturally, the druid tops out at 5th level spells and the illusionist at 6th.

Druid

1st Level


  1. Animal Companion
  2. Detect Danger
  3. Entangle
  4. Faerie Fire
  5. Invisibility to Animals
  6. Locate Plant or Animal
  7. Predict Weather
  8. Speak With Animals

2nd Level


  1. Barkskin
  2. Charm Person or Animal
  3. Create Water
  4. Cure Light Wounds
  5. Heat Metal
  6. Obscuring Mist
  7. Produce Flame
  8. Warp Wood

3rd Level


  1. Call Lightning
  2. Hold Animal
  3. Protection from Poison
  4. Nature Growth
  5. Tree Shape
  6. Water Breathing

4th Level


  1. Cure Serious Wounds
  2. Dispel Magic
  3. Protection From Lightning
  4. Speak With Plants
  5. Summon Animals
  6. Temperature Control

5th Level


  1. Commune With Nature
  2. Control Winds / Control Weather
  3. Protection From Plants and Animals
  4. Transmute Rock to Mud (reversible)
  5. Pass Plant
  6. Wall of Thorns

Illusionist

1st Level


  1. Auditory illusion
  2. Chromatic orb
  3. Colour spray
  4. Dancing lights
  5. Darkness
  6. Detect Illusion
  7. Glamour (= change self)
  8. Hypnotism
  9. Phantasmal force
  10. Read magic
  11. Spook
  12. Wall of fog

2nd Level


  1. Blindness / deafness
  2. Detect magic
  3. Fascinate
  4. Fog cloud
  5. Hypnotic pattern
  6. Improved phantasmal force
  7. Invisibility
  8. Magic mouth
  9. Mirror image
  10. Quasimorph
  11. Ventriloquism
  12. Whispering wind

3rd Level


  1. Dispel illusion
  2. Fear
  3. Hallucinatory terrain
  4. Illusionary script
  5. Invisibility 10' radius
  6. Nondetection
  7. Paralyzation
  8. Phantom steed
  9. Rope trick
  10. Spectral force
  11. Suggestion
  12. Wraithform

4th Level


  1. Confusion
  2. Dispel magic
  3. Illusory stamina
  4. Implant emotion
  5. Improved invisibility
  6. Massmorph
  7. Minor creation
  8. Phantasmal killer
  9. Rainbow pattern
  10. Shadow monsters
  11. Solid fog
  12. Veil of abandonment

5th Level


  1. Advanced illusion
  2. Chaos
  3. Demi-shadow monsters
  4. Magic mirror
  5. Major creation
  6. Manifest dream (= dream)
  7. Maze
  8. Projected image
  9. Shadowcast
  10. Shadow door
  11. Summon shadow
  12. Time flow

6th Level


  1. Acid fog
  2. Impersonation
  3. Mass suggestion
  4. Mislead
  5. Permanent illusion
  6. Persistent dream
  7. Programmed illusion
  8. Shades
  9. Through the looking glass
  10. True seeing
  11. Veil
  12. Vision


Dolmenwood: Animals


Writing about the quirky animals that live in Dolmenwood is fun!

Here are a few:

Gobbles: Fluffy, black, arboreal primates about the size of a baby, with appropriately huge, adorable eyes. Gobbles are nocturnal, sleeping in high branches during the day, and creeping to the forest floor to forage for grubs at night. Gobbles have the ability to speak perfect Woldish. Each individual knows but a single word, however, which it babbles incessantly when encountered.

Swamp sloths: Found primarily (but not exclusively) in the boggy regions of Dolmenwood, these lazy, infant-sized mammals creep through the treetops gathering succulent fruits and flowers. Their fur is brown, but they appear green, due to the profusion of moss and lichen that grows on them. In winter, they hibernate in tree boles.

Trottelings: Naked, miniature pigs with pinkish brown skin and the faces of petulant toddlers. Trottelings rummage through undergrowth, foraging for carrion whilst making sounds like bickering crows. If caught and roasted, their flesh is delectable, though incredibly greasy.

B/X Essentials: Classic Set Complete!


I am delighted to announce the publication of B/X Essentials: Adventures and Treasures! This is the final book in the "classic" B/X Essentials set. Together with the first four books, it forms a complete rules reference to the traditional Basic/Expert game, laid out for enhanced ease of use at the table, and modularised for your house-ruling pleasure.

A true labour of love from myself and the many people who helped out with proofreading, rules checking, number crunching, and so on!

Get it / the whole set here:

For more information about the B/X Essentials project, see here.

THAC0 in B/X Essentials

Over the last weeks, since the publication of B/X Essentials: Monsters, I've seen some online grumbling about my inclusion of THAC0 in the monster stat blocks. Some people have even gone so far as to say that this makes B/X Essentials incompatible with B/X, thus utterly defeating one of the aims of the project. So I wanted to address this.

To begin with, it's worth restating the aims of the B/X Essentials project:
  1. 100% accurate rules clone.
  2. Organised for quick reference.
  3. Clarified rules.
  4. 100% Open Game Content.
The question of THAC0 lies somewhere between points 1 and 2.

Next up, let's look at an example monster from the B/X Essentials monsters book alongside a monster from the original books.

Doppleganger in B/X
Doppelgänger in B/X Essentials

Note the differences in the B/X Essentials version:
  • The average hit points for the HD are listed.
  • The THAC0 is listed.
  • The full set of save values are listed, not merely the class and level that the monster saves as.
  • The pre-calculated XP value is listed.
So the stat blocks in B/X Essentials: Monsters are definitely different to traditional B/X stat blocks. They contain extra information. Here's where the second project aim stated above -- “Organised for quick reference” -- comes in. The core B/X Essentials books form a 100% accurate rules reference for B/X, but the way the rules are presented is deliberately different. My aim is to improve the presentation of the rules, making them easier to understand and easier to reference.

Including extra information in the monster stat blocks was done for exactly this reason: to make the monster entries easier to use as a reference during play. Let's look at each of the extra elements:

Average hp: Provided for convenience, either for quick usage instead of rolling for a monster's hit points, or to quickly see whether a rolled hp total is above or below average. The average values are calculated directly from the monster's HD.

THAC0: Provided as an option for referees who prefer to not use the monster attack table from B/X Essentials: Core Rules, thus reducing the need to look up info about a monster across multiple pages. The listed THAC0 values are lifted directly from the monster attack table.

Full saves: Provided in addition to the traditional “save as” value, as an option for referees who prefer to not look up monsters’ saves in the class saving throw tables, thus reducing the need to look up info about a monster across multiple pages. The listed save values are lifted directly from the appropriate class’ saving throw table.

Pre-calculated XP: Provided for convenience to save referees time having to manually calculate XP values by referring to the tables in the core rules,thus reducing the need to look up info about a monster across multiple pages. The listed XP values are calculated directly from the standard monster XP tables.

See the common thread? None of these extras are new information. They simply collate existing information into each monster entry, to reduce the need to flip between different pages looking it up.

I agree that the use of the term THAC0 is open to discussion. I'm aware that it's a term that originated in AD&D, not in B/X, and I thought long and hard about whether to use it or not. In the end, my feeling was that it's a term that most old-school players are already familiar with, so would be less confusing than using a new term. Of course, the meaning of the term is described in the introduction to the book, as well (where it's specifically noted as optional), for the elucidation of anyone who's not familiar with it.

I appreciate that adding extra information to monster stat blocks is a change in presentation, but my feeling is that it's an extremely positive change that makes a real difference to using monster listings in the heat of (imaginary) combat. (Ditto for the changes in the way monster descriptions and special abilities are presented in B/X Essentials: Monsters.)

The really fundamental aim of the B/X Essentials project has always been to improve the presentation of the classic B/X rules. I'm not interested in changing the rules themselves, but I think my fresh presentation of them really adds something to the game.

Hopefully that helps to explain the background to this somewhat spiky, old-school ultra-nerd topic!

May those who like table lookups refer to tables, and may those who like subtraction use THAC0! (And may both types unite against the wicked forces of ascending AC! Haha.)

B/X Essentials: Adventures and Treasures -- Spread Preview!

The text for the next B/X Essentials book -- Adventures and Treasures -- is complete. The layout is done, and all illustrations except for a single one are in place.

Now is the traditional time for me to start sharing previews of illustrations and page spreads!

How about this to start with? The table of contents, the foreword, and the first page of the book's content -- the guidelines for choosing an adventure scenario. Enjoy!

Illustration by Thomas Novosel