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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

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.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (21)
Discussions (75)
Customer avatar
Tyson B October 17, 2020 2:33 pm UTC
Would love to buy a hardcover version please!
Customer avatar
William H October 06, 2020 3:28 am UTC
OMG. A hardcover POD of this would sell out You have to get that done.
Customer avatar
Larry L September 07, 2020 3:22 pm UTC
Why isn't this book POD?
Customer avatar
Norbert L September 05, 2020 9:04 am UTC
Make it PoD please!
Customer avatar
Jayme R August 07, 2020 6:55 pm UTC
I too would love a POD version of this. Softcover would be fine.
Customer avatar
Pavel N July 22, 2020 4:41 am UTC
I would love to buy POD version of this
Customer avatar
Charles S July 18, 2020 12:06 pm UTC
I come here looking to see if this is available in POD, and am amazed to find that it is not.
Customer avatar
Anton V June 20, 2020 3:35 pm UTC
Is the cover hi-res? I want to print out a copy for myself, but i don't want the cover to be murky.
Customer avatar
Shane S May 13, 2020 9:01 pm UTC
As I stated previously, no one in charge is reading these posts. In addition I truly believe there is honest entrenched resistance to actually printing this (POD). If there's *any* hope it's going to be through contacting OneBookshelf management and hounding them, relentlessly...a massive public demand. I spoke with Jeff Montgomery a few times, though his phone contact has since been disconnected. It's pretty clear that there's more than money at stake though, they'd have cleared untold thousands just in this and the Expert book alone, even with the current scans.
Customer avatar
Noah P May 08, 2020 1:12 am UTC
Any chance this will ever get a print edition?
Customer avatar
William H May 07, 2020 4:47 am UTC
Why is this and the original Expert Manual not in POD? We would all PAY for a glorious hardcover of this. It's ridiculous. Hardcover!!!!!!!!
Customer avatar
Shane S January 31, 2020 3:15 pm UTC
I have spent the last few years trying to see 1981 B/X D&D and Gamma World 2E reprinted here. I have phoned, emailed and written letters to WOTC, DM's Guild and One Bookshelf, including offers of financial patronage for all costs involved and contracts for large volumes purchased, all to no avail.

It is my belief that the problem is a combination of WOTC fearing that the most successful titles of their back-catalog would destroy sales of their current products and some ignorance on the part of the reprint license holders, in simply having no idea what they are sitting on.

The Castle Amber reprint is still missing maps and it's never been addressed. Whoever is in charge, doesn't love this stuff like you and I do, nor are they reading these posts. I appreciate what's been done with Boot Hill and Star Frontiers, likely so WOTC wouldn't lose their license, but as far me, I've walked away and so has my wallet. My best wishes to anyone else who takes up this torch, you'll need it.
Customer avatar
Heath B January 21, 2020 6:05 pm UTC
What's the hold up? Why isn't Wizard's entire library PoD by this point? Are they trying to build the private seller market like they are with Magic?
Customer avatar
THOMAS P January 07, 2020 5:18 pm UTC
In this year 2020, will we see a print on demand copy of a 39 Year old game?
Customer avatar
Brian S November 23, 2019 9:07 pm UTC
Print on Demand, please!
Customer avatar
Louis M November 05, 2019 5:43 pm UTC
Joins chorus, "print on demand!" :-)
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Product Information
Adamantine seller
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.