Author: C P1R8
I'm stuck, I don't know how to review dB/dX. It has no art. It claims to be a derivative of many B/X games but isn't. I don't know anything about the author except for the website Save vs Ennui and a thread on Reddit. It's version 1.0 and not all of it has been playtested.
So... anything I've claimed to enjoy in the past does not exist in this product. Normally, that would not bode well for a review, but by evading my normal likes it has a very charming and engaging feel. I've flipped through the book page by page and realized it does have everything I like.
This title is meant for web access and in being set up for that, it is excellent and makes a lie of my assertion that there is no art. Nowadays, we get glitzy full-color, glossy coffee table books as basic gaming material. This ain't it. The layout is sparse and elegant in a way only a web product can do. This is artful in its choice of fonts, symbols, layout, white space, and careful use of color.
Bonus art stars, all around.
I've already said the title is brilliant in a post and a comment to the author. I love the play on dx/dy, "the derivative of y was taken with respect to x". Here are the nuts and bolts of everything in dB/dX. Each and every section mirrors a great number of OSR products, except virtual every rule and mechanic has been reworked for the sake of brevity and simplicity. It creates this itchy feeling in my brain, where I feel like some sort of new idea has been unlocked and processed.
It reminds me of one of my favorite OSR booklets, The Moldy Unicorn.
I took a couple of hours to play around with this ruleset and it only increased my wonder at this elegant little book.
There are no classes or races, just levels with one major twist. Characters have a background profession, something left over from their life before adventuring. The book lists a whopping 216 backgrounds, which impressed the hell out of me as I wrote a whole book on this one subject in twice as many pages with one-quarter of the professions.
I have to be honest, I really dug into the character creation and combat mechanics over all other things. Since the whole system is classless and raceless, having good character-building and combat systems is necessary. While I know the author meant to omit demi-humans, nothing bad happens if you use them. You can have knights, peasants, dwarves, elves, or whatever you like. You'll only break a few things here and there but that can be patched over with any number of other rulesets. This happens a fair bit with OSR products, it's almost a design feature rather than a bug.
One of the great features of this set is the imposition of morale on the PCs. It really changes the game dynamics. You exit combat rather quickly, so players had better be on their toes.
I had a lot of fun with just the character and combat sections, but reading through the rest of the book just reinforces the author's original idea. This set can be a mini-hex crawl as much as a dungeon delve. Nearly every section of the old Basic-Expert set appears with a simplifying twist.
I really loved having this ruleset bust my rating system. In case the HTML broke, I give this five of 5 gold stars, a rating level reserved for just a handful of wonderful books.