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:
- People who are completely new to role-playing, but are interested in the hobby.
- People who are experienced role-players, but have never played B/X and aren't part of the OSR scene.
- 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.)
Additionally, I've been considering rebranding the game. My goals for this are:
- 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.
- Experienced role-players who aren't directly in the OSR scene should be able to recognise it as an old-school game.
- 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:
- 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.
- The game will probably need a subtitle that makes it obvious what it is.
- Each individual book will need a title (obviously).
- 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.