- Sep 27, 2017
- Reaction score
Part One: Overview
Hey everyone, welcome to my little read-through and explication of this upcoming publication from Necrotic Gnome. Old-School Essentials - Advanced Fantasy Genre Rules was added to the general Old-School Essentials highly-successful Kickstarter as a stretch goal. So you could say it's an afterthought included with an as-yet unreleased product - so why the Let's Read?
I'll only be covering the one on the left in this thread, but isn't that an awesome cover on the spell listing?
Well, as a backer, I've received early access to this tome, and at this point, it's clearly very close to being ready. So there's little danger of being grossly inaccurate about the upcoming release - and you'll be able to get your hands on this very soon.
Also, I'm very excited about this book! It may have been a stretch afterthought, but it's my favorite part of this whole project. There's a lot to enjoy about this book, and I'd love to share it with you. If you like what you hear, perhaps you'll join me in adopting this system as my go-to B/X mechanics.
Anyway, without further ado...
Gavin Norman published B/X Essentials through his Necrotic Gnome imprint, starting in 2017. Five volumes were released over a span of about a year: Core Rules, Classes and Equipment, Cleric and Magic-User Spells, Monsters and Adventures and Treasures. This multi-volume release sort-of parallels how OD&D was released. B/XE is a very faithful and attractive re-organization of the original Basic and Expert set rules from D&D, and I get the impression that a lot of people liked it. I certainly did, although I'm not sure it seemed entire "essential."
In short order, though, Norman decided he wanted to take another swing. He'd jettison the insular "B/X" label for the broader "Old-School," tighten up a few rulings, re-organize the volumes, resolve long-standing ambiguities and even improve upon the already lovely throwback-style art. In April, the Kickstarter went live, and it blew past the funding goals so quickly that Norman was scrambling to come up with new stretch goals.
I'm not sure whether Advanced Fantasy was in the first round of stretch offerings, but a lot of people were instantly curious. Everything else in OSE is all about being faithful to the original material, but this was going to be an act of interpretation and creativity: rendering AD&D 1e mechanics and content in a B/X context. It's not like Necrotic Gnome hasn't produced a lot of original content (e.g. Dolemwood), so anticipation was in full effect.
Since it is yet to be released, I can only talk about the PDF and not the physical book. Fortunately, my most recent scan spotted only a single space pending the addition of artwork, so we can speak pretty confidently about the look and presentation.
Before I do that, though, I want to briefly discuss the very first point of contact: the title. What are "genre rules"? I have to say that I don't understand what this exactly means. The "classic" volumes also have a "genre rules" volume in addition to "core rules." Of those, the genre rules contain classes and the core rules contain mechanics for dungeoneering. I sort-of get it, but it's still not entirely clear, and I suspect it will make even less sense to someone new to the old-school scene. Minor shortcoming.
Regardless, the title "Advanced Fantasy Genre Rules" is a bit easier to understand since there isn't a corresponding advanced fantasy core rules. It might still confuse the newbie, though.
On to the presentation...
The text is blissfully clean and easy on the eyes. Tons of whitespace, largish fonts and distinct headings are all very welcome. The tables are likewise easy to read - especially when compared to the 1e material that this is based on.
The art is universally lovely. The cover by Stephan Poag (see above) is prosaic and colorful, evoking a childhood idle - it sort of reminds me of the art from Dixit. The pieces inside, by an array of artists, are very old-school grungy. I could flip through these pages all day.
The text is very direct and terse. It definitely follows an old-school spirit by leaving many things up to GM rulings. Mechanics and ideas are simple, simple, simple.
Let's now step through the material chapter-by-chapter (though not corresponding to post-by-post). I'll make comparisons to the original 1e materials in places - this will involve the original PHB, DMG and UE. I have those old hardcovers sitting right here.
God, there are some amazing bindings on these old books! That's one areas I fully expect these new books to fall short of the originals, but we'll give them the benefit of the doubt for now.
Coming next: Introduction and a couple Character Classes.