Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set
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|Dungeons & Dragons|
Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set rulebook
|Author(s)||J. Eric Holmes, based upon the original work of Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson|
|Media type||Boxed set|
The original Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set boxed set (TSR 1001) was first published by TSR, Inc. in 1977, and comprised a separate edition of the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) fantasy role-playing game, distinct from the first edition of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) game, which was initially published in the same year.
1977 printing 
The first Basic Set was published in 1977, and was available as a 48-page stand-alone rulebook and as part of a boxed set. The rulebook featured artwork by David C. Sutherland III. The boxed set included a set of polyhedral dice and supplemental materials. In that same year, Games Workshop (U.K.) published their own version of the rulebook, with a cover by John Blanche, and illustrations by Fangorn. (For a period in 1979, TSR experienced a dice shortage. Basic sets published during this time frame came with two sheets of numbered cutout cardstock chits that functioned in lieu of dice, along with a coupon for ordering dice from TSR.)
Supplemental materials appearing in the boxed set included geomorphs, monster and treasure lists, and a set of polyhedral dice. The rulebook also included a brief sample dungeon with a full-page map. However, starting with the fourth printing in 1978, the two booklets of maps, encounter tables, and treasure lists were replaced with the module B1 In Search of the Unknown; printings six through eleven (1979–1982) featured the module B2 The Keep on the Borderlands instead.
The rulebook covers characters from level one through three, rules for adventuring in dungeons, and introduces the concepts of the game. This version of the Basic Set incorporates concepts from the original 1974 rules plus the Greyhawk supplement. The book suggests that players who want to go beyond third level should move to the AD&D game system.
The rulebook opens with the following description of play:
|“||Each player creates a character or characters.... [who are] then plunged into an adventure ... run by ... the Dungeon Master. The dungeons are filled with fearsome monsters, fabulous treasure, and frightful perils. As the players engage in game after game their characters grow in power and ability.... Soon the adventurers are daring to go deeper and deeper into the dungeons on each game, battling more terrible monsters, and, of course, recovering bigger and more fabulous treasure! The game is limited only by the inventiveness and imagination of the players ... the characters can move from dungeon to dungeon within the same magical universe if game referees are approximately the same in their handling of play.||”|
TSR hired outside writer J. Eric Holmes to produce the Basic Set as an introductory version of the D&D game. The Basic Set collected, organized, and cleaned up the presentation of the essential rules from the original 1974 D&D boxed set and the Greyhawk supplement into a single booklet. The booklet explained the game's concepts and method of play in terms that made it accessible to new players ages twelve and above who might not be familiar with tabletop miniatures wargaming. Unusual features of the game included an alignment system of five alignments (lawful good, chaotic good, neutral, lawful evil and evil) as opposed to the three or nine alignments of the other versions.
The Basic Set was packaged in a larger, more visually attractive box to allow the game to be stocked on common retail shelves, and targeted to toy stores and the general public. It was notable in that it focused on only the first three levels of play, and was intended as a bridge between the original D&D and the AD&D rules, rather than as an introductory version of the game.[original research?] Although the Basic Set was not compatible with AD&D, players were expected to continue play beyond third level by moving to the AD&D version, which at the time was still forthcoming from Gary Gygax and TSR. Players who exhausted the possibilities of the basic game were directed in that set to switch to the advanced game, although the basic game included many rules and concepts which contradicted comparable ones in the advanced game. Holmes, the editor of the basic game, preferred a lighter tone with more room for personal improvisation, while Gygax, who wrote the advanced game, wanted an expansive game with rulings on any conceivable situation which might come up during play, a document which could be used to arbitrate disputes at tournaments. This Basic Set was very popular and allowed many to discover and experience the D&D game for the first time.
1981 revision 
After the release of the AD&D game, the Basic Set saw a major revision in 1981 by editor Tom Moldvay. The revised version of the set included a larger, sixty four page rule book with a red border and color cover by Erol Otus, the module B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, six polyhedral dice, and a marking crayon. Cardboard chits were briefly included in place of dice when TSR's source dried up. The cover of the set included the tagline "Fantasy Adventure Game" under the D&D logo.
This edition drew solely on the original D&D boxed set for inspiration, rather than including material from its supplements. The game was not brought in line with AD&D but instead was made even more different, and thus the basic D&D game became a separate and distinct product from TSR’s flagship game AD&D. This game was promoted as a continuation of the tone of original D&D, while AD&D was an advancement of the mechanics. Although simpler overall than the Advanced game, it included rules for some situations not covered in AD&D.
With the revision of the Basic Set, discrete sets of increasing power levels began to be introduced as expansions for the basic game. The Moldvay Basic Set was immediately followed by the accompanying release of an Expert Set edited by Dave Cook, supporting character levels four through fourteen. The Basic Set led players into the Expert Set past third level. The revised rules were visually distinct from the original rules: The Holmes booklet had a blueprint-style pale blue cover, while the Moldvay Basic Set and Cook Expert Set booklets had bright red and blue covers, respectively.
1983 revision 
In 1983, the Basic Set was revised again, this time by Frank Mentzer, and redubbed Dungeons & Dragons Set 1: Basic Rules. The set included a sixty four page book for players (Players Manual), a forty eight page Dungeon Masters Rulebook, six dice, and in sets in which the dice were not painted, a crayon. The 1983 revision was packaged in a distinctive red box, and featured cover art by Larry Elmore. Between 1983 and 1985, the system was revised and expanded by Mentzer as a series of five boxed sets, including the Basic Rules (red cover), Expert Rules (blue), Companion Rules (teal, supporting levels fifteen through twenty five), Master Rules (black, supporting levels twenty six through thirty six), and Immortal Rules (gold, supporting Immortals—characters who had transcended levels). Instead of an adventure module, the Basic Set rulebooks included a solo scenario and an introductory scenario to be run by the Dungeon Master.
The 10th Anniversary Dungeons & Dragons Collector's Set boxed set, published by TSR in 1984, included the rulebooks from the Basic, Expert, and Companion sets; modules AC2, AC3, B1, B2, and M1 Blizzard Pass; Player Character Record Sheets; and dice. This set was limited to a thousand copies, and was sold by mail and at GenCon 17.:147
A version of the Basic Set was printed in Australia by Jedko Games in 1987.
1991 revision 
||It has been suggested that Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since February 2013.|
The Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia was published by TSR, Inc. in 1991, as a continuation of the basic edition of the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game.
Doug Cowie reviewed the 1983 version of the Basic Set for Imagine magazine, giving it a quite positive review. He noted that it was not just a money-making scheme on the part of the publisher, trying to sell a new game to existing players. According to Cowie, while the rules stay the same - thus allowing those with the older version to continue using their sets - the presentation has changed. Cowie approved of the fact that "at long last", a game company has put out a product that explains to someone new to roleplaying games how to get started. He also praised the "vastly improved" cover art and interior illustrations, yet noted that the box contains a set of "dreadful TSR dice". The reviewer was especially pleased by the Players Manual, where the introduction is not followed by character generation, but rather a solo adventure that allows the reader to start playing "within five minutes of opening the box". According to Cowie, this allows learning the rules step by step, by playing solo. He called this an "excellent idea". The Players Manual contains two solo scenarios and "some town business". Cowie continued his review by pointing out that the Dungeon Masters Rulebook includes the normal rules for running a game as well as an introductory scenario involving some wilderness and exploration of a castle. Unlike its predecessor this boxed sets lacks a separate module, according to Cowie, but his experienced playtesters found the introductory scenario interesting. As to the rules, Cowie missed a "weapon-vs-armor-type" rule, possibly as an option, and noted that it might have been a good idea to copy the rule from AD&D that at zero hit points a character falls unconscious, not dead. Calling the few errors in the box minor irritants, he felt that this set was "head and shoulders above any other" game as an introduction to roleplaying. Cowie ended his review by stating that "Basic is a lot closer to the spirit of the original game than is the rambling, unwieldy and sometimes pompous Advanced" and that "for one-off dungeon type games I would recommend Basic to anyone, beginner and veteran alike."
- "The History of TSR". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2008-10-04. Retrieved 2005-08-20.
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- Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (rulebook) 1977, 5
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- Gygax & Arneson (1977) p. 6. states "...experience levels that high are not discussed in this book and the reader is referred to the more complete rules in ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS"
- Gygax, Gary (June 1979). "D&D, AD&D and Gaming". The Dragon #26 (TSR) III (12): 29–30. ISSN 1062-2101.
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- Gygax, Gary, and Dave Arneson , edited by Frank Mentzer. Dungeons & Dragons Set 2: Expert Rules (TSR, 1983)
- Mentzer, Frank. Dungeons & Dragons Set 3: Companion Rules (TSR, 1984)
- Gygax, Gary, Frank Mentzer. Dungeons & Dragons Set 4: Master Rules (TSR, 1985)
- Mentzer, Frank. Dungeons & Dragons Set 5: Immortal Rules (TSR, 1986)