"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Thursday, February 21, 2013

B/X Cover to Cover - B2 to B4

Thoughts while I read the Forward:
  • The first and second paragraphs are the first very faint indication that maybe B/X is more "new school" than I or others may realize. Moldvay says, "Sometimes I forget that D&D [sic] is a game and not a novel I'm reading or a movie I'm watching." A novel or movie implies plot and plotting an adventure is considered not to be old-school. There are a number of instances where B/X contains "new school" characteristics such as balance, plot, and character-centric adventures that may would consider to be foreign to old-school D&D. I will try to touch on them as we go.
  • Acknowledgement that OD&D was written by gamers for gamers and was not intended to teach the game.
  • A brief mention of the goals for B/X: 1. easy to read, and 2. teach the game to individuals that have never played. I feel that B/X was a resounding success at the first goal but missed the mark by a bit on the second. I learned to play D&D with B/X but not without some stumbles.
  • "No rule is inviolate..." A key point.
  • My minor quibble about the cover comes into play again in Mr. Moldvay's story. Killing the dragon with a single blow is very unlikely in the Basic rules.
  • "dragon-tyrant" I like that moniker. I may have to use it sometime.
Thoughts while I read the Acknowledgements:
  • Lots of recognizable names. It still seems odd not to see Gary Gygax or Dave Arneson listed. I understand why Mr. Arneson isn't listed but it still seems strange.
Thoughts while I read Part 1: Introduction
  • I was incorrect, the first paragraph of the Introduction also mentions "role playing"
  • The first paragraph gives the first sense of character motivation, "fame and fortune"
  • The reward mechanic is also mentioned, "Characters gain experience by overcoming perils and recovering treasure" (emphasis mine)
  • The first reference to the Companion rules
  • Mentions that the rule book has 3 holes drilled so it can be cut apart and placed with the Expert rules in a binder. Did anyone ever do this? I know I didn't.
  • A full paragraph stresses that the rules are just guidelines.
  • I find the glossary definition of "adventure" to be interesting. Adventure = game session. Also, the adventure begins when the characters enter the dungeon and ends when they leave and split up treasure. These basic rules focus solely on adventuring in a dungeon. Based on the definition of adventure, there is no wilderness or urban adventures (contrary to B2 - The Keep on the Borderlands).
  • The Caller. We always used a caller when we were kids. It is a habit I have gotten away from.  This paragraph addresses many of the arguments that arise against using a caller. "The caller should make sure that he or she is accurately representing all the player characters' wishes. The caller is a mediator between players and the DM, and should not judge what the player characters should do." The caller does not have any authority to determine what other characters do but instead is a single voice to reduce chaos.
  • Basic is deadly. It is already hinted at in the introduction that death of a PC is no big deal since you can simply roll up a new character and continue playing.


  1. Very interesting! I've just purchased/downloaded the BX rules this evening (my print copy is too precious to crack open!) so I'll be interested to keep following your observations.

  2. Re: Acknowledgements: it is even more strange that they are not mentioned when in Cook/Marsh on page X1 it clearly states "By Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson."

    Re: Companion: I also find it interesting that at this point it was already planned that the Companion rules would be up to level 36. I always think "Why 36?", it seems a rather arbitrary choice.

    Re: Adventure: I had assumed that this definition was used, as Basic covers only dungeon-adventures, leaving the wilderness (with its tougher wandering monster tables) to the Expert set. But as you stated, B2 itself (which came packaged with the Basic rules) contains a wilderness component!

  3. Kipper, Why 36 indeed. It does seem an arbitrary level.

  4. I cut my B and X rulebooks apart to put them in a binder. It didn't really work. On the inner most pages the wholes are too close the the edge of the paper. I had to photocopy the loose pagers and punch new holes.

  5. "Mentions that the rule book has 3 holes drilled so it can be cut apart and placed with the Expert rules in a binder. Did anyone ever do this? I know I didn't."

    Nope. But my B/X rules are in a 3-ring binder (one after the other, not cut apart) with B2 and X1 (took the staples out, carefully punched holes, restabled them and inserted them.) This whole idea (along with simple rules) is something I've always liked.

  6. I’d agree that there is a lot of “new school” in there. But, really, I think all of these things really were there very early on. A lot of the old school movement rejects this stuff more because we’ve seen it taken to the extreme.

    I also cut up my Basic and Expert books. The reason I regret it is that the books weren’t really designed in a way to make that better than having them separate. You still end up flipping around because you can’t get all the spells and monster in a proper order. It would’ve greatly expanded the page count (like the 2e Monster binder) to do that.

    It would’ve been better, IMHO, to double the page count of the Expert book and integrate and repeat the non-explanatory parts of the Basic book.