Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wow...Talk About Advertising...

So just saw that JM over at Grognardia gave me a shout out regarding my B/X Companion project. And whadya' know...I've picked up another half-dozen followers despite posting near nada the last two weeks.

Welp, I can only hope you interested parties stay with me the next few weeks as I go through a low posting patch. For those interested in B/X goodness, rest assured that work on the Companion continues. In fact, I'm about five or six pages from complete. Unfortunately, I've stuffed so much stuff into it that I'm barely leaving room for 4-5 pages of artwork, and my original idea was to shoot for 8 or so.

But what can a guy do? Damn charts take up a lot of space, unless I want to make the font size near illegible. Two pages in Part 2 (completed by the way), two or so pages in Part 5, approximately four pages in Part 7 (but oh so necessary). Assuming I can wrap up Part 3 in three pages (keeping my fingers crossed), I'm still nearly over my page limit depending on how I cut the DM chapter (5 pages written, but a bunch more needing to go in).

Much as I'd like the book to be perfect I understand that there's no way to satisfy everyone out there. But I'd sure as hell like to satisfy myself. And that means more than simply doing an "add-on" of new "goodies." Don't get me wrong...the goodies are there (pages and pages of new monsters, magic items, and spells...not to mention mass combat and dominion rules, some new class abilities, and a new proposed B/X class). But as a companion to the B/X game I want the thing to include some helpful and expanded definitions of certain game ideas, not just be the B/X equivalent of an Unearthed Arcana.

Reading through the Rules Cyclopedia, I come across the following passage describing the difference between AD&D and BECMI (or "D&D" as it is described here):

The AD&D game is much more detailed than the D&D game. It has more character classes, more alignment choices, more monsters, and more rules. Where the D&D rules system may reduce a situation to one die roll or a single variable, the AD&D rules system often has a more detailed rule that includes more variables, allowing it to cover situations in greater depth.

Since I don't necessarily want more crunch, I guess I've made the right choice of chucking AD&D in favor of the simpler rules. However, I can't help but feel like the passage is denigrating "D&D" and its simpler system. Certainly the players I grew up with thought the more complex AD&D was desirable.

This really strikes home for me in the section "Game Differences:"

"AD&D characters tend to have higher ability scores, especially if some of the optional character generation rules are used..."

"The AD&D system separates character class and character race. Different class and race combinations are available..."

"The AD&D alignment system adds a..."

"AD&D game magical items are more complex; many have three or more separate functions..."

The emphasis is mine. More options. More additions. Extra powers. More stuff available. Higher ability scores.

Bigger. Better. More. This is what AD&D has to offer...oh poor little old normal D&D.

I don't know why anyone would buy into that fallacy. Nothing says D&D (or B/X or OD&D or BECMI...whatever) has to be limited. "Simple" does NOT equate to "limited." I can throw a hammer of thunderbolts or cubic gate into my B/X game and it can provide the same entertainment value even without a bunch of extra facts and figures regarding the size of the lightning trail or the planar cosmology. I can write up monsters with weird and wild powers and the sky's the limit.

I think Mentzer wrote himself into a hole with BECMI. I think he tried to create a simpler form of AD&D..."dumbing it down," even as he filled in gaps left by Gygax and Arneson. That's just my opinion, but yeah...that's what I think.

My Companion set also tries to fill in blanks, but not in any limited fashion. I am not creating a closed environment where one goes to level 36, achieves immortality, goes to level 36, and considers attempting to join the Old Ones by repeating the process. There is no limited cosmology...there is a game with a simple set of systems that can be used to create a variety of game environments, limited only by one's imagination. Yeah, I finish the characters levels up to 36 but the game world is still only the beginning...questions are left unanswered, allowing players and DMs to fill in their own preferences. B/X game play gives one the ability to soar in a way that AD&D and later editions do not. More options, more definitions, simply lead to restrictions based on defined structure. I don't want my game limited.

Ugh...way past time to go to bed. Next time I check in here, I hope to have all text on the B/X Companion complete (there ain't much more to write). Then I'll get to worry about the best way to publish it.
; )


  1. Ya know, JB, one thing that occurred to me re, your page limit, is that you could consider using a "starter" module as a kind of backdoor extra chapter. You mentioned wanting to put in helpful DM ideas and what not, but in the original Basic edition that is what the included module was for. It wouldn't have to be anything terribly original (e.g., "your baby brother has been kidnapped by the trolls, and replaced with a manikin -- go rescue" / "your dog wandered into the haunted house and is trapped -- go rescue"), and it would give you some breathing room.

  2. I always thought it odd, when reading the Cyclopedia, that it had so much stuff in it, so many options from which to pick and choose, and yet there was this tone to the writing that suggested it was lesser in some way to AD&D. I never really understood that, as my group tended to drop anything we didn't like, so our games, whether "Basic" or "Advanced", tended to have the same level of complexity anyway.

    At the end of the day, I suspect it was little more than a corporate mandate, the three AD&D books costing more than the RC at the time, I'd imagine.

  3. (sorry if you covered this already, I'm new to your blog :) What about adding some of the charts and tables as a pull out section (fold out covers or as pull out sheets in middle of the book)? I guess technically for the most part the tresure tables are esentally summary tables of material already in the text of the book, right?

  4. We're all looking forward to your B/X companion!

  5. Yes, we are! Thanks for the updates.

  6. @ Everyone: Crap! For some reason I'm no longer getting email notifications of comments on my blog...what gives?!!

    @ Mark: I am soooooo way ahead of you on this one....

    @ Evil Ben: I think it will be all right...recently realized my font-size may need reduction which is going to free up some space.