Saturday, September 03, 2022

Memories of B/Xia

Noisms has waxed nostalgic for an interdimensional realm he calls TSRan.  I had little exposure to that wider world; by the time 2e launched, I was deeply into my own worldbuilding, and while my worlds shared much in common with TSRan, when I wax nostalgic, my heart goes to a tiny corner of that realm known as B/Xia (pronounced “bee-EKS-ia” of course). 


My memories of it will vary from yours, of course, but the realm I remember was best illustrated by Bill Willingham, Jeff Dee, Trampier, LaForce, Roslof, and, in its more bizarre locations, Erol Otus.  It also was a world of great danger, where travel through the mountains risked being spotted by a soaring dragon and every forest hid tribes of orcs on the move.  Magic-wielding elves feuded with magic-resistant dwarves.  The borders of halfling communities were patrolled by sheriffs who used stealth and ambush as their chief means of discouraging those wandering tribes of orcs from lingering close to their bucolic homes. 

It was a world where the corpses of thieves could be found in every dungeon (and the occasional doorstep).  It was a world that was wild, where pockets of civilization, the bastions of Law, were surrounded by vast, trackless wilds teaming with the scions of Chaos.  Colorful bands of mercenaries, human and humanoid, tramped the dusty roads, never too far from their next job.  Knights in gleaming armour fought alongside elven archers and goblin wolf-riders.  Sprawling castles and cramped towers dotted the grey zone where Chaos and Law interlaced and clashed.  Every patch of dirt hid millenniums of history teaming with strange magics, enchanted treasures, and bizarre monsters long lost to the light of the sun.  The seas were dangerous, full of monsters, but most were relatively shallow, excellent for traversing in triremes and similar galleys. 


I’ll admit, this is more based on the rules of the game than the art.  While the art inspires, it’s the wonderfully simple world full of interesting details that always brings me back to B/Xia.  


Narmer said...

B/Xia. I like it. And what you describe is awfully close to what runs around in my head.

waywardwayfarer said...

Yes, this is definitely where my mind goes when I think D&D. B/X really does have a different aesthetic and feel from other editions. Even its nearest neighbor, BECMI, starting from a point of being almost identical mechanically, sets a course away from B/Xia toward a more high-powered gonzo kitchen-sinkism.

James Mishler said...

Yep, started with B/X, still play it all like B/X. Even when I ran AD&D or RuneQuest, my campaign worlds were still informed by B/X.

My Mystara, though it was built with BECMI, was always run through B/X, with that solid understanding that mortal power capped at level 14.

I never added in all those new monsters from Companion or Master. I toyed with the Weapon Mastery rules but they just broke the game system.

Even when using AD&D I still used d6 group initiative if possible. Lots of B/X rules kludged into AD&D where they were just... Better, less complex.

And when I imagined the world and it's people and monsters, it was from the art of B/X, not the MM, or DMG, or PHB. Those were sources of some additional details, magic items, classes, spells, etc.

Which is why I love Advanced Labyrinth Lord so much. It plays like I always played, and did it's damnedest to look how I always imagined the game world to look...

Really liking this series of related posts. It's all the B/X feels...

trollsmyth said...

Narmer: Thanks!

waywardwayfarer: I do find it fascinating that you can get there from most of Elmore and Parkinson's D&D work, since neither artist goes very deep into the excesses of BECMI or AD&D. (And I can say that even though Elmore created the look for Dragonlance, because, while I might disagree with the structure of Dragonlance, the content is usually (though not always) good. But that's very much a YMMV thing.)

James Mishler: I have been accused (and not without reason) of treating every RPG I encounter as merely additional material to use with B/X. ;)