Old-School Essentials PDFs on General Sale!

It's a crazy feeling making this announcement, as it's the culmination of 6 months of intensive work (and a couple of years of work before that), but:

Old-School Essentials is now on general sale!
All-in-one Rules Tome $19.99
Set of 5 modular books $19.99

(With one caveat: PDF only for now. The deluxe hardcover editions will be available in November.)

What is Old-School Essentials?

For anyone reading this who doesn't already know what this is all about, the three "pillars" of Old-School Essentials are:

  • B/X compatibility. Old-School Essentials is an old-school adventure game in the tradition of the Basic/Expert rules from 1981 (B/X). The game is 100% compatible with all material that's been published for B/X since the 80s.
  • Usability. The writing and layout focus on ease of use in play. Everything is structured around "control panel" spreads, where all information pertaining to a certain gameplay topic is presented on two facing pages of the book. See example spreads below.
  • Modularity. Old-School Essentials is a modular game, with different types of content presented in separate books. So there's a book of core rules, a book of classes and equipment, a book of spells, a book of monsters, and a book of treasures. There's also an all-in-one tome that compiles everything together, for those who prefer their RPG books chunky. The modular nature of the game makes it easy to add new content in the form of rules modules that can be mixed and matched.

The rules for character creation



The elf class

The rules for dungeon adventuring


Old-School Essentials: Advanced Fantasy: Monsters

A few people have asked me recently about the next book in the Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy line, the book of AD&D-inspired monsters. While I've started some preliminary work on this book, it's an undefined amount of time away. That is, it's definitely not "coming soon". Nonetheless, I have a couple of little tidbits that are worth sharing.

List of Monsters

I've already selected the list of monsters that will feature in the book. These come from several sources:
  • The AD&D Monster Manual: The majority of monsters will be adapted from this book.
  • The AD&D Monster Manual 2 and Fiend Folio: A choice selection will be adapted from these books.
  • The D&D Rules Cyclopedia: Although it's not an Advanced book per se, there are a few monsters in the RC that really fit.
  • New monsters: Just a few to round out obvious gaps.

Here's the full list of monsters along with the source:
  1. Amphisbaena MM1
  2. Anhkheg MM1
  3. Banshee (Groaning Spirit) MM1
  4. Brown mold MM1
  5. Brownie MM1
  6. Bulette MM1
  7. Caryatid column FF
  8. Catoblepas MM1
  9. Coffer Corpse FF
  10. Couatl MM1
  11. Dark Creeper FF
  12. Dark Stalker FF
  13. Deep one FF
  14. Demonic knight FF
  15. Disenchanter FF
  16. Djinni, greater RC
  17. Dog, hunting dog New
  18. Dog, War dog MM1
  19. Dog, Wild dog MM1
  20. Dragon, Chromatic MM1
  21. Dragonne MM1
  22. Drow (dark elf) FF
  23. Duergar MM2
  24. Ear seeker MM1
  25. Efreeti, greater RC
  26. Ettin MM1
  27. Eye of terror MM1
  28. Eye of the deep MM1
  29. Fish, Giant, Electric eel MM1
  30. Fish, Giant, Pike MM1
  31. Fish, Giant, Swordfish MM2
  32. Flail Snail FF
  33. Floating eye MM1
  34. Frog, Giant MM1
  35. Frog, Giant, Killer frog MM1
  36. Fungoid MM2
  37. Gas spore MM1
  38. Ghast MM1
  39. Ghost MM1
  40. Gibbering mouther MM2
  41. Golem, Clay golem MM1
  42. Golem, Flesh golem MM1
  43. Golem, Iron golem MM1
  44. Golem, Stone golem MM1
  45. Gorilla MM1
  46. Gullygug FF
  47. Hag, Annis MM2
  48. Hag, Night hag MM1
  49. Hag, Sea hag MM1
  50. Hippocampus MM1
  51. Hippopotamus, Behemoth MM2
  52. Hippopotamus, Normal MM1
  53. Homunculus MM1
  54. Hook beast FF
  55. Hulker MM1
  56. Imp MM1
  57. Jackalwere MM1
  58. Jellyfish, giant, man-o-war MM1
  59. Jellyfish, giant, marauder MM1
  60. Kraken MM2
  61. Krell FF
  62. Lamia MM1
  63. Lamprey, giant MM1
  64. Leprechaun MM1
  65. Leucrotta MM1
  66. Lich MM1
  67. Lich, Demilich MM2
  68. Lizard king FF
  69. Lizard, Giant, Fire lizard MM1
  70. Lizard, Giant, Minotaur lizard MM1
  71. Lizard, Giant, Subterranean lizard MM1
  72. Locathah MM1
  73. Lurker above MM1
  74. Malfyr RC
  75. Mantis man MM2
  76. Mantis, giant MM2
  77. Merrow (Aquatic Ogre) MM2
  78. Mimic MM1
  79. Mind lasher MM1
  80. Mongrelman MM2
  81. Necrophidius FF
  82. Nightmare MM1
  83. Otyugh MM1
  84. Otyugh, Elevated MM1
  85. Peryton MM1
  86. Phoenix MM2
  87. Piercer MM1
  88. Poltergeist FF
  89. Pseudo-dragon MM1
  90. Quasit MM1
  91. Rakshasa MM1
  92. Remorhaz MM1
  93. Revenant FF
  94. Roper MM1
  95. Rot grub MM1
  96. Sahuagin MM1
  97. Satyr MM1
  98. Scorpion man RC
  99. Sea serpent, greater New
  100. Shambling mound MM1
  101. Skeleton warrior FF
  102. Slithering tracker MM1
  103. Slug, giant MM1
  104. Snakeman New
  105. Sphinx, Androsphinx MM1
  106. Sphinx, Criosphinx MM1
  107. Sphinx, Gynosphinx MM1
  108. Sphinx, Hieracosphinx MM1
  109. Spider, Giant, Phase MM1
  110. Spider, Giant, water MM1
  111. Stag, giant MM1
  112. Strangle weed MM1
  113. Svirfneblin (deep gnome) FF
  114. Tarrasque MM2
  115. Titan MM1
  116. Toad, Giant, Ice MM1
  117. Toad, Giant, Poisonous MM1
  118. Trapper MM1
  119. Triton MM1
  120. Turtle, Giant, sea turtle MM1
  121. Turtle, Giant, snapping turtle MM1
  122. Violet fungi MM1
  123. Wasp, giant MM1
  124. Water weird MM1
  125. Will-o-(the)-wisp MM1
  126. Wolf, Winter wolf MM1
  127. Xorn MM1
  128. Yeti MM1

Missing Stuff?

You might notice that some obvious monsters are missing. No demons? No devils? No dinosaurs? There's a reason for this: I have plans for a full book of Lost World monsters and a book of fiends. Both those things deserve a book of their own. Advanced Fantasy: Monsters is "just" the core AD&D-inspired monsters outside of those two areas (Lost World / fiends). Bearing that in mind, if anyone spots any obvious classics that are missing, please let me know!

Very Early Work Has Begun!

My mind was numbed from proofreading the other day, so I snatched a bit of time for something refreshing and fun ... writing up a few monsters! With this project, I'm experimenting with doing writing and layout together in a single step. I think this should work fine, as I'm now deeply familiar with the writing and layout requirements of an Old-School Essentials monster book.

Anyway, here's the first page of monsters!



News When it Exists

As I said, I doubt I'll be continuing work on this book at any serious pace any time soon. When there are further developments, I'll keep everyone updated!

Dragonmeet 2019 -- Looking for Referees!

An addendum to the previous post about Dragonmeet that warrants its own post...

Looking for Referees!

Dragonmeet GM signup is open now!

It is my hope to see a multitude of Old-School Essentials and Dolmenwood games being run at Dragonmeet this year, so:

Anyone who signs up to run a game set in Dolmenwood or using Old-School Essentials as the game system will be rewarded with a free t-shirt or adventure!
(Get in touch! You will not regret it.)

Dragonmeet 2019!

As some of you may have heard, Necrotic Gnome will be exhibiting at Dragonmeet this year! For anyone who's not familiar with Dragonmeet, it's a one-day RPG convention in London that happens every year on a Saturday in early December (actually it's November 30th this year, due to the way the weekends fall). This year is supposed to be bigger than ever -- double the size, according to the organisers! It's a really wonderful, cosy day of gaming, browsing stalls, meeting the physical manifestations of people you know online, etc. Highly recommended!

Anyway, we'll have a stall there. The stall numbers haven't been allocated yet, but I'll be sure to let people know how to find us once the venue layout is finalised.

Here's what you can expect from Necrotic Gnome on this auspicious occasion...

New Products

Dragonmeet 2019 will see the launch of two things:

  • Old-School Essentials. Though the game will have been available online for a short period before the con, Dragonmeet will be the first time it'l be on sale in a physical context.
  • The new Dolmenwood adventure: The Fungus that Came to Blackeswell. I'm hoping to have this adventure published in time to launch it at the con, in both its old-school and 5e variants.

Old Products

We'll be selling a barrage of older products such as:

  • Winter's Daughter. Deluxe hardcover. Old-school and 5e versions. Nominated for 2 ENnies this year.
  • Wormskin. The origin of all things Dolmenwood. Catch up on any issues you don't have.
  • B/X Essentials. We might even have some copies of Old-School Essentials' progenitor, signed and bundled up for collectors.

Art Prints

We've got a slightly bigger stall this year, which means space for more stuff. I'm inviting an elite selection of Necrotic Gnome artists to come and sell art prints, originals, or whatever takes their fancy. So far, ENnie award nominated Mish Scott has confirmed his presence. Other unconfirmed mythological miscreants may also be joining us.

Merchandise

Dragonmeet will also be the first opportunity to buy Necrotic Gnome t-shirts in a physical context, without the use of the internet.

And who knows... maybe we'll have a new tshirt design (or two) available! (No promises...)

People

A selection of Necrotic Gnome cultists will be present and willing to answer all of your questions and entertain all of your fanciful discussions. Some likely sorts:
  • Gavin Norman. The Moss Master himself (that's me).
  • Mish Scott. Dolmenwood artist extraordinaire. Shipped in direct from the dimensional anomaly that is Bristol.
  • Yves Geens. Author of The Fungus that Came to Blackeswell. Not definite yet, but I'm attempting to convince Yves to make an appearance to bask in the glory of his adventure (finally! / hopefully!) being published.

Game Sessions

Like last year, we'll have a Necrotic Gnome demo table where we'll be running game sessions throughout the day. I've not planned exactly what we'll be running or who will be refereeing, but excursions into Dolmenwood are highly likely. More info and sign-up sheets closer to the time.

See You All There!

Looking forward to hanging out!

Old-School Essentials Class Layout

A few people have been making their own B/X classes in the Old-School Essentials style recently, which is wonderful to see! My hope is that once the game is officially released (PDFs expected in about a week, print expected in the autumn) that we'll see lots of creative content coming out. (For anyone who's interested in publishing content for Old-School Essentials, check out the Third Party License!)

This post provides a little insight into one of design principles behind the Old-School Essentials style, for the interest of people who are interested in structuring their own creations in a similar way.

What is the Old-School Essentials Style?

When I refer to "the Old-School Essentials style", I'm not referring to the visual design of the books (e.g. the choice of fonts, table colours, etc.). Rather, I'm referring to the design principles that I used when writing, editing, and laying out the text.

One of the most important OSE design principles is that each piece of content should fit onto a single page or spread, for the sake of usability. Looking at the books, you'll notice that no individual pieces of content (e.g. classes, spells, monsters, etc.) are divided across multiple spreads. This means that the reader will never have to flip a page back and forth when reading something, which is great for usability!

One Class per Spread as a Limit on Complexity

In the case of class descriptions, this principle also has a second purpose: it serves as a limitation on class complexity. If you look at the Classic Fantasy: Genre Rules book, you'll notice that each of the standard B/X classes fit completely on a single spread (i.e. two pages side by side). This includes all relevant tables. The standard cleric and thief classes -- having special abilities that require quite a bit of explanation -- push the limits of this, but still both fit on a single spread.

When creating my renditions of the AD&D classes and races for the Advanced Fantasy: Genre Rules book, I used this "must fit on a single spread" principle as a convenient yardstick for limiting the complexity of the classes to B/X-like levels. It's very easy to get carried away when writing a class, adding verbiage and slews of flavourful abilities, until one ends up with something that it significantly more complex than the (pretty minimal) B/X classes. This layout principle proved an absolutely perfect tool for reining things in.

What is "One Spread"?

There's a catch: what exactly constitutes "two pages / one spread"? A spread of two Letter sized pages is a very different matter to a spread of two Digest sized pages -- it's possible to fit a lot more information on the former. So for the purposes of using the "one spread per class" principle as a limitation on complexity, the exact size of the page that we're talking about becomes very important. The font size is also important, of course, as you can squeeze lot more information onto a page using an 8pt font than with a 12pt font.

The Official Formula

So for anyone who's interested in creating their own classes using the same limitations that I used in the official Old-School Essentials books, here's the magic formula!


I shall leave conversion into fractional parts of yards as an exercise for the reader

Please Share!

Myself and others in the Old-School Essentials community are always keen to see new classes and other material! If you feel like sharing, please drop by the Necrotic Gnome MeWe group or our Discord server.

Dolmenwood News!

The last few months have been so dominated with Old-School Essentials that I've not said much (or indeed thought much!) about Dolmenwood. But with work on OSE now reaching the final stages (yeah! -- see here for more info on the current state of affairs), my mind is returning to the fetid swamps and shroom-encrusted groves of everyone's favourite enchanted forest.

A couple of little updates on what's happening in the weird world of Dolmenwood...

The Fungus that Came to Blackeswell

Following on from the critically acclaimed Winter's Daughter, we have another Dolmenwood adventure module coming up! It's a module that I've spoken of now and then in the past, as it's been bubbling away in the background for some time. Here's some info:

  • Name: The Fungus that Came to Blackeswell
  • System: Old-school and 5e versions
  • Author: Yves Geens
  • Editor: Gavin Norman
  • Layout: Gavin Norman
  • 5e conversion: Thilo Graf
  • Cover art: Mish Scott
  • Cartography: Spaghetti Quester
  • Interior art: Spaghetti Quester
  • Format: A5 (roughly US Digest size), sewn-binding hardcover
  • Publication date (hopefully): December 2019

I've started work on the layout, but haven't had the chance to make much progress on it recently (for obvious reasons). However, once Old-School Essentials is in the capable hands of the manufacturer, I'll jump full throttle onto finishing up Blackeswell.

I hope to be able to launch it at Dragonmeet in London this year. (And of course it'll be available for purchase online as well, for those unfortunate lost souls whose paths do not lead to Dragonmeet.)

I'm sure I'll be posting more updates about this adventure once I get working on it again properly, but in the meantime here's a preview of the wondrous cover, with art by (ENnie award nominated!) Mish Scott.

Peacefully gathering specimens in a fungus-ravaged village. What could possibly go wrong?

The Dolmenwood Campaign Book

Once Blackeswell is finished, the full might of Necrotic Gnome will be focused resolutely on completing the now near-mythical complete tome of Dolmenwood lore. Some info there:

  • Name: Dolmenwood Campaign Book
  • System: Old-school and 5e versions
  • Author: Gavin Norman (with contributions from Brian Richmond, Yves Geens, Greg Gorgonmilk, Jonathan Newell, Glynn Seal, Andrew Walter, etc.)
  • Cover art: Unknown
  • Interior art: Pauliina Hannuniemi and others (to be determined)
  • Format: A4 (roughly US Letter size), sewn-binding hardcover
  • Page count (estimated): 300-400 pages (proper chunky tome of ultimate lore!)
  • Kickstarter date (estimated): March 2020
  • Publication date: Unknown ... Autumn 2020?

The most immediate update on this book is that I've commissioned Pauliina Hannuniemi to do a series of twelve paintings for the section heading pages! Here's a mockup of how those will look. The featured art is by Pauliina, but it's the piece she did for Old-School Essentials, so not directly Dolmenwood-related. It gives an idea of how her style will look in the book, though. (The text is just placeholder content, as well, before anyone attempts to point out errors in it!)


Yeah, creamy paper. Yum.


I've not looked at the text of the book much recently and haven't actually done any work on it since earlier this year (pre-OSE), but I believe the text is probably somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters complete.

I have lots of ideas for the Kickstarter but don't want to reveal any of them just yet. I will of course do so once we're closer to the time, so keep your ears peeled for updates!

The Hole in the Oak: Layout Preview

The other day, I posted a bit of info about the upcoming adventure The Hole in the Oak. Today, I want to share some previews of the layout, including the first piece of interior art by James West!

Note: These are previews of the 1st pass layout, so the layout and styling are not 100% final.

Table of Contents

First, just for fun, here's a preview of the table of contents.

A few notes:

  • The intro gives a bit of an overview of the history and factions in the dungeon.
  • It's a decent sized dungeon level, with 57 described areas.
  • There are two locations in the dungeon that lend themselves to expansion, where extra levels could easily be added in.
  • I'm probably going to have room for a sneaky appendix that gives a little bit of background info on the world which this adventure is set in.

Area Descriptions

Now a preview of some area descriptions.

A few notes:
  • The area descriptions use a format that's highly optimised for ease of use at the table. Descriptions are presented in a minimal format, with bolded words highlighting the main elements. More detail on possible eventualities is broken out into bullet lists.
  • Incidentally, this is same format I used in the ENnie nominated Winter's Daughter. The format was such a success that I decided to adopt it as the Necrotic Gnome "house adventure style".
  • You don't see any monster listings on this spread, but they follow the standard Old-School Essentials monster format.
  • Colour art by James West!

How to Get It?

All backers of the Old-School Essentials Kickstarter will receive a free copy of The Hole in the OakIf you missed out on the Kickstarter, you can pre-order the adventure (and loads of other goodies!) at our BackerKit pre-order store.

The Hole in the Oak

One of the stretch goals of the recent Old-School Essentials Kickstarter was a starter adventure. Here's what the stretch goal said:
The Rules Tome and the Black Box contain all the rules and advice you need to create your own campaigns of fantastic adventure, but sometimes you want an intro adventure to kick-start your games. Gavin Norman (creator of Old-School Essentials) will produce a classic (and quirky!) old-school adventure for 1st level characters, set in the Mythic Underworld that lies beyond the hole in an old oak tree. This odd realm will be mapped by the mycologically inclined Karl Stjernberg and illustrated by the phantasmagoric James West.
I realised that I've not said much about this adventure since the stretch goal was unlocked (on the first day of the Kickstarter!), so here goes.

What's it About?

In the tradition of classic dungeon modules, The Hole in the Oak isn't really about anything in particular. It just presents a weird subterranean location where PCs can get into trouble and maybe come out with some loot.

In the usual Necrotic Gnome vein, however, the adventure features lots of quirky, non-standard monsters and treasures. As a starter adventure, this dungeon does feature a number of standard monsters, straight out of the rule book, but many of those are given a little twist to surprise experienced players.

Some of the odd inhabitants of this dungeon:

  • Sheep-headed fauns.
  • Rumbling root faces.
  • Spectral hunters.
  • Evil tree-babies.
  • Mutagenic ogres.
  • River ghouls.
  • Shadow gardeners.
  • Completely normal cutesy gnomes with pointy red hats.

Origins

This dungeon has a very special place in my personal RPG history -- it's the first dungeon that I ran on my return to old-school gaming a decade ago! As far as I recall, it's not actually the first old-school dungeon I wrote -- I still have the notes for a necromancer's lair dungeon that I wrote but never ran -- but The Hole in the Oak was certainly my group's first voyage into the Mythic Underworld of old-school D&D. We had a lot of fun playing this and the group of characters who survived it stayed together for a long series of subsequent adventures, taking them up to around 6th level.

I think the fresh-faced wonder of returning to an old-school dungeon really shines through in this adventure, and I hope that sense of wonder will inspire others who play it.

The Cover

While I'm finishing up writing and laying out the adventure, James West has been working on the art for the cover. Here's a near-finished version of it:


This piece depicts a scene from one of the encounter areas in the adventure, where PCs come across a subterranean jungle inhabited with evil tree-babies guarding sacred treasures.

When Will it be Published?

The Hole in the Oak will ship along with the rest of the Kickstarter rewards in October. If you missed out on the Kickstarter, you can pre-order the adventure (and loads of other goodies!) at our BackerKit pre-order store.


Old-School Essentials: Index of Druid and Illusionist Spells

Work on the final touches to the Advanced Fantasy: Genre Rules and Advanced Fantasy: Druid and Illusionist Spells books for Old-School Essentials is progressing very well!

I've just made the final tweaks to the text and layout, and have written the introductions for both books. (Writing introductions is always the last thing I do.) Later today, I'll be sending out pre-release PDFs of both books to the wonderful proofreaders who have gallantly offered to pore over these 104 pages of delicious Advanced material. (As so many people offered to proofread these books, I won't be sending them out to everyone. I'll select a group of 10 or so people to do the honours.)

Another thing I just did was to regenerate the indexes in the two books. I thought it'd be fun to share the index of spells, which now shows the final list of spells contained in Advanced Fantasy: Druid and Illusionist Spells.


Click to embiggen

Some Numbers

  • The book contains a total of 106 spells. 34 druid spells and 72 illusionist spells.
  • 19 of the spells have already appeared in Classic Fantasy: Cleric and Magic-User Spells. That means that this book contains 87 new B/X spells.
  • Many of the new spells were adapted from Unearthed Arcana, and have not appeared in a B/X clone before (to my knowledge).
  • A few illusionist spells (I forget how many exactly) were also adapted from AD&D 2e.
  • 4 illusionist spells (blacklight, dream quest, through the looking glass, visitation) are completely new creations of my own.

What's Next?

Following proofreading and illustration, these books will be published in October, along with the rest of the deluxe Old-School Essentials books that I'm producing following the recent Kickstarter. (For anyone who missed the Kickstarter, you can pre-order everything here.)

New Vivimancer Spell: Anasethesia


A little vivimancer spell that I came up with recently, statted in the Old-School Essentials format.

Anaesthesia (1st level vivimancer spell)

Duration: 6 turns +1 per level
Range: Touch

The subject loses the ability to feel pain.

  • Save bonus: The subject gains a +2 bonus to saves vs death (but not poison).
  • Bonus hit points: The subject’s resolve is not easily shaken by wounds. They gain 1d6 bonus hit points. Any damage suffered is subtracted first from the bonus hit points.
  • When the duration expires: If any of the bonus hit points remain, they disappear.
  • Hit point tracking: The subject does not always realise when they have been injured. While this spell is in effect, the referee should secretly keep track of the subject’s hit points. An examination of the subject reveals their level of injury, which the referee should describe in broad terms (e.g. mildly wounded, seriously wounded), rather than revealing the exact hit point total.

Old-School Essentials: Pre-Order Store Open Now!



For anyone who missed the Kickstarter, now's your chance to get in on everything!

What's Available?

A quick run-down on the main things that are available to pre-order:
  • The Old-School Essentials Black Box. This is the complete game (and a complete clone of B/X) in the form of a box of five hardcover rules modules: Core Rules (80 pages), Classic Fantasy: Genre Rules (48 pages), Classic Fantasy: Cleric and Magic-User Spells (48 pages), Classic Fantasy: Monsters (80 pages), Classic Fantasy: Treasures (48 pages).
  • The Old-School Essentials Rules Tome. This is the complete game (and a complete clone of B/X) in a single hardcover tome (296 pages).
  • Advanced Fantasy: Genre Rules. 15 extra classes and a bunch of optional rules for your Old-School Essentials / B/X games! All inspired by AD&D but carefully scaled to match B/X levels of power and complexity.
  • Advanced Fantasy: Druid and Illusionist Spells. 104 new spells for the game!

Here's The Link!

https://old-school-essentials.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders

Winter's Daughter: Shipping Update


I just wanted to post a very quick update on the fulfillment of the Winter's Daughter pre-orders. Here's the full rundown:

All Orders Have Been Shipped

(Except the people who ordered in the last few days.)

US Pre-Orders

US pre-orders are being handled by our friends at Exalted Funeral. We packed up two massive boxes full of Dolmenwoody goodness a few weeks back (using moss as the padding material, naturally), and sent them off on their merry way to the US of A.

One of the boxes has now arrived at Exalted Funeral HQ, but the other has been slightly delayed by customs gremlins. Despite this small hitch, the US orders will start shipping out to you this week!

Non-US Orders

If you're not in the US and you've not received your order:
  1. If you have a tracking code (not all orders were sent tracked), enter it into https://www.deutschepost.de/sendung/simpleQuery.html?locale=en_GB, along with the date you got the fulfillment email to see where it's at.
  2. If you think something's up, just send us an email: summon@necroticgnome.com