Showing posts with label game design. Show all posts
Showing posts with label game design. Show all posts

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sick Days, New Year's Resolutions and Upcoming Books

Not feeling so hot today.  Some viral thing has been running through my home and at work, so I guess it was only a matter of time before it got me too.

This got me thinking about my New Year's Resolution.

Each year I try to resolve to do something new, or better, in the upcoming year.  I am happy to say I am usually pretty successful at keeping these.  This year was no different.

For 2017 I resolved to clear out a lot of the half-finished "Works in Progress" I have on my list.  Having five half-finished documents are not as good as having one finished one.  So you can see the fruits of my efforts this year with a new witch book out every six weeks so far. I also finished up a project for the DMsGuild and the Classic Modules Today group.


Now I don't want to burn out my audience so I am debating on whether or not my Summer Solstice book should be a "witch" book.  Oh if you think I don't have another witch book up my sleeves you haven't been paying attention here for long. ;)

Which gets me to today.
Since I am feeling kind of crappy I was digging around in my projects drive and found some docs I had written about the Healer Class. Actually, I have two; a Clerical healer and a Psychic healer.

The other projects I have are:

The Faerie Witch / Green Witch.  This is planned for the Summer Solstice.  It covers the Faerie Witch traditions as well as the Fey Pact Warlock.  I also will talk about "Grand Covens" and have more faerie creatures.  For Swords & Wizardry complete with conversion notes for Basic Era.

The White Witch. This is a simple book for playing good-aligned witches in Swords & Wizardry Whitebox.  Due out in August.

The Complete Necromancer. This is a much larger project. In addition to the Mara Tradition Witches and Death Pact Warlocks, I am going to comb through many OGC sources to provide a "complete" Necromancer class, an Undead Slayer class and a Death Priest. Some of the material in this book goes back to the beginning of my witch class.  This book will feature hundreds of spells and dozens, if not scores, of undead monsters.  It is a huge book.  I want to get it out for Halloween (natch) but not sure if I will get it all done.  Swords & Wizardry Complete / Basic Era.

The Healer.  Again this is a class that shares a genesis with the witch and necromancer. The Clerical Healer will have plenty of new spells and things to do. Plus rules on how to play a passivist character in a world of murder-hobos. The Psychic Healer will be similar but rely on psionic powers and manipulating chakras. Basic Era, no set date yet.

Space Truckers.  Ah. This one has been running around in my mind for years.  No witches. No magic. Think back to 1977, this is "Star Wars" meets "Smokey and the Bandit" meets "CHiPs".
An Ode to roadtrips and the strange alchemy that was the late 70s.  New classes, new races, new rules for short and long haul spacetrucks. For White Star.  No date yet, but this year is the 40th Anniversary of both "Star Wars" and "Smokey and the Bandit", so I should do it this year.

Below is a quick poll.  I am interested in hearing your thoughts.






Let me know what you think. I am on a ton of allergy drugs right now; who knows what you can convince me to do!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

All Star RPG Q&A #2

Tonight I am participating in Dan Davenport's All Star RPG Q&A #2.
Check his blog for a list of who is participating,
http://gmshoe.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/all-star-qa-2-lineup/

It will be tonight 7pm to 10pm Central time.
If you want to come by to ask me or anyone else questions then I would love to see you there.
http://tinyurl.com/rpgnet-audience

If you come by I am sure to say something about old school gaming, but I am also going to talk about horror games, Ghosts of Albion and Victorian games in general.

The last one I did was supposed to go for an hour and the questions kept me on for 3 instead!

So come on by!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Moving Day Finds

At my day job we are all moving up a floor in my department.  No I am not getting a bigger office, but I am also not getting a smaller one.  But I did find a notebook of things I had started working on during Gen Con 2010 and then when I was at the repair shop after we got hit.

Not sure what is in it, I saw some 4e material, what looks like some notes on The Witch, and some Savage Worlds stuff.  Looking forward to seeing what I have.

ETA: Seems to have some Cortex and Pathfinder stuff as well.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Star Trek RPGs

I was chatting a little bit with my buddy Greg on Star Trek RPGs.  He had mentioned while he love Trek he has yet to find an RPG that really captures that proper Trek feel.

I give Greg the benefit of the doubt on this one, he has played all the Trek RPGs out there and playtested a few more.  He has also played more SciFi games than I have.

Now I will admit that so far Starships & Spacemen 2e seems to fit the bill rather nicely, it's not perfect. In fact in my mind it even has a couple of potential problems, but I am not talking about that one today.

So let me ask you all.
What does a game need to have or do to be a "Star Trek" game? 
Any series is fine.  Any game is fine.  Just let me know why it works.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Modular D&D? Tell me more Mr. Cook.

Monte Cook has posted a little bit about the latest incarnation of D&D on WotC's site.

http://www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4ll/20120116

It seems, so far, that they are going to take a modular approach to the game system.  As a game designer and former computer programmer I find this a very interesting take and I am looking forward to more.

Extrapolating on this I can see the following set up:
D&D5 Basic - A basic box with all the rules you need to play. Basic classes, races and magic.
D&D5 Expert/Advanced - an addition to these rules that take the game into all sorts of directions. Added races, classes, prestige classes and the like.  Think of all the cool things from D&D Expert and the AD&D 1st ed DMG.
D&D5 Tactics - a miniature focused set of rules for players/DMs that want more definition in their combats.  Sure it makes the combats take longer, but that is the trade off.

Then splats similar to the current Heroes of the Feywild or Heroes of Shadow that expand certain "campaign free" areas of the world.

While reading the "lists of demands" in the 5e boards left feeling nothing but despair for the next edition, the official word from the actual designers is leaving me with more optimism.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition

The worst kept secret in the RPG biz is now out.

Players Roll the Dice for Dungeons & Dragons Remake

I'll have some thoughts on this in a bit.  But I am interested in how they are going to get the player input.

Here is the press release from WotC.
http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4ll/20120109

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Witches Three: 4e v. Pathfinder v. OSR

We are at an an interesting time in the history of D&D.  Today we have two games, but fun and great to play, that are the heir's of the legacy that is D&D.  The first is a direct descendant of the previous version with some of that version's best and brightest minds; Pathfinder.  The other bares the name, but is very different in structure and play, but no less fun and no less of an adventure: Dungeons & Dragons 4th Ed.  BUT that is not all, like buying two and getting the third for free we also have the large and chaotic mass that is called the OSR.  In it are many games that also claim rights to the throne.

I am not going to delve into the relative merits of one game or the other. Or even talk about play style or anything else.  Play the game you enjoy, the way you enjoy it.  Personally I like to play all of the above.

No today I want to drill down my attention on one thing in particular.  How the witch class is presented in the rules in these games.  For the first time we have what can amount to an "Official D&D Witch Class".

The 4e witch was just introduced in Heroes of the Feywild and the Pathfinder witch was introduced in the Advanced Players Guide.
For the moment I want to recuse myself from commenting too much on the OSR witches.  Both "The Witch" and "Eldritch Witchery" are off to editors, but still I don't think it would be the most proper thing to do.  That all being said I don't have issues commenting on these witches since a.) they have already been written and published and b.) all my ideas are already on "paper" and sent off, so I am not likely to change anything at this point.

So what do we have here?
Both the 4e and Pathfinder witches use Intelligence as their prime ability and the one tied to their spellcasting.
Both require the use of familiars to learn their spells.
Both can form covens for an added benefit or coven related benefits.  The 4e witch handles covens a bit like builds.  The Pathfinder witch can only join a coven with a hag.  I don't like that at all really.
Neither offer much right away in terms of higher level class options; ie no Paragon Paths (outside of the Legendary Witch) and no Prestige Classes.

The 4e witch, as mentioned previously, is a "type" of Wizard. This bugged me at first, but I got over it once I saw the advantages.
The Pathfinder witch is a base or core class.

The 4e powers are very much in line with charming, controlling and turning enemies into animals.  There are some "striker" like powers, but not many really.  The authors took care to make the distinction between Witch, Wizard and Warlock a lot clearer.

The Pathfinder Spells are similar, but lot are pulled from both the Arcane and Divine lists.  The Pathfinder witch with Hexes and a familiar gets an absolute ton of spells.  I'll need to go into detail on the Pathfinder witch on a later date.

I am using my checklist from Tom Moldvay as a means to identify how witchy these classes are, at least for a start.

Ability 4e Witch Pathfinder Witch Basic Witch
1. Ability to use Herbs skills skills ability check
2. The Power of Fascination powers spells spells
3. Clerical and Magic-User magic Yes Yes Yes
4. Sympathetic Magic limited to powers limited to spells new spell mechanic
5. Worshipers of forbiden religions yes yes yes
6. Powers based on natural cycles "Moon" builds no spells
7. Covens Yes only with hags Yes
8. Ritual Magic In PHB I only limited Yes

Based on that, the Pathfinder witch is a little short, but nothing that can't be fixed with role-playing and some supplements.  I do notice that Moldvay's list does not include the ability to use familiars.  I think that is rather important too.

I am getting a chance here in a bit to play some more of the 4e Witch so I'll know better how she plays out.  I am still looking for a chance to play the Pathfinder witch some more.

Negatives
Here is what I don't like about the classes.

4e Witch: There is still some confusion over the roles between a Witch and a Fey Pact Warlock.  Maybe this is on purpose.  Warlocks and Witches should have animosity towards each other and this could be where it comes from.
While it is nice that the Witch has some of the same options as does the Wizard, it also means the witch can take "Fireball" or "Lighting bolt" as spells.  Two very iconic wizard powers.

Pathfinder: I hate what they have done with covens for the Pathfinder Witch. It robs the witch of one of her key elements to be honest.  The hexes are cool, but some of them are too focused on curses and less on the other aspects of witches.
Where are the Prestige classes?

Both/Either:  Intelligence as a prime stat?  I can see why, but really it should be Wisdom or maybe Charisma. They supposed to be members of the craft of the wise.

In any case it is an embarrassment of riches. I am not sure if I'll ever have enough time to play the games I have now, let alone anything released in the future.  I like both of these classes and would love to see more for both of them.

It's a good time to be me! ;)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Modern Systems, Part 2

So.

I am burned out on Unisystem.  There are a few very good reasons that I just don't want to get into now, but the bottom line is the same.  I am burned out on it and what to try something else.

Not just play or run, but write about. Maybe even publish somethings for it.

I have had in my mind now for a while the idea that I want a game that would simulate modern supernatural/urban horror, and there are a lot of systems that can do this well, Unisystem at the top of the list really.  But I want to be able to do more with it and have something that I could if I choose, publish stuff for it.  So that rules out many of the systems that would otherwise be fine.
Also I want the focus of the game to change from "killing things and taking their stuff" or even "we are saving the world again, it must be Tuesday".

I am looking for something where people can play supernaturals or normal humans side by side with out too much of an issue.  A goal would be to have it be able to emulate any modern supernatural TV show or book you can think of.  Well, not Harry Potter, that is a different animal completely.

Here are my choices so far.

True20 - I am inordinately fond of this system.  It is easy. It is simple and it gets out of the way while playing.  I am not thrilled with levels, but I have an idea about that.  I have already done a lot of work with True20, both here and in some unpublished material that I can now use.  While it's support is also next to nothing and the fan base is thin, the rules are solid and I can use them thanks to the OGL.  Though one of the issues with True20 is that humans basically start at 1st level and a vampire or werewolf is much higher.  Plus there is no system of Drawback or Complications in True20 (though I have written one).

Fate/Fudge - Another open system with a lot of support.  I am just not overwhelmed with it.  I suppose I could go the route Icons did and use numbers.

ORCS - Jason Vey's system in Spellcraft & Swordplay. Flexible and has many advantages.  I would though end up making it look more like True20 in the end, which is why I put True20 on the list.

Mutants & Masterminds - Now this is an interesting choice.  Nearly everything I need is here.  The system is open and with Superlink I can even do more.  I would need to redo the magic systems a bit to be honest.  4Color/superhero magic and urban fantasy are not really the same.  It has the things I like in True20 and Orcs, plus it has a ton of support.

Savage Worlds - Not a fan of this system, even though it is good and has a ton of support as well.  Again, I'd need to redo the magic system to get it to my liking.

"Power of Three" - you have not heard of this one.  It is a system that I have been poking around with for a couple of years.  The name comes from the three basic abilities all the characters have, Body, Mind and Spirit.   Yeah similar to Tri-Stat, but the mechanics are different.  It is also based on the Charmed game I'd like to write one day.  Of course the system is perfect for what I want to do except for the little problem that it is not done.  It's not even in a playtestable shape yet. So much for that.

The one thing all these games have though is the means to support a lot of mini-campaigns or min-campaign worlds.
Here is what I have in mind. This is not all of them, nor are these even set in stone.

Generation HEX - the most developed of the three mini-worlds. Lower powered, kids in a magic high-school

Ordinary World - Supernatural creatures trying to live in modern suburbia and trying to blend in.  That doesn't always work so well.

Power of Three - My "Charmed/Witches of Eastwick/Rachel Morgan" homage.  Witches saving the world.

Daughters of Death - The children of the old gods are walking the earth again and not all of them have humanities interests in mind.  This includes the stats for the eponymous daughters.

Each world then would have additional rules to support their respective views.  So Gen HEX would need to scaled for magic school high jinks (Jinx High?), Ordinary World would need rules for hiding powers and suggestions for stories to tell.

One thing though, I am going to avoid using Lovecraft/Cthulhu type stories or monsters.  The exact thing that he was trying to do the werewolves, vampires and ghosts of a past age have now been done to his creations.

I'll keep thinking about this.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Heartbreaker your time has come, can't take your evil way

I have talked before about the Fantasy Heartbreaker.
Fantasy games that attempt to "improve on" D&D but in the end break your heart.

Here is the Ron Edwards/The Forge standard definition. (circa 2002-3)
characterized by (1) the basic, imaginative content is "fantasy" using gaming, specifically D&D, as the inspirational text; (2) independently published as a labor of love, essentially competing directly with D&D in the marketplace; (3) the rules are similar to the majority of pre-1990s RPGs.
And some links:
Fantasy Heartbreakers
More Fantasy Heartbreakers

reviewed a couple in the past and made a number of posts about one of my favorite ones, Quests of the Ancients.

I was going through my stacks of books (and PDFs) to figure what I had and what I should look to buy at the most recent Gen Con and came on a bunch of what could be called Fantasy Heartbreakers.

I have no idea why these games fascinate me so much.
I *could* claim it is an academic interest that the design of these game reflects either the personal psychic of the designer or the inherent zeitgeist of the times.  But in truth, I don't care enough about the first and the later can be better observed in better more popular games. (Thesis topic: Is the change from oWoD to nWod a direct reflection of the post 9/11 world or merely an attempt to make more money? Another post perhaps.)

I *could* claim that each one is a fascinating game evolutionary cul-de-sac, but that is often giving them too much credit.

I think I like them because each one is insight to someone else's process of writing a game.  A flawed process from a flawed premise.  The flawed premise is "I can make a better D&D than D&D" rather than "I can make a better FPRG than D&D".  I say it is flawed because D&D is the best D&D there is.  There are great FRPGs that are not D&D and they do a wonderful job.But the FHB does not try to be a fantasy game, it tries to be D&D.

There is one thing I always find interesting in FHB's, their "Appendix N" or list of books to read.
Sometimes, rare times, there are good tidbits here.  Most of the time it is a bunch of pretentious posturing of "ooo look what I have read! You read it now to or you are stupid!"
I get putting in Lovecraft (if you have actually read his stuff and not just the bits with Cthulhu), Howard and Poe.  But "Walden", really???  How is transcendental thought going to help me in my game of mass murder and theft (killing things and taking their stuff).  I am going to put list John Dewey (a major figure in my academic life) in one of my books one day JUST so someone will call me on my shit.
Seriously.  The one-up-manship in these is crazy sometimes. In others I am convinced they never actually read the books they mention since the bulk of their game so antithetical to the writings of the author they listed.

But I digress...

Before I go on too much more let's get to today's post.

What are your favorite (or least favorite) Fantasy Heartbreakers?

and

What is the state or role of the FHB in this post OGL, retro-cloned world?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Once upon there was Irish ways and Irish laws.

One of my WIPs that is very close to my heart is a game of playing mythic Ireland.

Éire (also sometimes called Ériu in my notes) has been in my notes for many, many years and the system has changed based on what I have felt best suited it.  Presently, and likely to be the final version, uses the ORCS system seen in Jason Vey's Spellcraft and Swordplay game.  I chose that over say straight OD&D or some other clone because I like the feel of the game and it has some DNA in it that I really like.

Well the game has languished in the hell of my hard drive since the dawn of the d20 system.  But last night I got inspiration from an unexpected source.

I was working with my son last night on his research paper on Ireland.  We talked about the the Blight, the Troubles and even went back a bit to talk about St. Patrick and my personal favorite Finn MacCool.  After telling him the story of the Salmon of Knowledge my son (whose name is Liam by the way) looked at me and said "this would make an awesome D&D game."

So I am rereading all my notes.  Marveling at some, and wondering what the hell I was thinking with others.
No idea when I'll have it done.  But I feel I should get it done soon.  If for nothing else for my boys Liam and Connor, so they can learn a bit of their own heritage too.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Horror is a matter of tone

Quick question.  Which movie is scarier, The Shining or Mary Poppins?
Have an answer?
Are you sure?

Watch these movie trailers then and come back.  You may already seen these.

Shining
Mary Poppins

Horror games are like that.

There is a theory out there on the net (I think I first read it at Krell Laboratories)  that if you take the final girl of horror films and turn her into an ass kicking male then you have an action film. The converse is also true.  Take an ass kicking hero and depower him, or put him is a situation he can't control then you have the start of horror.

The recent trend in books has been the Modern/Urban Fantasy.  You take the tropes of horror and make them into a fantasy story.  Vampires are not hideous monsters, they are different now. Same with witches, werewolves and all sorts of beings that just a few of decades ago were creatures of horror.  We can't blame the Twilight crowd for this, this dates back to even long before Anne Rice and Lestat.  Dracula, was still a monster, but a sexualized one.  Movie Dracula even more so.

What does this mean for games?

Nearly any game can be horror.

D&D has always had a strong undercurrent of horror. Fantasy and Horror have always shared a link.    So often times you can turn a fantasy game into a horror game with something as subtle as the presentation.

The Ravenloft setting had a great example of this.  In D&D you if you go up against a kobold it is described as a sort of reptilian humanoid.  In a horror game it is some foul combination of human, reptile and dog the size of a child, but with murder in it's eyes and blood on it's lips.

I think it is this tone that attracts me most to horror.  I like the tropes, but take the same tropes and given the hero a lot of guns and well there is the action flick again.  "Underworld" is action adventure, "Silence of the Lambs" is horror.

I try to do this in my games as much as possible, but I try not to over do it.  Even the scariest horrors become yawn worthy after to many repeated occurrences.

Some of my favorite books that helped me the most as a GM and author are Nightmares of Mine, Chill, Vampire the Masquerade (oWoD, for personal horror), and Call of Cthulhu.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Houri for Basic D&D


A few posts back I mentioned the Houri class as a follow-up to the posts at Dangerous Brian.


http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2010/12/houri-class.html
http://dangerousbrian.blogspot.com/2010/11/new-osric-class-houri-part-i.html
http://dangerousbrian.blogspot.com/2010/11/new-character-class-houri-part-ii.html


The class is an update of the Houri class from White Dwarf #13 by Brian Asbury back in June of 1979.

In my discussion I felt that the class had certain qualities to it that would work as a race as well as a class. Well since I have been experimenting with Basic D&D of late I thought I would give this a try. 


 Since this based on the work of others it is NOT released as part of the OGL. 
 
The Houri Class



The Houri is the offspring of a human or elf and a nymph. Nymphs are known for their unearthly beauty and lascivious natures so the offspring of a chance liaison with an attractive human or elven male is not only expected, but often the way of things. Most of these children are nymphs themselves and continue their lives with their mothers. Every so often though, a child is born that is not wholly nymph. She is not wholly mortal either, but finds a way to live in the world of mortals. Such a creature is known as a Houri.

The typical houri appears as a very attractive female human with elven features, or as an elf with something human about her. Many will claim to be "half-elfs" to avoid any confusion about their racial make up. The houri knows a bit of magic, not as much as a full magic-user or elf and she knows a bit of thief skills, but the main power of the houri comes from her powers of seduction. The Houri has a natural Charm Person like ability that is modified by her own preternatural Charisma.



(*Whitewitch by Tommie Lejis, http://www.elfwood.com/~tommie)


Minimum Ability Scores: Cha 15, Dex 10, Int 10

Hit Dice Type: d4 (maximum level 11)

Alignment: Any

Experience Bonus: Dex and Cha both 15+

Armour/Shield Permitted: Leather Armour and Small shield (which often features in certain erotic dances) only.

Weapons Permitted: Dagger, Concealed Pin, Flaming Oil, Scimitar (again, all used in certain performances)


LevelTitle
XP Required
Hit dice (d4)Special123456
1Novice
0
1Seduction1-----
2Flirt
1,200
2Thief 12-----
3Charmer
2,400
331----
4Allurer
4,800
4Thief 232----
5Temptress
9,600
5431---
6Enchantress
20,000
6Thief 3532---
7Vixen
40,000
75431--
8Courtesan
80,000
8Thief 46532--
9Seductress
160,000
965431-
10Houri
260,000
10Thief 566532-
11Nymph
360,000
11765431

 

HOURI SAVING THROWS
Level
1-4
5-8
9-10
11
Death Ray or Poison
12
10
8
6
Magic Wands
13
11
9
6
Paralysis or Turn to Stone
13
11
9
5
Dragon Breath
15
12
9
7
Rods, Staffs and Spells
15
12
9
6

 

CHARACTER HIT ROLLS (on 1d20)
Level
Target's Armor Class
Houri9876543210-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9
1-410111213141516171819202020202021222324
5-8891011121314151617181920202020202122
9-106789101112131415161718192020202020
1145678910111213141516171819202020

Special Abilities


Seduction: the Houri may attempt to seduce a single humanoid of the opposite sex or aligned sexual orientation as per the Charm Person spell. The seduction may only focus on one person and their saving throw is penalized by -1 for every level of the Houri. So for example a 6th level houri would impose a -6 to the target's saving throw vs Spells. The seduction is not a spell, but rather a natural spell like ability of the houri.



Thief: At 2nd level and every other level after the houri can use thieves' skills as a thief half her level. The skills are mundane and still require the proper tools.



Spells: The houri may cast spells as per a Magic-user or Elf. Her spells though are more limited in nature and are listed here. Houri record their spells in a spell-book as do magic-users. Note: A houri may also use cantrips if the Game Master allows them. Houri gain bonus cantrips based on her Charisma score rather than intelligence.


As a Monster

Houri
Armor Class: 9
Hit dice: 1*
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: 1 Weapon
Damage: By Weapon (typically 1d4)
No. Appearing: 1 / 1-2
Save As: Elf 1
Morale: 10
Treasure: Same as Nymph
Intelligence: 10
Alignment: Neutral
XP Value: 10

Monster Type: Demihuman (race)
The Houri are the offspring of a nymph and a human or elf.  There are fey creatures, but the more mortal ones choose to join the worlds of humans and elves.
A Houri can cast Charm Person any number of times a day, but can only have one charmed "thrall" at a time.

Houri that are closer to their elven parent are sometime indistinguishable from other elves.  Houri's are often found with Gypsy Elves whether their lineage includes elf or not.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Leverage RPG is now out

The new Leverage RPG from MWP is now out in PDF.

http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_info.php?products_id=85727&affiliate_id=10748

Like Smallville and other games from MWP, this uses a variant of the Cortex rule system.  The system in Leverage is a streamline version designed to focus on what Leverage the TV show does best, crime and con games.  So there is not the complexity of character building as you see in Smallville.

What is most interesting about this is that it really opens up the system to different types of play.  You are no longer "killing things and taking their stuff", you are pulling a con...and taking their stuff.

What appealed to me right away is that with some tweaks you could run any type of Law and Order or CSI style game right away.  Given the proliferation of these types of shows that would have some appeal.

So far I like the rules quite a bit even though I know nothing of the show it is based on.  I do miss the classic skills listing though.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

B/X Companion is Mine!

I had this cool plan of doing some 4E writing tonight.  A couple of things that have been stewing in the back of my head.  That is till I came home to this:


Yes that is the B/X Companion in all her glory.  The product I think I have been waiting for for close to 30 years.  Sure I have had books that have covered the same ground, and books that made this book obsolete, but somewhere, deep in my psyche there is still that 12 year old version of me wishing he could take his cleric to 15th level.  

The B/X Companion does not disappoint.  Let me just say that if this isn't exactly how it was going to be, then I'd be hard pressed to know what it would have been.  I am reading through it all now and I am purposefully NOT comparing it to the BECMI version of the Companion rules.  Maybe later, maybe even later but before this is posted.  But right now I only want to compare it to the B/X books of which is it is, well, a companion too.


The cover of course is very much part of the original scheme.  The three principle characters, the fighter and the two wizards (or maybe she is a cleric, that could be a "light" spell, though she has a torch too) stand in front of their followers.  They braved the dungeon, the wilderness and now they are ready for the next adventure.  So are we.

For those of us that grew up with the Moldvay/Cook Basic and Expert sets, the Companion book feels very familiar.  The layout is similar, the flow is similar and even the art has a familiar feel.  If you own the Basic or Expert books then finding something in the Companion book is trivial.  I turned right to the character rules and took a glance at all the tables.  Yes sir they run from 15 to 36, just like promised.  Clerics still top out at 7th level spells, but eventually they get 9 of them.  Wizards still go to 9th level, and get 9 of those too.
Fighters get more attacks per round (as they should) and thieves get more abilities.

There are plenty of new spells here.  Many look like they take their inspiration from the products that came after, the Player's Handbook or the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, but nothing is an out right copy.  It does have the feel like Becker sat around one day and thought, what are some good spells and what level should they be.

There new monsters and advanced versions of some others.  The Greater Vampire nearly made me laugh out loud as I had done the exact same thing after reading and playing the Expert book for so long.  My Greater Vampire was a photocopy of Ptah from Deities and Demigods with some fangs drawn in.  I never claimed to be an artist.  Te monsters all seem to be appropriate for the levels, though a few more in the 30 HD range might have been nice, but not really needed.

The BIG additions here though are the ones that were most "advertised" back in the day. 
Running a High Level Game  is great advice for ANY edition of the game.  It gives this book the same place as say, the Epic Level Handbook for D&D 3.0 or even the Epic Tier for D&D 4.  Chances are very, very good I'll be using the B/X Companion in my next D&D 4 game in fact.

Related are running a domain and running large armies.  Battlesystem would later give us these rules for AD&D, but here they are much simpler to use.  Again, something to consider to port over to other versions of the game.

I loved the new magic items and can never get enough of those.  I also liked the part on the planes and how it is totally left up to design of the DM.  I wonder how many people out there will re-invent the Gygaxian Great Wheel for their B/X/C games?

Others have reviewed this book already and my insights won't add or subtract to those.  A particularly insightful one is by James over at Grognardia.  I concur with a lot of what he had to say, with the possible exception of his take on demi-humans and frankly I have no idea what I would have done in Becker's place as I am not fond of level limits or even demi-humans as classes.  That being said lets put this product in context.

I would have liked thicker covers to be honest. This book I am afraid will not wear so well.  I would also LOVE to have it as a PDF.  I don't bring a lot of books to the table anymore, I bring a laptop.  So can you hear me JB!  Sell me a PDF! :)

Companion to Basic/Expert Rules
Obviously this is where it works the best.  But there is something here that I don't think others have tapped into just yet.  Companion makes the Moldvay/Cook rules a complete game.  With these three books you now have a complete D&D game.  The only thing really missing is a "C1" module or maybe a BXC one.

Companion to Labyrinth Lord/Basic Fantasy
The new Becker Companion has a lot it owes to Labyrinth Lord (LL) and Basic Fantasy (BFRPG).  While maybe not directly, these two games showed that there is a market out there for "Basic" styles of play.  Both LL and BFRPG take the modern 1-20 level limit for human classes.  Companion is 15 to 36.  So some adjustments need to be made.  There are a few differences in the how each of these books calculate XP per level, and how they do spells.  But nothing so complicated that a a good DM couldn't figure out.  
Personally if I were playing a LL/BFRPG game, I'd go to 15th level and then switch over to B/X Companion. for the next levels to 36.  OR even go to 20 and use B/X Companion as a guide to levels 30 or even 36.
Frankly the homebrewiness of it all has me very excited for anyone that has decided to throw their lot in with "Basic" D&D.

The B/X Companion vs. the BECMI Companion
Ok, I know I said above I wasn't going to do this, but after re-reading James's post over at Grognardia and his post on the Mentzer Companion I felt it was worth a look.
Now I am no expert on the Mentzer era of the rules.  I had moved to AD&D by the time they were out and I never owned them.  I picked up the Rules Cyclopedia a while back and got all the BECMI boxes on PDF back when Wizards sold them on DriveThru.
Both Companions cover similar ground.  The spell progressions and XP look about the same (given that they use simple math, no surprise).   The BECMI Companion only goes to 25th level, not 36 like the B/X Companion. The BECMI Companion generally speaking has more detail than the B/X one, but that is not really a nitpick since the abstraction of the rules in B/X is greater to allow more with less; just like the B/X books it was modeled after.  

Final Tally
I like this book. A lot.  It makes me want to pull out my ratty Basic and Expert books and play Moldvay/Cook era Basic D&D again.   In the mean time, I think I'll just have to satisfy myself with converting some D&D 3.0 or 4e characters over to Companion,  just for the fun of it.

One thing that did disappoint me though was the lack of the OGL.  There is a lot of really cool stuff here and it could be shared.  I suppose that something like this, talking to Johnathan Becker is always the best the way to go.  



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