Saturday, November 21, 2015

Review & Commentary On The B/X Rogue From Necrotic Gnome Productions For Your Old School Campaigns

I received a copy of B/X Rogue from a friend just as I was wrapping up a leg of writing on a new campaign, more on that later. B/X Rogue is a new Gavin Norman title that takes the thief and defines the PC class in new ways. The book clocks in at about twenty six pages of old school goodness. Gavin is incharge of the City of Iron blog and clocks in some damn fine titles such as the Complete Vivmancer and the crowd sourced Free OSR adventure From the Vats . He is also the man whose put out one of my all time favorite B/X pay what you want PC expansion class books Theorems & Thaumaturgy.
So when B/X Rogue hit the stands today I contacted a friend to grab this title and let me take a look at it right away.  So colour me intrigued, and very happy to have another variation on one of my favorite PC's classes at the table. BX Rogue does quite a bit different, this blurb from the City of Iron blog really intrigued me

"More than simply a thief, the rogue class has access to talents drawn from a wide array of archetypes, all integrated into a single class. Scouts & spies, burglars & tomb robbers, charlatans & con-artists, swashbucklers & explorers, brigands & highwaymen, assassins & thugs. No need for all of those specialized sub-classes any more!"
Now given that sort of a claim I could see what B/X Rogue was trying to do? But then the second part really caught me by surprise.

Within these pages you will discover:

  1. Complete advancement tables for levels 1 to 20
  2. 36 adventuring talents
  3. Themed packages of talents for a quick start into the game
  4. Guidelines for other classes attempting roguish feats
  5. Rules for song magic and dabbling in arcane secrets
    Right out of the gate we've got an expansion of the levels of the class and boat load of brand new adventuring talents. And that really is one of the chief things I love about this version of the Rogue. Besides being able to use ALL weapons they have a range of skills that really makes them much more customized. According to the book;The chief aptitude of rogues is the plethora of highly specialized skills of dexterity, stealth, intrigue, infiltration, and cunning that they are able to learn. These are known collectively as talents . The following section lists dozens of talents which a rogue may learn over his or her career, beginning at 1st level with four, as chosen by the player, and gaining one more talent per experience level gained. (For players who do not wish to spend time browsing the complete library random tables and quick-start selections of talents are provided later.)
    Talents allow the players to customize the rogue to their vision of the character and the niche of where the PC is going to fall within the bounds of the party. From a simple pick pocket to an acrobatic assassin B/X Rogue allows for this and more.
    Examples of  talents include Awareness
    Your honed reactions and instinctual awareness of danger make it difficult for
    enemies to sneak up on you. When surprise is rolled, you are only surprised on
    a roll of 1 (instead of 1-2, like other characters).
    Gavin has a great knowledge of the Basic system and the talents system is a nice fit for  just this sort of an application. Take for example Climb Rock Face, a quick and easy talent that can turn a simple thief into a movie style assassin scaling up the sides of cliff faces.
    Climb Rock Faces
    When lightly encumbered, you can climb rough rock faces unaided, with a successful
    DEX check. You can climb less treacherous surfaces without a check. And another thing lurking in the background is the idea of being able to have occult based talents that dovetail into the idea of the magician style thief. Something that has come down to us from the pages of sword and sorcery novels and comic books. Like the assassin its right there in the talents lurking for the dungeon master to approve the matter as they see fit for their own game campaigns. This section dovetails into the next bit quite nicely.
    Magical Talents get's its own section as a PC  option with the Detect Magic talent, and the ever intriguing spell song abilities thrown in for good measure. Spell songs are not complicated concepts and plug into the bard being brethren to the Rogue. A concept I've seen used a couple of times over the years in various game products but this product's explanation of the spell song is straight forward, concise and well thought out ; "You have learned and mastered an enchanted song which you can sing or play on an instrument once per day to magical effect. (This talent presupposes a level of musical skill, with either vocals or one or more instruments" There are rules for the application and casting of this style of magic and spell song spell lists included within it.  There are even archetype PC class style kits included, these are not clunky and ill thought out. These are concise pieces of game design that includes everything a player needs straight out of the gate. All of this comes under the  "Quick-Start Talent Selection". There's even a random talents section that rounds the entire package out.

    In point of fact this book could be used to create Rogues of all calibers for space based science fiction games, scavengers & assassins for   post apocalyptic hell holes, sword and sorcery religious fanatic cut throats, and even inter planar highwaymen. The limit is really your imagination because of the set up of this product.
    The B/X Rogue is hands down one of the best products I've seen for creating a B/X Rogue that you want as a player or to create an off the cuff NPC rogue, thief, assassin, highwayman or other criminal of the underworld.  I give B/X Rogues a five out of five. I should also mention that I love the black and white artwork that evocates a certain old school something within the pages. It adds a feeling of looking through a mimeographed old school fanzine. 

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