The new covers are definitely prettier than the old ones
Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition by John Stater
Note: This post covers the new edition of Blood & Treasure and will of course to some extent focus on the changes from the 1st edition. If you are interested, I did a blog post on that a few years ago, which you can find here.
Type: Hybrid (Mix of many editions: includes elements from AD&D, OD&D, B/X, 3E, Pathfinder and from other OSR games)
Availability: No free version. Full art PDF and print versions (paper- and hardback) at LULU. PDFs only at RPGNow.
Form factor: Good looking color cover, b/w books with cool old school inspired fantasy art. The core rules are divided into two books (see above): Rulebook (basically Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide in D&D terms) and Monster (Monster Manual). The books are clear and well-written, having a higher crunch than say Swords & Wizardry Complete, but still on the simple side of things.
Community: Support for B&T is mainly by the author himself on his blog. There is also a little-used forum, and two G+ groups: Blood & Treasure RPG (B&T exclusive) and Land of Nod (about all John Stater’s games).
Product support: Good. Mr Stater runs his publishing as a one man show, but he is ridiculously productive. Sadly, the OSR community haven’t taken Blood & Treasure to their hearts like some of the more prolific OSR variants. As far as I’m aware, I am the only one who have published 3rd party adventures for B&T (1st edition) under my fictive publishing house Lazy Sod Press. There are also 3rd party sourcebook style PDFs from Tanner Yea over at Old Soul Games. However, there are no 3rd party products yet for the 2nd edition of B&T.
Tinkerability: Very good. And not very much in need since the rules cover most situations that will come up in-game.
Compatibility: “Excellent Smithers, excellent….” I’ve mostly used Frog God’s “Lost Lands” materials for my B&T games, but also stuff written for LotFP, D&D 3e, Pits & Perils and Labyrinth Lord. And it all just works, with a minimum of fuss.
Flavor: If B&T 1e was Pathfinder light mashed up with Swords & Wizardry, B&T can be said to be the same, but with added emphasis for Swords & Wizardry and old D&D and just some concepts retained from Pathfinder.
AC: Ascending (unarmored man is AC 10)
Saves: 1 (S&W style, with bonuses instead of separate tables)
Level range: 1-20
Race & Class: Separate
Classes included*: Assassin, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Duelist, Fighter, Magic-user, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Sorcerer and Thief.
Races included: Human, Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Halfling, Half-Elf and Half-Orc. Several of the monsters are also given PCs statistics and are usable as player races at the GMs discretion.
Hit Dice: Varying according to class (similar to S&W in values)
Monster Hit Dice: Static, d6
XP Charts: Variable, each class has its own xp chart
Multi-class: Yes (demi-humans)
Dual-class: Yes (humans, half-orcs and half-elves)
Demi-human class and level restrictions: no restrictions for class or level, but restrictions on multi-class combinations for demi-humans.
Class requirements: Yes (i.e to play a monk you have to have Strength 12, Wisdom 13 and Dexterity 15).
*All the classes also have a class variant included in the book. For example, the Assassin can be modified to a Bounty Hunter, Magic-Users can be Specialist Mages (Evoker, Conjurer etc) and Clerics can be Specialty Clerics (Death Cult, Creation Cult, Scholar Cult etc).
Most of what I wrote about Blood & Treasure 1st edition is true for the 2nd edition as well. This post is more about the changes between editions. For ease of reading I include the 1st edition blurb below (last in the section). Now on to the 2nd edition!
After reading the books (haven’t played B&T 2e yet) the thing that strikes me the most is that B&T now feels more like it’s own game rather than an old-schoolized variant on the 3e SRD. The 3e-isms are still there, but more hidden under the hood. The game has also taken a few steps back towards old school tropes.
Examples of changes:
- 0-level spells. These are now moved to the 1st level spell list.
- The 3 saves are also gone, in favor of a single save a la S&W. Variation is instead by various situational bonuses like death, paralyzation etc. Very old school.
- Individual xp charts. Previously, there were four charts covering all classes.
- All classes get new cool and (unique for B&T) abilities at level 6, further making the game stand out in comparison to other OSR variant games.
- Assassins lose their spellcasting abilities
- Fighter and Duelist multiple attacks nerfed as they were way too powerful before
- Brand new and simple task (skill) system
For a more complete overview, here’s a link to what the author has to say about the changes between editions: B&T changes from 1st to 2nd edition
All in all, the game has been tweaked back even further towards old school aesthetics and I think that many of the overpowered things (mainly found out in play by some of my more ambitious players) have been cast out. The rules have been streamlined even more from before and I think it’s a very good OSR rule set: B&T 2e is as simple as S&W Complete, but it comes with lots of options, which I think is missing from most “simple” variants of OSR style games. Lots of classes, gear, spells and monsters.
The books are also much prettier, with snazzy color covers and good interior art. Layout and graphical profile has also improved. The old books were good and working, but never pretty. However, I’m going to miss the “Complete Tome” book variant with all the rules in one mighty book. Another change is that the PDFs now are bookmarked. Very good and a must if you use PDFs at the gaming table. (I did my own bookmarking of the old complete book PDF and it was a boring job, but it also increased the use of the PDF immensely).
What I’m less fond of is the new saving throw system. The 3-save system is very easy and logical to use at the table and I can imagine that both me and my players will forget or look frantically in the book when it comes to saves. I also liked the simple xp charts from before. I never understood the charm of separate xp charts even if I get the idea behind the concept.
However, I’m sure that the new B&T, with it’s more “back-to-the-old-days” approach might appeal to more old schoolers than the first iteration. And hopefully we will see a rise in Blood & Treasure GMs and players. And more 3rd party products coming out as well.
The author has announced that he is working on two more books: Esoterica Exhumed (which is the 2e version of the NOD Companion) and Monsters II (which is the old Monster Tome), so support is ongoing. (I am also contemplating some new B&T 2e goodies, but at the time being my work schedule doesn’t allow much time for writing game stuff…)
In conclusion, Blood & Treasure 2nd edition is a prettier, more user friendly and more old school version of an already awesome game. Well done Mr Stater!
About Blood & Treasure 1st edition
“B&T has the cool stuff from 3.X added in the base package, in a clean and simple way. Many times these rules are optional, and you can skip them without breaking the game. This is the main strength of B&T in my opinion. You can play it 0E style or as 3.X light. As much as I love the simpler rules of earlier incarnations of the game, that simplicity often goes hand in hand with fewer options: few races, few classes, small armor and weapons lists, small spell lists, small monster lists and so on. And this is cool in a minimalistic way, but I like options. B&T provides a simple core rules engine, with a few cool optional add-ons if you like. And LOTS of stuff: 600+ spells and 500+ monsters! In one (or two) book(s)!
Some highlights from the rules, where B&T differs from other OSR games:
- Heroic tasks – there’s a simple skill system included. Basically, different class and race abilities are codified into skills. Different classes get different skill packages at character generation, which gives them an edge trying to accomplish certain tasks. Everyone can try the tasks, but with different chances for success. If you’re unskilled, you roll a d20 against a target number of 18. Next level of expertise is to have a knack for a certain task. Target number then is 15. And if you have the skill, you roll against the relevant saving throw for that task, so as you go up in level your chances increase. In all these instances your ability modifier is added to the die roll. Difficulties are assigned by the GM in -2 increments. To illustrate: there’s a Heroic Task called Bend Bars, and it uses the Fortitude save + the Strength modifier. An unskilled PC would roll 1d20 + his Str modifier vs a target number of 18, while a skilled PC would roll a d20 + Str modifier vs his Fortitude save target number. The only skills that I miss personally is some kind of First Aid/Healing skill and some kind of general Lore skill. There’s also an optional system for letting PCs buy skills with skill points Pathfinder style.
- Feats – If you like, there’s a list of about 30 feats that can be used. These are simple, and basically allows for some character customization. They never give more than +1 to stuff. You get a feat at 1st level, and then a new at 4th, 8th, 12th and 16th level. Or use whatever increments that you like. I’ve also added the ”old school feats” (originally written for S&W).
- Combat maneuvres – The combat system includes rules for some maneuvers/stunts. Basically you roll to hit against a fixed target number. If successful the defender gets a save. If he rolls bad, your stunt succeeds.
- Tactical advantage – Instead of fiddly rules for different situations, there’s a tactical advantage rule. If the attacker has an advantage he gets +2 to hit. If a defender has advantage, he gets +2 to AC. What constitutes an advantage is up to the GM, but examples could be higher ground and things like that.
- Guns – If you want to include black powder weapons in your game, the rules are there.
- 0-level spells – Yep. There’s 0-level spells for both Magic-Users and Clerics. Nothing advanced, but it gives spell casters something magicky to do…
- Challenge levels – B&T uses a variant of challenge levels, just like S&W. These are used to compute Encounter levels, which forms the base for computing treasure.
- There’s also sound advice in how to convert to and from other OSR games, how to construct or reskin monsters, rules for domains and large scale battles and even a section on monster templates.
- Power levels are toned down from 3.X power bloat, and are more in line with older editions of the game.
These things might not be to everyone’s liking, but as I said earlier – cut away stuff you don’t like. Some might say that B&T isn’t an OSR game, but I think it’s just that. Or OSR+. Or whatever you want to call it.
Physically, the books are LULU standard. There’s a Player’s Tome and a Treasure Keepers Tome and a Complete Tome with all the rules in one book. I have the Complete Tome and a copy of the Player’s Tome to use at the table. The only thing I miss is an index.
If the races and classes in the book(s) aren’t enough for you, there’s a PDF of new races and a PDF with lots of new class variants (5 of each base class). Both can be found on the author’s blog. Also, the excellent OSR magazine NOD has a bunch of new classes, spells and monsters and the author regularly posts new material on the blog. There’s also a section describing the game and the mechanics here (see Origins and Nuts & Bolts).
Some downsides to B&T are the problematic multi-classing thing. B&T has an elegant way of dealing with multi-class level advancement. They use a separate level table regardless of class. The problem is that even if xp requirements are the highest, the multi-classes are going to get much mightier than plain ol’ single class characters. This has been discussed on the forums, and the author has written down a few official optional methods for handling multi-class character leveling that should take care of that. Another thing is that the only class that gets multiple attacks when leveling is the fighter. That leaves the other Fighter subclasses in the backwaters in comparison.
And if you look for that old school esoteric writing style or Lamentations style evocative writing – there’s none of that here. The book(s) are very well written in short end effective prose, but that also makes them a bit non-personal and generic. Naturally, this is a very subjective point, but it’s one that I’ve thought about.
Sadly, I don’t think that this game has attracted nearly enough attention on the OSR scene, and this might be due to the fact that there’s no free version of the game. The PDFs and books are reasonably priced, but people are reluctant to pay for gaming stuff when there’s so much free stuff going on. Sad, because I think a lot of you guys would love this game if you see past it’s 3.X connection.
All in all, this feels like AD&D done right. Or 3.X as it should have been done. For me, the simplicity of the rules, coupled with the completeness and multitude of stuff, makes B&T my main choice for my new OSR campaign with my main play group. The book has been on my nightstand since I got it and I find that I return to it ever so often to look up stuff.
And even if you don’t want to use the rules, the spells and monster sections alone are worth the price of admittance. Basically, all the monsters and spells from the d20 SRD are accounted for. In a much simpler format. Very easily converted to your favourite OSR game.”