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!