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?


18 comments:

  1. Yes! Wandering Monsters is a lot more relevant a lot more often to me than Water Travel, I find it frustrating when they're grouped together.

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    1. Glad you dig it! Totally agreed about it being nice to have frequently used things together in one location.

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  2. Yes, this is actually profound. Great job.

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  3. Yes please! This is how play happens at the table. Each context of adventuring needs a panel like this. Add one for downtime/town stuff and I’ll wear these pages out!

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    1. Glad it's getting a good reception! Not many B/X rules relating to downtime come to mind actually. What kind of things did you have in mind?

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  4. I like this method. It's more helpful in game to have this sort of organization than alphabetical (as long as the index is good/thorough!).

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  5. I'm not sure if it's more useable for someone already familiar with BX/OSR games. That's probably down to individual preference.

    But it *is* better suited for newbies. As-is, BX:E would not be my first choice to hand to someone expressing interest in retro D&D. That'd still go to LL, Basic Fantasy, S&W, or even my BX PDFs. Which is fine, that's not the stated primary goal of BX:E. But given you want to grow the audience beyond "people already in the OSR", organising rules by adventuring mode is probably the way to go.

    Although, even if you adopt this arrangement for the offset printing, I'd like to see the alphabetical arrangement remain available as POD.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts! Yeah, I agree that BXE in its current form isn't that great for novices. My hope is that the new books will address that.

      Going forward, there won't be any POD offerings in the BXE line, so there will only be "one true version" of the rules.

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  6. This looks definitely like an improvement. An alternative would be to keep the content in alphabetical order, but to add one or more additional indexes/summaries, with topics grouped together in how/when they are used in an adventure/scene... but this is probably just simpler and easier to reference at the table.

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  7. Yes, ten times yes. Don't forget to group Downtime/ Domain Management, quite an important mode of play even if you don't want to go full ACKS (you never go full ACKS).

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    1. Well, there's not really much in the way of downtime or domain management rules in B/X, so I don't think there'll be a control panel for that. I'll think about it though...

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    2. Just checked, you are right of course. I probably mixed reminiscences of Mentzer' Companion, stronghold construction rules and whatever houserule I cooked up back then. Another proof that reading BXE can double as a (creative) juice cleanse for our clogged DM minds.

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  8. I love 'em!
    Very much a more usable (at the table) alternative to the alphabetical listing.

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