On the one hand, labeling things Book I - IV is direct and utilitarian, but also doesn't really do anything useful beyond being a placeholder. Burning Wheel was quite brilliant in this regard with its "hub," "spokes," etc.
How to Use This BookBand of Bastards is based around an idea we can credit Vincent Baker for: Concentric Game Design. The game is divided into four Books within itself of escalating levels of complexity.Book I contains everything you need to play the absolute core of the game, including task resolution and character creation.Book II escalates this, including the rules for Full Contests, as well as Melee and Ranged combat sequences.Book III includes all of the additional optional rules for fighting giant beasts, customizing weapons, and other topics.Book IV is the province of the Game Master, and includes the rules for generating NPCs and running games in the ‘Bastards style player-driven narrative.
You don’t need to learn or use all of the rules at once, especially if you’re playing with a more experienced group. start with Book I and get used to the basics. It’s even possible to play the game using only the rules from Book I. You’re missing out on a lot, but it can be done. Many groups will be entirely comfortable just using Books I & II for most of their game-play, and certainly for the first few sessions or campaign. When you’ve got a handle on everything else, then you can expand into Book III, or not. Use everything, or just what you want, it’s in your hands.
Toolkit MentalityUltimately, this is your game, not ours. What you choose to do with it is more important than any suggestions we might make and we’ve designed it that way from the ground up. The division of the rules above supports a modular approach, and many systems can be tweaked or replaced entirely without damaging others in the game. We’ve even included some of the most common tweaks as Levers in Book III. Ultimately, we’ve set the game up to imitate the kind of world we want to play in, and expect that you will do the same. Look at this entire manual as a toolkit of interesting potential rules, and assemble them in the way you like. We just ask that before you do, play it our way, just once. After you’ve had a chance to see what we’ve done and why we’ve done it, tweak to your hearts content.
Wanting for clever metaphor, I considered going something like "Core," "Basic," and "Advanced" but that doesn't seem like it accomplishes anything more than Book I-IV would. On the other hand, it would be pretty funny to have "Basic Bastard" and "Advanced Blades & Bastards" as terms. I'll have to pitch AB&B to Higgins. I can hear him groaning all the way from Estonia. It will be awesome.
Thinking on nomenclature will be my task for tonight. I'll have to sleep on it.
Until next time,