Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Concept of a Basic Game Part 2

So, after yesterday's post about the first Basic Set, the Holmes Blue Book, let's recap by saying that the Holmes set lacked vital rules for playing beyond a certain point. It wasn't a working but simplified version of AD&D (e.g., missing rangers, some spells from each level, some monsters, some treasure, etc). Rather, it stopped working entirely at a certain point.

The next Basic Set to come out was the 1981 Red Box, "Moldvay Basic," or "B/X." The reason for the "X" in "B/X" was to stand for the Expert Box that a gaming group could move on to once they had exhausted the resources of the Basic Set.
Now, if you've been keeping track of my focus so far, you've probably already guessed the point I'm about to make. The Holmes Basic Set graduated the players up to Advanced D&D. The Moldvay Basic Set (which went to level 3 just like the Holmes set) didn't. It graduated you to something that was effectively a parallel to Advanced D&D, because the Expert set (which I just looked up for information) went to level 14. At this point in time there were two versions of low-to-high-level D&D.

I don't have much to add about 1983 "Mentzer" Basic, also called BEMCI because it contained Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, and Immortal rules. I never happened to play this edition (I was a proud-to-play-Advanced-snob even by the time of the Moldvay set), but the Mentzer edition isn't relevant to this particular history because it's essentially a continuation and a culmination of the trend started with the B/X sets -- the creation of a parallel D&D game.

Although there have been other D&D Basic sets, the continuum from Holmes to Mentzer set the stage for two different approaches to Basic Sets, which now that I have established, I'll get into in the next installment of this series. Stay tuned!


  1. The big difference between B/X and AD&D was simplicity. Although they both covered the same level range, AD&D had all sorts of extra rules as well as extra options: weapon speeds, magic resistance, psionics, chance for MUs to learn spells, familiars, system shock rolls. All of these are absent from B/X. Calling the set the Expert set was perhaps a bit of a misnomer as the rules weren't any more difficult than in the Moldovay set, just a different power level.

    1. Addendum - I am not sure how Basic 5E D&D will be different from full 5E D&D. Will it be a simplified, streamlined version with fewer rules, or the same rules but fewer options?

    2. Same rules, fewer options.

      Classes are only the "core four". Spell list shorter. Fewer race variants, fewer backgrounds... Feats are the only thing I can think of that are left out completely of Basic. With the other stuff, it's just a smaller selection than PHB.

    3. Multi-classing won't be in Basic either.