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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 (24)
Discussions (147)
Customer avatar
Garrett K January 26, 2023 6:20 pm UTC
Hey WOTC/Ha$bro, don't bother doing the POD version, I'm not buying it anyway after the stunt you've pulled with the OGL.
Customer avatar
Christopher L January 26, 2023 12:03 am UTC
We can has POD?
Customer avatar
Alex F December 28, 2022 6:03 pm UTC
For the love of God (or Lucifer?), POD!!!
Customer avatar
Ed M December 24, 2022 7:38 pm UTC
I want a POD too! How about it?
Customer avatar
kristiaan L December 19, 2022 6:13 pm UTC
PURCHASER
POD!
Customer avatar
James N December 18, 2022 1:13 pm UTC
PURCHASER
POD!
Or…ya know…we will just keep printing out our own without you making not one cent from it.
If that’s what ya want, cool.
Reply
Customer avatar
Timothy S December 18, 2022 1:37 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Drive-Thru and WotC make their fees through the PDF sales, which hopefully you already purchased. Most of the printer fee goes to the regional printer who ships you the actual product.
Reply
Customer avatar
James N December 22, 2022 1:04 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Well, wouldn’t WotC make a bit were we to grab a POD right here…..rather than making our own and uploading and printing our own AS WE ARE…..surely they’re not getting a dime from that as we make our own all on our own….but they COULD if they offered POD right here.

So….I mean…if they don’t want the money. Fine.
We will continue printing our own outside of their purview.
*shrug*
Customer avatar
Justin W December 09, 2022 8:50 pm UTC
PURCHASER
POD please.
Customer avatar
William M December 04, 2022 10:41 pm UTC
POD NOW Please!
Customer avatar
Anthony E November 29, 2022 3:30 pm UTC
Why is the POD for this not available?
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Customer avatar
Timothy S November 29, 2022 4:17 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Because it would compete with the 5e Starter Set, 5e Essential Set, and even their free 5e Basic PDF.
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Customer avatar
Estel-Lia T December 14, 2022 1:59 am UTC
PURCHASER
You can buy POD of AD&D 1st and 2nd Edition rules. You can also buy a POD of the Rules Cyclopedia. That argument doesn't really hold.
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Customer avatar
Timothy S December 14, 2022 3:01 am UTC
PURCHASER
Nope. Not at all. Mentzer BECMI/Allston Rules Cyclopedia, 1st, and 2nd edition are NOT Moldvay-Cook-Marsh edition.
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Customer avatar
Anthony E January 21, 2023 9:32 am UTC
I understand. I'm not a 5e customer and never will be.
Customer avatar
TROY R November 19, 2022 2:19 am UTC
PURCHASER
POD! POD! POD!!!
Note: A hardcover POD of BOTH this and the Expert book would be MINTING money for your company
I'd probably buy four or five copies myself. Not even kidding.
Customer avatar
Iain B October 31, 2022 8:26 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Why did you POD almost everything except this? Don’t you like money? Weird…
Customer avatar
October 27, 2022 1:34 pm UTC
Having this and Expert in print would be awesome, jus' sayin'......
Customer avatar
Stephen A October 17, 2022 8:58 pm UTC
Ready for that POD
Customer avatar
Andrew S October 15, 2022 11:26 pm UTC
POD Come ON
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kristiaan L October 11, 2022 4:00 pm UTC
PURCHASER
pod please
Customer avatar
Zenith C October 10, 2022 5:16 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I want a POD of this is the worst way possible!
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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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Scanned image
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File Last Updated:
September 20, 2013
This title was added to our catalog on January 22, 2013.