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!

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, 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:

Old-School Essentials Kickstarter — Launching April 12th!

The post title says it all: I'm super excited to announce that the Kickstarter for Old-School Essentials goes live next Friday, April 12th!


We'll be producing two things for this Kickstarter:

  1. The Black Box: A luxury box set containing 5 slim hardcover rules modules covering all aspects of the game: Core Rules, Classic Fantasy Genre Rules (your classes, equipment, strongholds, etc), Cleric and Magic-User Spells, Classic Fantasy Monsters, Classic Fantasy Treasures.
  2. The Rules Tome: All the Old-School Essentials rules in a single, fat hardcover. 
  • Quality: All books will be produced as luxury, sewn-binding hardcovers.
  • Covers: Book and box covers by Andrew Walter and Peter Mullen.
  • Complete B/X clone: Both products form a complete retro-clone of the beloved Basic / Expert rules from 1981!
  • Limited edition Rules Tome: A leatherette-bound, foil-stamped edition of the Rules Tome, only available in this Kickstarter!
  • High-level rewards: Very limited rewards include your name in the credits on the title page of the books, and your face in an illustration!

Stretch Goals

We have a lot of stretch goals lined up for this campaign (12 to be announced at the start of the campaign, and more lined up if we reach giddy funding heights). Some highlights:
  • Referee's screen: With 4-panel art by Peter Mullen.
  • Advanced books: Two extra books (Advanced Fantasy Genre Rules and Druid and Illusionist Spells) that add 15 new character classes and 106 new spells to the game, all inspired by the beloved Advanced rules from the 1970s, and carefully scaled to mesh smoothly with the lower Basic / Expert levels of power and rules complexity. The covers will be created by Stefan Poag.
  • Character sheets: Three different character sheets for Old-School Essentials, by Gavin Norman, James West, and Frank Reding.
  • Old-School Essentials SRD: An online rules reference for Old-School Essentials.
  • Intro adventure: The Hole in the Oak, by Gavin Norman. Illustrated by James West. Maps by Karl Stjernberg.

More Info

See here for a bit more information about the Kickstarter and Old-School Essentials in general, including some layout previews.

Winter's Daughter Now Available in PDF!

The tomb of an ancient hero, lost in the tangled depths of the woods. A ring of standing stones, guarded by the sinister Drune cult. A fairy princess who watches with ageless patience from beyond the veil of the mortal. A forgotten treasure that holds the key to her heart.

Winter's Daughter is a romantic fairy-tale dungeon adventure set in the creepy old forest of Dolmenwood.

  • Suitable for characters of 1st to 3rd level.
  • Available in old-school (B/X) and 5e versions.
  • Encompasses woodland, tomb, and fairy otherworld—all in one handy package!
  • Keyed in a quick-reference, bullet point format.
  • Illustrated by the otherworldly Mish Scott.
  • Cartography by the mycotic Karl Stjernberg.
  • 5e conversion by the maximally erudite Thilo Graf. (Read Thilo's blog on his conversion work.)

Get Yer Romantic Fairy-Tale Dungeons 'ere

People Who Have Already Pre-Ordered

I'm afraid I had a, shall we say, "learning experience" when I tried to send you all a code to download your PDFs! What I hadn't realised is that I can only send emails to people who have signed up for the mailing list (which only covered about 25% of people who pre-ordered!).

So for people who pre-ordered, here's how you get the PDF:

Method 1: View Order

  • Go to your email.
  • Open the "Order #XXXX confirmed" email from
  • Click on the VIEW ORDER button in the email.
  • Click on "Click here to download your digital goods".
  • Rejoice.

Method 2: Discount Code
  • Click on this link.
  • You'll arrive at the product page of the PDF version of the book.
  • Add the version you want (old-school or 5th edition) to your cart.
  • Go to your cart. You'll see the full price of the PDF listed at this stage.
  • Go to the checkout. You'll now see the price of the PDF reduced to 0.
  • Confirm the order. You'll now be able to download a ZIP file containing the PDF of the adventure and a PDF containing just the unkeyed maps.

Return to Dolmenwood!

The pre-order for the new Dolmenwood adventure -- Winter's Daughter -- is now live at!

Here's what the back-cover blurb says about the adventure:
  • The tomb of an ancient hero, lost in the tangled depths of the woods.
  • A ring of standing stones, guarded by the sinister Drune cult.
  • A fairy princess who watches with ageless patience from beyond the veil of the mortal.
  • A forgotten treasure that holds the key to her heart.
  • A romantic fairytale dungeon adventure for characters of 1st to 3rd level.

Pre-Order Until March 25th!

This adventure hasn't been printed yet! Get in early to guarantee a copy of the limited edition run! This pre-order works as follows:

  • On March 25th, we'll tally up the orders, send out PDF copies to everyone, and hit up the printer with the order.
  • Printing time is estimated to be four weeks.
  • We'll ship the book out to you after that.
  • US orders will be fulfilled by Exalted Funeral.
  • Other orders will be fulfilled by Necrotic Gnome from our lair in Berlin.

Limited Edition

All pre-orders will be lovingly hand-numbered by mythical beings.

Necrotic Gnome T-Shirts Too!

While you're there, you may wish to consider the sartorial benefits of having everyone's favourite cuddly/psychotic undead gnome on your torso.

Old-School Essentials: Introductory Material

As planning for the Old-School Essentials Kickstarter progresses, I thought it'd be nice to make a series of blog posts with some more details about what I have planned, and what's included in the new edition of the game.

I've mentioned before that there's some additional introductory materials in Core Rules, so that seems like a reasonable place to start the discussion!

Here's the content of three pages of the introduction, where I discuss the following:

  1. Which books are required to play the game, and who needs copies of them. Also why the game is split into separate books in this way, and the benefits of this approach. (Naturally, this section will appear in a modified form in the all-in-one hardcover.)
  2. Which other games Old-School Essentials is compatible with. I think this is a super important point, as the sheer amount of material that all works together is far from obvious to a newcomer to the old-school scene.
  3. The basic assumptions of the game, around which the rules are forged.

Required Books

Old-School Essentials is split into a set of books, known as rules modules, allowing the game to be tailored to different settings, genres, and styles of play.

Rules Modules

Core Rules (This Book)

Contains the core rules of the game that are common to all settings, genres, and styles of play. All players need access to a copy of this book. Each player may want their own copy, or a group may share one or more copies among themselves.

Genre Rules

Contains the game rules specific to a setting or genre of fiction in which the games take place. A genre rules book typically describes the classes of adventurers that can be played, and provides lists of weapons, armour, vehicles, services, and strongholds that may be purchased. All players need access to a copy of the genre rules book that the group is using.


Lists the spells that can be cast by character classes in the corresponding genre rules book. Only players who are playing a character capable of casting spells need access to a copy of the spells book.


Lists adversaries and monstrosities that may be encountered during adventures in a particular setting or genre. Only the referee needs access to a book of monsters.


Lists wondrous and precious items that may be found during adventures in a particular setting or genre. Only the referee needs access to a book of treasures.

Mix and Match

With the rules of the game split up into separate modules, it is easy to swap out individual elements, replacing them with alternatives. In this way, different settings and genres may be combined. For example, a group may wish to use a classic fantasy genre rules book along with a book of alien technology treasures, lending a science-fantasy feel to the game.

Multiple rules modules of the same type may also be used together. For example, a book of classic fantasy monsters might be augmented with a book of lost world monsters, for a campaign set around a dinosaur-infested jungle that time forgot.

As the core rules do not assume the use of any specific rules modules of the other types, all may be combined freely.

Roll Your Own

In addition to using the rules modules published in The Old-School Essentials product line, groups may wish to create their own rules modules, tailoring the game to their own needs.


The old-school gaming scene is sitting on a secret: a huge number of games, despite having different brand names on their covers, are highly compatible! This cross-compatibility between many games means that a great wealth of adventures, campaign settings, and rules supplements can be used with Old-School Essentials.

The Basic / Expert Rules

Old-School Essentials is 100% compatible with the 1981 edition of the world’s most popular fantasy RPG, commonly known as the Basic / Expert edition (B/X for short). Any material published for the Basic / Expert rules can be used directly with Old-School Essentials. Decades of adventure are at your fingertips!

Other Basic / Expert Games

Over the last decade, a large number of old-school adventure games have been published, many of which—like Old-School Essentials—are also closely compatible with the Basic / Expert rules. Some of the most popular are Labyrinth Lord (by Daniel Proctor), Lamentations of the Flame Princess (by James Edward Raggi IV), and Basic Fantasy RPG (by Chris Gonnerman).

While each of the games mentioned above adds its own twists to the Basic / Expert rules, they are highly compatible, making it easy to use material published for these games with Old-School Essentials.

Other Editions

Additionally, material published for all 20th century editions of the world’s most popular fantasy RPG (for example, the classic Advanced edition from the 1970s) is also largely compatible with Old-School Essentials.

The rules of other editions do differ somewhat from the Basic / Expert rules, so some amount of adaptation work may be required in order to use these materials with Old-School Essentials. This is not recommended for beginning players, but for those who are familiar with the rules, such adaptation is not complicated.

Adaptation Guidelines

Concrete guidelines are beyond the scope of this introduction. However, a guide to adapting other, similar rules sets for use with this one is available as a free download from for those who want more information on this topic.

Adventure Gaming

The rules in this book provide a solid and flexible basis for running adventure games in many different fantastic settings. The following elements are fundamental.

Peril and Adventure

Players take on the role of people who are drawn to confront danger, in search of wealth, ancient secrets, and wonder. These bold individuals are known as adventurers, and are the focus of the game.

The danger and reward of adventure is most commonly found in two types of locations: wilderness and dungeons.


Accursed forests, toxic wastelands, rotting swamps, the depths of the ocean, the uncharted reaches of space. Any outdoor space where peril and adventure can be met is classified as wilderness.


Forsaken ruins, primal caverns, subterranean cities, accursed tombs, derelict vessels. Any indoor or subterranean space where peril and adventure can be met is classified as a dungeon.

The Fantastic

The rules assume a setting where PCs come into contact with the fantastic, otherworldly, weird, and wonderful.


Hoards of long-forgotten gold, artefacts of alien technology, fabled objects of great magical power. The promise of attaining treasures such as these—either for their fabulous material value, or for their fantastic powers—is the lure that pulls many an adventurer into perilous realms.


Terrible creatures older than time, fearsome mythical beasts, chimeric biological experiments, tribes of beast-like half-men, invasive alien species, beings from strange dimensions. Such inhuman creatures lurk in the wilderness and in dungeons, guarding wondrous treasures.


Forbidden practices of dark sorcery, rituals to invoke the gods, monsters summoned from weird dimensions, sites of eldritch power, objects bound with occult energies. Magic may be a tool wielded by player characters (or their enemies!), or may be a lost and forgotten art that is encountered only in the ancient places of the world. Of course, though some settings might not feature magic per se, sufficiently advanced technology may be indistinguishable from magic.

Sentient Species

Fairies malevolent and kind, dwarves in subterranean kingdoms, humanoids from other worlds, mutants twisted by exposure to toxic environments. While humans are typically the most widespread species in the game, other humanoids of equal (or perhaps greater!) intelligence may exist. Intelligent species that are available as player characters are termed demihumans.

Winter's Daughter is Coming!

The new Dolmenwood adventure is imminent! Some pertinent factoids...

Interior illustration by Mish Scott

Deluxe Offset Print Run

This book will be my first jaunt into the tantalising realm of traditional offset printing (i.e. not print-on-demand). Everything is primed to produce this adventure with a high-quality printer in Europe. Feast your eyes on these stats:
  • Digest-sized (A5) hardcover.
  • Durable, sewn binding.
  • Lovely creamy-tinted paper.
  • Maps and area summaries printed on the end papers of the book for super easy access.
I'm working with the same printer who produced Melsonian Arts Council's Fever Swamp, for those of you who have seen that. Winter's Daughter should be a very similar book, physically.


I'm going to run a pre-order to gauge interest, before sending out the command to start the printing presses. It's not live yet, but will manifest at some time in the next week or two. The ducal fanfare will be blasted from all appropriate turrets when the pre-order is ready to go.

Old-School and 5e Versions

Now what may be the biggest news of all on this front: there will be two versions of this adventure! The original crafted for old-school rules (B/X, specifically), and a loving conversion to the 5th edition rules.

This marks a first step into the world of 5e for Necrotic Gnome and Dolmenwood!

More Details Coming Soon!

Winter's Daughter: Maps Are In!

I am delighted to announce that the cartographer for the upcoming Dolmenwood adventure, Winter's Daughter, is none other than the hyperdimensional Karl Stjernberg!

Here's a little preview of one of the maps for the adventure, laid out along with some quick summary text of a few of the areas:

Old-School Essentials: The Big "What's New" Post

So I've been going on about this Old-School Essentials thing recently, which I'll be bringing to Kickstarter in a few months. As you are probably aware, this is the revised edition of the original B/X Essentials books. But some people may be wondering what exactly is different. This post is for you!

What's Not New?

Weird to put this first, but it's important to state up front: the same as B/X Essentials, Old-School Essentials is a streamlined, easy-reference restatement of the classic B/X rules of yesteryear. Same rules ... new, improved presentation.

So with that out of the way...

What's New?

1. The Name

This one is pretty obvious. The game has a new name (Old-School Essentials) and subtitle (Retro Adventure Game) to make it more immediately obvious what it's about. This is especially important to make the game a bit more accessible to people who'd potentially be interested in old-school gaming, but who aren't familiar with the esoteric term "B/X". That's the sole reason for the new name.

2. A New Layout

Redoing the layout wasn't a major design consideration in the revised books, but came about because I decided to switch the books' format to A5 (instead of the 6" x 9" of the original editions). The reason for this was simply that A5 is an international standard, so is cheaper and easier to print around the world. (This connects to point 3, below.)

As I'd decided to change the physical format, the entire layout needed to be redone, so I also decided to change the style to something fresher, while I was at it. (Fortunately, I love doing layouts, so this has been a super fun part of the development process of the new books.)

3. New Art

The redone layout means that a lot of new art will be needed. Some favourites from B/X Essentials will also be returning, of course.

Andrew Walter is working on a new cover for Core Rules, as we speak!

4. Designed for Offset Printing

The original books were printed by Lightning Source as print-on-demand. The new books will be printed by an as yet not finally decided printer as a traditional offset run. There are a few reasons for changing the printing process:
  1. Quality. PoD quality is mediocre. Offset printing offers far better quality.
  2. Flexibility. Offset printing opens the way to fancy features that aren't possible with PoD, for example things like printed end-papers and ribbons. (More on this later.)
  3. Economics. Per unit, offset printing is much, much cheaper than PoD.

5. Expanded Introduction

As noted in Capt. Corajus' recent review, the B/X Essentials books are not that great for beginners. (Indeed they were explicitly designed for experienced players.) There's no explanation of a lot of fundamental concepts like AC, hp, HD, etc. which are familiar to all experienced players. This puts up an entry barrier. One of my primary aims for the revised books is to make them more accessible to people who aren't hardcore old-schoolers, so addressing this was a must.

To that end, the introduction to Core Rules has been expanded, covering the following topics:
  • About the game.
  • Very brief suggestions for people who are new to RPGs or new to old-school games.
  • A discussion on why the game is split into several books, and which books are required to play.
  • A discussion on compatibility with other games (e.g. the original B/X, Labyrinth Lord, etc.).
  • A brief section on the basic terminology used in the game.
  • A section describing the assumptions about the kinds of adventures that the rules are based around.
  • A full rundown on the game statistics that make up a player character.

6. Clarified Text

This might come as a surprise, given that B/X Essentials was already supposed to be a clarified reference for the B/X rules. The fact is that I learned a lot over the 2 year development cycle of BXE. By the time it was finished, looking back, I could see a lot of things in the earlier books that could be improved. So I took this opportunity to improve them. I'll post some comparisons of the original vs revised rules over the next weeks, so you can see what I mean. For now, suffice to say that I'm super happy with the way things are looking now.

7. Control Panel Layouts

This is probably the biggest change of all to Core Rules. In the original book, the main adventuring rules were listed alphabetically. So you had Ability Checks, Air Travel, Chases, Climbing, and so on. While this makes sense as a means of organisation, it's not a very intuitive order for rules to appear in. Ability Checks then Air Travel... huh?

The revised Core Rules instead lays things out on 2-page spreads of related content -- also known as "control panels". Here's the list of the PC and adventuring rules control panels, in the order they appear in:
  1. Player Character game statistics.
  2. Character creation.
  3. Ability scores.
  4. Alignment, languages, experience, and wealth.
  5. Domains, hirelings, and party organisation. (The latter now describes the roles of the Caller and Mapper, which weren't mentioned in B/X Essentials.)
  6. Time, weight, movement. (Including encumbrance.)
  7. Hazards and challenges. (Including ability checks and saving throws.)
  8. Dungeon adventuring.
  9. Wilderness adventuring.
  10. Waterborne adventuring.
  11. Encounters.
  12. Evasion and pursuit.
  13. Combat.
  14. Other combat issues and morale.
  15. Retainers.
  16. Vehicles.
The rest of the book continues in the same manner, with rules for Magic, Monsters, Running Adventures, and Treasure.

Just for fun, here's an example of one of these control panels: the revised Combat rules.

8. Expanded Core, Focused Modules

Another thing that I only noticed in retrospect, after having completed the 2 year development of B/X Essentials: I ended up with some bits of rules in later books that should have gone in Core Rules. The rules for character creation and alignment are obvious ones. The treasure tables are another example.

In Old-School Essentials, these things have been moved into Core Rules, where they belong. This makes the other rules modules much more focused. We now have:
  • Classic Fantasy Adventures: All the rules for creating PCs and running campaigns in the classic B/X-style fantasy genre.
  • Classic Fantasy Spells: Cleric and Magic-User: Spells for the named classes. (This book is pretty much unchanged.)
  • Classic Fantasy Monsters: All the classic B/X monsters, now also with the accompanying random encounter tables. (The latter originally appeared in Adventures and Treasures. They are now reunited with the monster descriptions that they refer to.)
  • Classic Fantasy Treasures: All the classic B/X magic items.

9. Ascending Armour Class (Optional)

This is a potentially contentious change. The game could now be accurately described as a precise clone of B/X with one single addition: Ascending AC.

The reason for adding this one extra (optional) rule comes back to accessibility again. A lot of players are just more comfortable or more familiar with AAC. Some people even refuse to play games that uses DAC. (Personally, I regard this as a bit of an extreme attitude, but to each their own.)

One could quite reasonably argue "well, every group wants to apply its own house rules... why incorporate this one into the core of the game?". There's a good reason why I chose to do this with this one, specific house rule. To quote the Old-School Essentials author's notes document that I published recently:
  • Use of ascending AC is probably the most common house rule applied by modern players to the classic Basic/Expert rules framework. (The second most common probably being separating character race and class, in the vein of the traditional Advanced rules.)
  • Armour Class is a fundamental game mechanic, and, as such, is referred to throughout all rules modules. Applying house rules to such core mechanics of the game is awkward, entailing either the significant adaptation effort of all materials in use, or an on-the-fly conversion whenever the mechanic comes up. Neither is trivial. (In contrast, for example, optional rules for creating characters with separate race and class can be easily addressed in a rules supplement, without affecting the core rules of the game.)
For those (such as myself) who like using the traditional DAC system, the optional AAC rules are very easy to ignore. They amount to small sidebars on 2 pages, and a dual AC format that looks like this: AC 7 [12]. (This is the same format used in Swords & Wizardry.)

10. Errata Fixes

Not a lot of errata has been reported for B/X Essentials (if you know of some, please do report it!), but everything reported has been fixed in Old-School Essentials.

Additionally, as part of my own work on clarifying the text (point 5, above), I spotted some things in B/X Essentials that (despite great effort!) weren't 100% accurate to B/X. These things have also been fixed. They're mostly pretty subtle things that only ├╝ber rules-nerds (like myself) will notice, but I'm passionate about addressing them. An example that comes to mind is the description of actions in combat: B/X Essentials described where "other actions" take place in the initiative sequence, whereas B/X is a bit looser, making no mention of this.

11. All-in-One Hardcover

This is where the offset printing will really come into its own: the plan is to produce a high quality, sewn binding, A5 hardcover (probably around 250 pages) of the complete game. Plans for exactly how the Kickstarter will be set up aren't complete yet, but the offset printing process will allow lots of nice extras (for example as stretch goals):
  • Printed end-papers, probably replicating some of the most commonly used tables for easy reference.
  • One or more ribbons.

12. Boxed Set

Since the inception of the B/X Essentials project, it's been my dream to produce a boxed set of the individual booklets. Why? I just love boxed sets. My plan is to make this a reality for the upcoming Kickstarter.

What If I Already Have the B/X Essentials Books?

If you're happy with your original B/X Essentials books, by all means continue using them and being happy with them! As I said above, the only actual change in the rules is the addition of Ascending AC as an option. The revised books do contain some fixes to things that slipped through the net originally, but I wouldn't say anything really major has been affected. This is still the same B/X rules that we all know and love.

The main benefits of buying a set of the new Old-School Essentials books, for people who already own B/X Essentials, would be the following, I'd say:
  • If you've been waiting for a combined, all-in-one edition, this is it.
  • If you want that tasty, integrated Ascending AC.
  • If you want the improved structure, the fixed errata, and the control panel goodness discussed above.
  • It's just great to have multiple copies of the books at the table. Maybe you only have one of each.
  • If you love collecting nice old-school books. The Old-School Essentials books should be a really nice addition to any collection, whether for use in your games, as reference, or simply to look nice on the shelf!

When / How?

The plan is to bring this all to Kickstarter in a few months. Current estimates place the campaign around May/June, but of course I'll give more specific details when things are fully concrete.

Current status: I'm well ahead of schedule on layout, and proofreading of Core Rules is now underway.

These books will be a manifestation of my own personal gaming dream. I hope they fulfill the dreams of many other people!

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.


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.


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!


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.)


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!