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D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
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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 (21)
Discussions (98)
Customer avatar
Christopher T September 23, 2021 9:32 am UTC
POD, please.
Customer avatar
kristiaan L August 11, 2021 4:49 am UTC
PURCHASER
Still no pod? :(
Customer avatar
July 11, 2021 5:07 pm UTC
Please do print on demand,
Hardcover !
Customer avatar
Mosun M July 10, 2021 5:29 pm UTC
POD Please!!!
Customer avatar
Chris H June 30, 2021 2:59 am UTC
PURCHASER
Does anyone know if this version has the errata added? for example like on page 17sh, there was a add for "Detect Invisibility" if I remember correctly.
Customer avatar
June 12, 2021 9:38 pm UTC
Would love to have a Print on Demand for this and the Expert rules. This edition was great - artwork and presentation.
Customer avatar
Scott G June 01, 2021 1:54 am UTC
All you guys need to Ask Wizards of the Coast for a reprint. DriveThru told me they don't have the say so...
here's the quote...
"We here at DriveThruRPG don't determine which books will be available in print, that is up to each individual publisher"

When I contacted wizards they got back to me and sounded like they actually heard what I said so maybe if multiple people contacted them we could get a new print. I wouldn't mind having basic and expert in one volume

Customer avatar
Jason S May 26, 2021 9:43 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Just checking back in to see if POD is an option now...no? DTRPG must not like money.
Customer avatar
Steve L May 26, 2021 9:24 pm UTC
POD NOW!
Customer avatar
Ajay S May 04, 2021 3:53 am UTC
I too have come to request a POD version of this and the Expert set.

Thanks
Customer avatar
Scott G May 03, 2021 9:34 pm UTC
How about a Basic & Expert combo book. It would be like S&W or Basic Fantasy. Soft/Hard cover option.
A box set reprint (not a collectors edition but a "I'm going to use this" edition) would be way cool.
I contacted W.O.C. and asked for the above. You should too...
Customer avatar
Matthew S Y April 25, 2021 7:50 pm UTC
Please add a POD option!
Customer avatar
Tom G April 04, 2021 2:49 am UTC
Another vote for Print on Demand. We demand it, please print hardcopies.
Customer avatar
Andrew S March 21, 2021 9:55 pm UTC
POD please
Customer avatar
Stephen R March 08, 2021 10:57 am UTC
PURCHASER
Just adding my voice to the requests for this and the B/X Expert book as POD please. Instant buy if it ever happens.
Customer avatar
Otto J March 08, 2021 8:12 am UTC
POD please
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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
Format
Scanned image
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File Last Updated:
September 20, 2013
This title was added to our catalog on January 22, 2013.