I recently got the first piece of finished artwork in for Classes and Equipment -- the fantastic cover image by Andrew Walter! After a bit of fiddling around in InDesign, I can now share a preview of what the book cover will look like:
B/X Essentials: Classes and Equipment cover, image (c) Andrew Walter
As a comparison, here's the cover for the first book, Core Rules:
B/X Essentials: Core Rules cover, image (c) Andrew Walter
For the first cover, I gave Andrew the brief of "adventurers facing off against a dragon". For the second book, we discussed something involving sea travel and castles, so the idea of a castle on the back of a giant turtle emerged. We actually already have a concept and sketch for the third book (Cleric and Magic-User Spells), on the theme of "scrying", but it's too early to show that yet.
While awaiting the illustrations for the second B/X Essentials book -- Classes and Equipment -- I've been continuing work on the third book -- Cleric and Magic-User Spells. As I mentioned in the previous post, the draft text is almost complete (just the sixth level magic-user spells remain to be written up). I've also been playing around with some ideas for how to lay the book out.
The "default" option, of course, would be to use the same, 2-column layout as the first two books in the series. However, I've had another idea in mind for laying out content where each section consists of a blocks of descriptive text accompanied by a heading and a set of "stats". Monsters and spells are the two most obvious types of content that work like this.
To test out my ideas, I've done some mock layouts, using the draft text of a section of the book.
Here's a spread for the 2nd level cleric spells, using the "default" layout style.
There's a lot of free space on this spread. I've lumped it all together at the bottom of the pages (where a large illustration could fit), but it looks unnecessarily spacey.
The narrow list of stats after each section heading (i.e. spell name) and before the description looks a bit visually distasteful to me.
You may notice the little icons I'm trying out in place of the words "Duration" and "Range. I'm not sure if these are final yet, but I think the use of icons is effective in creating a more spacious feeling around the spell stats.
Here's the same content laid out using my alternate concept. This is based on the layout that I used a few years back in The Complete Vivimancer.
The layout is more spacious. The extra spacing all around helps the content fill the spread more naturally. (And there's still some nice spaces available for illustrations.)
The section titles (i.e. the spell names) are always on the outside edge of the book. This is intended to act as an aid to quickly finding a spell -- when flipping through a book, one tends to just see the edges of the pages.
That visually annoying gap between the spell name and the description is no more. The spell stats and the descriptions are more clearly separated from one another.
This is all just experiment at the moment, so I'm very interested to hear people's thoughts on the matter.
Art by David Coppoletti, from Theorems & Thaumaturgy Revised
The writing of B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells is nearing completion! I just finished writing up the 5th level magic-user spells, so all that now remains is the 6th level spells (12 more to go).
A fun little Dolmenwood monster that I've just written up while working on the Book of Monsters. This one encompasses the standard B/X pixies and sprites and elaborates some more ideas along the same theme.
Number Appearing: 1-7: abroad (2d6), 8: lair (1d4 × 10)
Size: T (1’ tall)
Languages: Woldish, Sylvan
Possessions: Pouch of darts, 1-in-4 chance of bag of salt
Hoard: U/VI (fairy)
Pesky, miniature, dragonfly-winged fairies that swarm the forest in hordes, causing mischief wherever they find the opportunity. They are inveterate thieves and delight in using their fairy magic to play pranks on mortals. Sprites are cowardly and try to avoid physical confrontations with bigger folk, typically fleeing if their pranks lead to violence. They are sometimes open to barter: providing secrets and reconnaissance from the local area in exchange for salt, honey, or resin. Sprites make their lairs in trees, either in nests upon high branches or inside cracks and woodpecker holes.
Some wicked beings (e.g. the Nag-Lord’s servants) hunt sprites and ferment their corpses to produce potions.
Poisoned darts: If angered, sprites may attack with the barbed darts they carry in their pouches. The poison on the darts causes irritation, swelling, and 1d3 hit points of damage.
There are eight, different coloured subspecies of sprite, each with its own magical ability:
Red: Discord. A group of three red sprites can inspire intense feelings of jealousy, avarice, and bellicosity in a mortal within 20’. A save versus spells is allowed* to resist this effect, but one who fails will turn on his or her companions.
Yellow: Invisibility. Yellow sprites can become invisible at will and can also attack while invisible. They always gain surprise and may not be attacked in the first round of combat. In subsequent rounds, they can be spotted by shadows and small shimmerings and attacked at a -2 penalty.
Pink: Mimicry. Pink sprites can mimic any voice or other sound that they have heard.
Green: Liminality. Green sprites exist in the liminal region that lies between the mortal world and the Otherwold. They are visible only in darkness (and then only as faint, glowing outlines) and are able to wriggle through solid barriers of less than 4 inches in thickness. They can only be harmed by magical weapons, but can only interact with the physical world in the feeblest way -- five sprites together could carry a cat. Their teasing, jeering voices can be heard perfectly clearly, however. Magicks such as detect invisible or reveal the liminal render them fully visible.
Blue: Minor curses and pranks. Five blue sprites acting in unison may jinx another being within 30’, either causing a permanent, minor curse (e.g. high-pitched voice, long, rubbery nose) or an instantaneous prank (e.g. falling into a bog, dropping a weapon). A save versus spells is allowed to negate the effect*.
Indigo: Glamour. Indigo sprites can veil themselves with illusions, appearing as mortals of otherworldly beauty. One who kisses a sprite thus glamoured falls instantly asleep. Any other form of touch dissolves the glamour.
Purple: Hallucinations. Groups of five purple sprites may cause all mortals within 20’ to experience vivid hallucinations of their choosing. Treat as the phantasmal force spell, except that the illusion is only perceived by those within the affected area.
Black: Control mortals. A group of three black sprites may cause a mortal within 20’ to perform an action of their choice. Sprites cannot cause people to attack, cast spells, or perform obviously suicidal actions, but may invoke any other action lasting one round or less. The victim may save versus spells to resist the involuntary action*.
* Someone who saves against a sprite’s magic is immune until dawn the next day.
Rides a rainbow-hued dragonfly (AC 5, HD 1, Mv 180’ (60’), Att: None).
Compound eyes and antennae.
Speech is accompanied by a multitude of twittering giggles.
As an element of the continuing work on the Dolmenwood Book of Monsters (actual name still to be determined), I've gone through the list of monsters presented in the B/X books and picked out those that might usually be found in Dolmenwood. The full list is below.
Further tasks related to this that I'll be working on:
The list of B/X monsters in Dolmenwood will be included in an appendix somewhere, along with the page reference for each monster. (And possibly basic stats.)
For at least some of the B/X monsters, I'll write a short description of their role in Dolmenwood. For example, spectres may be the lost and vengeful souls of criminals hanged at crossroads. This kind of detail will give a small twist on a standard monsters and give it a place in the setting.
Number Appearing: 1-7: abroad (1d8), 8: lair (2d6)
Size: M (4’)
Languages: Telepathic projection
Ancient, brown-fleshed, humanoid mushrooms with great, wobbly caps and inscrutable pits for eyes. Jack-o'-lanterns are rare and reclusive, dwelling in secret grottoes in the tractless depths of the forest. Despite being infrequently encountered, jack-o’-lanterns are well-known in folklore, being famed as guardians of obscure knowledge and long lost secrets and infamous as wicked slavers who delight in capturing mortal folk. Both these reputations are true.
Jack-o’-lanterns love riddles and word games and always favour parley over violence. When encountering other intelligent beings, they attempt to enter into conversation and offer to reveal deep secrets of the wood via their communion ability.
The flesh of a jack-o’-lantern can be distilled down by an alchemist to produce a potion of diminution.
Communion: Jack-o’-lanterns have the ability to trigger a hypnotic state (lasting 1d4 hours) in willing humanoids via a gently pulsing green glow emitted from their eyes and cap. Hypnotised subjects are immobilised for the duration and experience a phantasmagoric sequence of visions. A WIS check is required. Success indicates that the answer to a riddle or puzzle is revealed, as deep secrets are dredged up from the collective memory of mushroom-kind. Failure indicates that the subject has come under the mushroom’s thrall, shrinking to 1” tall. Such victims are scooped up by the mushroom and carried to its lair, where they are imprisoned in miniature towns or other dioramas.
Strobing gaze: In combat or when otherwise threatened, jack-o’-lanterns’ eyes emit a sickening green/blue strobe that dazzles other beings within 30’. At the start of each round, targets must save versus paralysis or be stunned, unable to act for the round. Those who make the save may act normally, but suffer a -2 penalty to attack rolls and Armour Class.
As you may have already noticed, RPGNow and DriveThruRPG (and the baffling plethora of clones, doppelgänger, simulacrums, and aliases under which they operate) are having a sale for Halloween! What you may not have noticed, however, is that two vintage and well-renowned books from the Necrotic Gnome laboratories are included in this sale.
I must hasten to point out that this is no normal "participation in a PDF sale". No, the print versions of these books are also reduced! $3 off all formats, PDF and print. (I'm not sure what % discount that is exactly, but it's over a third off the PDFs.)
So if you've ever thought about getting a print copy of one of the following but have tarried at the virtual checkout, now is your chance to snap them up!
Theorems & Thaumaturgy Revised Edition
The original Necrotic tome, remixed in a 2017 style. Full of new magicks for your old-school games. (160 new spells, if one is using the base of Labyrinth Lord.) Includes three new magic-user subclasses: the elementalist, necromancer (spooky -- Halloween, right?), and vivimancer (freaky -- all year round body horror).
Get it here. PDF $3.99, softcover + PDF $6.99, hardcover + PDF $12.99.
The Complete Vivimancer
"Gavin Norman’s The Complete Vivimancer reads as if David Cronenberg had decided to create a D&D magic-user class" -- Appendix N Book Club.
"This is absolutely fantastic and one of my all-time favorite old-school rule-supplements. It should be part of the library of any self-respecting OSR-referee. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval." -- Endzeitgeist 5/5 review.
"The unique spell list and the tightly unified bio-occult theme of the class do a fantastic job giving us a viable alternative to the magic-user with an entirely different flavor and feel. Indeed, Norman arguably succeeds to a far greater extent than the original illusionist class did" -- Mazirian's Garden.
What better place than to discuss some of the projects that we have in the works.
Following on from the successful first book -- Core Rules -- I have a series of at least three more books in various stages of development:
Classes and Equipment: The second book in the series is completely written and laid out and is currently being illustrated by a set of talented individuals. I'm expecting the book to be published in early December. (The final draft text is online here. 100% Open Game Content, for those who like to play with rules.)
Cleric and Magic-User Spells: While I'm on hold awaiting a stream of wondrous illustrations for the second book, I've been continuing apace by writing the third book. This is currently about two-thirds finished: I've written up all of the cleric spells and just over half of the magic-user spells. The current draft text is online here. Any feedback anyone has at this stage would be most welcome! We're probably looking at next spring for publication.
Monsters and Treasures: The planned fourth book in the series, and the one that will make my clone of B/X complete. This book exists purely as a concept, at the moment, but I thought I'd mention it for the sake of completeness. If things continue apace, I guess this should be out around next summer.
B/X Essentials Compilation: The above books are being published as separate, staple-bound, softcover booklets. Personally, I love to have sets of little booklets and find having the rules split up like that more useful in running games. I know that some people prefer an all-in-one tome, though, so plan to provide both options. The all-in-one compilation will be published in soft and hardcover options, probably some time next summer.
To date, we have seven issues of the Dolmenwood zine, Wormskin, one mid-level, quite long adventure module, and several free setting aids. Check it out here. Work is also underway on the following things:
Wormskin issue 8: Is probably about 40% written. Planned contents include: an article on the witches of Dolmenwood, an article on camping in the forest, a d30 Strange Waters generator chart, a folio of fungal monsters that wander the woods. I'm aiming to release this in the winter.
The Book of Monsters: The first in the planned line of Dolmenwood hardcover books will be the monster manual. The plan is to have 100+ monsters in a hardcover tome, hopefully (funding permitting) each with an accompanying illustration. It's a big project, but writing is already about half way through, so this should manifest some time next year.
Low-level adventure number 1: A short adventure, suitable for beginning characters, based around a fairy banquet, ball, and market. Written by myself. The draft is about only half written, so this is still a way off from completion. I'll be looking for playtesters, at some point in the future.
Low-level adventure number 2: Another short adventure suitable for low-level characters, this time exploring a deathly pocket dimension that can be accessed via special portals in Dolmenwood. Written by an as-yet unannounced guest writer.
Low-level adventure number 3: Yes, we have three new Dolmenwood adventures in production! This one features copious amounts of fungi and is being written by another mystery guest writer.
I have approximately eight-thousand semi-finished projects and ideas for new projects, but won't get into any of those here. Just sticking to things that are seriously in the works.
There's one entry in the "other stuff" section, at present, but it's a project that I'm very excited about:
The Submerged Spire of Sarpedon the Shaper: This mid-level adventure featured in the (free) From the Vats vivimantic compendium, published a few years back. Written by Ben Laurence, the module describes the ruined, sub-aquatic laboratory of the arch-vivimancer, Sarpedon the Shaper. There are wondrous treasures to be looted and (naturally) an array of strange and hideous guardians -- leftovers of the long-dead wizard's research. The module was recently given a glowing review by Bryce Lynch and this inspired Ben and I to start working on a second edition of the adventure. The plan is to publish it as a standalone book (i.e. rather than as part of a compilation of themed material), fully illustrated, and with a greatly enhanced layout. More to come on this soon.