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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

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Discussions (37)
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William H December 03, 2018 3:47 am UTC
How is this not POD, yet? -- This would literally sell like CRAZY.
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Carl S November 18, 2018 6:15 pm UTC
POD please, please, please
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Chad K October 20, 2018 11:32 pm UTC
Basic book and Expert book POD!
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Jeremy K October 17, 2018 7:56 am UTC
Just piling on but my whole group would buy POD copies of this and Expert. Please make this happen.
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james B October 12, 2018 11:15 pm UTC
Please bring these out as POD. I would definitely buy both Basic and Expert books. Thanks for the consideration.
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matthew S October 07, 2018 1:33 am UTC
I would totally buy POD vesion
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Eric K October 06, 2018 10:13 pm UTC
A POD version would be awesome for this!
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Kenneth S October 06, 2018 9:04 pm UTC
Please make this available as POD, premium saddle-stitched please.
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Richard K October 06, 2018 1:44 pm UTC
POD option please!
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Robert F October 06, 2018 1:25 pm UTC
For those who might not have thought of it: PDF essentially is POD. When you get it printed yourself, you get to choose the paper & the binding. For RPGs, I always suggest getting the PDF & having it spiral-bound so it will lay flat.
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Chad K October 06, 2018 3:58 pm UTC
POD is different than print it yourself. Some places like Staples will not take some PDFs. Some do. Its a matter of convenience. Other less popular titles are POD, so many of us would like these titles to get the same treatment.
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david W October 06, 2018 12:14 pm UTC
Please take my money and make this POD!
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Andrew S October 06, 2018 9:00 am UTC
Another B/X player with original books from 1981 that would love a POD version of the B/X rule books
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Daniel N October 06, 2018 3:19 am UTC
Please make this (Moldvay Basic Rulebook) and well as Cook/Marsh Expert Rulebook available for POD.
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Shawn B October 06, 2018 2:48 am UTC
The Expert in POD as well, please.
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Shawn B October 06, 2018 2:47 am UTC
Make this POD, please.
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October 06, 2018 2:42 am UTC
Please make the Moldvay Basic Rulebook and Cook/Marsh Expert Rulebook available for POD. I have purchased the PDFs but would happily make another purchase for them as POD books. I started a post two days ago on the B/X Facebook Page asking who would be keen to purchase POD copies, and over 120 people have expressed interest -- some of whom would like multiple copies.
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Product Information
Platinum seller
Publisher Stock #
TSR 2014
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7.8 MB
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File Last Updated:
September 20, 2013
This title was added to our catalog on January 22, 2013.