Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Basic Dungeons & Dragons

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

Basic Dungeons & Dragons
In my old gaming group, Basic D&D saw a lot of play along with AD&D.  We were always swapping out modules or other materials between the two games.  Although none of us ever did purchase or play OD&D, there were several different versions of the Basic rules spread throughout the group.

Holmes Basic D&D Rules
I was the only one that had the Holmes version of the basic set.  It is more of an introductory version because it only covers character levels 1 - 3; for further advancement, it is recommended that the reader move on to the AD&D rules.  It also deviated in some of the rules areas such as weapon damage being a straight D6 for everything with daggers being able to be used twice per round and two handed weapons being used every other round.  An attempt at balance but ultimately misguided.  There were also mention of classes and races that have not traditionally been part of the D&D rules such as the witch, samurai, and even some of the more exotic races being allowed if the DM approves.  In an interesting twist, the alignment system is also different.  The three alignment axis from OD&D is gone and the nine alignment axis from AD&D is not used but a five alignment system is used in the Holmes set.  It is interesting to note that one of the rules changes that has caused quite a stir from 4E was first tried in this early set of the rules.  This is still one of my favorite presentations of the D&D rules with the artwork, font, and layout all combined together.  It is a shame that no follow up products - Expert Set, etc. - were produced for this set.  I would have liked to have seen what could have been.


Moldvay/Cook B/X (Basic/Expert) Rules  
There were several sets of this version of the Basic rules owned by various members of our playing group.  There were some differences from Holmes in this set.  The three axis alignment returned and I believe there was a clear distinction between D&D and AD&D with these rules.  I also believe that variable weapon damage returned instead of the universal D6 weapon damage seen in Holmes.  As much as I absolutely love the Holmes version of the rules, I must say that the layout and presentation of these rules is the perfect representation of Basic Dungeons & Dragons.

Mentzer B-E-C-M-I Rules ( Basic, Expert, Companion, Masters, Immortals) 
Everyone in our playing group had a copy of Basic through Masters;  it allowed play until level 36.  I personally never bought the Immortals set and I am unsure of whether or not other members of our group purchased the set.  Eventually, I believe that these separate sets were edited together to form the basis of the Rules Cyclopedia that would come later.  I thoroughly enjoyed that product but I admit that I was not a big fan of the Mentzer sets.  It all comes down to their presentation.  It really is that simple.  I felt that these sets were too "polished" and too "professional" to properly convey the feeling and atmosphere that the other sets were so good at getting across to me.  Put simply, it felt like the suspension of disbelief and immersion had been scaled down with the layout and presentation used throughout these sets.  Don't get me wrong, I would still gladly play using these rules today if I had the opportunity it but the presentation just was not my favorite out of the three versions.


29 comments:

  1. That's really interesting. I hadn't realised the alignment trauma had surfaced before. Nothing is new under the D&D sun, is it?

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    1. The funny thing is that I don't recall any uproar about alignment at the time. Of course, the only real public forum was Dragon magazine and there were a ton of other more important topics being debated in the pages. I'm sure there were detractors because Holmes seems to split people into "this is great" camp or the "meh" camp. Yeah, nothing truly is new under the D&D sun.

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  2. I feel that 4e is a little too polished and professional in its presentation. It seems that some things never change.

    Stuart

    Lloyd of gamebooks - virtualfantasies.blogspot.com

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  3. Unfortunately, I can't make too much comment on this one, because I never played Dungeons and Dragons, but it does sound fascinating.
    Ruby

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  4. I did play a lot of dominoes, aggravation, monopoly, racko, cards, checkers, tri-ominoes, and other board games. (continued from last comment)
    I still love to play dominoes. :)
    Ruby

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    1. Nothing wrong with dominoes, monopoly, racko, etc. What's the old saying? Something like "we don't stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing!"

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  5. First time visitor and follower. Great to meet you! I've never played D&D. Lots of my friends did. Sounds like fun.

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    1. Welcome aboard & well met! Give it a try, you might like it :-).

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  6. Never played D & D or any other game. Have played pong or ping or ping pong whatever that was.

    Gregg Metcalf

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    1. The video game? That was Pong. With several people commenting that they'be never played D&D I just might do a post with links to the retro clone games...

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  7. Now I'm really curious about D & D!
    great A-Z post!
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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    1. Awesome! I can provide links for equivalent games...

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  8. FANTASTIC!

    This is what I did on last years A to Z and this year I did the Basic clones.

    I am REALLY looking forward to seeing what you do all month!

    Tim
    The Other Side
    The Freedom of Nonbelief

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    1. Cool! I will have to check out your posts from last year while I am reading this years!

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  9. Cool post. I've never played D&D but have played some World of Darkness. Looking forward to seeing some more from you!

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    1. Thanks! World of Darkness is a game I am lacking in any real knowledge or play experience.

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  10. Another good one, Mr. Warren.

    The Moldvay boxed set, in my opinion, is the best representation of Dungeons & Dragons ever released. Nostalgia speaking, perhaps - but even thirty years later - and after reading every version published (save the last), my opinion has never wavered.

    After Moldvay, D&D lost much of its charm; the game became too slick for my tastes.

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    1. Amen, Brotha Baker! I agree, Moldvay is the pinnacle of D&D!

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  11. I think I still have all of those books!

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    1. I am so jealous! That's utter awesomeness!

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  12. I have never played D and D but most of my friends have. :)

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    1. Hmmm.....maybe your friends could set up a game for you?

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  13. We had some of those books. What fun... sometimes basic is best. I just signed on to the A-Z challenge, nearly at the last minute, but I'm trying to visit every blog at least once.

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    1. Yes, sometimes Basic is best. I'm going to catch up on blog visits tomorrow - yours included - cause I need to go to bed. Good luck with the A to Z thing!

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  14. Are these pictures from your personal library? You still have all those books?

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    1. I wish. I had them at one time. I used Google image search.

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  15. Awesome... I remember many a late night D&D session.
    Join us at Carcassonne...

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    1. Oh yes, the late night D&D sessions! I probably couldn't hack it these days...lol.

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