Saturday, February 20, 2010
I'm In Love With My AEC
My hardbound copy of Daniel Proctor's Advanced Edition Companion arrived a couple of days ago, and while I have been too busy to post about it until now, I sure have been enjoying the hell out of it. What follows will be more rave than review, but allow me enumerate why I think this is an important, must-have book:
First, as is typical of Goblinoid Games publications, the presentation is very clear and professional. This renders the book extremely easy to use. If I have a minor complaint on this front it is that there is no index -- I am a big index user -- but on the other hand, that may not really be necessary here since (I think) the book to some extent presumes an audience familiar with the organizational scheme of the Labyrinth Lord basic rules, which AEC emulates. That is, generally speaking, both books begin with attributes and character classes, then money and equipment, then spells, then encounters and monsters, etc. There are some minor differences, e.g., AEC puts "New Magic Items" before "New Monsters," but this is made clear on its Table of Contents and I haven't actually had any trouble finding what I wanted to in the AEC yet.
Oh, the monsters! I suppose as a referee it is inevitable that I would be getting a lot more mileage out of the "Monsters" section, than, say, the "Character Classes" section. . . but wow, I really think the "New Monsters" section alone is practically worth the cover price of this book. It basically gives us all the old Monster Manual classics -- the Beholder (er, Eye of Terror, which by the way is an excellent re-name), the Shambling Mound, the Xorn, the Remorhaz, and, of course, the demons, including Our Lord Orcus -- statted for OSR play. On a purely practical level, from the referee's point of view, all the number-crunching that must have gone into this part of the AEC equals a major time savings to me, and I am grateful for its existence. Maybe my desire to have other people do the number-crunching makes me a lazy referee, but if so, then the New Monsters section of the AEC -- and arguably the whole AEC -- is a great gift to lazy referees everywhere.
To top this off, the AEC includes a complete list of Labyrinth Lord monsters by HD, an incredibly useful tool for referees who want to see the best options for stocking a given dungeon level in an at-a-glance format. Very useful indeed.
In truth, I haven't ventured much past the monsters and new spells yet -- I told you this wasn't going to be a full-blown review. I look forward to inspecting the sections on old AD&D classes like druids and rangers very soon, but right now I am stuck on my beloved demons and their nefarious associates on the pages of the "New Monsters" section. But in a way, this speaks to one of the great strengths of the AEC: its modularity. The AEC embodies the quintessential spirit of the OSR precisely because it is intended to be used differently by every gamer who picks it up. Along this line, allow me to close with a few words quoted from Dan Proctor's "Foreword" to the AEC:
[When] I think about the way my friends and I had always played the "advanced" [AD&D] rules it was essentially like the original classic game (i.e. Labyrinth Lord) with the added monsters, treasures, classes, and some other rules from first edition. So the goal in writing the Advanced Edition Companion (AEC) was to create an expansion of Labyrinth Lord that is a natural evolution (with compatibility) of advanced first edition but keeping the slick original game engine. [. . .]
This book presents the essential first edition rules, all as open game content, and combined with Labyrinth Lord there is a vast sum of open content available to everyone, forever.
That is an admirable achievement. THANKS DAN for providing the old school community with this invaluable resource.