B/X Essentials: Core Rules 2nd Edition

Cover of the original B/X Essentials: Core Rules. Illustration by Andrew Walter.

I've reached a major milestone in my work building up to the revised editions of B/X Essentials for the Kickstarter next year! I've finalised the text for the revised Core Rules.

"What exactly will be different in this new edition of the book?" I hear you say. Now that it's all finalised, allow me to provide some more details.

Introductory Content
The first big change is that I've added a few pages of introductory content aimed at players who are new to B/X and to old-school gaming. I've not gone so far as to include a full "What is an RPG?" section, but I discuss the following:

  • What is B/X Essentials? Why is it structured as it is?
  • Basic terminology.
  • Rules modules and required books.
  • Compatibility with other games. (I think this is a bit of a hidden secret within the OSR: that most old-school games are trivially compatible with one another. I don't think this is at all obvious to new players.)
  • The basic concepts that are assumed by the rules. (For example: magic, gods, monsters, lost treasures, dungeons and the wilderness, civilisation and the borderlands.)
  • The game stats that make up a PC. (Previously, there was no explanation of what hit points or Armour Class are.)

Reorganised Adventuring Rules
My recent posts have described how I'm approaching reorganising the rules, using the concept of "control panels" for different modes of the game.

More Stuff is Considered Core
As I progressively wrote the original B/X Essentials books, things popped up that I noted, in retrospect, should have been included in the Core Rules. A really obvious one from the second book (Classes and Equipment) was the rules for alignment. Alignment is a core concept of the game -- not something that only affects player characters -- so it should go in the Core Rules book. There are many other examples.

As a result, the revised Core Rules is a much bigger book -- nearly twice as long, by word count -- but it really does contain everything that is core to the game. The other, revised rules modules will, conversely, be smaller -- now focusing purely on providing the modular content of the game. A good example here is that the rules for adventure generation (that originally appeared in Adventures and Treasures) are now in Core Rules; the revised Treasures book will consist purely of the magic items.

As you can see, this shifting of rules content into the Core Rules book sets things up better for the additional / alternative rules modules that are planned / in the works. For example, those rules for alignment won't need to be repeated in every book of alternative classes and equipment.

Finally, in going through the text once more, I've taken the chance to improve wordings, clarity, and accuracy. Naturally, all known errata has been fixed, as well.

Table of Contents
You're probably wondering what this all looks like! Here's the table of contents of the shiny, new, revised Core Rules:

  • Introduction
    • About B/X Essentials
    • Adventure Gaming
  • Player Characters
    • Game Statistics
    • Creating a Character
    • Ability Scores
    • Alignment
    • Languages
    • Experience and Gaining Levels
    • Wealth
  • Adventuring
    • Adventuring Basics
    • Party Organisation
    • Hired Help
    • Hazards and Challenges
    • Dungeon Adventuring
    • Wilderness Adventuring
    • Waterborne Adventuring
    • Encounters
    • Evasion and Pursuit
    • Combat
    • Other Combat Issues
    • Vehicles and Vessels
  • Magic
    • Types of Magic
    • Spells
    • Magical Research
  • Monsters and NPCs
    • Monsters
    • Normal Humans
    • NPC Adventurers
    • NPC Strongholds
    • Combat Tables
  • Adventures
    • Adventure Scenarios
    • Designing a Dungeon
    • Designing a Wilderness
    • Designing a Base Town
    • Awarding Experience
  • Treasure
    • Placing Treasure
    • Treasure Types
    • Gems and Jewellery
    • Magic Items (Note: Naturally, this section only covers the generalities of magic items.)
  • Author's Notes
  • Open Game License


  1. I'm going to back that Kickstarter. I'm hoping it starts soon after the new year.

    1. Thank you! It's looking like it'll be later in the spring now. I was originally planning for earlier in the year, but I don't want to rush anything, so a bit later is looking safer.

  2. Whats the estimated pagecount at this stage? Will it still be able to be printed out as a single a5 pamphlet-booklet?

    I seriously adore that setup.

    1. I'm guessing the core rules might come in at around 60 pages now. (I've not done any serious layout work yet, though, so that's just an estimate.)

      Yep, definitely keeping the small form factor!

    2. it is pushing it a little... the creatures and equipment is already at 40+

      But looking forward to this!!

    3. By "pushing it a little" you mean you prefer smaller books?

      But yeah, the revised Classes and Equipment book will be smaller, and the revised (Adventures and) Treasures will be much smaller.

    4. Yep.. around 40 is the perfect size. (10 folded sheets) more than that and the book tends to fold open by itself.

  3. I can count the number of Kickstarters I've backed on a single hand

    I am going to back this one *so hard*

  4. Question/Suggestion:

    Would putting the "Control Panels" in a separate work be an option? Perhaps as a DM Screen? For introducing your game, maybe add another book, perhaps on cheaper materials since it only needs to be read a few times, introducing the game?

    It strikes me that there are different "modes" you want to use the book, and different layouts and writing would serve those modes more or less better: Learning the game for the first time(introduction), looking up rules occasionally (occasional reference), and looking up rules frequently until you've memorized them by heart, such as a dm would do running the game (frequent reference).

    The first two, "introduction" and "sometimes reference" have a lot of overlap; trying to reformat the books for the purposes of "frequent reference" in there might sacrifice how well the first two function.

    (Then again, even the introduction mode is tricky...it's hard to beat Mentzer's approach in his version of the Red Box, watching a tutorial video, or just plain old having someone else run the game for you for a few sessions. Maybe you should add another (free pdf?) book introducing how the game is played? I mean, your books *really* shine as occasional reference or as a refresher; I'd hate for you to lose that by diluting that when you can put out other small supplements that will serve those other modes better.)

    Just some thoughts. You're the expert, chief. Keep up the good work.

    -The Mop

    1. Thanks for your thoughts!

      I totally know what you mean about different forms of writing being suited to different purposes / levels of experience. I don't plan to make BXE into a beginner's game -- that would bring a whole new set of requirements. (A proper beginner's set is something I'd consider doing in the future, but the current books I'm working on for the Kickstarter next year are not that.)

      Perhaps I'm not understanding the main sentiment underlying your comments. Are you saying you feel the new "control panel" structure is less usable than the old structure, in some way?

      About a DM screen: this is something I'll be working on soon, too. My idea there is to present a super compressed version of the rules, as a kind of memory jog.

  5. Where are you going to move "Wilderness/Dungeon/Stronghold Encounter Tables" from the 5th book?

    1. Into the monsters book, where I really wanted to put them. The reason for them not being the monsters book originally was due to limitations of the printing process that was used. The revised books will be printed by a different manufacturer, so don't have the same limitations.