The B/X paradox is that B/X is both one of my favorite RPGs - maybe the greatest - but I can also think of a dozen games that I like better. These games, however, are mostly directly derived from B/X.
B/X is, IMO:
- In many ways superior to AD&D, 3e, 4e, 5e, etc., and even the RC.
- In many ways inferior
to its streamlined/modernized versions: BFRPG, LotFP, ACKS, OSE and (dare I say it?) Dark Fantasy Basic
There is not much more to it. B/X is a diamond in the rough. I am often playing some version of it... but ALWAYS with more stuff added, and NEVER exactly as written.
So B/X is also the most heavily house-ruled system I play, despite being a favorite. When playing most other editions of D&D, I use fewer house rules.
|Ugly AI art.|
Here is another paradox: while I like B/X neoclones more than most games, I hate it when they stick too close to B/X. If you're keeping it as originally written, what is the point? But I also dislike games that change B/X so much that they become incompatible (e.g., changing the number of ability scores or making all abilities "roll under").
So, at the bare minimum
, I expect a B/X clone to "fix" thieves' skills and weapons
. I would also like to see some solutions for arbitrary saving throws and race-as-class, in addition to the over-reliance on tables (XP, STs, skills, etc.) - but that is a matter of taste. On the other hand, I expect it to be compatible
with existing modules, monsters, etc. with minimal
Finally, here is my AD&D paradox: I think AD&D is messy and unnecessarily complex (when compared to B/X) and I would never play it as written (not even Gygax did), but I really enjoymany bits from AD&D, and all B/X clones that try to add AD&D stuff to the game: races separated from class, more classes, monsters (including demons), stronger fighters (better THAC0), multiple attacks, thieves with d6 HD, and so on. Same goes for the Rules Cyclopedia.
I think the easiest way to explain is that: B/X is close to a "minimum viable D&D", where every mechanic has a clear purpose. It still has some redundant parts (and some missing parts, IMO; I think every D&D should have a ranger or other way to meaningfully raise your chances at exploring the wilderness), but it does a great job overall.
AD&D - and every other edition of D&D - also contain that MVD&D, but it is much harder to find under all the spare parts (and not all spare parts are working properly, e.g., weapons versus armor). OD&D could play a similar part if it had better organization. Holmes might be an even simpler D&D, but it lacks some of the parts I consider "minimal" (for example, a sword doing more damage than a dagger).
FWIW, Dark Fantasy Basic
is my attempt of improving on the "MV D&D": streamlined skills and saves, ranger-like abilities, etc.
And Old School Feats
and Alternate Magic
- both fully compatible with B/X and its clones - are good examples on how to add some fiddly bits to your games without getting to AD&D/RC levels of complexity.
I short - since I like SOME spare parts but not others, B/X remains my favorite game to customize. At least until I manage to publish my minimalist B/X... (the beta version is here