Monday, November 16, 2020


Like, I suspect, a great many roleplayers my age, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons continues to exercise a powerful influence over my conception of D&D. In the last few years, though, my love and appreciation for the 1981 Moldvay/Cook/Marsh rules has grown, to the point where I think it's fair to say that B/X has eclipsed AD&D in my affections. That's why, when I've written "D&D" materials for publication (or even just sharing with others), I've made use of contemporary emulators of those rules, whether they be Labyrinth Lord or Old School Essentials

One aspect of the B/X rules I particularly enjoy is the presentation of its seven character classes. The first four classes are the "basic" classes, each of which occupies a "pure" niche and, not unintentionally, limited to humans. The other three are for demihumans and, for that reason, could be called "advanced" or "mixed" (even though two of the classes, the dwarf and the halfling, are simply the Fighter Plus). My enjoyment stems from both the simplicity of this set-up and the subtle world building it implies.

Lately, I've mused that this basic structure – "4+3," as I've started calling it in my head, almost certainly not original to me – is a sturdy and flexible one that could be adapted to other circumstances. If you've taken notice of the new classes I've been presenting for Urheim, you might see what I'm talking about. For example, the goblin is an alternative to the halfling, while the gargantua is a replacement for the dwarf, and so on. I've been very happy with the ease with which I can build up the setting through these alternate takes on some of the seven classes in B/X. Based on the positive comments I've been receiving about them, others agree, which delights me.


  1. There may just be something about that N+(N−1) that's inherently pleasing.

    The last time I played actual D&D, the classes numbered eleven (fighter, mage, cleric, thief, monk, bard, elf, dwarf, gnome, halfling, orc), and in my own game system there are nine classes (in D&D terms they're fighter, mage, cleric, thief, artificer, elf, dwarf, halfling, and orc, although they don't all go by those exact names).

  2. I've also seen the Halfling re-skinned as basically a B/X Ranger. The lack of longbow is only a minor cognitive hurdle, but the bonus with missile attacks, ability to vanish in woodlands, and their AC bonus against large foes (as opposed to the damage bonus gained against "giant-class" enemies by a Ranger in AD&D) all seem like a package which could be easily viewed as a human Ranger. Even the restriction to not use the largest weapons is compatible with a Ranger's need to travel light.

    Another interesting thing I've seen noted recently is how the demi-human classes are the only ones "gated" behind ability score minimums. 9 Int for Elves, 9 Con for Dwarves, 9 Con and Dex for Halflings. Instead of giving Demi-Humans BONUSES, like AD&D and the editions which followed, B/X made them less common simply by limiting which generated characters can be them. This is a really cool approach, to my mind. Simultaneously reinforcing the humanocentric concept while mechanically ensuring that there are no sickly Dwarves or stupid Elves.