The second edition of Babylon On Which Fame and Jubilation Are Bestowed is complete. I’ll be hammering out a few minor issues over the weekend, but the PDF should go live on DTRPG on Monday, March 2, 2020.
I’m really excited for this release, because it brings BFJB even closer to what I always wanted it to be — a comprehensive overview of the world of the Ancient Near East during the reign of Hammu-rapi.
A couple of notes on this edition, while I have your attention.
The first (and revised first) editions of BFJB used a re-skinned 3.5 d20 ruleset. While D&D 3.5 remains one of the most popular TTRPG systems ever, it’s outmoded and cumbersome. Roughly 250 pages of the 383 page first edition of BFJB were taken up with re-hashing this system. While character creation and game mechanics don’t take forever in 3.5 (I say this as someone who runs a Rolemaster game), I’ve always felt that BFJB would benefit from “faster” character creation and mechanics. A system where characters live and die quickly, and where players can replace them with little fuss.
BFJB 2.0 is an attempt at that. Mechanically, characters begin with three stats (each with scores between 1 and 6), one profession, and four talents (three of which the player chooses). There are no derived stats. Skill checks, including combat, are determined by a 1d6 roll, added to the relevant stat. Total results of six or more always succeed, while a total of less than six fails. It’s a simple system that relies on a healthy dose of GM discretion; that might be a turn off to players who enjoy gaming out complex mechanics, but the longer I play TTRPGs, the more I feel that complex rules systems, while fun in and of themselves, ultimately detract from narrative focus.
By stripping out all of the d20 mechanics, I remove roughly 250 pages from the book. In its place, this new system itself takes up less than 80 pages, but with the new setting content in BFJB 2.0, the final work is 307. More about that below.
Since combat and damage are part of the vast majority of TTRPGs, a fair portion of the rules describe the consequences of martial conflict. Characters, however, are not meant to be limited to fighting roles; in fact, most of the professions in BFJB have little or no weapon training, so that when these characters do engage in armed conflict, they usually do so at a substantial disadvantage. The reason behind this is that as a player, I find that I enjoy RPGs where combat is only an infrequent element. BFJB 2.0 is structured in such a way that a shepherd could spend an adventure dealing with issues surrounding herding sheep, rather than trying to stab and kill an enemy.
When combat does occur in BFJB 2.0, it can be quite lethal, even for trained characters. In short, characters make a skill check to attempt to hit an opponent, who also gets a skill check to try to avoid a successful strike. If the attacking character succeeds, and the defending character fails, they are hit, and take a fixed amount of damage based on the weapon. This damage immediately reduces a relevant stat. When one of the character’s stats reaches 0, they are removed from combat and suffer an injury, which is rolled on a chart relevant to the injured stat. Results of injuries vary between temporary and permanent disabilities, to total and lifelong incapacity, and even immediate death.
To be certain, the above can be unforgiving. And that’s the whole point really; life is rough, and there are consequences to putting yourself in situations where someone swings a sword at you, or (in the case of a world with fantasy elements) where a sorcerer bewitches you.
In a general sense, the setting of BFJB 2.0 remains the same as that of the first edition: the 25th year of Hammu-rapi of Babylon’s reign, or 1767 BCE (by the Middle Chronology). At this time in history, various powerful monarchs compete to extend their influence over the city-states of the Ancient Near East, all while protecting their own regimes from internal and external threats. Of course anyone who half-remembers their high school history knows that Hammu-rapi eventually won out over his rivals in Mesopotamia, cementing the legacy of Babylon for the rest of human history. But at the start of BFJB this is by no means a forgone conclusion; Babylon is a relatively new power in the world of Mesopotamia, and faces strong rivals in the kings of Mari, Ešnunna, Larsa and Elam, to name a few.
What makes BFJB 2.0 an improvement from BFJB 1.0 is the inclusion of significantly more setting information. The cultural sections have been reworked, incorporating significant information that was touched on in Tribes and Armies regarding pastoral populations, as well as everything from historical diseases to Babylonian units of measure.
Even more substantial is the upgrade to the geography sections. BFJB 1.0 features lengthy notes on the three major cities of the Kingdom of Babylon in 1767: Babylon, Kiš and Sippar, along with a few notes on the lost city of Akkade along with Borsippa, Dilbat and Rapiqum. BFJB 2.0 expands upon this with several paragraphs on 29 additional cities of the Ancient Near East.
In writing all of this content, I discovered a wealth of new material upon which to base all manner of fictional campaigns, both in set in historical Mesopotamia and elsewhere. The cities of the Levant were particularly interesting, in part because I’d previously ignored them in favor of cities located in Mesopotamia.
All that said, I’m really glad to get this book out of the door. As with BFJB 1.0, this book will be offered in PDF at DTRPG on the day of release. I also plan to offer it as a print-on-demand work at DTRPG, but I need to work out a couple of minor issues with the proof before I allow someone to give me money for it.
As for the original, 1.0 version of BFJB (really 1.5 since it was lightly revised in 2018) and its supplements, I plan to leave them available for purchase at their reduced prices. A note will be inserted into the description on for the 1.0 Core Book that it’s been superseded by the new edition. The print-on-demand version of BFJB 1.0 available on Lulu will finally be removed.
Ever since the original release in October of 2016, I’ve always been pleased with the reception BFJB has received. As I’ve said before elsewhere, I would have written this book regardless of whether or not I actually ended up publishing it or made any money from it. BFJB was never meant to be all things to all people. It’s something I’m very proud of, and I hope everyone who has an opportunity to read or play it finds something enjoyable or interesting in it.