Old-School Essentials: First Pass Layouts Finished!

Phew! Today, I completed the first pass layout of the fifth and final book in the "classic fantasy" Old-School Essentials line. That means I have the following books in a semi-decent, laid out state:

  1. Core Rules
  2. Classic Fantasy Adventures
  3. Classic Fantasy Spells: Cleric and Magic-User
  4. Classic Fantasy Monsters
  5. Classic Fantasy Treasures
My next steps will be to go through making all the small tweaks and corrections that get everything in its final state. Then it'll be off to proofreaders for serious checking of everything. And then the really exciting stuff begins: commissioning new illustrations, putting together the all-in-one book, Kickstarter preparations!

Very exciting times.

Layout Examples!

Note: these are not final and have not been proofread! So there may be errors or things that I'll tweak further in the coming weeks. But I thought it'd be nice to give people a preview of what I've been working on.

Core Rules

Here's the first spread in the Running Adventures section of the book.

Classic Fantasy Adventures

Here's an example character class spread, the Cleric.

Classic Fantasy Monsters

And finally a spread from the Monsters section of the book. (The other main section being Encounter Tables.)


Old-School Essentials

People who have been following my work on the revised edition of B/X Essentials have probably come across my blog posts and discussions on social media (soul-)searching for a new name for the brand. (Many thanks to everyone who gave their input into that process!)

To summarize, the reason for wanting to change the name is the following:

  • The term "B/X" is only meaningful to a very small niche of dedicated old-school players who spend their days chatting about the minutiae of different vintages of D&D online.
  • I include myself in this niche, naturally, and have a great love of this scene and its inhabitants. However...
  • To anyone outside of that niche (including people who play old-school games but aren't involved in the online OSR scene!), the term "B/X" is meaningless and obscure. Only the cover art really conveys what the books are.

Finally, after many months of back and forth, considering a huge number of weird and wonderful names, the final decision that I've come to is simple:

Old-School Essentials

I feel this name has a really nice balance of continuity with the old name and wider appeal to people who are interested in old-school gaming but maybe haven't dipped their toes (and thus don't know what "B/X" means). And it has a nice ring to it, in its own right.

Now some picture (some with colours)!

The New Brand Logo

Firstly, here's the logo I've been playing with:


You can also see the use of a brand subtitle there, conveying a bit more info as to what this mysterious book in the hands of a hypothetical gamer is about.

I'm viewing this logo as semi-final. Final in the sense that I'm happy with it and haven't wanted to tweak it any further over the last few days. Semi- in the sense that it's not actually been printed on anything, so theoretically could still be tweaked.

Cover Mock-Ups

While working on the logo, I played around with how it will look on the covers of the books. Here it is in place on four of the five revised books:





Note that I've not included a mock-up of the revised Core Rules cover as Andrew Walter is working on a new piece of art for that! I'll reveal that when it's ready.

B/X Essentials: Revised Core Rules TOC Preview

I just reached a milestone in my work on the revised edition of B/X Essentials: I've finished the initial layout pass on the revised Core Rules!

Here's a preview of the table of contents, so you can see what's included and how much space it takes up.

The revised Core Rules will go on to form the basis for the mythical all-in-one hardback edition. Here's where the extra bits of content will be inserted to form the all-in-one book:

In conclusion: this is going to be awesome!

Dolmenwood: Blackeswell Village Map

As I mentioned in my "looking forward into 2019" post at the start of this month, there are two new Dolmenwood adventures in the works. I posted a preview of the cover art for one of them -- Winter's Daughter -- last week. Now it's time for a visual preview of the other -- The Fungus That Came To Blackeswell.

This adventure takes place in the village of Blackeswell, shortly after a fungal apocalypse has hit. So I knew that an exterior map of the village -- showing all of the fungal weirdness that's overrun the place -- would be essential to both carrying the creepy vibe of the adventure, and as a visual aid for the referee and players.

After seeing a previous village map of his, I commissioned the fabulous Spaghetti Quester to tackle this daunting and slimy task. I received the final version of the map this week.

Feast your eyes:
(Low res overview of the village)
And a full-resolution close-up of one of the areas:

Dolmenwood: Winter's Daughter Cover Illustration

I recently got the cover illustration for the upcoming Dolmenwood adventure -- Winter's Daughter -- in from the illustrator, the phantasmagoric Mish Scott. The cover depicts a melange of imagery from the adventure:
  • The deep, fungal infested glades of Dolmenwood.
  • The circle of ancient, rune-carved stones known as the Whything Stones. (Ritual site of the Drune.)
  • The fairy princess Snowfall-at-Dusk, seventeenth daughter of the Cold Prince. (The eponymous daughter of Winter.)
  • Random spooky / cute wildlife.
Feast your eyes!




Dolmenwood / B/X: Wilderness Exploration Rules

Image from B/X Essentials: Core Rules, by Tom Kilian

Following on from some discussion last night in the Necrotic Gnome group on MeWe, relating to encumbrance and wilderness travel, I realised that the simple hex crawl rules for Dolmenwood (see Wormskin issue 5) completely ignore encumbrance.

For some groups this is fine, but for others (i.e. those who routinely use encumbrance in their games) it renders the guidelines pretty much useless. Obviously, that's not what I want!

So I've spent some time reworking the hex crawl guidelines, now fully taking encumbrance into account. The resulting system is ... quite different (talking about miles of movement instead of hexes and phases), but I don't think I'd say it's more complex.

I've put the new system online in a google doc here. The document consists of two sections:

  1. A summary of the B/X wilderness travel rules, including movement rate calculation for vehicles and mounts.
  2. Extended rules for hex crawling, including guidelines for searching hexes, foraging, fishing, and hunting.

Let me know what you think!

Dolmenwood: Adventure Layout In Progress

A new Dolmenwood adventure looms before publication! I've been working this week on finishing up the text and have got started on the layout.

Continuing on from my recent work on B/X Essentials, my focus is firmly on ease of quick reference. The layout concept for adventure locations breaks things down as follows:

  • Each important feature of an area is broken out in its own heading.
  • Monsters and NPCs are treated likewise.
  • A short description appears after each heading. These consist of bolded keywords, with finer detail in parentheses. (Yeah, this was inspired by Hot Springs Island.)
  • Bullet points note any actions, reactions, or events related to the heading.
  • Monster or NPC combat stats are broken out in sidebars.

That probably all sounds a bit dry. Here's an example of what it looks like in practice -- the first two encounter areas in the adventure, as PCs wander through the forest and approach a burial mound.

As always, feedback is most welcome!

Dolmenwood: Werephasm (New Monster)

Looks something like this. Illustration by Abz-J-Harding.

A nasty monster that I just invented while writing up the hex description of one of the nodal stones in Dolmenwood. A servitor of the Drune.

Werephasm

Humanoid, lupine creatures of twisting shadow, summoned by Drune magic.

  • Behaviour: Seek to snuff out light and rend sentient beings’ souls from their flesh.

Werephasm: HD 6* (3), AC 4, Att 2 × claws (1d4 + soul-rend), 1 × bite (1d8) or 1 × howl (extinguishes light), MV 120’ (40’), ML 10, AL C, XP 500.

  • Mundane damage immunity: Can only be harmed by magical attacks or silver weapons.
  • Weakened by light: Werephasms have 6 Hit Dice, but attack as 3 HD monsters when within the radius of a light source.
  • Howl: A werephasm may let out a bone-chilling howl. Every light source within 90’ has a 4-in-6 chance of being extinguished. (This includes magical light, but excludes permanent enchantments such as continual light.)
  • Soul-rend: Each hit of the monster’s claws drains one point of CHA from the target. A target reduced to 0 CHA has its soul annihilated (i.e. can never be resurrected).

Upon the Dawning of 2019

All hail the mighty Moldvay / Cook / Marsh!

2019. I think everyone is agreed by now that we live in the future. What better time to talk about old-school roleplaying games from the 1980s then!

As is traditional, I thought I'd write a blog post around the turning of the year discussing what's in the works from Necrotic Gnome. I post quite regularly about the different projects that are on the go, but I think it's nice to write up a summary of everything, all in one place. Here goes... (Note that I'm just covering projects that are seriously in development. I have loads more stuff planned that's at the "notes / ideas" stage.)

B/X Essentials

The Complete Revised Edition

This is the big one. The all-in-one hardcover and boxed set of the revised edition of the B/X Essentials rules.

People may recall that when I was initially planning these compiled editions, I wasn't considering substantially revising the content. As is so often the way, though, looking back at finished work with the benefit of hindsight, I started finding more and more ways in which I could improve the clarity and usability of the rules. So this project has mutated into a revised edition proper. (I recently discussed the main changes in detail here.)

Of course, the rules will be completely compatible with the original B/X Essentials booklets (and with B/X), just with enhanced layout and editing.

Current status: The work on revising the text is pretty much done. The plan is to take the new, compiled editions to Kickstarter in the Spring. Around May is looking likely, currently.

Advanced Characters

This book represents the first rules expansion to B/X Essentials -- adding 15 new character classes to the game, all inspired by the AD&D material of yesteryear. (Note: "inspired by" -- these are heavily adapted B/X renditions of the classes, not simple clones or near-clones of the AD&D material.)

Current status: Intensive play testing. It's a lot of work to test 15 new character classes! And play testing is something that I'm taking seriously. The classes that have been tested so far have all benefited greatly from the feedback garnered. My feeling is that this book will be ready in about 4-6 months, which may mean that it's ready in time for the Revised Edition Kickstarter (see above). We shall see.

Druid and Illusionist Spells

The accompanying book to Advanced Characters. Includes 87 new spells for B/X, formatted in the easy-reference style of B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells.

Current status: Same as Advanced Characters. May be ready in time for the Revised Edition Kickstarter (see above). We shall see.

Post-Apocalyptic

This book will be the second rules expansion for B/X Essentials, taking things in a completely different direction -- a near-future, post-apocalyptic wasteland! Inspired by works such as Mad Max and Tank Girl, this book adds 9 new character classes, firearms and scavenged tech, customized vehicles, rules for wasteland survival, and lots more.

Current status: Play testing. We're actively looking for more play testers for this book, so if you love B/X and post-apocalyptic gaming, please get in touch!

Dolmenwood

Campaign Book

The fabled Dolmenwood hardcover is coming along very nicely. The book is divided into two sections:

  1. Lore: Setting overview, background, factions, history, rumours, etc.
  2. Adventures and Hexes: Procedures for hex crawling, hex descriptions, new monsters, treasures, NPCs, etc.

These may end up as sections of a single hardcover or may even be produced as two separate books. That's still to be determined. (And may depend on how the planned Kickstarter goes.)

Current status: Writing in progress.

Lore is really nearly finished. All that remains to be written is some miscellaneous stuff like beer and cider generators, lists of edible plants, that kind of thing. The one significant chunk of content that I've not really touched yet is the lists of rumours. I'm deliberately leaving those until all of the hex descriptions are complete, as the rumours will obviously refer to things in the hexes.

Adventures and Hexes is probably at about the 66% mark now, overall. Of the 184 hexes on the campaign map, only 45 are left to write up. The hex write-ups are a huge amount of work. I'm super happy with the end results, but honestly I'm not sure I'd go into another hex crawl product with such detailed hex write-ups again! (I now fully understand why most hex crawls stick to a very brief per hex write-up!) Fortunately, it's not an effort that I've had to tackle entirely alone: we have hex descriptions written by a number of other talented writers: Luke Gearing, Yves Geens, Greg Gorgonmilk, Kyle Hettinger, Clint Krause, Jonathan Newell, Brian Richmond, Glynn Seal, Andrew Walter. What a team!

All in all, there's still a significant chunk of work to do, but things are looking in extremely good shape for the Kickstarter later this year. (Exact date still to be determined.)

Adventures

I've mentioned several times over the last year that there are a few Dolmenwood adventure modules in development. This is still true!

Two are approaching the finish line:

  1. Winter's Daughter:  (Formerly code-named "Tomb of the Giant-Slayer".) We've been play testing this module pretty intensively at cons this year (some of you may have played it already!), and I feel it's now reached its final form. It's a small forest / dungeon adventure -- suitable for 1st to 3rd level characters -- that revolves around the history of the war against the Cold Prince in Dolmenwood. This module makes a great campaign starter, either simply as an introduction to the weird of Dolmenwood, or as a hook into the wider his/story of the setting.
  2. The Fungus That Came To Blackeswell: Also suitable for characters of around 1st to 3rd level, this module details the apocalyptic downfall of an isolated community in the deeps of Mulchgrove (in eastern Dolmenwood). It's dark and creepy with a touch of whimsy. Just how us Dolmenwood connoisseurs like it.

There are more adventures in a semi-gelatinous state, which may coalesce at some point, but I won't say any more about those right now.

Current status: Writing finished. Layout and illustration to commence soon. (I just received the beautiful cover art for Winter's Daughter, in fact. I'll share that soon.)

Player's Handbook

Going a bit more into the "future" department here, but worth mentioning. The Dolmenwood Campaign Book is only the first of a planned set of hardcover books for the setting. A Player's Handbook and a Monster Manual being the two main books in planning.

I've had notes on a Dolmenwood PHB for years now, but recently started looking into it in a bit more detail, in a spare moment. The basic gist is that the book will contain a bunch of new character classes for the setting (both human and demihuman classes), new equipment, new spells, etc.

Current status: Very early in development. I just released a bit of play test content -- 2 new Dolmenwood character classes -- for anyone who wants to dive in.

Fight On!