Well, it certainly lives up to it's hype and to it's predecessor the B/X Companion (BXC). Though there is no emotional investment on this one for me. I waited for the B/X Companion for almost 30 years. I waited for this one for only about a year or less.
I am going to make comparisons of it to B/X Companion AND to the old Bard Games "Compleat Adventurer" series (Adventurer, Spellcaster, Alchemist). I think both comparisons are fair. The first is obvious, but the second I want to explain. It is obvious in the construction that this book owes a lot to those previous books. The author, Jonathan Becker, acknowledges this in his Introduction. I did the same with the first book on Witches I ever wrote back in 1999, so I might be predisposed to like this.
There is also a feel to this book that reminds me of the later Bard Games books, The Arcanum and the Atlantis series.
In all three cases the books provide additional classes, spells and magic with additional rules that can be added with little effort to your game. We saw something similar from the official D&D books in the Unearthed Arcana books.
But getting on with the review proper.
The physical book is now perfect bound, not stapled, and it comes in at 62 pages. The cover doesn't try to invoke any other old-school product I am aware of, but I could be wrong. This is a good thing really since it should have it's own identity. BXC very much wanted to invoke the images of the old Basic and Expert sets.
Table of Contents is on a page, not the inside cover.
|Ready to play!|
First up we have charts on random head gear. While this section is very good, it feels completely random. Not in terms of the tables, but why does the book lead off with this? I would have made this an appendix or part of a later chapter. Oddly enough the class table does not include any of the new classes in this book. Move this to the back in future printings I say. This follows with class exceptional traits. Also very cool. This one would belong here, but I would have put it after all the new classes. Again, this does not have all the new classes listed. Sure use the sub-class idea with Witches as a type of Magic-User. Follwing this firearms. Again move to equipment. I might not ever use this, but my son wants too (he read the book before I did).
Next up are all the classes. These are the gems of the book in my eye. The classes get about a page each. So this will be nice to print out the PDF pages and re-org as needed. The classes are Acrobat, Archer, Barbarian, Bard, Beastmaster, Bounty Hunter, Centaur, Duelist, Gnome, Mountebank, Mystic, Ogre-Kin, Scout, Summoner, Tattoo Mage, Witch, and Witch Hunter.
The classes are about what you would expect if you have been in this game for a number of years, but they have their twists. The gnome, centaur and ogre-kin are obviously race-classes in the Basic/Expert style. The Summoner is really cool. You summon creatures to do your magic for you. So part demonologist, part Pokemon trainer! (ok ok) only really awesome about it. It is one of the neatest takes I have seen on this ill-used fantasy archetype. I will discuss the witch and the witch-hunter in detail in a bit.
This is followed by all the new spells that these classes need. It's a good amount, taking up the remaining 20 pages of the book. The spells are of a good sort and there are a lot of them here.
The art is good and similar in style to BXC, sharing a couple of the same artists. Each class gets an art piece (another similarity to the Bard Compleat books) but the spells doesn't get much if any. That is too bad since the art is generally very good.
Again I think I would have put some the beginning material in the back to focus on the classes more.
But I really enjoy all these classes and I think that for my kids old-school AD&D game I would let them choose from this as a possible source. I can see my youngest wanting to play an Acrobat and my oldest a Bounty Hunter. I would some tips I have written in the past about converting "Basic" classes to "Advanced" ones, but honestly there is not much here I would change.
Another thought is that most of these classes are stated out to 14th level. This makes them perfect, obviously, for pure Basic/Expert style D&D. But there is something else they would work well with, ACKS.
In fact I have mentioned before how well BXC would work in extending ACKS. Well now you can use the TCBXA as an add on to ACKS. These two games have different purposes in life, but they fit together rather nicely, and this gives you some new classes to play around with till ACKS Player's Companion is out.
NOW all we need is Jonathan to give us a B/X Companion boxed set. It can include the B/X Companion, the CBXA, and a brand new module. I think that would be great!
Crafting spells. The witch does not memorize a spell, but she does have a limit on how many she knows. The witch needs both a high intelligence (to know the spell) and a high wisdom (to learn and scribe it down in the first place). So a first level witch with a high Intelligence knows 1+Int mod 1st level spells. She can also scribe spells of 1st level + how ever many extra levels equal to her Wisdom mod. I like it. It is a nice quick way to know what can be done. In fact I would like to use that for clerics since gods should know ahead of time what spells their flock need and then they just give them to the cleric at that time.
For the witch though I would reverse it. Intelligence to write or scribe the spell and Widsom to know how many they can cast. Witches are often called the "Craft of the Wise" afterall. But all in all I like it.
10th level witch spells are nothing at all to sneeze at. This is a powerful witch class.
The 10th level spells are a nice solution to the "Coven spells"/"Powerful magic" vs independent witches. I can't see too many witch covens in groups. Maybe two or three at a time. With what JB has done here is given us a way to have powerful magics in groups at lower levels and keep those same magics out of the hands of solitary witches till much later. This then does not make them a more attractive solution over Wizards/Magic Users.
If you are going to have witches then you should have witchhunters. The ones here are fairly straight forward but they have some nice features. I like that they get magic, but not as spells but powers. Sure you could do a multi-classed Cleric-Ranger, but this is B/X not 3.x. I'd like to give this witchhunter a spin sometime.
If you enjoyed BXC or even Basic/Expert or other Old School play then this is a great buy. If you enjoy old school play but are sticking with your clone of choice then I still say get this. Look at the class list above and decide if any of those sound interesting to you.
I like it and I recommend it.
I'll stat up a witch after a bit and compare her to other OSR witches.