Saturday, 16 September 2017

B/X Essentials: Classes and Equipment -- Draft Text

One Sunday in August, I announced the second book in the B/X Essentials line: Classes and Equipment. Since then, a huge amount of progress has been made on the book. The draft text has been finished, various people have been helping out proofreading it, and I'm now most of the way through getting the text into its final form.

The text is freely available here online. (100% Open Game Content for all the tinkerers out there!)

One of the major aims of this projects has been reorganisation and clarification. I was very pleased with my achievements in these areas in the first book -- Core Rules -- but I must say that I'm even happier with how Classes and Equipment is shaping up. Some examples:

Look at the dwarf class. Seems simple enough, right? But then look at where the information is collated from. The main class description is on B9. The XP and HD advancement table for levels 1-3 is on B8. Of course, the chart for advancement beyond 3rd level is on X5. Then the description of the class features for levels 3-14 is on X7. Then you have the table for saving throws on X24 and the attack table on X26. And then the dwarf's ability at finding traps is hidden away on B22. And the rule about dwarves and other demi-humans having an improved chance when listening at doors on B21.

That's a lot of really scattered information, right? My layout aim for the character classes in this book will be to present everything relating to each class together in one place, on a single page or spread.

Look at the weapons table. A simple thing, but it collates all the information from B20, B27, X9, and X25.

Look at the section on water vessels. This is my pride and joy with this project. The information is gathered from X9-10 and X63-64, so it's not too spread out in the original. But it's so densely presented in the original Expert book that it's very difficult to quickly extract information about different vessels or situations. What's more, there are a lot of contradictions and ambiguities. All of this has been cleared up. (Which was a lot of work!) For example, how much does a troop transport cost? (X9 and X63 give conflicting values.) What happens to a sailing boat in high winds? (There's an obscure mention that it's treated the same as a galley and then a dense description of running ahead of a gale on X63 and a small rule about shipping water on X64.) How many catapults can be fitted on a large sailing ship? (X10 and X63 contradict each other.)

As is doubtless clear, I love B/X, but honestly, the information about sea vessels in the Expert book is really awfully presented and appears to have not been proofread.

So, just a few examples, but I hope that makes clear how the presentation of the original rules can be improved upon! (I know some people doubt this.)

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

B/X Essentials: Core Rules -- Print Editions Available Now!

The first book in the B/X Essentials line is now available to buy as a print / PDF combo at RPGNow (and pals)!

There are two editions:

  1. Premium edition. Staple bound (lays flat on the table!), 6" x 9", premium colour.
  2. Standard edition. Perfect bound, 6" x 9", standard colour.
The premium edition is (obviously) the fancier of the two. The binding means it's able to lay flat on the table, which is great for use during play. The premium printing also means that the text and illustrations are just that bit crisper. That said, the perfect bound edition looks great too and is a bit cheaper.

Here they are side by side (difficult to tell the difference at this stage):
(My floor and a couple of dice for scale.)
And here are a few interior shots of the premium / staple bound edition.

All the XP rules on the left-hand page.

All the encounter rules on the right-hand page here.

Rules for chases in dungeons, wilderness, and at sea, all on one spread.

All the basic combat rules on one spread.

People who have already bought the PDF edition: I've sent out a coupon so you can get a print copy minus the price of the PDF.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

B/X Essentials: Core Rules Now Available in PDF!

Illustration (C) Tom Kilian

The first book in the B/X Essentials line, Core Rules, is out!

The B/X Essentials line is a restatement of the classic Basic/Expert fantasy adventure gaming rule set, distilled down to its purest essence and given a fresh, new presentation:

  • Basic and Expert rules seamlessly combined.
  • Streamlined presentation optimised for ease of reference during play.
  • Meticulously researched; a guaranteed 100% accurate rendition of the classic rules of yesteryear.
  • Carefully clarified, ironing out ambiguities in the original rules.

This first book lays out the core rules of the game, including: encounters, combat, dungeon and wilderness exploration, seafaring, spell casting, and magical research.

It's lavishly illustrated with the powers of Michael Clarke, Tom Kilian, Thomas Novosel, Matthew Ray, Luka Rejec, and Andrew Walter. (The image above is a sample illustration from the book, by Tom Kilian.)

Right now, only the PDF edition is available, but fear not: print editions are coming soon! People who purchase the PDF edition now will be sent a voucher to upgrade to the print edition, when it becomes available.

Click here to buy B/X Essentials: Core Rules at RPGNow.

Additionally, a plain text edition of the book is available online as a google doc and here as PDF / RTF files. The plain text edition is provided as an aid to others who wish to create their own house rules documents or retro-clones (please read the Open Game License, at the end of the document, carefully!).

Saturday, 26 August 2017

B/X Essentials: Update and Core Rules Cover

A couple of updates on my B/X Essentials project:

Firstly, the basic content (text and charts) for the second book in the series, B/X Essentials: Classes and Equipment, is now complete! The document is available to view online here. Like the first book, my aim has been to compile and collate the information in as usable a way as possible. Some sections have been massively clarified, when compared to the original B/X rules. See the sections on water vessels and castle construction, for example, which were pretty vague, confusing, and even contradictory, in the original Expert rule book.

Secondly, in preparation for publication next month, the cover for the first book, B/X Essentials: Core Rules, is done! The beautiful, colourful illustration is from the hallowed hand of Andrew Walter.

Illustration (C) Andrew Walter

Sunday, 20 August 2017

B/X Essentials: Encumbrance Preview!

I recently received the first batch of finished illustrations for the first book in the B/X Essentials line: Core Rules. This batch included one of the largest pieces in the book, which slots into a very odd-shaped space on the spread where the (optional) encumbrance rules are explained. I'm extremely happy with how this spread looks as a whole, now that the illustration is in place. Have a look:

(Click to enlarge.)

In addition to marvelling at the delightful art by Thomas Novosel, I'd recommend comparing the explanation of the encumbrance rules here against the original rules (see page B20).

Encumbrance -- as specifically explained in B/X -- is one of those rules that seems simple enough, on the surface, but once you start trying to figure out exactly how it's supposed to work, things gets pretty confusing. To be fair, the B/X books are generally very clearly written. There are areas, though, like this, that are not at all clear, without some prior understanding of what is being described. I've made a great effort to clear up any areas of confusion or ambiguity like this, in B/X Essentials. I hope this spread provides a good example of this and of how the presentation of the Basic/Expert rules can be improved upon.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

B/X Essentials: PDF Preview!

Work continues on the B/X Essentials project! (Introduction to the project here.)

  1. As you may perhaps have noted, the project now has an official name. B/X Essentials. (Thanks to David Perry for the suggestion.)
  2. The first book -- B/X Essentials: Core Rules -- is completely written and laid out and is now being illustrated. Publication (in print and PDF) is planned for September.
  3. Writing on the second book -- B/X Essentials: Classes and Equipment -- is nearing completion. v0.5.0 (online here) presents complete rules for character creation, classes, and basic adventuring gear. Work on sea vessels and hirelings is under way.
  4. Plans are afoot for a third book in the series -- B/X Essentials: Advanced Characters. This will provide rules for characters in the vein of AD&D, with separate race and class and the time-honoured profusion of additional character classes, all designed for use with the core B/X rules.
Now, as to the title of this post, I thought it was about time to give people a glimpse of the inside of the fully laid-out book!

So, here's a four page preview of the PDF. This is the entirety of the combat section of B/X Essentials: Core Rules -- the complete B/X combat rules on two spreads.

About B/X Essentials

The B/X Essentials project is a reorganised, simplified expression of the classic Basic/Expert rules, with the focus on ease of reference at the table. The goals and guiding principles of the project are as follows:
  • 100% accurate rules clone. B/X Essentials, unlike other clones or games inspired by B/X, goes to great efforts to be 100% accurate to the original. Nothing is altered. Nothing is added. Nothing is removed.
  • Organised for quick reference. The text of B/X Essentials is consciously kept concise and is broken into logical chunks, each with a header, making quick reference possible. I believe this is the clearest expression of the Basic/Expert rules available to date.
  • Clarified rules. The original rules are delightfully straightforward, but there certainly exist areas of confusion and ambiguity. (Check out the rules for encumbrance or wilderness chases, for example.) B/X Essentials presents greatly clarified descriptions of these rules.
  • 100% Open Game Content. In addition to a fancy, fully illustrated print / PDF edition, the B/X Essentials rules will be released in a simple text format licensed as 100% Open Game Content (under the OGL). The fresh expression of the B/X rules can thus be freely used by other people for the creation of their own house rules documents and B/X-inspired games.

Common questions:
  • How does B/X Essentials compare to the original B/X books? The main (and major!) difference is that the rules for Basic and Expert play are combined, rather than being split across two books. Also, as mentioned above, B/X Essentials is written as a quick reference, presenting a clarified and better organised presentation of the rules.
  • How does B/X Essentials compare to Labyrinth Lord? LL also presents a restatement of the classic B/X rules, however its text is, in many places, far too verbose and meandering to be really useful as a quick reference. Also, as noted above, B/X Essentials is a 100% accurate clone whereas Labyrinth Lord introduces several changes to the rules. In B/X Essentials, clerics do not get a spell at 1st level!
  • Where can I get it? The current work-in-progress on the project is shared online here. A beautifully illustrated print / PDF edition of the first book in the series (B/X Essentials: Core Rules) is coming in September 2017.
  • What formats will be provided? The primary format is US Trade (6"x9") paperback (perfect- or staple-bound) with a fully-linked PDF. So, yes, this is a small form factor presentation of the B/X rules! The Open Game Content rules will also be provided in a simple text format.