Monday, June 22, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Sasquatch (BECMI Special)

I am continuing my BECMI posting all month.
Saturday was the first day of Summer for 2020 and Summer and June usually meant one thing in my house back in 1983.  The local Public Library's Summer Reading program!

When I was younger I devoured books on monsters, aliens and all sorts of strange creatures.
I have detailed my interactions with some of these books that I was able to find more recent as an adult elsewhere here on my blog.

But today is special.  Today is the confluence of a number of topics in a perfect way.  Today I will post my review of the BECMI Master's set.  It is summer. It is a Monster Monday.  What better monster for today than the one that is really at the root of my monster love.

Bigfoot, or the Sasquatch.

Around the same time I was getting into D&D we also subscribed to Showtime, one of the first cable channels out.  The film Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot was on heavy rotation on the channel then (that and Smokey and the Bandit). It was a pseudo-documentary, but it really set the stage for some of the games I would later play; the monster naturalist.

Here is a sasquatch I developed originally in 1986-87.  I used these stats later to develop the Almasti for Ghosts of Albion later on.

Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 6*
Move: 180' (60')
Attacks: 2 fists or rock throw
Damage: 6-11 (1d6+5) / 6-11 (1d6+5) or 7-21 (2d8+5)
No. Appearing: 0 (1-10)
Save As: Fighter: 5
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: Nil
Alignment: Neutral
XP Value: 500

The sasquatch, also known as the "Bigfoot", is a large humanoid creature.  It is neither human, orc or even an ogre.  The creature is elusive and extremely shy. Very little is known about the creatures and most urban scholars doubt they even exist.

What is known is this. The sasquatch ranges from 7' to 9' tall, and weighing between 650lbs to 1,000lbs.  They have long torsos, long arms with massive hands, shorter legs but large feet which gives them their name.  They are strong, 22 Strength, have dark brown, reddish or black fur like that of an ape.  What is often most remarked about them is their strong odor which gives them their other common name, the "skunk ape." 

The sasquatch can blend into surroundings making them difficult to spot. They can only be seen on a roll of "1" on a d20.  Their odor makes it difficult for them to completely surprise. They can only surprise on a roll of 5 or 6 on a d6.

They are normally non-aggressive, preferring to hide, and stay away from all others save their own family units.  If pressed they will attack, or if they feel their family unit is in danger.

The sasquatch can attack with two fists or throw boulders, much like a giant.  The sasquatch can also howl.  This howl causes fear (as per the spell) to all that hear it who fail a saving throw vs. Paralysis.  Those that fail the save are too frightened to attack or move.


I mentioned here before that my "first monster manual" was by Daniel Cohen and not Gary Gygax.

This plus my Moldvay set keep me going for a very long time.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

GAZ 3 The Principalities of Glantri Print on Demand

BECMI Month continues here at The Other Side with an early Father's Day gift for me.

The Principalities of Glantri, Print on Demand version.

I reviewed the PDF and my original print version some time ago, so if you want to check that out it is here.

The PoD is fantastic really, and great to have since this is the one Gazetteer that sees the most use out of all my Basic-era books.

My original signed by Bruce Heard.

The original Gaz 3 cost $8.95 back in 1987.  This one set me back $7.66. 

Yeah, no shipping since it is part of a multi-shipment.  Part two should be here next week. I hope so, I have a lot to say about that one.

The maps are attached to the spine, so not as useful as they could be, but getting the PDF is part of the PoD, so I can always print them out if I don't want to use my originals. 

For the price being able to put up my original and have one I can use daily if needed is a steal really.

Each PoD has been getting better and better. This one seems to be best so far.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Friday Night Videos: Summer of 1985

I will remember to this one right!

So continuing with the music of the time when the BECMI sets were new here is some music from 1985!

I created this playlist last year to celebrate the start of Stranger Things Season 3. Which, truth be told, has done a lot to get people back into D&D.

So here are the songs from then.

Character: Magnus Ulslime, the Chaotic. Death Pact Warlock (BECMI Special)

Last week I talked about the adventure Quagmire for the Expert set.  Earlier I talked about the adventure Death's Ride for the Companion set.  What do these both have in common?  They were the genesis points of a reoccurring bad guy in my games, Magnus Ulslime, the Chaotic.

Magnus, as he was most often known in my games, is not just an awesome reoccurring bad guy, he was my testbed for all sorts of evil, death-priest, warlock style characters.

Anytime a new version of D&D would come around I would roll up a new Johan Werper as the son of the previous one, either as a LG Cleric or Paladin.  I'd attempt to make a version of Larina.  And I would make a version of Magnus.  But unlike Johan, who is a different character each time but always a LG holy warrior, or Larina who was a reincarnation of her previous version and always a witch, Magnus was always something different.  I would always go with the class that would give me the best evil traits.  In Basic he was a evil Cleric. In AD&D1 a Death Master, in 2nd Ed he started out as a Druid and then became a Necromancer.  When I switch over to 100% Ravenloft in my college years the cover of Ship of Horror and the evil necromancer Meredoth also had a huge influence on me.  As it turns out Meredoth would be revealed as an expatriate of the Mystaran country of Alphatia.
In 3rd Ed...well there were some many choices that I eventually made 6 different versions.  You can see some of that in my Buffy adventures The Dark Druid and The Dead of Night.  In 4e I used him as a test of the Death Pact Warlock that never saw the light of day under 4e.  It did, however, affect the writing I did for my warlock books.

Magnus Ulslime became my poster boy for warlocks soon after I got a copy of 4e.
I tried him out in several different ways mixing in bits of cleric, wizard, and especially necromancer.
In my Strange Brew: Warlock book for Pathfinder I introduce both Cthonic and Death Pact warlocks.  I expand on those ideas from a different point of view in my more recent book, The Warlock for Old-School Essentials.  In both cases, I made Magnus a Death Pact warlock.  It was a much better representation of how I saw the character.  He made a trade to Death for more power in the mortal world.

Magnus for BECMI
If I rerun Death's Ride again for any version of the game I'd like to replace Ulslime the Cleric with Magnus Ulslime the Warlock.  For 3rd to 5th Edition of D&D this is not a big deal.  But BECMI does not have a warlock.

No. But Old-School Essentials and Swords & Wizardry do.

My warlock for Old-School Essentials is a B/X style warlock with Death Pacts.  But it only goes to 14th level.  My warlock for Swords & Wizardry goes to 20th level (the level I want Magnus at) but it doesn't have Death pacts.  No problem. I designed the books to work together like this.  By combining them I can get the exact warlock I want.  If I need more death or necromancy themed spells

Magnus Ulslime, the Chaotic
20th level Death Pact Warlock
Lodge: Sixth Circle, Masters of the Undying

Str: 10
Int: 18
Wis: 16
Dex: 10
Con: 15
Cha: 18

HP: 66
AC: 2 (mage armor, phantom shield, ring +2)

Invocations (10)
Arcane Blast, Agonizing Blast, Armor of Shadows, Aura of Fear, Claws of the Ghoul, Eldritch Sight, Form of the Undead Horror, Mask of Many Faces, The Wasting, Whispers of the Grave

Cantrips (6): Aura Reading, Daze, Detect Curse, Mend, Message, Object Reading
1st level (7): Arcane Dart, Corpse Servent, Häxen Talons, Feel My Pain, Mage Armor, Phantom Shield, Taint
2nd level (7): Augury, Aura of Chaos, Corpse Walking, Death Knell, Grasp of the Endless War, Speak with the Dead, Ward of Harm
3rd level (6): Bestow Curse, Black Lightning, Cackling Skull, Corpse Candle, Lifesteal, Rage
4th level (6): Animate Dead, Crystal Visions, Extend Spell (Lesser), Fear, Spell Storing, Undead Compulsion
5th level (6): Bad Luck (Run of Bad Luck), Death CandleDeath Curse, Dreadful Bloodletting, Song of the Night, Winds of Limbo

Magic items: Amulet of Chaos, Pentacle Rod, Ring of Protection +2, Staff of the Warlock,

Not too bad really.  I might have to go more "BECMI" and raise him to 25th or 36th level!

While I am playing around, here is a 5th Edition version to use in my 5e Converted Death's Ride.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Retrospective, Review and Refit: CM2 Death's Ride (BECMI)

Ah.  Death's Ride.  I have such fond memories of this adventure.

CM2 Death's Ride: Retrospective
Death's Ride is one of a few adventures I have had the privilege to both play in and to run. While overtly for the D&D Basic rules, Companion set, it can be run (and we did) under AD&D. Though some of the special features were lost I think.

I bought this module and gave it to my DM to run back in the day and I ran it using the 3.x version of the D&D rules and then again most recently using the 5th Edition rules.

The Barony of Two Lakes Vale gave us ample room to move about and try different things, but then it was the NPCs that captured my attention the most. Ulslime, Wazor, and Korbundar lived on in my games for many more years with both Ulsime and Korbundar even threatening my players in the 3rd Ed. game. One, and I am not sure if he was an NPC in the game or one my DM made up, went on to torture my characters for many more adventures after this.

The Death Portal was an interesting bit of necromantic trickery to get the players something to focus on and the new monsters were a lot of fun (the Death Leech nearly took out my characters back in the 80s.)

But before I wax too much more into nostalgia, let's review this adventure proper.

CM2 Death's Ride: Review
by Garry Spiegle, art by Jeff Easley, 32 pages, color covers, black & white interior art.
I am reviewing both the DriveThruRPG PDF and my original copy from 1984.

Death's Ride is one of our first Companion level adventures.  The code for this series in CM, since C was already taken.  Both CM1 Test of the Warlords (with it's Warduke-like cover) and CM2 Death's Ride were designed to be introductions to Companion level play. Both were supposedly designed to work with each other, both being set in Norwold.  However, they really don't work together other than this thin thread of Norwold.  That does not detract from its enjoyment.

The basic premise is this.

The adventurers, already powerful and famous in their own right, are summoned to the Barony of Twolakes Vale by King Ericall of Norwold (Background on King Ericall is given in Companion adventure CM1.) The local baron, Sir Maltus Fharo, has sent no taxes, caravans, or messages in several months. A small body of troops sent by the king to investigate has not returned. At this time, Ericall doesn't have the resources to send a large body of troops, so he is asking the characters to go to the barony, find out what's wrong, and if possible, restore contact. The king gives the characters a royal warrant and permission to act in his name.

The problem is much worse than the King suspects. A gateway to the “Sphere of Death” has been opened in Two Lakes Vale. It's up to the characters to determine who or what opened the gate. They must also close the gate forever. The characters should not actually enter the Sphere of Death in this adventure; their goal is to close the gate. Twolakes Vale holds only an inflow portal from the sphere. Consider any character who actually reaches the Sphere of Death as killed (or at least removed from the campaign until other characters can launch a formal rescue operation).

Here they will encounter death, destruction and our three main Antagonists. Wazor an "Atlantean Mage", Ulslime a cleric of "Death" and our cover boy Korbundar the huge blue dragon.  No, the skeleton riding him does not appear anywhere in this adventure. Nor does the lake of fire.

By the way. Which one do you think is Wazor and which one is Ulslime?
The adventure proceeds on a location-based adventure.  The characters move from location to location in the Twolakes Vale, which is described well except for where it is exactly in Norwold, finding clues, fighting enemies. Until the final confrontation and destruction of the artifact (the "deathstone") opening the Sphere of Death. Of course, you need another artifact to do that.

The NPCs are very detailed and out trio of bad-guys are so much fun that both Ulslime and Korbundar were made into semi-permanent NPCs of note in my games.    It got to the point where my kids would be like "Is that Korbundar!!" anytime a blue dragon was used in a game.

The other issue with this adventure, and one that was lost on me until recently, is that is doesn't really fully feel like something from the Companion Set.  It has been described, by most notably by Jonathan Becker at B/X Blackrazor, that this adventure really runs like a high-level Expert set adventure.  A wilderness hex with various points within the hex that need to be investigated.
There are some of the new monsters in the adventure, but when I played it and ran through it we substituted the monsters from AD&D/D&D3 as the case required.  There are Wrestling Ratings to the monsters and a chance to raise an army, but nothing about domains or ruling kingdoms.
Of course, this would all come later on in the CM adventures, so I guess that is not too big of a deal.

Calling it a "High-level dungeon crawl" or "High-level Expert Set Adventure" is fair, but it leaves out a lot of what made this particular adventure so much fun. I still have my original copy of this and it holds up well.   So despite the criticisms of it as a "Companion Adventure", it is still a very fun "D&D Adventure" and one that holds up.

CM2 Death's Ride: Refit
I have no idea how much I paid for my copy of Death's Ride when it first came out. How much were modules back then? $5? $8?  Whatever it was I certainly got my money's worth. (the consensus online is $6.)

Back in 1985-5 when I went through as a player we used AD&D 1st Ed rules.  Seemed like the logical thing to do.  We stuck it on the end of this huge campaign that also included H4.

When I would later run it again in college it became part of my big "Ravenloft is From Mystara" deal and I ran it under AD&D 2nd Ed.   It usually became the gateway characters used to leave Ravenloft and come back into their normal world.

Now I am setting up to run it again, this time using the 5th Edition Rules.

For that, I joined the Classic Modules Today group and did the 5th edition conversion.

I had a great time not only converting the adventure and creatures, but getting a chance to re-do Wazor, Ulslime, and Korbundar as 5th edition characters.  It was a struggle I have to admit not to include *my* versions of them and instead play them by the book.

In the conversion guide I mention where I would place the adventure in the Forgotten Realms (something we all did) and how it could connect to others.  For me I saw this as a nice Coda to the Out of the Abyss adventure.

Characters will complete Out of the Abyss at roughly the same level characters would need to be to start Death’s Ride. The adventure can be seen as either as some last-ditch effort by Orcus to open a portal in the Realms in which to invade or as a means of flooding the area with undead.

This flows from both my using Death's Ride as part of an Orcus/Realms take-over (Module H4) and my connections to Ravenloft as a portal.

I might not have know the Companion Set very well, but there is at least one Companion level adventure I do know.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Class Struggles: The BECMI Prestige Classes

A slightly different sort of Class Struggles today.
Yesterday I reviewed the Companion Set Rules.  Within those rules some new "sub-classes" or "traveling classes" were introduced.  Let me summarize here.

Druids are Neutral clerics of 9th level or greater dedicated to the cause of Nature. They are non-land owning and not devoted to another lord or cause.
Knight a Neutral (or any alignment) traveling fighter, that is a non-land owning fighter. Must swear fealty to a royal ruler.
Paladin a Lawful traveling fighter who swears fealty to a Lawful church.
Avenger a Chaotic traveling fighter who swears allegiance to a Chaotic church.

There are others, such as Guildmasters and Magists, but those four are the focus of my attention this week.

Looking over the rules I can't help but think of how much these resemble what would be known as a Prestige Class in 3.x D&D.  In fact let's make a direct comparison between the Avenger and the Blackguard, an evil fighter prestige class.

According to the d20 SRD for 3.0 a Blackguard must meet the following requirements.  I am putting D&D BECMI equivalent translations in brackets [].
Alignment: Any evil.  [chaotic]
Base Attack Bonus: +6. [at least 6th level]
Skills: Hide 5 ranks, Knowledge (religion) 2 ranks. [again at least 6th level with some knowledge of religion so high wisdom is good]
Feats: Cleave, Improved Sunder, Power Attack. [knows some combat maneuvers]
Special: The character must have made peaceful contact with an evil outsider who was summoned by him or someone else.  [makes allegiances to an evil religion.]

Given the systems, the Blackguard is pretty much the same as an Avenger.
Back in the 3.x days, there was even a Paladin Prestige Class that you had to be a fighter or a cleric to qualify for.  It made a lot of sense to me.

So a Knight, Paladin, and the Avenger can all be seen rather easily seen as BECMI Prestige Classes.
In 3e, Prestige Classes were designed to be open to any class, but some were easier to get into if you started in the right class. Some were limited to class, but not "on paper" so a Prestige Class limited only to clerics could say "must be able to cast divine spells" or "ability to turn undead."  Yeah, it was sneaky, but a fighter could take a level of cleric and be able to get in.

So I am thinking that in BECMI prestige classes would have to be "Base Class" specific.
What do I mean by "Base Class?" Well, these are your Cleric, Fighter, Magi-User, and Theif classes.
In D&D 3.x a difference is made between a Base Class and a Prestige Class.   Why would I even care?  Well, looking at classes in this light gives me a ton of new options.  For starters it allows me to be able to add classes to my BECMI games and not add the bloat of an extra set of class rules.  It also allows me to explore all sorts of other options for a class.
It also allows me to have these new classes, often treated like a multi-class or dual-class without the need for a bunch of messing with double noting of XP rewards.

There are other examples.
The book GAZ3: Principalities of Glantri covers the Seven Secret Crafts of Magic in Glantri.  Each one of these could be seen as Magic-user specific prestige classes.  The Master's set introduced the Shaman and Wokani classes.  Not to mention all the various "witch-like" classes I have covered from other BECMI books.  I am sure there are more to be honest with you, I just have not had the chance to dig them all up yet.

BECMI Prestige Classes

How then can you use the 3.x Prestige Classes, or for that matter 2nd ed. Kits, 4e Paragon Paths or 5e sub-classes, in BECMI?  Simple find classes that work for you first.

So I am going to start up a BECMI campaign and I know that one of my sons is going to want to play an assassin and the other will want to play a ranger.

Both classes are in AD&D and in most versions of the game.   How can I bring them in?

Well, the simple solution is to import the class wholesale, but I guess at that point why not just play AD&D?  I want something that is more Basic-feeling.  I would need to add some more details, but here are some ideas.

A thief that steals not for profit or personal gain but instead for the thrills and even the challenge could become an Acrobat.  These thieves can be Neutral and even some Lawful.  I would follow the guidelines in the Unearthed Arcana.

This class was removed from AD&D 2nd Ed and absent in D&D 3e as a base class.  It does exist as a 3e Prestige Class and a 5e Sub-class. In the case of 3e the fastest way in is to start out as a Rogue.  In 5e you have to be a Rogue first.  The 5e SRD only lists one sub-class or archetype, the Thief.
The BECMI Assassin starts out as a Thief but at some point becomes an assassin.  I am going to say 8th or 9th level, and they would need to be Chaotic. They can use poison, but a limited number of weapons, armor, and no shields.

These are Magic-users that focus completely on Illusion Magic. They have their own spell lists like the druid does.  They do not build their own towers but are often entertainer magicians for courts and other notables of power.

These are fighters that are dedicated to nature, much like the druid, and focus on a particular enemy.
They cannot become Lords or Ladies, but instead, have a small stronghold.  Fighters of 9th level or higher may become rangers.

These ideas can be easily extended.

Have their own spell list. Do not build towers but may take over any ruins. Command undead.  The existence of Illusionists and Necromancers could also imply other schools of magic like AD&D 2nd Speciality wizards.  I suppose I could just import those. Other options are like the School of Magic in Glantri.

Oh man, these guys in AD&D are a mess.  But I would steal a page from 2nd Ed and make them Thief-like and have them improve their fighting skills a little and give them some druid magic.  OR go the Celtic route and make them part of the Cleric class.  Still thinking on this one.

Looking at 3.x a few jump out right away.  In addition to the Blackguard and the Assassin, I can easily see adapting the Arcane Archer for elves and the Dwarven Delver for Dwarves.

There can be many, many more.  With five other editions of *D&D to choose from there is no end to what could be done. 

Now I am sure some people might complain about "class bloat" and that is a fair argument.  I think keeping to the base four (or base five if you count my witch) then adding the other Prestige Classes on an as-needed basis. 

Or, even closer to the spirit of the rules, add these as "role-playing guides" only.  I mean really what is to stop a player from saying "my elf is an arcane archer!" and make the choice to only use a bow?  Maybe the DM and the group can decide that this elf can add +1 to hits with their bow due to their dedication.  Simple fix and no new rules added!

Make some use out of that multitude of books I own.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

BECMI: Companion Set Review

We are now at the part of my hand-made maps of the world where I leave the dungeons (Basic) and wildernesses (Expert) that I knew so well.   I am now in an area of half-rumored tales and speculations.  Stories from other travelers, with tales that are both familiar and yet foreign to me.

Join me on my exploration of the new worlds of the D&D Companion Set.  But a warning, here there be Dragons!

D&D Companion Set (1984)

I don't think it is too much to say that the Companion Set contains some of the most interesting changes and updates to the D&D than any other product TSR had published to date.  I will talk more about these in the review, but first a look back.

I had eagerly awaited the Companion set for D&D ever since I got my Expert Set.  That is, by B/X Moldvay/Cook Basic and Expert Set.

The Companion Set, as promised by the Expert Set rules, mentions that characters will now go to 36th level and there will be a way to cure undead level drain!  Such promises. Such hope!

D&D Cook Expert Set, page X8

Though it was not to be and the B/X line stopped there, only to be "rebooted" in 1983 with the BECMI line, though we were not calling it that back then.

By the time the Companion did come out I had moved on to AD&D. I no longer had any interest in the Companion rules having discovered the world could also have Assassins, half-orcs, and 9 alignments.

I did manage to read it once.  I was in college and it was at Castle Perilous Games in Carbondale. Of course, at the time AD&D 2nd Ed was the new hotness and I had no desire to look backward.  What I saw though at the time did not impress me.  I think the entire Mentzer set at the time (AT THE TIME mind you) made me think of it as D&D for little kids (now I see it differently).

Looking back now I see I made a BIG MISTAKE.
Well...maybe.  I mean I would not have traded my AD&D time for anything, but I do wish I had given the BECMI rules more of a chance.

Now I can fix that.

Today I am going to cover the BECMI Companion Rules.  I am going to cover both the DriveThruRPG PDFs and my recently acquired box set.

The Companion Set follows the rules as presented in the BECMI Basic and Expert books. But unlike those books, the Companion Rules sets off into uncharted directions and gives us some new material.

While the claim can be made that Frank Mentzer only edited and organized the Basic and Expert rules based on previous editions, the Companion set is all his.  While there may be some influences from earlier editions such as Greyhawk (with it's 22nd level cap [wizards] and some monsters) and AD&D (some monsters and the multiverse) this really feels new.

Companion Player's Book 1
The player's book is 32 pages with color covers and black & white interiors. Art by Larry Elmore and Jeff Easley.
Opening this book we get a preface with a dedication to Brian Blume. A nice touch and yeah he is often forgotten in the tale of D&D's earliest years.  The preface also firmly situates us in time. We 10 years out from when D&D was first published. The design goals of this book, and consequently this series, have never been more firmly stated.  This is an introduction to the D&D game and designed to be fun, playable, and true to the spirit of D&D.  It certainly feels like this is the successor to the Original D&D game; maybe more so than AD&D.
One page in and we are off to a great start.

The title and table of contents page tell us that this game is now "by" Frank Mentzer, based on D&D by Gygax and Arneson.  As we move into the book proper we get a feel for the "changing game."  Characters are more powerful and once difficult threats are no more than a nuisance or exercise.  The characters are ready to take their place among the rulers of the world.  This makes explicit something I always felt AD&D only played lip service to.

We get some new weapons that have different sorts of effects like knocking out an opponent or entangling them. We also get some unarmed combat rules.    Now, these feel they really should have been added to the Basic or Expert rule sets. Maybe they were but were cut for space or time.

Up next is Stronghold management from the point of view of the player characters.  Again here D&D continues its unwritten objective of being educational as well as fun.  More on this in the DM's book.

Character Classes
Finally, about 11 pages in we get to the Character updates.  Here all the human character classes get tables that go to level 25; again maybe a nod to Greyhawk's level 20-22 caps, and caps of 7th level spells (clerics) and 9th level spell (magic-users).  Clerics get more spells and spell levels.  The big upgrade comes in the form of their expanded undead turning table.  Clerics up to 25th level and monsters up to Liches and Special.  This mimics the AD&D Clerics table; I'd have to look at them side by side to see and differences.  One difference that comes up right away is the increase in undead monsters.  There are phantoms, haunts, spirits, and nightshades.  Nightshades, Liches, and Special will be detailed in the Master Set.

Something that is big pops up in the cleric listing.  A Neutral cleric of level 9 or higher may choose to become a Druid! Druids only resemble their AD&D counterparts in superficial ways.  They have similar spells, but the BECMI Druid cannot change shape.  It is an interesting implementation of the class and one I'll discuss more in a bit.

Arguably it is fighters that get the biggest boost in the Companion Set.  They gain the ability to have multiple attacks per round now and other combat maneuvers such as smashing, pairing and disarming. This is a big deal since they got so little in the Expert set. Fighters can also "specialize" into three paths depending on alignment.  There are Knights, Paladins, and Avengers.  Each type gives the fighter something a little extra.  Paladins are not very far off from their AD&D counterparts and Avengers are as close to an Anti-Paladin as D&D will get until we get to the Blackguards.

Conversely, Magic-users do not get as much save from greater spells. We do get the restriction that any spell maxes out 20dX damage.

Thieves can now become Guildmasters or Rogues.  A name that will come up more and more with future editions of D&D.

BECMI "Prestige Classes?"
The Druid, Knight, Avenger, Paladin, and to a lesser degree the Magist and Rogues represent what could arguably be called the first Prestige Classes to D&D.  Their inclusion predates the publication of the Theif-Acrobat in the AD&D Unearthed Arcana.
Prestige Classes are classes that one can take after meeting certain requirements in other "base" classes in D&D 3.x and Pathfinder. Often at 10th level, but can occur anytime the character meets the requirements.  This concept is later carried on into D&D 4 with their "Paragon Paths" (chosen at 11th level) and even into D&D 5 with their subclasses (chosen at 2nd level).
The BECMI Avenger and Paladin are the best examples of these working just like the Prestige Classes will in 15 more years.   This is interesting since it also means other classes can be added to the basic 4 core ones using the same system.  An easy example is the Theif-Acrobat from UA or even the Ranger from AD&D.  Though here the problem lies in the alignment system.  Rangers are supposed to be "good" for example.

Demi-humans may not advance any more in level, but they are not idle.  This is also the area of the Companion Set that I most often go wrong.  Each demi-human race has a Clan Relic and some demi-humans could be in charge of these clan relics, making them very powerful. There are also clan rulers and they are also detailed.  What does all that mean?  It means there is a good in-game reason why demi-humans do not advance in levels anymore.  They are much more dedicated to their clans than humans. So after a time it is expected that they will return home to take up their responsibilities to the clan.

That is not to say that these characters do not advance anymore.  Each demi-human race can still gain "Attack Ranks" as if they are still leveling up.  They don't gain any more HP, but they can attack as if they are higher-level fighters.  They also gain some of the fighter's combat options. Each class gets 11 such rank-levels.   It seems to split some hairs on "no more levels" but whatever.

We end with a map of the expanding Known World.  This is the continent of Brun of Mystara, but we don't know that yet.  But I will discuss that later this week.

This book is a lot more than I expected it to be and that is a good thing.

Companion DM's Book 2
The DM's book is 64 pages with color covers and black & white interiors. Art by Larry Elmore and Jeff Easley.
There is a lot to this book.  First, we get to some General Guidelines that cover the higher levels of play and planning adventures accordingly. There is sadly not a lot here.
We follow up with Part 2: The Fantasy World.  This continues some of the discussion of stronghold management and dominion management as well.  Now here is quite a bit of good information on what happens, or could happen, in a dominion. 
This section also includes the hidden secret of the D&D BECMI series.  The War Machine Mass Combat system.

War Machine
Around the same time TSR was also developing the BattleSystem Mass Combat system.  The two are largely incompatible with each other.  I always thought it was odd that two systems that do essentially the same things were created and incompatible with each other.   Later I learned that D&D BECMI lived in what we like to call a "walled garden" in the business.  It was out there doing it's own thing while the "real business" of AD&D was going on.  The problem was that D&D Basic was outselling AD&D at this point.  This was not the first time that TSR would woefully misunderstand their customers and sadly not the last time either.
War Machine has an elegance about it when compared to BattleSystem.  I am not saying it is simple, but the work involved is not difficult and I am happy to say it looks like it will work with any edition of D&D.

The Multiverse 
A big part of any D&D experience is the Multiverse.  This section allows the DMs and Players to dip their toes into the wider Multiverse which includes the Ethereal Plane and the Elemental Planes.

Space is also given to the discussion on aging, damage to magic items, demi-human crafts, poison, and more. We also get all of our character tables.

About halfway through the book, we get to the section of monsters.  A lot of familiar AD&D faces are now here, though a bit of digging will show that many of these are also from OD&D up to the Greyhawk supplement.  Most notable are the beholder, larger dragons, druids (as a monster), and many elemental types. Monsters are split into Prime Plane and Other Planes. 
Among the monsters featured are the aforementioned Beholder, larger Dragons, and bunches of new Undead like haunts, druj, ghosts and more.  A few that caught my attention are the Gargantua (gigantic monsters) and Malfera.  The Malfera REALLY caught my attention since they are from the "Dimension of Nightmares."  More fodder for my Mystara-Ravenloft connection.
Monsters from the Other Planes focus on the Elemental planes.

Lots of new treasure and magic items.

There are three short adventure or adventure hooks for companion level characters.

All in all the Companion Set is full and had many things I did not think it had given my very casual relationship to it over the years.  Reading it now and in-depth for the very first time I see there is a lot I could have used in my games back then.

Also reading this gives me a lot of ideas for more Basic/BECMI sorts of campaigns and plans for classes.
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