Rolling Stats

Rolling stats is a divisive topic in D&D circles. It's gone through a ton of permutations over the years and each version of the stat rolling rules seems to have adherents. Additionally, some players have cooked up just about a million different options that TSR and WotC never even thought of. Let's talk a bit about the different stat rolling options that exist and also my angry hardline opinions about them!


Interview: Gavin Norman Talks B/X Essentials, Dolmenwood, and What's Next for Necrotic Gnome!

I am pleased to report that Gavin Norman, proprietor of Necrotic Gnome and author/editor/designer of the B/X Essentials line of books, has graciously agreed to be interrogated by a weird dude with a possum avatar! In fact, Gavin agreed to do this quite awhile ago, while I was still finishing up the B/X Essentials review. It's all just been sitting here for days and days while I posted other things according to my plan for pacing articles, and I'm sure Gavin must have hated the suspense. But that's what I'm here for - mild annoyance. And rabies. Probably also rabies.

So now that I have finished editing the typos on the review, missing most of them in the process no doubt, and it's finally been posted, the time is at last at hand for Gavin's words to grace the pages of this blog and save us from more of mine: 

1. I have to open on a selfish note and ask a question I've been curious about for awhile now: why "Necrotic Gnome"?

Ha! I'm surprised that no one has ever asked me about that before. The name comes from an old campaign I was running, years ago. It was set in the sewers and catacombs below a great city. At one point, the players came across a pair of giant trash heaps, accumulated from the city above. Various scavengers plied the heaps, searching for discarded treasures. A village of ratlings (who were also a playable race-class in that setting -- just re-skinned halflings, as far as I remember) had delved tunnels into one of the heaps, including an inn. Its name? The Necrotic Gnome.

So that phrase just stuck with me, and seemed like a fun name for an RPG publishing company, when it came to choosing one.

2. It's safe to say Necrotic Gnome is best known for its flagship product, which is B/X Essentials. What spurred you to take on the project of reorganizing the B/X rules?

The seed of the idea for B/X Essentials goes back a little way. I'd downloaded the A5 formatted PDF of OSRIC and had the thought that printing it as a set of booklets would be fun. So I spent a while splitting the PDF up, moving a few pages around into an order that made more sense, and setting up a private print run at Lulu. I received my OSRIC core rules, classes, and spells booklets, thought "nice! if I ever play OSRIC, these will be super handy", and put them on the shelf. I never played OSRIC, but the seed was planted.

A year or two later, running my regular Labyrinth Lord game, I noticed something: I was bringing the two full-size LL hardcovers to the table, and yet never referring to them, apart from giving them to a player occasionally to look up a spell. After the game, this realisation stuck with me: why am I bringing these books to the table, if I never refer to them during play? The idea of a set of small, easy-to-reference booklets came back to me, and I started chopping up Labyrinth Lord, starting with the plain text edition. My intention was purely to create something rough and ready for my own use.

But the more I dug into it, the more I realised that the reason I wasn't using my LL books as reference wasn't just the big hardcover tome format. The text of Labyrinth Lord itself just isn't written or structured in a way that makes it easy to reference. So I started not only chopping the document up into sections for printing, but also editing and restructuring the text. Soon enough, the scope of what I was doing became clear (it was a huge project -- much larger than the simple, rough, home printing project I'd begun!), and my enthusiasm surged as I realised that what I was doing could be of benefit to other people as well, not just me.

So B/X Essentials has always been about producing the game books that I want to use in my own games. I'm delighted to be able to use them now, and delighted that other people are also finding them useful.

3. The OSR industry is not as small as it once was, and a lot of popular B/X retroclones exist alongside your own. Some of them even had a foothold in the market before your own work did. How do you feel you set yourself apart?

In terms of the B/X retroclone market, yeah, there were definitely some big players around long before I dipped my toes into those waters. As I already mentioned, Labyrinth Lord is, of course, the big one. And I have to thank Dan Proctor for his generosity in releasing the text of that game as Open Game Content. His work there really kickstarted something. Lamentations of the Flame Princess contains elements of the Labyrinth Lord text, and parts of the same text formed the basis of the first two B/X Essentials books. I like to think of this body of open-licensed text evolving and being refined over time. I have taken some of Dan's text, reorganised it, re-edited it, rewritten bits, brought it back in line with B/X, and finally re-released it, still as Open Game Content. I hope that others will, in turn, take my work and tweak it in their own ways, continuing the evolution of the text.

As to how I feel I set myself apart, the focus on usability is the big thing, I feel. Everything in B/X Essentials -- from the writing and editing, to the organisation and layout -- is designed with one question in mind: how can these books be the best in-play rules references possible? Now, I'm by no means claiming that what I've come up with is perfect. It can definitely be improved, as can... everything, really. But I feel that the books I've produced are genuinely better rules reference books than the original B/X books or any other clone.

The other thing that sets B/X Essentials apart from other clones or B/X-inspired games is, of course, that it is a pure clone. I've made a great effort (with the invaluable proofreading assistance of a dedicated team of lovable B/X rules nerds) to make sure it presents a 100% accurate rules clone. This really is a rules reference for the original game, without any kind of tweaks, house rules, or authorial inventions. Except in one area: in places where I found the original rules self-contradictory (there are actually quite a few of these!), I have made editorial decisions, clearing up the ambiguity one way or the other. Such choices are always noted in the text, though.

4. Now, a lot of us remember the Basic rulebook back in the day as a 64-page booklet, and Expert as it's own 64 page rulebook. You've reorganized this into a more holistic format, commissioned all-new artwork by some amazing folks like Alex Mayo and Luka Rejec, and produced four total books now - but the total page count is now ~160 pages as a result even before the next part of the core set (Adventures and Treasures) - What's the rationale and cause behind such an expansion in size?

I've seen people mention this before: that the page count of B/X Essentials is larger than that of the original B/X D&D books. This is indubitably true, but it's a highly misleading metric. What you have to remember is that the B/X D&D books are US Letter sized pages. These are much larger than the 6"×9" pages that B/X Essentials is formatted for, meaning that it's possible to fit significantly more content on each page. So the raw page count doesn't really mean anything much.

What is relevant is the word count. I've never checked this before actually, so (if you'll forgive me geeking out on this point) let's do a quick bit of math. Basic D&D consists of about 57K words. Expert D&D consists of 56K words. B/X Essentials: Core Rules is 14K words, Classes and Equipment is 15K words, Cleric and Magic-User Spells is 12K words, Monsters is 24K words, and the just-finished draft of Adventures and Treasures is 19K words. Adding all of that up, we get 113K words total for Basic / Expert D&D, and 84K words total for B/X Essentials. The numbers are clear: B/X Essentials is significantly less verbose that the original B/X. (Phew, I'm happy the numbers worked out in favour of my argument there!)

5. With B/X Essentials Monsters out, the next book in the planned core line is Adventures and Treasures, which would just about wrap it up. What's the big priority for the line going forward from there?

My immediate plan is to have the complete "classic" set of B/X Essentials books finished in time for the SPIEL convention in October. At the time of writing (in late July), I've just finished the text of Adventures and Treasures, so this feels like a readily achievable goal.

Following that, the main focus with B/X Essentials is going into planning a crowdfunding campaign for deluxe, non-print-on-demand editions. We (myself and my publishing partners at Quality Beast) are planning a Kickstarter for early 2019, to produce a fancy, all-in-one hardback edition of the B/X Essentials rules, along with a boxed set of the five booklets. It's not 100% decided yet, but we'll probably have some nice extras to go with the Kickstarter editions, for example B/X Essentials character sheets and a referee's screen (and maybe dice for the boxed set).

6. Another big project for you is the Dolmenwood setting. You've produced a number of resources for this now and it only seems to be gaining steam. What's your best pitch to someone curious about Dolmenwood, and what inspired you to generate an original setting and share it?

Quick elevator pitch: Dolmenwood is weird, fairy tale, hex-crawl setting centred on a mossy, murky forest, in a backwater kingdom on the borders of Fairy. It's designed as a mini campaign setting (the forest is about 200 miles across), so that it can be slotted into an existing milieu as desired by the referee. The setting features: all new monsters (no D&D standards), loads of new player character classes (including moss dwarfs and shape-shifting, fairy cats), inter-faction conflict (the battle of Law, Neutrality, and Chaos is forefront), and oodles of random tables (for everything from tavern fare to psychedelics to standing stones).

The origins of Dolmenwood go back to early 2013, when Greg Gorgonmilk and I started discussing the idea of writing a weird fantasy campaign setting. Over the course of some weeks of emailing back and forth, the seeds of what would come to be Dolmenwood were sown. I think the inspiration for writing a new setting was that we felt we'd tapped into a vein of fantasy that has perhaps not been thoroughly explored in D&D -- a pre-20th century fantasy founded on fairy tales and folklore, rather than on the writings of D&D mainstays such as Tolkien, Leiber, Howard, etc. Fairy -- the timeless Otherworld parallel to the mortal world of men and women -- plays a major role in Dolmenwood, which is also something that was never a major element in classic A/D&D. Plus we threw in a healthy dose of psychedelia, for good measure.

7. What can we expect to see in the future for Dolmenwood content? On your blog you mention a hardcover campaign setting book - can you tell me a little bit more about that?

Right back in 2013, at the inception of Dolmenwood, Greg and I planned to publish the setting as a series of hardcover books -- a campaign book for the referee, a players book with all the new classes, a monster manual, and so on. This vision was at once inspiring and daunting! Once we realised how much work would be involved in this, I suggested that we start things off on a smaller scale, by writing about Dolmenwood in a series of zine issues. Thus was born Wormskin, the Dolmenwood zine, which allowed us to publish aspects of the setting piecemeal, following whichever moss-clad pathways we found ourselves on.

Greg's involvement with Dolmenwood dwindled along the way, but I continued exploring the primeval wood, and now, eight issues of Wormskin later, the original vision of the hardcover setting books hasn't left me. I am now channeling all the ley-energies of Dolmenwood to bring the Campaign Book into manifest existence. The idea is that, where Dolmenwood currently only exists in a piecemeal collection of articles spread across the extant issues of Wormskin, the Campaign Book will present the setting in its entirety. All 184 hexes on the campaign map will be detailed, all factions will receive a full treatment, the history and culture of the setting will be thoroughly described, and so on. This will be the be-all-and-end-all of Dolmenwood, from the perspective of a referee wanting to run campaigns set there. And again, like the B/X Essentials books, the plan is to produce this as a lavishly illustrated, deluxe print run, funded via a Kickstarter campaign in 2019.

8. There's no shortage of B/X compatible modules and adventures out there, but with Dolmenwood on your mind nowadays, are you planning to publish more adventures set there, using B/X Essentials?

The connection (or not) between Dolmenwood and B/X Essentials is actually still coalescing in my mind. I mean, Dolmenwood is written for the B/X D&D rules, so there's clearly a connection, but I'm still considering how or if to bring the two product lines together.

But yes, there are more Dolmenwood adventure modules in the works. Next up is a 1st-3rd level adventure called The Fungus That Came To Blackeswell, by Yves Geens, illustrated by Thomas Novosel. We've been running play tests over the last couple of months, and are now on the cusp of launching into layout. I'm hoping we'll see that reach publication by the end of 2018.

9. Recently you announced a big new partnership arrangement with Quality Beast. What is this going to mean for you going forward? What new opportunities does it open for Necrotic Gnome, and what can fans get excited about?

The partnership came about because I am personal friends with the people behind Quality Beast. Most of them either live in Berlin, or are colleagues (or ex-colleagues) from my day job, or both. So I've been watching them grow their game publishing company over the last couple of years, and have been super impressed at the level of quality and professionalism they're going for, and at the scale of operations possible in the processes they're establishing. I've been wanting to take Necrotic Gnome to the fabled "next level" for some time, and seeing my friends setting up all this serious publishing infrastructure was super inspiring to me. It was an obvious move for us to combine forces.

The biggest things, from my perspective, that this partnership brings are higher production values and a larger reach. As I've already mentioned, we're planning to do crowdfunding campaigns for deluxe print runs of upcoming Necrotic Gnome books, so this will represent a big step beyond the limitations of the print-on-demand production model that I've used up until this point. Likewise, with the infrastructure that my pals at Quality Beast are establishing, I hope to get Necrotic Gnome books into way more people's hands than currently. The beginnings of this are our appearances at conventions, but we're also setting up contacts with retailers and distributors, to get our products into physical stores, beyond the limited scope of RPGNow.

10. You've been to a lot of conventions this year, all of them in Europe, where you're based. Any hope of seeing you stateside anytime soon?

I'd love to get to one of the US cons! Nothing is being concretely planned yet, but I hope to bring Necrotic Gnome to at least one in 2019. Gary Con would be my first choice.

11. Before we wrap this up, is there anything you'd like to plug? Any projects or announcements or special deals that are close to your heart that you'd like to bring awareness to?

Yes, there is one more thing (to quote the inimitable Lieutenant Columbo) that I'd like to mention about my future plans for B/X Essentials. I talked previously about the plan for the deluxe combined edition and boxed set of the five "classic" booklets that encompass the rules of the original B/X game, but this is actually only the beginning of B/X Essentials, for those who want more.

The way I've split the classic rules up into separate booklets means that it's easy to replace elements of the game. For example, the Classes and Equipment book, which details the classic fantasy classes, could be replaced with a book of classes for post-apocalyptic campaigns; the classic bestiary presented in the Monsters book could be replaced with a book of completely new monsters, say for a Lost World setting; the standard Cleric and Magic-User Spells could be replaced with a book of necromancer and elementalist spells; and so on. With this approach, the Core Rules book can form the foundation for any number of weird and wonderful campaigns, with the "extras" (classes, spells, monsters, and treasures) provided by slotting in replacements.

The sky's the limit, really, with this modular approach to a game. There are several such modules in development for B/X Essentials right now (I recently announced the Post-Apocalyptic Classes and Equipment book), and I (and other people) have ideas for many more in the future. My dream would be for B/X Essentials to eventually span many different genres and campaign settings, all based on the same, streamlined Core Rules, and all 100% cross-compatible. That's a way off yet, but it's going to be fun getting there!

Thanks for asking such fruitful questions, Daniel!

Well, first of all, thank you for being so damn helpful and friendly, Gavin! Second, thanks for taking the time to answer so many questions and for doing the grade school math I should have done before asking about the page count - I left that discussion in the original review article out of "journalistic integrity" or something vaguely approaching it. I can't believe I hadn't considered that simple difference between 6x9 and 8.5x11 paper, but I think it's because I've only had the PDFs. At least, that's what I'll blame it on! Regardless of my own stupidity, and that of others, I am overjoyed that you took the time to sit and answer so much for my little blog. Thank you very much, and I can't wait to have you back for more when Dolmenwood and the Kickstarters get underway with a vengeance!

Review: B/X Essentials


Writer: Gavin Norman
Art: Michael Clarke, Mike Hill, Tom Kilian, Kyle Latino, Alex Mayo, Thomas Novosel, Sean Poppe, Matthew Ray, Luka Rejec, Andrew Walter
Design: Gavin Norman
Editor: Gavin Norman
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome Productions
Length: Core: 34pp / Cleric and Magic-User Spells: 34pp / Classes and Equipment: 44pp

There's a lot of games out there nowadays. We're lucky to live in an era with a true embarrassment of riches as far as gaming goes, especially after so many years of doom and gloom about computers and video games coming to sound the funeral bells for tabletop - and the future looks bright for this trend continuing. With the resurgence in traditional gaming, the OSR continues to climb to fantastic heights and along with that has come wave after wave of retroclones, spinoffs, and copycat games aimed at replicating the classic gameplay of yesteryear - old editions of the Dungeons and Dragons Fantasy Role-Playing Game.

A few of the most popular retroclones have set themselves apart either by being the first of their kind (or close to it), whereas others stand out by taking what we know and love and going somewhere new and unexplored with it. However, sometimes what we really want is a genuine, accurate clone. Something without real deviation from what we know and love, but made widely available again for us to reference so our treasured old originals can remain on the shelf, away from snacks and soda. Gavin Norman of Necrotic Gnome set out to do just that, aiming to produce a very faithful clone of the Moldvay and Cook B/X ruleset in an easily-referenced format ready to launch gamers into old school play all over again. Let's take a look at it.

B/X Essentials is really a line of books, based around the idea of combining the original Basic booklet and Expert booklet, unifying the text, and then splitting this amalgam into its component parts. At the time of this writing, there are four published elements to the B/X Essentials line: the Core Rules, Classes and Equipment, Cleric and Magic-User Spells, and Monsters. Monsters has just come out and is not specifically covered by this review. A fifth part, Adventures and Treasure, is in development now for release shortly and is therefore also not covered by this review. As the subject of this review, only the first three components will be discussed in detail; rest assured, though, that what seems "missing" from this initial trio of books is not lost and forgotten. Author Gavin Norman is the proprietor of Necrotic Gnome and has extensive plans for the B/X line, which I'll get to later in this article.

The goal of the B/X Essentials line is simple. It is a restatement of the Moldvay/Cook ruleset, organized for reference as though the two TSR booklets were one whole unit. It eliminates redundancies between the two booklets and then splits the combined text by subject matter, resulting in a concise, well-indexed version of the B/X rules that is extremely suitable for table use. It is easy to reference and - thanks to the benefit of hindsight, improved understanding of what should go into RPG book design, and about 40 years of table use - very user-friendly. The big win straight from the outset is the fact that B/X Essentials compresses the two tiers of leveling into a single entity, meaning you aren't looking for an unremembered rule in the wrong book by the time your wizard gets to sixth level, and you aren't having to glance past countless repeated statements in the Expert booklet simply regurgitating the details of the Basic booklet, and you aren't getting the contradictions that exist between the two books (they exist). The result is very handy, very clean, and very enjoyable to use for the established B/X player or DM.

Let's take a brief look at what's going on in the three books:

Core Rules
In 34 pages, Gavin lays out his statement of purpose; the ability scores; the passage of time and the way turns/days work in and out of dungeons; the rules of general gameplay for adventuring including everything from ability checks and experience to chases to wandering monsters and movement and everything in between; combat rules from start to finish as well as edge-case combat rules and the applicable charts for quick combat reference; magic mechanics, the legal whoopty-doo of the OGL, and a lovely index of tables. Dressing this book, there's a truly remarkable amount of gorgeous black-and-white artwork from a large number of very talented artists whose works have routinely graced the OSR's best books. Additionally, a ubiquitous green-and-white alternating block chart layout makes tables extremely easy on the eyes. At the front of the book is the usual table of contents, and at the very back is a concise and handy index of tables that make it all the more useful as a table reference while actually playing.

Classes and Equipment
In 44 pages, we get expanded character creation details; the seven expected classes (including race-as-class, of course); languages; advancement and leveling rules; rules for currency and starting wealth; a very respectable equipment section; rules regarding land and water transportation to include determination between good ships and bad ships as well as their outfitting; mercenaries and hirelings; and of course rules for construction and upkeep of castles and fortresses. Throughout the book, we see that same green-and-white theme to the elements of the book layout; the minty color is actually very easy on the eyes but provides enough contrast to make it easy to pick lines apart. This is an understated but lovely element to these books. In the end, Gavin places the required OGL information and then, again, a handy table index that complements the opening table of contents very nicely. Like the core rules, this is a great reference manual full of gorgeous art, and it is eminently suitable for use at the table during actual play sessions.

Cleric and Magic-User Spells
Back to the 34 page length on this one. The formatting here is just a little different - less granular division in the table of contents because it's merely categorizing levels of spells; and instead of a table index at the back, we get a spell index by name, alphabetically, with indications of whether it's a Cleric or a Magic-User version of the spell where overlaps occur. The art is again very inventive and interesting, which is good, because magic is the most fantastical part of D&D much of the time. He includes a foreword to explain the purpose of the spell reference and also the formatting conventions used, which make browsing a snap. Here again we see that green-and-white color pattern, too; it's nice to have a smooth and consistent layout between all three.

Again, if you're a studied hand, you'll note that there's a bit of a gap here between what was in the B/X booklets and what I have listed - namely the monsters and the rewards! As I said, Monsters is out now (I just haven't copped it yet!) and Adventures and Treasure is coming hot on its heels as Gavin Norman wraps up pre-production on it. Fear not! These elements are not lost to players and DMs; you won't need to reference B/X Essentials books half the time and somehow still rely on your old B/X manuals to fill in the rest. However, in the reorganization and editing, Gavin will have taken two booklets and made them into five booklets - this is much handier as far as division of topics goes, but it has been the subject of some quibbling around the internet. Criticisms range from greater page count to ending up with more physical objects on the table. Currently the page count of B/X vs B/X Essentials is about 128 pages vs 160 pages (including Monsters, which is now released) - and that's not even counting the fifth booklet yet. However, there is also many more large pieces of artwork in the B/X Essentials books, and they are laid out much, much better for our actual use at the table, so any such trade-off is not a worry for most.

What we have, then, is a very comprehensive reorganization of the beloved Moldvay/Cook rules that proves to be extremely useful for players and DMs. Actually referencing the books is a dream. They're also not a 40-year-old collectible to be concerned about near pencils and pens like some of us feel our B/X sets are; and they're full of tremendous artwork that stirs the imagination and evokes the sense of the old games without relying on the old artists. These books are meant to be used. These books exemplify the idea that RPG books are tools, but they don't give up on being lovely. Like the utilitarian beauty of a Gransfors-Bruks axe, the B/X Essentials line is consistent, clean, and very well-appointed. Gavin truly engenders a lot of goodwill by being true to the rules and presenting them in a way that genuinely loans itself to actual use without completely sacrificing the small pleasures of quality artwork and crisp, simple layout that actually supports its purpose.

What B/X Essentials does not set out to be is a tutorial for new gamers. It is not itself a Basic Set, so to speak - it is a well-organized index. Though a motivated reader could easily pick up these books and emerge with a flawless grasp of the rules and an understanding of the game - especially now, in 2018, where the concept of a role-playing game is frankly a given concept understood by most, and a passing (if questionably accurate) familiarity with the idea of D&D is widespread - Gavin clearly did not approach this project with that in mind. In his introduction to the B/X Essentials line in the Core Rules book, Gavin speaks very highly of B/X D&D, and explains his desire to make a table-use reference. Because of this, he has done away with many of the textual elements one would expect to find in a "starter set," because that's not what he's after. Gone is the instructional, almost conversational tone of the Basic and Expert sets, introducing role-playing as a hobby and explaining the trappings of fantasy worlds.  Gavin Norman does not spend page space explaining any more than he has to. He displays great self-control; he exhibits clear excitement in his introduction but he, unlike the author of this article, is capable of editing himself for brevity. Good on you, Gavin.

Earlier in this article, I mentioned that more is coming from Necrotic Gnome as far as the B/X Essentials line is concerned. The Necrotic Gnome blog has a good post about it, but the short version is this: with the publication of Monsters complete and the forthcoming Adventures and Treasures almost ready for publishing, the B/X Essentials core set will soon be complete. This will allow for complete play as the original B/X game was written with exactly the same breadth of options and mechanics. Following on to this, Gavin plans a B/X Advanced series which will cover additional classes (such as Druid), higher level character options, and higher level foes and treasures. Based on the line's name, perhaps we can assume much of it will derive backwards from AD&D, which is of course largely compatible. In addition to this, Necrotic Gnome plans to release a full suite of expansions by genre or setting, offering B/X adaptations of things like the Oriental Adventure books and even science fantasy and post-apocalyptic worlds, codifying entirely optional B/X-based campaigns. I excerpt Gavin's own list from the Necrotic Gnome blog here:
Classic Series (mostly finished now)

  • Classes and Equipment
  • Cleric and Magic-User Spells
  • Monsters
  • Adventures and Treasures
Advanced Series
  • Advanced Characters
  • Druid and Illusionist Spells
  • Advanced Cleric and Magic-User Spells
  • Advanced Monsters
  • Advanced Adventures and Treasures
Genre Modules
  • Lost World Monsters
  • Mythic Japan Classes and Equipment
  • Mythic Japan Spells
  • Mythic Japan Monsters
  • Post-Apocalyptic Classes and Equipment
Rules Modules
  • Character Options
  • Downtime
  • Biological Magic
  • Elemental Magic
  • Necromantic Magic
These are lofty goals, but if achieved, Necrotic Gnome could bring the old school roleplaying style to broader markets and get even more players involved on the framework of the same B/X ruleset we all know and love - potentially inspiring some of those folks to take a look at the mechanics in turn and write their own modules, settings, and expansions. It looks to be an exciting project that doesn't touch the pristine, unmodified core rules (which retroclone gamers truly appreciate about B/X Essentials) but opens massive amounts of new doors and does the legwork for us on all those far-out ideas. By doing it this way, Necrotic Gnome allows us to pick and choose our game a la carte; the original B/X experience is unmodified and the rules presentation is not diluted by having to walk around a lot of now and alternative or optional things, but should we want to add elements of X, Y, or Z to our games, the books will be there, ready to go in a modular fashion. Gavin also seems to recognize, given the text of his foreword in the B/X Essentials Core Rules book, that there are limitations to the B/X ruleset and therefore we can probably expect him to stop short of shoehorning in anything that would mechanically clash with the system as we know it.

And lastly, above and beyond the expansion of the line, Gavin recently partnered Necrotic Gnome with Quality Beast to formalize a new era of production run printing for the B/X Essentials line. That means we're looking ahead now to some campaigns for a collected edition and possibly more, produced with full control, instead of relying on print-on-demand. Should be something really special for fans of the B/X D&D game and fans of Gavin's particular spin on it!

In summation: These books are meant to be used at the table and they are successful in that endeavor. They are affordable; grabbing every published book right now in hardcover and saving the estimated cost of the fifth core book for the day it arrives will cost you less than buying any two out of the three core rulebooks for D&D 5E; buying these in PDF and paying for the printer ink will cost you no more than a decent meal. These are a tremendous value for the B/X OSR player, without question. They're handy, they're attractive, they're novel. B/X Essentials is one of the best retroclones on the scene today, and we're all better off for their presence.

I have no hesitation giving B/X Essentials a full five fat possums choking on table scraps out of five, meaning Gavin should feel welcome to include a foil medallion noting the books as "Rated 5/5 Trash Fatties" on his next formal print run of these books. If you feel differently, or you'd just like to chat about how cool B/X is, hit me up on Twitter @dungeonspossums and let's hug it out.