OD&D Edition Experience: Did/Do You Play Basic D&D? How Was/Is it?

How Did/Do You Feel About Basic D&D

  • I played it, and I remember liking it.

    Votes: 50 54.3%
  • I played it, and I wasn't impressed one way or another.

    Votes: 7 7.6%
  • I played it, and I didn't really like it.

    Votes: 3 3.3%
  • I'm playing it right now and so far, I like it.

    Votes: 6 6.5%
  • I'm playing it right now; I'll have to let you know later.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I'm playing it right now and so far, I don't like it.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I never played this edition, but I'd like to.

    Votes: 11 12.0%
  • I've never played this edition, or even considered it tbh.

    Votes: 10 10.9%
  • I've never played this edition, and I don't really want to.

    Votes: 5 5.4%

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
The Holmes Basic Set blue booklet was my first D&D book. I'm not sure what happened to the box, but I remember having the blue dice and the original version of B2 which came with the set (and which I still possess). Like others here, I played with these rules interchangeably with the AD&D books that were out at the time. Holmes Basic is particularly compatible with the AD&D Monster Manual which was released in the same year (1977) and shares with it five-point alignment. It's also nearly identical to OD&D (1974) so much so that I consider them the same edition and was tempted to answer in the other poll that I had played it although we were using Holmes. Some of the characters that I made with Holmes were later converted to AD&D using the PHB, at which point I realized the two systems weren't entirely compatible.
 

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JeffB

Legend
The Holmes Basic Set blue booklet was my first D&D book. I'm not sure what happened to the box, but I remember having the blue dice and the original version of B2 which came with the set (and which I still possess). Like others here, I played with these rules interchangeably with the AD&D books that were out at the time. Holmes Basic is particularly compatible with the AD&D Monster Manual which was released in the same year (1977) and shares with it five-point alignment. It's also nearly identical to OD&D (1974) so much so that I consider them the same edition and was tempted to answer in the other poll that I had played it although we were using Holmes. Some of the characters that I made with Holmes were later converted to AD&D using the PHB, at which point I realized the two systems weren't entirely compatible.


Bingo- despite the title, the AD&D MM is 99% an OD&D book and completed before AD&D rules had been finalized. Not even any evidence of AC10 in the book. We used it right along-side the LBBs and Holmes* until the PHB was finally published about a year+ later.


*I still use it at the table when running OD&D. It's the only "AD&D" book that gets any play time still.
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
Bingo- despite the title, the AD&D MM is 99% an OD&D book and completed before AD&D rules had been finalized. Not even any evidence of AC10 in the book. We used it right along-side the LBBs and Holmes* until the PHB was finally published about a year+ later.


*I still use it at the table when running OD&D. It's the only "AD&D" book that gets any play time still.
The copy of Holmes I used can be dated by the inclusion of B2 to between December 1979 and 1981, when I was between 6 and 8 years old, and after the complete publication of the AD&D core books. I just didn't realize it was a different rule-set until my characters "advanced" above third level. I think the suggestion in Holmes that games above third level should progress to AD&D was partially responsible for the misconception that the two systems were meant to be compatible. They were close enough that it didn't cause much of a problem. I later played B2 using AD&D.
 

JeffB

Legend
The copy of Holmes I used can be dated by the inclusion of B2 to between December 1979 and 1981, when I was between 6 and 8 years old, and after the complete publication of the AD&D core books. I just didn't realize it was a different rule-set until my characters "advanced" above third level. I think the suggestion in Holmes that games above third level should progress to AD&D was partially responsible for the misconception that the two systems were meant to be compatible. They were close enough that it didn't cause much of a problem. I later played B2 using AD&D.

You should check out the Holmes Manuscript BLOG I linked too. Dr. Holmes did not intend for players to go onto AD&D, that was a TSR addition. Of course, they were trying to pump up the oncoming ruleset.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Had to change my vote since we are talking about the holmes version. The copy was around and some of my dms would pull a monster or two out of it. But it was thumb book while waiting our turn booklet.
 

Longspeak

Explorer
Also called the "Holmes Edition," with this awesome cover by John Blanche David Sutherland:

View attachment 119782
That cover is the cover on the one that got us started in 1979. I've mentioned before, my dad bought it for my best friend's birthday, and my friend figured we should at least try it. We played it for maybe a year before he got interested in the Advanced and we transitioned to that.

And I loved it.
 

zenopus

Doomed Wizard
That is a David Sutherland cover.

I started with the LBBS and this and a MM. So yes. Played it. Still run it on occasion, especially now that Dr. Holmes' original manuscript made it's way into the public after all these years.

This BLOG series is a must read if you are remotely interested in the Holmes Basic set. It goes through all the Edits TSR did to the Good Dr.'s original manuscript and solves a lot of the :scratcheshead WTF? : rules issues about the published booklet.

The Holmes Manuscript

Summoning @zenopus

Thanks for the thread alert, Jeff!

I voted: I'm playing it right now and so far, I like it.

Yes, I do like it so far - since 1982. : )

While I'm not running a campaign currently, I have been running single-shot games at cons regularly the last few years, and I use Holmes Basic for these games, plus OD&D for the higher level material. I ran one at Scrum Con just two weekends ago: Scrum Con 2020 Post-Op, and am scheduled to run two games at Gary Con in a few weeks, if it goes on as planned.

I just happened to start a Holmes Basic Appreciation thread here last month, on the anniversary of J. Eric Holmes' birthday, which may be of interest to some who read this thread.
 

zenopus

Doomed Wizard
The rulebook is a blue version of the box cover. You're probably remembering that. It did indeed stop at 3rd and players were encourage to switch to AD&D after that. The weird thing is that the monsters included some that were way above the ability of 3rd level characters.

In Dragon #52, in an article about the new (Moldvay) Basic Set, Holmes writes:

"I’m glad to see Moldvay included the dragons just as I did in the first edition. It seems almost silly to describe dragons in a book intended only for player characters up to the third level. On the other hand, think how disappointed you would be if you were an inexperienced player who bought a DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game and found nothing about dragons inside!"

And in the Holmes Basic rulebook he actually addressed how to creatively use higher HD monsters:

"There is endless opportunity for inventiveness in the game, however, and if a high hit dice monster is desired, ways can be invented to scale it down so that a low level party can have a chance of defeating it. If one wanted to use a chimera, for instance, in a campaign with low level characters, the creature could be scaled down. Maybe it ran into a high level magic-user and was partially shrunk by a magic spell, reducing its hit points. Or there might be a special magic sword, effective only against this chimera, hidden in the dungeon, and the adventurers given a hint or a legend that might lead them to it. In the interest of maintaining the balance of the game, however, a small or weak monster must not have a treasure anything like the hoard of a normal monster."

[In Holmes' original manuscript (linked above by JeffB), Holmes had "dragon" here instead of "chimera".]

So we can see that Holmes was aware of this issue. He also wrote in Dragon #52: "I struggled very hard to make all these things clear to the readers of the first Basic Rules and yet retain the flavor and excitement of the original rules."

So I think Holmes kept some of the higher HD monsters in the Basic rules because he wanted to preserve the flavor of the original game. He was also somewhat limited in that there weren't all that many low HD monsters that had full stats in the original game. Much of the vermin fell under a catchall "Small Insects or Animals" or "Large Insects or Animals" in the OD&D rules (In the manuscript, Holmes represented these with an entry for "Giant Animals or Insects", but TSR deleted this). Stuff like Giant Rats, Giant Centipedes, Giant Ants, Giant Spiders, none of these were fully described in OD&D and thus aren't even in the 1st edition of the Holmes Rulebook. TSR added them to the 2nd edition of Holmes after the Monster Manual had come out and included them with full stats for the first time.

Moldvay had more low HD creatures to start with, and added a number of others that were new to create a monster set focused solely on lower HD creatures (though he still had Dragons of all ages). Holmes had stuck solely with creatures that were already described in the OD&D rules.
 


HarbingerX

Rob Of The North
Holmes is one that is a great mystery to me. It's not that I didn't play it, but the set I played it I could swear the elves were handled differently than most remember it. I remembered my set had it that elves were Fighters and Magic-Users but had to choose each adventure which one they were going to be and advance in.

That's how elves work in OD&D. Perhaps you're remembering that version?
 

HarbingerX

Rob Of The North
We played a bunch of times a few years ago and the sessions were among our most fun, most memorable. The lack of game mechanics made it feel very free-form. The game is still fun and definitely still playable.

This is why I like OSR versions of D&D so much better. I don't think adding 'more' crunch actually does the game any favors. I play 5e only because I must. I know a lot of people complain about the deadliness - but for me the game is just so much faster to play and the focus is where it should be - in the world building rather than the mechanics.
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
I have run it at various gamedays, as more of a "dungeon grind" affair, no roleplaying, because it is very easy to roll up another character quickly and get back in the action. Back when I was between 12 and 15 years old, a friend of mine and I played it into the VERY high levels (Expert Set), single-player (I was DM) and we enjoyed it quite a lot.
 

teitan

Legend
Holmes is one that is a great mystery to me. It's not that I didn't play it, but the set I played it I could swear the elves were handled differently than most remember it. I remembered my set had it that elves were Fighters and Magic-Users but had to choose each adventure which one they were going to be and advance in.

People have told me that this was only in pre-production sets and not in productions sets, but I could swear the copy I had first had this rule in it (the sets I have now which I got later do not seem to have this).

I enjoyed it for what it was. It was more an introduction to OD&D or AD&D (your preference I guess) but somewhat different from either one in many ways.

Yes that was Holmes. Moldvay was the change. Holmes had a blue cover and was a restatement of OD&D that lead to AD&D. Moldvay had a red cover and was a standalone game about a year or so later.
 

atanakar

Hero
This is why I like OSR versions of D&D so much better. I don't think adding 'more' crunch actually does the game any favors. I play 5e only because I must. I know a lot of people complain about the deadliness - but for me the game is just so much faster to play and the focus is where it should be - in the world building rather than the mechanics.

Not sure I understand what you mean by world building.

From where I'm sitting, with 40 years of experience playing many different rpgs, I don't see a correlation between less rules equals more world building. World building is more a function of the maturity of the DM and the players. When I was an inexperienced DM, my group and I, didn't do world building with B/X despite the fact that is was a simple system. We did a lot of senseless dungeon crawling, going back to town to heal and exploration of random wilderness hexes.

A year later it was a very different experience. I had read the AD&D1e DMG and the Greyhawk Gazeteer. Suddenly playing D&D took on a whole new meaning. I started creating engaging narratives and long term story arcs. This has remained the same regardless of the edition I played. If the DM and the players want to do world building it will happen regardless of the complexity of the rule set.

Other other hand, if by world building you mean, immersion, time spent telling a story and engaging the characters, then yes a simpler system will free your mind to concentrate on that activity rather then spending time looking up rules and corner cases. My mental fatigue level after a game of 5e is far less than with 3.5 and 4e. But even then, once you have played a system often enough and regularly enough it becomes like wearing an old pair of jeans. 2e was pretty convoluted but after playing it very regularly it became transparent and I knew by heart the page number of individual spells.
 
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HarbingerX

Rob Of The North
Not sure I understand what you mean by world building.

From where I'm sitting, with 40 years of experience playing many different rpgs, I don't see a correlation between less rules equals more world building. World building is more a function of the maturity of the DM and the players. When I was an inexperienced DM, my group and I, didn't do world building with B/X despite the fact that is was a simple system. We did a lot of senseless dungeon crawling, going back to town to heal and exploration of random wilderness hexes.

Well, what I find, and I think is born out by conversations here and on dndbeyond, is that players focus on the crunch of their character sheet and what they unlock on their next level up. They don't seek out non-mechanical in-world improvements as the game rules reward a different style of play. I find in OSR games, because there is far less to be gained from levelling up, player instead are forced to find in-game sources of power. It's not that it can't be done in 3/4/5e, it's that the rules provide an easier route to power.

But of course, an experienced DM and players can overcome this. I just find it's far easier to achieve in OSR games.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
For some reason, I can't edit the original post to include the latest survey. Until I can figure out why I keep getting the "Oops! Server error" message, here's the link:

AD&D 2E
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
On April 24th, I compiled the survey results and posted them in this thread. Not just the survey results; I also collected and analyzed (to the best of my ability) the comments and "nuance" I requested in the comment section as well. I have linked that survey to the OP in this thread, and in all of the other edition surveys as well.

But discussion continues, and votes are still coming in. I'm continue to collect and update the survey info, and I will be updating the summary soon. Thanks everyone for your (continued) participation! This has been a fun and enlightening exercise in the history of our hobby.
 

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