Basic Fantasy started here on Dragonsfoot forums. The stated main goal was to create a system based on d20 that felt like Moldvay and Cook. Another important goal was that the game should feel light. Much of the rules feel like the old B/X game while certain areas, especially combat, have been streamlined by the d20 mechanic. The rules cover a wide variety of situations including aerial and naval combat - yet they still feel light. Praise for BF based on Chris' original criteria are well-deserved.
Release 2 features a beautiful cover art by Erik Wilson. This cover art is not attempt to emulate an older version of D&D in style. It can stand on it's own as a piece of art. To really appreciate it, download the Open Document format and magnify the graphic.
The interior text font is Soutane Black, a knock-off of the Souvenir font used in the original B/X books. The title font is in a knock off of Fritz Quadrata, the font used for 2e titles. The choice of fonts adds to the feel of a B/X book. Comparing a print out of Basic Fantasy with my Moldvay Basic, there are little to no differences in presentation.
Moldvay stated in the foreword of the Basic Rules that this version of D&D was designed for those that had never played an RPG before. He addressed the input from thousands of players and GMs that informed his revision of the rules.
Basic Fantasy acknowledges that what has changed in thirty years is that many more people have played an rpg. Yet, there is still an obligatory section that describes what an rpg is. It is fairly lengthy if the section about dice is included, but it is shorter than the introduction in Moldvay. There are few standard terms defined save PC, GM, NPC.
The next section involves creating a player character. In less than two pages, character creation, character abilities, Hit Dice, Hit Points, and Languages are explained. The attribute bonus chart is greatly simplified from Moldvay and more easily explained. No attribute above 18 is explained at this point because no player character can start with an attribute above 18. Some details, such as available languages, are left up to the GM. In other places, room for house rules is provided by a statement about asking the GM. These house rules could be what happens at 0 hit points or available spells to 1st level magic users.
The next section is the largest break from B/X. Character races are described, but they are not distinct character classes. Restrictions on races are listed in terms of class and hit dice instead of level. For example, an Elf can become a 20th level Magic-User. A Halfling can become a 15th level Fighter, but will only roll d6 for hit points.
These tweaks to class and race still make humans feel like the dominant race in the game while still providing variety. In fact, if you need more variety, creating combination classes is a simple matter of adding the XP tables together and meeting the minimum requirements of both classes. Yes, a Elven Fighter/Magic-User than can cast spells in armor can be created. The limitations, though, are d6 rolled for hit points, 4500 XP to reach 2nd level, and a Constitution limit of 17.
After the XP tables and brief explanations for each class are provided, a through, but not comphrensive equipment list is given. This list covers mundane items like rope and scales up to large boats and siege engines. Yet, the reader may feel like holes exist in certain types of equipment. For example, there are three types of armor: leather, chain, plate. (What! No splint mail?) Compared to the five types of horses, this could look pretty selective.
In the orginal B/X, though, there really were only the 3 armors. Many of the other items appear in the Expert rules or the Rules Cyclopedia. However, the prices of all items appear to have been completely rethought. Plate Mail is, rightly so, quite expensive. Naval ships are quite expensive and require the type of investment that only truly weather players may indulge in. Sheets of paper and vials of ink are also expensive - it is cheaper to buy a good sword than to buy the means to describe that sword in writing. I appreciate this nod toward actual medieval life that made education prohibitively expensive.
After equipment comes a description of all the spells. Compared to newer versions, the number of spells is larger than B/X (116). Due to BF's removal of alignment, the Detect Alignment spell is gone and Detect/Dispel Evil spells deal more with warding against charms. A large variety is provided, including a few from d20 like Spiritual Hammer, Magic Mouth, and all the Cleric 6th level spells.
More in intermittent posts throughout the month. Next post, the BF Class Generator (with all due respect to David Crabuagh).