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BLUEHOLME™ Prentice Rules
Publisher: Dreamscape Design
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/25/2019 15:14:30

Full review posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2019/07/review-blueholme-journeymanne-and.html

The Blueholme Prentice Rules came out first as a preview of the Journeymanne rules. These rules cover the basic rules as the Journeymanne rules, save only to level 3. In this respect it is actually closer to the Holmes set than the maine (manne?) rules.

In character creation, the choices of Human, Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling are given. The same basic four classes of Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, and Thief are here.

From here the Prentice rules parallel the Journeymanne rules, there is just less of them. This is a truly Basic set of rules with everything to get you started for the price of dice.

The Prentice Rules has the same cover art, albeit in a monochrome format (not unlike Holmes) and features Public Domain art inside from Henry J. Ford. Now personally I LOVE the art. These old images from old fairy tales really sets the mood for me and gives this game a different feel.

Bluehlome Prentice Rules are a perfect solution for someone wanting to get into an Old School game and does not know where to start or what to do, and maybe not spend a lot of money upfront. For a PWYW PDF and print copies under $6, it has replaced Basic Fantasy as my OSR game of choice to hand out to people I want to introduce to old-school play.

Blueholme is a great addition to the vast and growing library of OSR games. It might be one of my favorites, to be honest.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
BLUEHOLME™ Prentice Rules
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BLUEHOLME™ Journeymanne Rules
Publisher: Dreamscape Design
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/25/2019 15:13:47

Full review posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2019/07/review-blueholme-journeymanne-and.html

Blueholme is a retro-clone / what-if of the first Basic Set edited by John Eric Holmes. Sometimes called "Blue Box Basic" or "Blue Book Basic". At 118 pages it is a complete game. If that sounds light, then you are right! Blueholme is a "rules" light old-school game much in the same way that Holmes was. Don't let it's light-weight dissuade you. This is a feature, not a bug. On the surface, the Blueholme Journeymanne Rules (BJR) looks like any other retro-clone in the OSR. Once you dig into it you will see the differences are from the source materials.

Foreward. We start with a foreward (not forward) from Chris Holmes, the son of John Eric Holmes and the reason why there was a Holmes Basic set to begin with. It gives these rules a bit of gravitas if you ask me.

Part 1: Introduction covers what you should expect to see in this book and the general tone of the book. Like everything else it is short, sweet and to the point.

Part 2: Characters deals with character creation. All game developers should have a look at these first two pages to see how the economy of words pays off. In the first two pages, we cover all the steps in creation. Rolling stats (3d6 in order), choosing a species (I prefer this over "race"), class, and everything else. The six ability scores are covered and what they do. SURPRISE they do much less here than in other OSR games. Essentially these are the means to get a bonus when leveling. Eg. Strength provides no bonuses in combat. Constitution does aid in hp it points, Intelligence still helps in learning languages. But that is about it really. Only Dexterity helps to hit and then only + or - 1. Dexterity is central to combat, but more on that later. For species, there is nothing specific listed outside of humans. For anything else have a look in the Monster section and pick something! Want an elf, dwarf or orc? Go ahead! Goblin? Yes! Dragon? sure, work it out with your GM. Black Pudding? Sure...work it out with your GM. It is very much the way the original D&D and Holmes D&D games worked. Classes are the basic four; Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, and Thief. Fighters do not get more attacks as they level up, but can cause more damage. There are rules on Combination Classes or what we also call Multiclassing. If your base creature type has more HD then there is a table of adjustments. Alignment is broken down to just five, Lawful Good, Chaotic Good, True Neutral, Chaotic Evil and Lawful Evil. Coin and Equipment is next. Note that all weapons do 1d6 points of damage per hit as per the OD&D and Holmes BD&D rules.

Part 3: Spells covers all the spells that can be cast by Clerics (1 to 7 spell level) and Magic-Users (1 to 9 spell levels). These are not huge lists and some spells are different than other books representations of them. Make sure you read before you assume a spell does what you think it does.

Part 4: Adventures covers just that, what the characters do and where they do it. This section is very reminiscent of the similar sections in both Holmes and Moldvay Basic. The breadth of the information is wide, but the depth is low since it depends on the Game Master to make calls on what is happening in certain situations.

Part 5: Encounters would be called Combat in other books, but the name change fits. We start with lots of tables of monster encounters at various levels and various locales. Combat, damage, and healing are also covered. The initiative is determined by Dexterity score. If there is a tie then a 1d6 is rolled with highest going first. AC is descending with an AC of 9 meaning unarmored. We get tables of attack matrices and saving throws too.

Part 6: Creatures deals with all the creatures you can encounter as friend or foes. There are plenty here and brevity is the key. For example, Demon gets a single entry and some tables to determine what it looks like. You can also choose your character specifies from these entries. All the usual suspects are here. I in particular like the "pumpkin-headed" bugbear; a nod to the OD&D rules. There are a lot of Lovecraftian monsters here as well. They are the ones credited for creating the vast "Underground" where the adventurers find their fortunes. There are also plenty of "Appendix N" style creatures like intelligent apes and monsters out of Pellucidar and of course dragons and dinosaurs and undead.

Part 7: Treasure has both individual and hoard types with plenty of magic, and cursed items.

Part 8: Campaigns is a guide for Game Masters. We end with a character sheet and a solid index. The PDF is bookmarked, but the Table of Contents and Index are not hyperlinked (minor thing really).

The book is well laid out and easy to read. The art is all new and works fantastic with the book. Solid old-school feel to it., if slightly better than what we actually had back then. It reminded me more of Moldvay era art than Holmes, but that is fine really.

Blueholme is a great addition to the vast and growing library of OSR games. It might be one of my favorites, to be honest.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
BLUEHOLME™ Journeymanne Rules
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5th Edition Role Playing -- Mystical Companions
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/01/2019 20:55:23

Posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2019/07/monstrous-monday-mystical-companions-5e.html

208 pages. Full-color covers and interior art. PDF and Hardcover. For this review, I am reading primarily from the digital PDF version, but it applies to the hardcover as well. I purchased both the 5e and C&C versions at Gary Con and received my PDFs via Kickstarter. Spend any time reading my blog or reviews and one thing is obvious. I love my spellcasters and familiars. I have often felt the rules for familiars are quite under-developed in many games and familiars, or animal companions of any sort, are often an under-utilized or a forgotten aspect of the game and lives of the characters. So far every 5th Edition game I have run the players have wanted an animal companion of some sort. While the rules in the game are fine enough, there is plenty of room for improvement. Thankfully, the Troll Lords believe the same thing. I have mentioned that this book is an update and replacement to their Book of Familiars, it is, and it is more than that.

A quick look over the table of contents reveals that we are getting an animal companion for every class. I feel that this appropriate and looking forward to reading the details. Now before I go on I do want to point out that unlike some third-party books this one is NOT "plug and play". You must make plans to add these animal companions from the start. In one game I tried to tack on these rules in an on-going game and ran into some issues. In another game, I used this from the start and everything went much more smoothly. I guess think about it as getting a real-life pet. You are going to do a little work and thought beforehand. Once I did this THEN adding these to an ongoing game was much easier. This is NOT like adding a new spell or magic item to your game, this is a new, but highly compatible sub-system.

Chapter 1: Introduction Here the purpose of the book is laid out and how the authors made certain decisions on how to incorporate this new material into the game. There is a section here that bares repeating since I have heard this complaint online. A WORD OF EXPLANATION: This book requires that you have access to the three core rulebooks for the 5th edition rules, or at very least to the Basic Rules document that is freely available online. Throughout this book, we have used the terms ‘CK,’ and “Castle Keeper” to indicate the game master or person running the game, and ‘player character’ or ‘PC’ to refer to the characters created for the game. In addition, when you see terms like, “Game Master’s Guide” or “5th Edition Monster Tome,” these refer to the Core Rulebooks for the 5th Edition fantasy rules set. So if you see "CK" or "Castle Keeper" in this book, it's not shoddy editing, but a design choice. Hey, they like CK better than GM. And since they can't say DM then CK is just as good as anything else. There are rules to what an OGL publisher can and can't say, so I can't fault them here.

Here the other sub-systems are described. Advantages. Advantages are Feats. They are gained the same way and used, mostly, in the same way. The difference in wording here (at least for me) helps differentiate the "feats" from this book from all the other feats you can get in the Core rules or other publishers. In play, this has been a boon since I know immediately that an Advantage on a sheet means something from this book and not another book on my shelf.
Paths. Time has been kind to Troll Lords here. When this book first came out in 2017 not a lot of 3P publishers were doing paths yet and there was some confusion about what these were. Now everyone has a new path (read: sub-class, kit, path, option) for the 12 core classes. These CAN slot right into a game like anything else from any 3PP. Tricks. Things your animal companion can do. Rituals. How you can get your animal companion. I mean there has to be some magic right? New Familiars and Animals. Kinda what it says on the tin to be honest.

Animal Companion vs. Familiar. While rules in the book cover book and treat them somewhat interchangeably an Animal Companion is more like a loyal pet or friend. A Familiar is a creature summoned to work with the PC. Animal Companions are free willed, familiars are not.

Chapter 1 also covers the basics of familiars. A point. A familiar/Animal companion "character" sheet would be GREAT here, but there isn't one. Ah well, can have everything I guess.

The list of Advantages (again, these are just like Feats) are presented. There are more here and some might complain about giving up a Feat or Ability advancement for a Familiar, but these are all quite balanced in my experience. You give up one "power" (feat, advancement) for another. Quite implicit in 5th Edition's design really. Not only that it is actually quite elegant once you use it.

The best part about this? You can take the Summon Familiar Advantage/Feat multiple times (Wizards get it for free at first level) so you can have multiple familiars. I don't do multiple familiars often, but when I do, I really want to do it. Though my son runs a game with this book and he describes the group of PCs and their companions as a "traveling zoo". One girl even has a sheep as an animal companion. Why? No idea. But this book supports it.

Another great piece of advice from Chapter 1 bears repeating (coping) here. Give yourself a visual reminder of your familiar’s presence. Write “REMEMBER THE FAMILIAR” to a Post-It note and stick it to the table in front of you. Or make it a point to buy and use a miniature for your familiar. Good advice. I am a fan of the Wardlings minis from WizKids or getting a custom mini with a familiar from Hero Forge.

Chapters 2 through 13 all work in a similar fashion. Each core class is covered with attention given to special Animal Companions, Familiars or Mounts as appropriate. Different animals are discussed and a new Path is given that focuses on having an animal companion.

For example, the Barbarian (the last class you might think needs a familiar) has the Nature Fetish Path and the Horseman Path (Dothraki anyone?) The Barbarian chapter is quite good really in that it really shows that animals really do need to be a bigger part of a barbarians' (and all characters) lives. Reading this chapter has made me want to play a barbarian for the first time EVER since they became an option to me in 1985-1986 or so. No content just to talk about familiars and paths, the barbarian chapter also covers special mounts.

The other chapters are as equally robust. There are sections on the Paladin's mount and Ranger's companions but also familiars for rogues and clerics and others that you might not think need animal companions. I particularly like the Rogue's path, the Shadow Pact. How's that work? Well, Rogues can take creatures of shadow as familiars! Tell me that is not cool.

As expected the familiars of the Sorcerer, Warlock and Wizard are ALL very, very different from each other and really reflect what the classes do now. Back in the 3e days Wizards and Sorcerer wre 100% interchangeable in terms of role. The differences were largely fluff. Since 4e this is less true and now in 5e they are very different sorts of classes. In 4e Sorcerers and Warlocks filled similar roles. Again in 5e they are very different. This book reflects the new 5e differences. Naturally there can be overlap. The chapter on Wizards talks about how the Wizard rituals can be used by sorcerers for example.

Appendix A: Familiars and Companions. This covers the familiars and "normal" animals in 5e Stat blocks. Appendix B: New Monsters. New monsters. Appendix C: New Spells. New spells, as expected. Likewise, Appendix D: New Magic Items and Artifacts.

Appendix E though is something different. This covers Dragon Riders. While many of the same rules are used here as for familiars this takes them to a new place and should be considered optional. This is the Appendix/Chapter that my son grabbed this book from me for, BUT he opted not use their Dragon Riders but kept the book anyway for everything else.

A Dragon Rider is a Path that can be added to any class, but some have more use for it than others. If the idea of PC Dragon Riders concerns you, then keep in mind it is being sold as "optional". And also Dragon Riders of some form or another have been around since the dawn of the game. If it is something you want, then there is plenty here for you to use. If I ever ran a Magic School game with this then Dragon Riders would be included.

We end with a robust index and the OGL section.

A note about art. There is not as much in this book as other Troll Lord books, but what is here is from the fabulous Peter Bradley and Jason Walton, who also gives us the cover art.

Your results may vary, but this book has quickly gone from a neat oddity to one of our must-have books for my 5e games. My son uses it in the games he has run so much that I have not seen the book in months since it is now in with all of his books.

Do you need this book? I say yes, but only if you are adding animals of any sort to your game, be they pets, familiars, mounts, companions or all the way up to Dragon Riders. This is one of my 3PP books for 5e. One of the best really.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5th Edition Role Playing -- Mystical Companions
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Temple of the Harpies
Publisher: Aegis Studios
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/18/2019 13:41:28

PDF. 14 pages, color cover, b&w interior, two maps

This adventure is a pretty straightforward affair that can be run in a long afternoon. Designed for four to six characters of 2nd to 3rd level, the character must retrieve a missing child, defeat harpies, kobolds, and an ancient curse and not awaken an army of undead. Suitable for any OSR game or really any d20 based fantasy game with tweaks. This one also includes some new monsters, which I always like.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Temple of the Harpies
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Creator Reply:
Thanks so much for the review! Glad to hear you've enjoyed Temple of the Harpies!
Odysseys & Overlords Player's Guide
Publisher: Aegis Studios
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/18/2019 13:40:28

PDF. 56 pages, color cover, b&w interior.

The Player's guide has what you should expect a Player's Guide to have. Here you get a bit of background on the campaign world of the O&O game. It's fine, as far as these things go, but I have no emotional investment in it. It does help situate some of the game-design choices and that is nice. Still, I see a campaign guide or gazetteer sometime in the future. Since this is a Basic-era OSR game based on Basic Fantasy races and classes are separate. With this, we get some new races, called genus in this book (a more apt name really). We get Abyss-kissed, which are like other games' Tieflings though more in-line with this game's mythos. Spellscorched, which cover the same niche as elves only here children of the gods. Wild folk, humanoids with animal traits and blood. And garden variety humans. No elves, dwarves or halflings here and that is great by me! (Note: they also do not appear in the Monsters section of the Game Master's book)

Classes include the favorites of Clerics, Fighters, Magic-users and Thieves and also adds another take on the Bard class. Might need to give that one a try sometime. Bards do not have spells but do have songs they can learn for different in-game effects.

Additionally, there is a section on equipment. I'll be honest, I don't pay much attention to equipment lists anymore. I have so many games with so much equipment that if I need to find something I am sure I have it OR I can just make it up on the spot.

Spells follow next. Spells for both clerics and magic-users only go to 6th level. Personally, I still like my magic-users to have more spellcasting power than clerics and would have liked to see magic-user spells go to at least 7th level. All the expected suspects are here.

We get some adventuring rules and finally some combat rules.

The layout and art is really good and has a solid old-school feel. The book just looks nice and fills you with all sorts of old-school nostalgia. I do wish the book though offered some more new unique classes to go along with the new unique races. A little more on the world background as it applies to the characters would also have been nice.

There is a character sheet at the end of the book. You can also get the character sheet for free.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Odysseys & Overlords Player's Guide
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Odysseys & Overlords Game Master's Guide
Publisher: Aegis Studios
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/18/2019 13:36:58

PDF. 63 pages, color cover, b&w interior.

This book covers a bit of material not found in the Player's guide.

Again we get some great Dean Spenser cover art and again we get the same overview of the campaign world.

We get into a section on various encounter areas, including my favorite, Urban Encounters. Tips on dealing with players, hopeless characters, and weapon and armor restrictions.

There is also a good section on XP advancement and narrative advancement, which has come to be called "milestone" advancement in D&D 4 and 5. It provides some nice balance. I am using both types in different games and it has the effect of taking the focus away from combat and more onto role-playing for Narrative/Milestone advancement.

Magical research into new spells and new magic items are also discussed.

There is a monster section following the discussion on dungeons and wilderness exploring. The problem I have with the monsters here is that you are directed to use Basic Fantasy there are not any new monsters. Nearly all, save for two, can be found in what I would call the "common canon" of the OSR. There was a real chance here to set this book apart from others with some new and unique monsters, or at least some rare ones. It is too bad this chance was not taken.

Magic items follow next. A good variety here, but again I would have liked something unique to this world to stand out.

We end with the Kingdoms. Ah! now here is the new and unique material I was hoping for. There is a good amount here to work with without being overly detailed. The descriptions are good, but a map, even a rough one, would have been great. Tip: Can't afford a good cartographer? Scribble one out and call it "an adventures map found in a dragon horde".

Interestingly enough, there are maps in the books from Dyson Logos, but that causes an awkward mix of the OGL and Creative Commons Licences that I have been told to avoid doing. Hope this works for them!

I think there is something here to the world put forth, I just would have liked to have seen more of it. There is a lot of potential with this line and would like to see more.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Odysseys & Overlords Game Master's Guide
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Creator Reply:
Thanks so much for the thoughtful and in-depth review! There will be a known world map coming soon, probably as a standalone download. We expect to have a greatly expanded monster book by year's end, but the focus in this volume was to present familiar creatures in the context of the setting, hence the lore re-writes and expansions in the included creature entries. Thanks -Travis
Castles & Crusades Codex Classicum
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2019 14:30:29

For this book, I am reviewing the PDF only since that is what I have at hand at the moment.

The PDF is 146 pages with color covers and black & white interiors. The art is up to the high standards you should expect from Troll Lords with plenty of evocative art from Peter Bradley. Like the other books in this series, this one was written by Brian Young, who has the educational background to tackle these books.

Brian introduces us to the material with an apology that this book could have been twice as large and not cover everything. Indeed, the book's scope is ambitious with what we normally consider Classical Mythology; the stories of the Greeks and the Romans with some Etruscans thrown in for good measure. Ambitious indeed.

Note: There are a couple of errors in the hyperlinked table of contents in the PDF, but nothing that keeps anyone from enjoying the book.

Chapter 1 covers the actual history of the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans...or as much as can be done in 20 or so pages. There are actual history and mythical histories. The myth in this section and book takes heavily, as can be expected, from Hesiod's Theogony. It's like being back in Freshman Classics all over again! The section, for its brevity, is well thought out and hits on the big pictures and themes. I suppose if you want more you can always read Theogony yourself. In fact, do that, anyone that is a gamer should have a basic understanding of the Classical Myths.

Chapter 2 details the all-important geography of the area. Why "all-important"? Because the Greeks and the later Romans were products of their environments; their history, religions and myths were influenced by their geography to an extreme extent. From the Greek city-states of early antiquity, to rise of the power Athens and Macedonia and in the literal center of it all, the Mediterranean Sea.

Again, this chapter is a quick overview, but a better one than I have seen in other game books.

This chapter also covers mythical locations (but not the mythical worlds just yet). Remember to the Greeks these places were places just as real as everything else. One could, if they so desired, walk to the underworld. That is if they knew the way.

This chapter also introduces the Explorer/Adventurer class. Something that feels right at home in the world of the Greeks or the worlds of Gygax. Some should convert this to another system and see how it plays out.

Chapter 3 features the monsters and beasts of the Classical World. There are a lot of old favorites here and well as new representations of other favorites. Of course, this is one of my favorite chapters. Greek myth got me into D&D via the Monster Manual and there are a lot of monsters here that get right in the 1979 nostalgia. My only disappointment here is that is no art of any of the monsters. I know we all know what most of these creatures look like, but I still feel a little cheated in not getting enough Peter Bradley art.

Chapter 4 is my favorite. Monsters got me into D&D and RPGs, but it was magic that kept me coming back. Chapter 4 features Greek and Roman sorcery and magic including necromancy and prophecy. Even the most casual reader of the classic myths should know how important Oracles are to the tale. From Jason to Perseus to the tragedy of Oedipus, Oracles move the story forward. Here we get our next class, the Oracle (with notes on how these mouthpieces of the gods work in the other Codies). Unlike the Pathfinder Oracle, this one is not a spellcaster but a reader of omens. It also requires a fairly experienced player to play to make proper use of it.

Also featured here is the Nekuomantis, or the classical Greek necromancer. In many ways, this is the true necromancer before RPGs got ahold of the archetype. These characters speak to the dead to learn secrets and the future.

Chapter 5 deals with the Gods and Titans and other immortal creatures. It is fairly comprehensive compared to all other game books and very helpful in populating the ranks of the Immortals.

Chapter 6 focuses more on the humans and mortals of the world. The heroes and their issues. The basics of the Greek and Roman armies are also covered. This chapter also introduces the Gladiator class.

All in all a great overview but also leaving me with the desire for some more. Still I rather enjoyed it and can see a lot of uses for it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Codex Classicum
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Palace of the Dragon's Princess
Publisher: Dark Wizard Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/14/2019 14:26:36

Palace of the Dragon's Princess might be my second favorite adventure in this whole series right after Hanging Coffins. The premise is very similar to the classic Palace of the Silver Princess. In this case, the Princess is trapped by a green dragon and you must go rescue her. Sound easy? You obviously have not paid any attention to the other four adventures in this series.

This one has a lot of background information, more so than the others. We know a lot more about Princess Francessca than we do about Lady Neeblack the Vampire Queen (Could Lady Neeblack be Princess Francessa's dead mother??!!?). There is a knight, a dragon and Torgo. Yup, a nice riff on MST3k with Torgo and the Master. But is the princess REALLY in danger? That will be up to the Gamemaster to decide. There is a lot going on here and because of the backstory a lot more that a crafty DM can add. I am a touch disappointed there were no three-headed creatures like the Ubues, but that is fine. They were silly enough then.

Like the Vault of the Dwarven King this one is more classically fantasy and it is also one best ones in the series to "run straight". Meaning you could strip out some of the silliness and have a pretty deadly, serious adventure if you wanted.

In any case, this is one is a lot of fun and a worthy addition to the line of Maximum Mayhem Dungeons.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Palace of the Dragon's Princess
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Vault of the Dwarven King
Publisher: Dark Wizard Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/14/2019 14:08:56

Mark Taormino is like some sort of mad genius. I love his Maximum Mayhem Dungeons and each one "delivers the goods" in terms of hitting that nostalgia feel. Here is a what if scenario for you. What if the dwarves of Moria were completely crazy for Indiana Jones? Well, you might get something like Vault of the Dwarven King. There is the aforementioned vault, part of a vast underground dwarven city. There is a giant monster that's on fire. There are also mine-cars, goblin moonshiners, blue trolls and dwarf tossing.

There is a thin coating of silliness over a really fun and REALLY deadly adventure here. All to reclaim the lost dwarven artifact, the Fireheart. But does it belong to the dwarves or the goblins? Will you even live long enough to find out?

Like the adventures that came before it, it is an unapologetic romp down memory lane. This adventure though, maybe more so than any of the others might be more accessible to anyone that didn't grow up in the 80s. The biggest nostalgia pull is, of course, the Lord of the Rings movies, in particular, Fellowship of the Ring, but that is only one (though very loud) note. There is enough going on here to keep every player on their toes and their characters running. This one is also the most classically "fantasy" than the others which also draw on sci-fi, horror and crazy humor.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vault of the Dwarven King
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B/X Essentials: Core Rules
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/07/2019 13:45:28

Original review appears here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2019/05/review-bx-essentials.html

B/X Essentials is a redesign of the classic "Basic/Expert" rules using OGC sources. The books are all digest-sized, 6" x 9" format. All of the books feature fantastic full-color covers from artist Andrew Walter and color accented interiors; limited to mostly pale green. A moment about these covers. They remind me of a surreal 70s version of Lord of the Rings meets Elric; easily some of my most favorite covers of in all of the Old-School movement. All the books are extremely modular. This was a design goal by Norman and it pays off. Everything is easy to find. Sections usually take up a page or multiple full pages. If you were so inclined you could cut up your books (!) or print out the PDFs and reorganize them as you see fit. Really at this point, the only thing that could make these books easier to use is having all the content in a spiral-bound volume so it can lay flat at your table.

The Core Rules weighs in at 34 pages and gets to the very heart of the B/X Essentials line. The essential Essentials as it were. It covers Ability scores in general, sequences of play and all the basic rules needed. Combat is covered separately. Magic also gets a bit of coverage here in general terms and including how spells can be researched and magic items made. The rules have been "cleaned up" from their obvious predecessors. Focus is on readability and playability here. In fact all the entries under the basic rules are alphabetical, so finding something say like Movement, is easy. In the original rules it took a bit of digging to actually figure out how much a character moves. This was vastly improved in later editions of the game, but here it is very succinctly spelled out. Other rules are equally made clear. Since the "Basic" and "Expert" rules are combined here there is an economy of word usage here. As much as I love my Basic and Expert games, sometimes you need to consult both books when a situation comes up.

In truth, I can't say enough good about this. Is it 100% brand new material? No, but that was also never the design goal. The books do exactly what they say they are going to do. If I were starting with a new group using B/X-flavor D&D I would be hard-pressed to come up with a reason NOT to use these books.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Core Rules
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B/X Essentials: Classes and Equipment
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/07/2019 13:45:24

Original review appears here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2019/05/review-bx-essentials.html

B/X Essentials is a redesign of the classic "Basic/Expert" rules using OGC sources. The books are all digest-sized, 6" x 9" format. All of the books feature fantastic full-color covers from artist Andrew Walter and color accented interiors; limited to mostly pale green. A moment about these covers. They remind me of a surreal 70s version of Lord of the Rings meets Elric; easily some of my most favorite covers of in all of the Old-School movement. All the books are extremely modular. This was a design goal by Norman and it pays off. Everything is easy to find. Sections usually take up a page or multiple full pages. If you were so inclined you could cut up your books (!) or print out the PDFs and reorganize them as you see fit. Really at this point, the only thing that could make these books easier to use is having all the content in a spiral-bound volume so it can lay flat at your table.

The Classes and Equipment book comes in at 44 pages. It begins naturally enough with character creation. Some details, such as Ability scores, are detailed here, but also give a call back to the Core Rules book. Still, though everything is here to make a character. For practice, I made a 7th level Cleric just using this book. It went extremely fast and very little need to flip pages back and forth. I just needed to use the Spells book to pick out spells. The modular design of the B/XE system extends to this book as well. Each class begins on an even-numbered page and extends to the next odd-numbered page. You can then hold the book flat, put it up two-pages at a time on your screen, and read everything you need in a glance. I really appreciate this level of attention paid. Many books do not do this and in fact, look like they were just run off on Word's PDF converter. There is more attention put into the layout here than in most products and to me, that is what sets this above the others. The classes represented here are the 7 classics; Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, Thief and the three demi-humans, Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling. True to B/X these are "race as class" classes. Equipment, money and of course weapons are covered in the next half of the book.

In truth, I can't say enough good about this. Is it 100% brand new material? No, but that was also never the design goal. The books do exactly what they say they are going to do. If I were starting with a new group using B/X-flavor D&D I would be hard-pressed to come up with a reason NOT to use these books.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Classes and Equipment
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B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/07/2019 13:45:19

Original review appears here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2019/05/review-bx-essentials.html

B/X Essentials is a redesign of the classic "Basic/Expert" rules using OGC sources. The books are all digest-sized, 6" x 9" format. All of the books feature fantastic full-color covers from artist Andrew Walter and color accented interiors; limited to mostly pale green. A moment about these covers. They remind me of a surreal 70s version of Lord of the Rings meets Elric; easily some of my most favorite covers of in all of the Old-School movement. All the books are extremely modular. This was a design goal by Norman and it pays off. Everything is easy to find. Sections usually take up a page or multiple full pages. If you were so inclined you could cut up your books (!) or print out the PDFs and reorganize them as you see fit. Really at this point, the only thing that could make these books easier to use is having all the content in a spiral-bound volume so it can lay flat at your table.

Cleric and Magic-User Spells would have been my favorite book if B/XE had come out in the 80s. Right now it also has my favorite cover from the entire series. Seriously, I love it. The book itself has 34 pages and covers all the Cleric and Magic-User/Elf spells in the game. All the usual suspects are here. Again when making my recent Cleric I used this book. The modularity again is a huge boon for this book and game. Adding a new class, like the proposed Druid and Illusionists? Add a new book easy!

In truth, I can't say enough good about this. Is it 100% brand new material? No, but that was also never the design goal. The books do exactly what they say they are going to do. If I were starting with a new group using B/X-flavor D&D I would be hard-pressed to come up with a reason NOT to use these books.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells
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B/X Essentials: Adventures and Treasures
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/07/2019 13:45:13

Original review appears here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2019/05/review-bx-essentials.html

B/X Essentials is a redesign of the classic "Basic/Expert" rules using OGC sources. The books are all digest-sized, 6" x 9" format. All of the books feature fantastic full-color covers from artist Andrew Walter and color accented interiors; limited to mostly pale green. A moment about these covers. They remind me of a surreal 70s version of Lord of the Rings meets Elric; easily some of my most favorite covers of in all of the Old-School movement. All the books are extremely modular. This was a design goal by Norman and it pays off. Everything is easy to find. Sections usually take up a page or multiple full pages. If you were so inclined you could cut up your books (!) or print out the PDFs and reorganize them as you see fit. Really at this point, the only thing that could make these books easier to use is having all the content in a spiral-bound volume so it can lay flat at your table.

At 48 pages this is one of the two larger books in the series. This book deals with adventuring and what sort of things you can find on those adventures. So there are traps, monster tables, and all the treasure types and magical treasure. Again we see where combining the Basic and Expert rules gives you a much better idea of what is going on in these "dungeons". This is also my second favorite cover of the line.

In truth, I can't say enough good about this. Is it 100% brand new material? No, but that was also never the design goal. The books do exactly what they say they are going to do. If I were starting with a new group using B/X-flavor D&D I would be hard-pressed to come up with a reason NOT to use these books.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Adventures and Treasures
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B/X Essentials: Monsters
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/07/2019 13:45:03

Original review appears here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2019/05/review-bx-essentials.html

B/X Essentials is a redesign of the classic "Basic/Expert" rules using OGC sources. The books are all digest-sized, 6" x 9" format. All of the books feature fantastic full-color covers from artist Andrew Walter and color accented interiors; limited to mostly pale green. A moment about these covers. They remind me of a surreal 70s version of Lord of the Rings meets Elric; easily some of my most favorite covers of in all of the Old-School movement. All the books are extremely modular. This was a design goal by Norman and it pays off. Everything is easy to find. Sections usually take up a page or multiple full pages. If you were so inclined you could cut up your books (!) or print out the PDFs and reorganize them as you see fit. Really at this point, the only thing that could make these books easier to use is having all the content in a spiral-bound volume so it can lay flat at your table.

Ah, now this is a book I would have loved back in 81. Also coming in at 48 pages this book is about monsters and nothing else. Stat blocks are concise and there is none of the bloat in the descriptions that appear in later editions (ok to be fair that bloat was demanded by players). The book is fantastic with my only reservation in I wish it had been illustrated more. But even that is fine. I can easily see a "Monsters 2" and "Monsters 3" sometime in the future for this line.

In truth, I can't say enough good about this. Is it 100% brand new material? No, but that was also never the design goal. The books do exactly what they say they are going to do. If I were starting with a new group using B/X-flavor D&D I would be hard-pressed to come up with a reason NOT to use these books.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Monsters
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B/X Essentials: Demihumans of Dolmenwood
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/07/2019 13:44:52

Original review appears here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2019/05/review-bx-essentials.html

B/X Essentials is a redesign of the classic "Basic/Expert" rules using OGC sources. The books are all digest-sized, 6" x 9" format. All of the books feature fantastic full-color covers from artist Andrew Walter and color accented interiors; limited to mostly pale green. A moment about these covers. They remind me of a surreal 70s version of Lord of the Rings meets Elric; easily some of my most favorite covers of in all of the Old-School movement. All the books are extremely modular. This was a design goal by Norman and it pays off. Everything is easy to find. Sections usually take up a page or multiple full pages. If you were so inclined you could cut up your books (!) or print out the PDFs and reorganize them as you see fit. Really at this point, the only thing that could make these books easier to use is having all the content in a spiral-bound volume so it can lay flat at your table.

This free product is only 8 pages long and is only in PDF. It is the only genre and world-specific book in the line covering the Dolmenwood, the shared setting used by Necrotic Gnome. This book includes two new races, the Fairy Elf and the Woodgrue, both fairy races of the Dolmenwood. There is also a listing of some Fae lords and ladies.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Demihumans of Dolmenwood
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