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The Complete B/X Adventurer
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/31/2014 18:49:43

The Complete B/X Adventurer is the second book from Jonathan Becker.

It certainly lives up to it's hype and to it's predecessor the B/X Companion (BXC). Though there is no emotional investment on this one for me. I waited for the B/X Companion for almost 30 years. I waited for this one for only about a year or less.

I am going to make comparisons of it to B/X Companion AND to the old Bard Games "Compleat Adventurer" series (Adventurer, Spellcaster, Alchemist). I think both comparisons are fair. The first is obvious, but the second I want to explain. It is obvious in the construction that this book owes a lot to those previous books. The author, Jonathan Becker, acknowledges this in his Introduction. There is also a feel to this book that reminds me of the later Bard Games books, The Arcanum and the Atlantis series.

In all these cases the books provide additional classes, spells and magic with additional rules that can be added with little effort to your game. We saw something similar from the official D&D books in the Unearthed Arcana books.

But getting on with the review proper.

The physical book is now perfect bound, not stapled, and it comes in at 62 pages. The cover doesn't try to invoke any other old-school product I am aware of, but I could be wrong. This is a good thing really since it should have it's own identity. BXC very much wanted to invoke the images of the old Basic and Expert sets. Table of Contents is on a page, not the inside cover.

Now on to the meat. We get a nice introduction from Jonathan Becker about how the book should be used. It does indicate compatibility with Labyrinth Lord, LoftFP and Swords & Wizardry. Though I don't see the compatibility licenses those products require. I hope that is not an issue, but something that the author should look into. Also this is not an OGL product, so no license and no OGC. May not matter to you. In terms of buying. I supposed if someone wanted to use some of this material in say an adventure that was broadly compatible Becker would give his permission (and he has said as much if I recall correctly). For me I like to operate in the safe harbor of the OGL. But this doesn't detract my opinion from the book at all.

First up we have charts on random head gear. While this section is very good, it feels completely random. Not in terms of the tables, but why does the book lead off with this? I would have made this an appendix or part of a later chapter. Oddly enough the class table does not include any of the new classes in this book. Move this to the back in future printings I say. This follows with class exceptional traits. Also very cool. This one would belong here, but I would have put it after all the new classes. Again, this does not have all the new classes listed. Sure use the sub-class idea with Witches as a type of Magic-User. Follwing this firearms. Again move to equipment. I might not ever use this, but my son wants too (he read the book before I did).

Next up are all the classes. These are the gems of the book in my eye. The classes get about a page each. So this will be nice to print out the PDF pages and re-org as needed. The classes are Acrobat, Archer, Barbarian, Bard, Beastmaster, Bounty Hunter, Centaur, Duelist, Gnome, Mountebank, Mystic, Ogre-Kin, Scout, Summoner, Tattoo Mage, Witch, and Witch Hunter.

The classes are about what you would expect if you have been in this game for a number of years, but they have their twists. The gnome, centaur and ogre-kin are obviously race-classes in the Basic/Expert style. The Summoner is really cool. You summon creatures to do your magic for you. So part demonologist, part Pokemon trainer! (ok ok) only really awesome about it. It is one of the neatest takes I have seen on this ill-used fantasy archetype. I will discuss the witch and the witch-hunter in detail in a bit.

This is followed by all the new spells that these classes need. It's a good amount, taking up the remaining 20 pages of the book. The spells are of a good sort and there are a lot of them here.

The art is good and similar in style to BXC, sharing a couple of the same artists. Each class gets an art piece (another similarity to the Bard Compleat books) but the spells doesn't get much if any. That is too bad since the art is generally very good.

My Thoughts Again I think I would have put some the beginning material in the back to focus on the classes more. But I really enjoy all these classes and I think that for my kids old-school AD&D game I would let them choose from this as a possible source. I can see my youngest wanting to play an Acrobat and my oldest a Bounty Hunter. I would some tips I have written in the past about converting "Basic" classes to "Advanced" ones, but honestly there is not much here I would change.

Another thought is that most of these classes are stated out to 14th level. This makes them perfect, obviously, for pure Basic/Expert style D&D. But there is something else they would work well with, ACKS. In fact I have mentioned before how well BXC would work in extending ACKS. Well now you can use the TCBXA as an add on to ACKS. These two games have different purposes in life, but they fit together rather nicely, and this gives you some new classes to play around with till ACKS Player's Companion is out.

NOW all we need is Jonathan to give us a B/X Companion boxed set. It can include the B/X Companion, the CBXA, and a brand new module. I think that would be great!

The Witch

Ok, I have to play special attention to the witch. Not just because it is a witch class, but because it is different than the other spell using classes. For starters the witch can cast in groups to cast higher level spells. That is a nice feature really and something very much in tune with the archetypal witch. The witch is the class in the book that is stated up all the way to 36th level AND built to gain powers to that point, also something I rather like. Why? Because a 36th level witch is the only class that can cast 10th level spells. Yup. This one goes to 10!

Crafting spells. The witch does not memorize a spell, but she does have a limit on how many she knows. The witch needs both a high intelligence (to know the spell) and a high wisdom (to learn and scribe it down in the first place). So a first level witch with a high Intelligence knows 1+Int mod 1st level spells. She can also scribe spells of 1st level + how ever many extra levels equal to her Wisdom mod. I like it. It is a nice quick way to know what can be done. In fact I would like to use that for clerics since gods should know ahead of time what spells their flock need and then they just give them to the cleric at that time.

For the witch though I would reverse it. Intelligence to write or scribe the spell and Widsom to know how many they can cast. Witches are often called the "Craft of the Wise" after all. But all in all I like it. 10th level witch spells are nothing at all to sneeze at. This is a powerful witch class.

The 10th level spells are a nice solution to the "Coven spells"/"Powerful magic" vs independent witches. I can't see too many witch covens in groups. Maybe two or three at a time. With what JB has done here is given us a way to have powerful magics in groups at lower levels and keep those same magics out of the hands of solitary witches till much later. This then does not make them a more attractive solution over Wizards/Magic Users.

Witchhunters If you are going to have witches then you should have witchhunters. The ones here are fairly straight forward but they have some nice features. I like that they get magic, but not as spells but powers. Sure you could do a multi-classed Cleric-Ranger, but this is B/X not 3.x. I'd like to give this witchhunter a spin sometime.

Bottom Line If you enjoyed BXC or even Basic/Expert or other Old School play then this is a great buy. If you enjoy old school play but are sticking with your clone of choice then I still say get this. Look at the class list above and decide if any of those sound interesting to you.

I like it and I recommend it. I would have organized things a little differently, but that is about it.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Complete B/X Adventurer
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B/X Companion
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/03/2012 13:28:14

The Game We Never Got.

One of the things I like most about the OSR are the products that don't give me things I already have, but things I have always wanted or never knew I needed. B/X Companion is one of those products.

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.

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 outright 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, this is 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?

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 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.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Companion
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