Showing posts with label B/X. Show all posts
Showing posts with label B/X. Show all posts

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Review - Necrotic Gnome's Old School Essentials Advanced Fantasy

Allelujah! I found a great title to start with, Necrotic Gnome's Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy. 

I lost my 1e books and wanted a replacement. I know Necrotic Gnome has been threatening me with a Kickstarter of physical books, but I couldn't wait for a printed copy. I ordered both the Player's Tome and Referee's Tome from DriveThruRPG. Previously, I had been making do with the short free edition which is pretty fine. 

Title: Advanced Fantasy Player's Tome
Rule Set: Old-School Essentials
Year: 2021
Author: Gavin Norman
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
Pages: 257 pages
Rating: 5 of 5 Gold Stars

Advanced Fantasy
Player's Tome

SM06 The Warren
Advanced Fantasy
Player's Tome

Title: Advanced Fantasy Referee's Tome
Rule Set: Old-School Essentials
Year: 2021
Author: Gavin Norman
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
Pages: 257 pages
Rating: 5 of 5 Gold Stars

Advanced Fantasy
Referee's Tome

Advanced Fantasy<br />Referee's Tome
Advanced Fantasy
Referee's Tome


What I was expecting was an updated rendition of the 1e D&D books. I was wrong. 

These books have more in common with the B/X sets or perhaps the Rules Cyclopedia. But wait! That's not all. The author, Gavin Norman set out to refine B/X by remove some warts and flaws. Not only was he successful, but he also went on to fix all of the Unearthed Arcana classes and the accursed Bard class of e1. Somehow, he has three different editions fused in one. Impressive. 

What fascinates me the most is how there is a basic and advanced method of character generation. The basic method uses race as a class while the advanced method allows all races to engage in a class. With a tiny modification, this is exactly how I play. The rules do not say is if you can mix basic and advanced methods of characters, but why the hell not. I allow for Basic Elves and AD&D Elven Clerics. 

The books are well-paced for teaching new players from a single set of books, which is right in line with what the original B/X books did. Timely information is presented when it's needed and not before. Mr. Norman has also rolled in some welcome updates, such as THAC0 and ascending AC. I hate them both because they are too user-friendly, but this set competently explains all three methods to suit the taste of all three player bases. 

Both books are 257 pages long a-piece. The Player's Tome is really the shining star of the set as it contains the most varied information. The Referee's Tome approximates the DMG and Monster Manual of e1 all in one book. B/X didn't have a DMG until the Red Box if I remember correctly and this format avoids getting all murky like the e1 DMG. 

So, where are the flaws? Well, there aren't any or many that I could find. More like chatter from the peanut gallery. 

The one thing that amused me was the author named a spell "Pass-Wall". Back in the Moldvay version of B/X, it was spelled "Passwall" and was completely omitted from the books except for the Staff of Wizardry description, which doesn't explain the spell. See, real peanut gallery stuff. 

I am not a fan of the short monster stat blocks like a module synopsis but have to admit it allows for the presentation of far more critters than a full quarter page stat block of the e1 Monster Manual. I always got warm fuzzies when I found a module that included an appendix with full stat blocks for new monsters. If Necrotic Gnome changed its mind and created a Monster Manual with full stat blocks, I'd totally buy that. 

The last item, I don't even know how to quantify. There is too much art. WTF? Did I say that? I love all of the art, but the format is meant for the beautiful full-color, hardback version of the book. I have a printable pdf. If I print this thing, it's going to have qualities similar to a '79 era xerox. That makes me sad and I can't wait to purchase a hard copy. 

There you have it, I found three flaws and two of them make me want to purchase a physical copy of something I already have. 

So, I guess this is another 5 gold star review. But you don't have to take my word for it, check out what some other reviewers said about this set: 

RPG.net Review: "The bullet-point presentation hits the sweet spot when it comes to saving space (and thus cramming more material between the books' pages) as well as creating concise texts with zero ambiguity."

Reviews from R'lyeh: "What is notable with all of these Classes is that the designer has tried to keep them unique, to keep their abilities from encroaching on those of Classes, and to keep them from being too powerful."

Mr. Tim Brannan gives the physical set a glorious, jealously inducing review on The Other Side Blog.  I can't wait for these to become available again. 

Again, if you haven't followed these bloggers, now is the time. Or you could cut to the chase and follow Campaign Wiki's OSR feed. It is amazing. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Introduction: How to...

If I've said it once, I've said it 100 times. The 1981 Basic Edition of D&D is my edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Before that, I had the 1979 AD&D books which seemed a little opaque to 7 and 8 year old me. But by 9, I could grasp all of the ins and outs of the Moldvay set. 

D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)

D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)

At 49, I set a challenge of reviewing 52 gaming culture significant titles. I've done novels, movies, game modules, supplements but only a handful of rule sets. The reason is pretty clear, how does one review old or new products which emulate old games? Everyone should know everything about them already. 

A month or so ago, a reader whom I shall call Blackrazor gave me dozens of books to replace the ones I lost. Additionally, he threw in a bunch of things I have never seen. By way of thanks to my readers, I want to review them. 

This loops me back to my original observation that everyone who plays these games should know them. So true. 

Back in February of this year, I reviewed The White Box by Atlas Games. This product isn't a game, it's a developer's tool to create games. In that review, I mentioned that the vast majority of essays written for this title explore the pedagogy of games. Pedagogy is the method and practice of teaching. 

This nicely brings me around to this little piece of artwork: 


The Moldvay version of D&D was meant to teach from the book, as opposed to the methods used in the prior editions. It's a fine distinction, in intent, scope, and for my purposes, a perfect distinction.  

OD&D, Holmes, and AD&D e1 are very fine games, but they were not designed and developed as the Moldvay books were which is very evident in terms of play and players. These three sets were designed with the intention that one person would own the books and that one person would teach the rules. Moldvay on the other hand, explains the rules with an almost boardgame approach so that players pick a role and act on it rather than the exploration of roles (and rules) that older editions supposed. 

It's the method of teaching that changes between editions. Players were always cautioned against reading the DM's material. But in a generic sense, meaning they shouldn't metagame. Knowing the rules was always encouraged, but defining which rules were in play was the purview of the DM. So, when players hit those OD&D type games, they often knew how to run a game even when in action as a player character, but they learned directly from the person hosting the game. In B/X the rules themselves teach. 

Going forward, I hope to review several B/X sets from the point of view of how the rules convey the pedagogy of the game. 

I have 10 more entries for my 2021 review series, if I could make whole rulesets half of those, I think I will have succeded in this adventure.  

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Seeking Zeros (Product Plug)

I'm looking for a few zeros and not in the way you'd expect.

Today I did a review of my products on DriveThruRPG and realized I am pretty close to some thresholds I'd like to hit. Here is a list of my total downloads for all 5 of my products.

AD&D Character Sheet For Use with Unearthed Arcana - 91
Compass Rose Inn Minisetting - 135
Kobold Folly Minisetting - 122
Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners - 244
Swashbucklers Character Class - 87

What I would like to see is at least 100 for my Character Sheet and Swashbuckler Character Class. I wish I was at 250 for Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners.

Let me recap what each product is:

The Character Sheet is just a character sheet with the 7 stats from AD&D and Unearthed Arcana, 1st edition.

The Swashbuckler Character Class is a gimmick character class, someplace between thief and fighter. The Swashbuckler does little to no damage per round, attempting to set themselves for killing strike on a roll of 20 or better. They are fast and adventurous, but perhaps not the greatest warriors. Very Errol Flynn.

Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners is a framework for creating NPC characters with specific non-combat abilities which balanced for D&D and AD&D 1st Edition. The booklet can also be used to create secondary or professional skills for PCs, which don't push the limits or make them OP.

The Compass Rose Inn Minisetting and Kobold's Folly are two maps sets for a generic campaign setting and are rules agnostic. They come with maps that can be printed as 1 inch=5 feet battlemat. Character backgrounds are provided to make these locations come to life with gossip and intrigue. 

I would like to invite all of you to download these products. Each is Pay What You Want. In this time of crisis, the "Pay" and "Want" should go away. Download them at $0.00. It's cool, that's how this works. Help me reach these goals, even though they are probably silly.

I appreciate every download.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Character Buffs - Zero to Hero

D&D and AD&D had a system of allowing characters to be buffed by adding some sort of skill to one of the regular classes via professional skills. Noticeably short on details, it encouraged DMs and players to think outside of the box. AD&D had the ranger and monk classes which featured two hit dice at first level while clerics were buffed with not just first level spells, but bonus spells based on Wisdom scores.

With the release of Unearthed Arcane, players received a model for having a character start below 1st level in the form of the cavaliers. Magic users received cantrips which hinted at powers before first level. Weapon mastery made fighting classes much stronger while pushing other classes into the non-combat skills.

Obviously, the cavalier and thief acrobat were nods to the cartoon. Clearly TSR wanted to change and update their product long before 2.0.

At the time, 2.0 wasn't available to me and by the time it was, I was already too invested in AD&D. Basically, I was unwilling to change. I had a large group of players, between 5 to 12 players per session, a few of them running 2 character at the same time.

What made this possible was an embryonic idea to codify low-level, non-combat oriented characters. While much of this was roleplay for my players, a bit of it dove into the skills possessed by these secondary characters.

Fast forward 33 years to 2018. That stack of notes, rules of thumb and memories of the fun were transformed into an actual pamphlet so that others could implement these types of secondary characters into their campaigns. Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners was born.

It started with a list of 50 professions from the middle ages. In January 2019, the list increased by 9 and later reached 61 in October of the same year. The professions are broken into 3 groups: Sedentary, Active and Laboring which determines their hit points. The characters are average people, so they have ability scores generated by average dice, numbers 2-5 weight towards 3 and 4 or collectively as 9 to 12. Combat skills were limited to using the tools of the trade, which are poor cousins of real weapons. Each new "class" has its own abilities, which are flexible and sometimes overlapping. The classes feature their own levels, from 1-5 which have nothing to do with combat or treasure hunting.

These rules were meant to flesh out NPC classes and includes a table of modifiers for hiring them. But I also wanted to make rules for converting a non-player character to one the main classes in D&D and AD&D.

Once a professional becomes a fully fleshed out player character, I needed to include rules for the tools of the trade. Can a mason turned magic user use a hammer? Sure, why not. Within limits. Stats for mauls, hammers, woodworking axes, zaxes and various other implements were created. These improvised or unusual weapons were define in such a way so as to delineate them from traditional weapons of war. In the right hands, they are powerful tools, in the wrong hands they are poor cousins of their martial variants.

Due to the use of average dice for these characters, a path to "rescuing" a hopeless character was created. All of these rules were designed with the existing D&D and AD&D classes in mind. While not entirely balanced, because the regular classes are not balanced, they are not overpowering. The intent was to flesh out bit part NPC and color player characters with a background.

I hope you will take the time to read Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners and incorporate it into your game. I also have a character sheet for use with characters designed with Unearthed Arcana. Both are available at DriveThruRPG at a suggest price of $0.99 or PWYW.