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Class Catalog for B/X Essentials
by Harrison S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/11/2019 01:04:21

This presents ten additional race-as-classes for B/X Essentials and other old-school games, which fill two niches: AD&D class options that aren't present in B/X (e.g. a dwarven cleric, an elven magic-user/thief), and a few popular later-edition races. No firbolgs or tabaxi, alas.

All of them rely upon the "core" B/X Essentials rules, and otherwise follow the format set out in B/X Essentials. You can print them out and put them next to B/X: Essentials classes, and barring minor typos, players won't get confused.

All the classes are closer to what you'd get with the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion or with AD&D than to weirder, baroque OSR classes, like the demihumans of Dolmenwood or Fever Swamp's Transfiguration Host.

This also presents a simple rules variant for skills, which I'll cover at the end. None of the classes have mechanics that depend on it, so if you don't care for it, simply ignore the extra two saving throw columns.

Before I dive into the classes, some layout problems:

  • No index or table of contents, boo.
  • Not as much attention to layout, fitting all relevant information on a spread, as BX: Essentials's class writeups.
  • Innate racial spells refer you to B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells, The Dwarven Priest refers you to the Cleric class for rules on turning undead. I would prefer the relevant text be duplicated here, in line with B/X:E's goal of modularity.at least page numbers are given.
  • Some typos, copy-paste errors, and strange text encoding issues -- at time of writing, every apostrophe in the pdf renders as a ᴙ, but copy-pastes as a ÿ.
  • The line spacing is also a little too close.
Classes

All ten classes use the cleric/thief attack chart, even the half-orc and pixie. Like the core B/X Dwarf class, the dwarf classes and half-orc get +1 HP per level from 10th level over what their closest human analogue would get. Nice attention to detail there.

Some classes grant initiative bonuses, with the usual caveat about how this only applies if individual initiative is used.

The demihuman thief classes (Dwarven Thief, Elven Rogue, Halfling Burglar) all get Thief Skills like the standard thief, with some adjustments to the odds. Unlike Labyrinth Lord or Basic Fantasy, each class reprints the Thief Skills table with those adjustments built in. They also repeat the text describing how each roll is used. I appreciate not having to crossreference here.

However, there's no effort to integrate separate demihuman abilities (e.g. a Dwarf's ability to find nonmagical traps, a Halfling's ability to hide) into their thief skills.

Like the B/X Dwarf, most classes have XP requirements that are worse than their closest human analogue, needing an extra 200 XP or so for 2nd level. The main exceptions are Halfling Burglar (a B/X Halfling has the same XP requirements as a Fighter), and Elven Rogue. This is effectively a multiclass thief/magic-user, and follows the standard Elf class's lead in combining the XP requirements for thief and magic-user, with a slight discount.

All the classes have saving throws better than their nearest human analogue. e.g. Aasimar & Tieflings save as Fighters with +2 to all saves, Pixie saves as Thief with +2 vs wands, breath, and spells, and +1 vs paralyse. Gnome is an oddball, it uses the Dwarf chart, but at a slower progression, improving every four levels instead of every three.

All classes except Halfling Burglar and Pixie have Infravision.

Aasimar, Gnomes, and Tieflings each get two racially-innate 1/day spells, and Pixies get a 1/day Invisibility. I would have written the resist fire ability of tieflings to be a passive effect inherent to their physiology, rather than a spell they cast.

Dragonborn get a 2/day breathe fire ability (15 ft, 2d4 damage, save vs dragon breath negates) and +1 to Armour Class.

Dwarven Priest has typical Dwarf abilities, and casts spells as a Cleric of their level. They can turn undead, though their turning rolls look to be made on d20 rather than 2d6. The odds of success are roughly equivalent, but a note clarifying this change would have been nice.

Dwarven Thief is what you'd expect. Note that dwarves are often completely nonmagical in old-school D&D, and this class follows that lead, getting no Scroll Use. Better at traps and locks than a standard thief, worse at climbing.

Elven Rogue has racial abilities of a typical Elf, and the Backstab, Read Languages and Scroll Use abilities of a Thief. They're better at hearing noise, hiding, moving silently and picking pockets, but worse at lockpicking. They cast spells as a Magic-User, which makes their Scroll Use ability redundant?

Gnome detects construction tricks as a dwarf. Their racial spells are both illusions, and they can cast from Magic-User scrolls.

Halfling Burglar is what you'd expect. Has Thief Skills, better at hiding and picking pockets.

Half-Orc is basically a Fighter with infravision, better saves and +1 melee damage, but their attack chart is worse.

Pixies. Oh boy. They cast spells as a Magic-User, but fly and have +2 to initiative (again, if group initiative isn't used). They can't wear armour, but have +2 Armour Class vs all creatures larger than them. This improves to +4 vs all creatures larger than a human. Their weapon attacks always deal 1d4 damage, but they can wield anything a Halfling or Dwarf can. Oh and they have better saves too. Note they have no Spell Research feature, unlike the standard Magic-User.

Tieflings get to roll on a d10 table of fiendish traits. Most of the effects are static in their mechanical effect (i.e. +2 to a save, +1 AC, you have claws, etc) but rolling on tables is always fun, and having "chitinous hide" actually written on your character sheet changes how you interact with people and the environment more than a fluff description at the beginning of the class writeup.

Rules Variant

It presents a simple "trained and untrained skills as saving throws" variant. Instead of the normal roll-equal-or-under ability check rule that BX presents (albeit as a variant) each class has two additional saving throw categories: Trained and Untrained. When a skill check is warranted, make a saving throw. It's left to GM ruling as to whether a skill check is trained or untrained for any given character (based on character class and background) and/or whether ability score adjustments apply.

None of the classes rely on this rules variant, not even the ones with thief-type skills, so it can be completely ignored if desired.

This can be retconned onto other classes by taking their best save as their Trained progression, and their worst as their Untrained progression. All of the classes in this follow that guideline except for Dwarven Thieves and Gnomes, both of whom have a better Trained progression than any of their five regular saves.

Note if you do this, it makes Dwarves & Halflings into excellent skillmonkeys thanks to their better saves, and overall favours more martial classes over Magic-Users. Elf also has a martial save progression, but their XP requirements balance that out.

Verdict

This works fine, but it's not quite fully baked, nor is it spicy enough.

The only classes I would baulk at allowing as-written are Pixie, and maybe Half-Orc for a low-level one-shot where its slower attack progression will never matter. Pixie's flight trivialises a lot of dungeoncrawling problems, that and their proficiency with short bows lets them fight from a safer range than a Magic-User. Their defensive bonus amounts to leather or chain unless you only ever throw tiny monsters at them, and all their saves are better. While they have an 8th level cap and harsh requirements for prime requisite bonus XP, those are often ignored and are poor ways to balance classes. If you do allow Pixies as-written, definitely enforce the "no spell research" rule so human Magic-Users still feel special.

Other, more fluffy details are underdeveloped. I know B/X Essentials omits the level titles from its class tables, but it still lists them on p. 22 of Classes & Equipment. This doesn't even do that. Even if I never use them in play, it's still cool to see what an author thinks a 1st level Tiefling would be called, or a 5th-level Half-Orc. Similarly, the stronghold abilities don't really inspire me, most are copy-pasted. Pixies don't even get a stronghold. What are pixie strongholds like? Inquiring minds want to know!

Mostly, this doesn't do enough surprising things. The tiefling class is a highlight of the document, I wish the other classes were more like that. I also liked Gnome, Half-Orc, and Dragonborn. Elven Rogue is a good template for a magic-user/thief multiclass, and put some thought into whether the Hear Noise thief skill should be adjusted.

But a 50% hit rate still isn't great. I would recommend this to someone who is too busy or not knowledgeable enough about B/X norms to homebrew or do the conversion work (from AD&D or 5e) themselves, and I would allow 90% of it in my games if a player asked, but it just needs that little bit of extra polish before I'd recommend it more generally.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Class Catalog for B/X Essentials
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Creator Reply:
Thank you for taking time to do such a thorough review. I appreciate your input and will take it all into consideration.
I made some changes and am curious if you would be willing to give me further feedback. Thanks.
Foe Folio for B/X Ascending
by Brian I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/24/2018 00:31:42

I really enjoyed this short but tasty monster folio. I found it to be a nice mix of some familar, and a bunch of new, for a system I enjoy. The art style sort of had a Mike Mignola vibe for me, which I also appreciated.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Foe Folio for B/X Ascending
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Cyber Crawl Classics: Cybernetics for Dungeon Crawl Classics
by Evan L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/22/2018 04:13:40

Even for just $1, I was expecting more, given the title, something more along the lines of MCC. This item is just 1.5 pages of content, very cursory stuff, not really a system, could have been publishesd as a short blog post somewhere. Kinda want my $1 back, actually.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Cyber Crawl Classics: Cybernetics for Dungeon Crawl Classics
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Foe Folio for B/X Essentials
by Thaddeus M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/07/2018 14:43:33

Excellent production value and layout in a digest style like B/X Essentials. Splendid Full color art by David and Melissa Guyl of Awful Good Games and Rick Hershey of Fat Goblin Games. To have every monster so beautifully illustrated is a real surprise for me at this inexpensive price point. Monster descriptions are utilitarian and short, in the same succinct style as monster entires in B/X Essentials Monsters. My only quibble would be that the decorative woodgrain margins and stained parchament style page background will lead to excessive prinker ink use if a hardcopy is desired. A less graphically intense plain B&W layout could be offered to remedy this. A very solid neat little monster booklet from Mark Craddock. Well done sir!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Foe Folio for B/X Essentials
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Creator Reply:
Thank you. I'll work up a printer-friendly version without the background and have it up in the next few days.
The Black Bestiary for The Black Hack Second Edition
by Jon S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/23/2018 04:58:44

This is a handy little book and good to have at hand whilst creating adventures or for on the fly games mastering. Nicely laid out and as clear as the rules system it is supporting. There are some lovely monsters here, set out three or so to a page and organised thematically (Aliens, wierd creatures, fliers etc). Great to see touches from TBH2 like the inclusion of items you're likely to find on each creature. My favourite were the aliens and the Waspmen. Good stuff and cheap as chips.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Black Bestiary for The Black Hack Second Edition
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Wizardry Unearthed for Swords & Wizardry Continual Light
by Michael B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/27/2017 10:39:50

I just picked this up and I have to say, I'm pretty much disappointed, even at this price.

Here's why 1.) The layout looks like the entire document was done in Open Office in 20 minutes. 2.) The 5 races are done in 14 lines of text and I'm not sure if these are balanced (The Half-Orc in particular looks overpowered to me). 3.) The 6 classes are done on 1 page. Each class description is pretty much "they work like [basic class from SWCL] but get one or more bonus abilities:..." The only class with a minor drawback is the Acrobat, but this drawback is pretty much gone by 2nd level. Example: Why would I play a wizard, if a sorcerer is a magic-user who gets a 33% chance to power up spells without any drawbacks? Without any fluff and background info on what a sorcerer is, it seems sorcerers will just be a more powerful version of the magic-user who in turn gets obsolete. 4.) The thief alternate ability is a nice idea, but the chances of success are not the same as in SWCL for the 1-in-6 and 4-in-6 chances. (The rest are fine and close enough to the original, with a minimal bonus for the thief. You should mention that or re-calculate your translation to d20. (I haven't checked the other special abilities.) Example: A 1-in-6 chance (~17%) is translated as a 16+ save, which is really a 25% chance of success. 5.) The description of the Hound of Tindalos starts in the stat block instead of in a new line which adds to the feeling that this was done in 20 minutes. The Sentient Chimp has a typo as well. And that's just from skimming the monster section.

Apart from that, the monsters have a few nice ideas which I might use.

TL;DR: There are PWYW and free titles out there which are better than this supplement. This is by far not on par with the SWCL book. Not recommended.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Wizardry Unearthed for Swords & Wizardry Continual Light
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Wizardry Unearthed for Swords & Wizardry Continual Light
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/25/2017 18:46:09

It's a nice product worth the small sum of the asking price. I've been writing my own version of the Warlock for SWCL, but it's nice to see another person's take on it. Five translated races that seem pretty well balanced; six translated classes that seem to capture some of the feel of their original; and a modest amount of monsters to add to your game.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Class Hack
by Michael D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/09/2017 16:22:45

Good ideas better suited to a blog post than a product for sale



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Class Hack
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The Race Hack
by Timothy B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/25/2016 18:28:41

This provides options for both fans of "race as option" (AD&D) and "race as class" (Basic D&D). I really like that you support both! The racial options capture the essence of the race nicely without introducing a lot of power creep. Meanwhile, the "race as class" features are well-balanced against the Black Hack and Class Hack classes. Nicely done.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Race Hack
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