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D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)

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This is the 1981 edition of the D&D Basic Rulebook, which was sold as part of the boxed D&D Basic Set and also on its own. It was the first true standalone edition of what became "Basic D&D" as previous editions had instead been based on OD&D play.

Product History

The Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules (1981), by Tom Moldvay, was the second edition of Basic D&D, with the previous edition created by J. Eric Holmes (1977). It was released in January 1981, leading off the year.

Holmes D&D. When Eric Holmes put together the original Basic D&D, his purpose was simply to clean up and organize the original Dungeons & Dragons (1974) along with some content from Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975).

He wanted to create a game that was easier to learn (as the original D&D was considered notoriously bad in that regard) and that could be better understand by the high school and junior high demographics, toward which the game was then trending. However, the expectation was that players would go on to the original D&D games from there. Basic D&D was never expected to be its own game system - at first.

Holmes' Basic Set was widely successful - sufficiently so that TSR was wary of sending its players on to the more challenging original D&D game or the more complex AD&D game (1977-79) game. Thus, as early as fall 1979, work began on an Expert Set that would allow the hundreds of thousands of players who had learned the game from Basic D&D to continue on, past the three levels available in that game.

A new version of the Basic Set was required for release with the Expert Set.

Moldvay D&D. Whereas Holmes' Basic D&D was mostly a matter of organization and explanation, Moldvay's Basic D&D also engaged in simplification. Thus, for example, there were no longer separate character classes and races. The twelve race-and-class combinations of Holmes' Basic D&D (including things such as the elven fighter/magic-user multiclass) became just seven classes in the new Basic D&D: clerics, dwarves, elves, fighters (which had still been "fighting men" under Holmes), halflings, magic-users, and thieves.

Moldvay's second edition also cleaned up character alignment, constrained spell choice, and even improved the layout of the book. All around, every effort was made to upgrade the game for starting players. As for the results, even former editor Holmes said, "I think the new Basic Set rules are an improvement over the first edition. Not a big quantum jump ahead, but better in a number of minor ways."

Moldvay's Basic D&D was enough of a change from the previous edition of the game that it was actually a "new edition" as it's understood in the modern roleplaying market, which was a pretty rare occurrence in the 70s or early 80s.

The Basic Set was (as planned) released simultaneously with the new Expert Set by David "Zeb" Cook, which expanded Basic D&D to levels 4-14. Gary Gygax mentioned a "Masters Set" around the same time, which was to cover levels 15-36, but that wouldn't appear during Basic D&D's second edition.

Color-Coding the Boxes. Some people like to classify the D&D boxes by color: This edition is thus the "magenta box," to differentiate it from the "red box" edition that would follow in 1983.

The Inevitable Adventure. Moldvay's Basic D&D was sold both as a standalone book and in a box with six dice and an adventure. The adventure was Gary Gygax's "B2: Keep on the Borderlands." Because of its inclusion in the Basic D&D set, "Keep" became the most-published RPG adventure ever, with a much-later estimate suggesting that there were 1.5 million copies of it made.

Mentzer D&D. Moldvay's D&D wasn't the final iteration of Basic D&D. It was replaced just two and a half years later by Frank Mentzer's third edition of Basic D&D. The goal was once more to make the game even easier to learn from the rulebooks. That version of D&D, often called BECMI, was the one that actually included Companion and Master sets, which supported levels 15-36 between them.

About the Creators. After his work on Basic D&D, Moldvay immediately moved on to producing adventures for the game system. One of his first tasks was to revise "B3: Palace of the Silver Princess," by Jean Wells, which had been recalled and pulped after its first printing.

About the Product Historian

This history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

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Reviews (26)
Discussions (198)
Customer avatar
Stephen B February 20, 2024 8:52 pm UTC
Why no POD? I would purchase in a heartbeat!
Customer avatar
Iain B February 17, 2024 7:40 am UTC
PURCHASER
POD, please!
Customer avatar
Sidney R February 10, 2024 4:30 pm UTC
Still no print on demand grrrrrrrrr.
Customer avatar
James B February 08, 2024 10:00 pm UTC
I would also like the POD please.
Customer avatar
Jeff S February 07, 2024 6:11 am UTC
Please, please, please get the POD up. My original copy is getting in rough shape.
Customer avatar
Heinz H January 29, 2024 12:48 pm UTC
The expert set does have a pod, why not the basic set?
Customer avatar
Sidney R January 27, 2024 7:28 pm UTC
No one would buy thier new game if this was available
Customer avatar
Sidney R January 27, 2024 12:25 am UTC
Pod please
Customer avatar
Randall C January 20, 2024 3:47 am UTC
PURCHASER
This is a great little book. It REALLY needs a POD option!!!!
Customer avatar
January 19, 2024 5:55 am UTC
PURCHASER
POD please and thank you!
Customer avatar
Frank T January 12, 2024 3:00 pm UTC
Just bought the Expert book but why no POD for Basic?

POD please!!!
Customer avatar
Andrew C January 12, 2024 5:23 am UTC
POD please
Customer avatar
Matthew U January 11, 2024 11:39 pm UTC
PURCHASER
So this is 25% off right now for the PDF that everyone already has, but still no sign of the POD everyone wants. Cool, cool. You think Hasbro would be more interested in making money but hey, at least we have Set 2?
Reply
Customer avatar
CK C January 14, 2024 4:02 pm UTC
I suspect "Hasbro" is the single-word answer to why Wizards of the Coast doesn't make more of these available as POD.
Reply
Customer avatar
Matthew U January 15, 2024 10:37 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Yeah I give up. I'm just going with Basic Fantasy RPG. Always available and much cheaper in the long run anyway. Too bad, Hasbro, no more money from this guy!
Customer avatar
kristiaan L December 31, 2023 11:24 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Why is Expert print and not this??!!
Seriously
Customer avatar
FABRICE B December 30, 2023 6:53 pm UTC
Please make it available as a POD product.
Customer avatar
Chris B December 28, 2023 11:24 pm UTC
POD POD POD POD POD POD POD
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Product Information
Adamantine seller
Author(s)
Pages
64
ISBN
0-935696-48-2
Publisher Stock #
TSR 2014
File Size:
7.8 MB
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File Last Updated:
September 20, 2013
This title was added to our catalog on January 22, 2013.