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Thursday, April 12, 2018

The BX setting (part 2)


Soldiering on, one of the ways that a BX setting is not like a typical swords & sorcery world is the presence of "non-monstrous" demihumans.

These guys

S&S tends to be fairly human-centric. With nonhumans relegated to the monstrous or degenerate. While it's not fair to say that classic D&D's default is somehow less fantasy-laden than more modern versions, I think that's its style of fantasy ends to be more of the 'grounded reality with a fantastical layer,' as opposed to 'full-on mix of fantastical elements where the "real" world is almost gone from view.' There is a spectrum here to be sure, and any system has representative settings from various points along the line. But to me BX leans to a pseudo-medieval with magical elements world, and that includes things like elves and such. That being said, the idea of level limits and race-as-class could indicate a world where demihumans that follow the path of the PCs are outliers among their kind and outsiders among the humans. But that's just one interpretation.


Typical BX settings also stray from many swords & sorcery tropes with magic being far more common and 'stable.' Predictable effects and organization of set spells is a mainstay of nearly all flavors of D&D, as opposed to things like spells using blood-soaked rituals and spells only being found in long-lost tomes. Also wizards in those worlds are typically quite rare and often in league with multiple foul demons or similar.

BX is hardly unique in D&D with settings that include things like player character spellcasters, magic schools, court wizards, as well as town clerics that can cast healing magics up to -and including- raising the dead. This aspect puts it more in line with 'high fantasy' settings. Where BX varies from most other editions is while BX magic isn't terribly rare as a rule, it is relatively limited. 

BX magic-users get 72 standard spells, 6 levels at 12 spells each. They don't even see a 6th level spell slot until after name level (11th). Elves don't even get a 6th level spell by the book, being capped at 10th. Compare that to 1st edition AD&D, with 194 spells spread out (unevenly) over NINE spell levels. Clerics fare similarly, with BX clerics getting 34 spells over 5 levels  vs. AD&D's 76 over 7. That doesn't even take into account the druid and illusionist lists. Not to mention starting clerics aren't even spellcasters yet!

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying AD&D (or similar) is 'broken' by too many spells, but I do think it changes the tone of the game somewhat. It's still definitely Dungeons & Dragons, but I do feel that BX's more streamlined list does contribute to part of the game's feel, and -by extension- to the feel of a BX world.

(to be continued in Part 3)

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