OD&D Edition Experience: Did/Do you Play BECM/RC D&D? How Was/Is It?

How Did/Do You Feel About BECMI/RC D&D


Limit Break Dancing (He/They)
With all of the talk about the Golden Age of Gaming, and all of the retro-clones floating around, it's made me curious about the older editions of the game. I'm curious how many folks on ENWorld have ever played these older editions, and what their level of satisfaction was. Or is, if you are one of the rare birds that are still keeping it Old School.

This week I'd like to examine the Basic Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Have you played it before? or are you still playing it? What do you think about it?

By "played," I mean that you've been either a player or a DM for at least one gaming session. By "playing," I mean you have an ongoing gaming group that still actively plays this version, however occasionally. And for the purpose of this survey, I'm only referring to the Dungeons & Dragons Basic, Expert, Companion, Masters, and Immortal (BECMI) boxed sets, which were published 1984-1985 and were later compiled into the Rules Cyclopedia in 1991. You remember them; they looked like this:


This edition of the game is very different from the "Basic D&D" set that was released in 1977. And it's only slightly different from the "B/X" Moldvay version, which covered the first 14 levels but didn't include rules for high-level character advancement, mass combat, weapon mastery, immortality, etc.

...yeah, despite its name, "Basic" D&D got pretty complicated and hard to track for a while.

Anyway. Feel free to add nuance in your comments, but let's not have an edition war over this. I'm really just interested in hearing peoples' stories of playing the BECMI rules, and what they remembered (for better or worse) about it.

Next week I'm going to post the survey for the next (chronologically) edition, AD&D 2E. So tune in next week for what I expect will be one of the most loved editions (somehow ;) ).

Other Surveys
Basic D&D
D&D 3E
D&D 4E
Survey Results (24 Apr 2020)
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad


Limit Break Dancing (He/They)
That one. That red box right there.

That's where it all started for me.

A friend of mine had brought his brother's book to school earlier that year and I had played a couple of games, and I was completely obsessed with it. When my 12th birthday rolled around, I begged my mom for a boxed set. And she got it for me! I remember filling in the powder-blue plastic dice with a white crayon, and forever wishing I had used a black one instead. I remember staying up for hours after bedtime each night reading and memorizing the two red booklets. I remember playing through the sample "solo" adventure, and wishing there was a way to strangle Bargle.

A few months later, I was running D&D games for my big brother and my little sister. A few months after that, I ran a game for my mom and dad too (the "Satanic Panic" was in full force in Oklahoma around that time, thanks in no small part to Sean Sellers and his defense attorney, and my parents wanted to see what all the hype was about.)

It took me months to save up enough of my allowance to buy the next boxed set, only to discover that the stores had stopped carrying it. (Man, I miss going to Waldenbooks and browsing!) I called TSR directly to order it, and learned that it was already out of print. I found a kid at school who was willing to part with his blue boxed set for $10 and my X-Men comic books.

I never was able to find the Companion or Masters rules boxes. TSR released the Rules Cyclopedia and then shifted their gears hard toward AD&D 2nd Edition. Of course a middle-schooler like me couldn't afford to just buy all new books like that at $30 a pop...so I had to scour used bookstores, hobby shops, and comic book stores for the occasional cheap, highly-used and battered module or accessory for the books I did have. I did snag a new copy of the "Creature Catalog" and "Test of the Warlords," and a few others, but the selection dried up pretty quickly. By the time I was in high school, both the Basic D&D books and the hobby stores that sold them were long gone.

It took me almost 20 years, a college education, a high-paying job, and the advent of the Internet for me to finally collect all four boxed sets of BECM. (I don't really care about the Immortals boxed set; it feels more of a superhero game than a D&D game to me.) It remains the purest, easiest, and best edition of Dungeons & Dragons to me. I'd still be playing it if I could.
Last edited:


I own an original red box someone found at a garage sale and gave to me. I recently downloaded and bought a POD copy of the Rules Cyclopedia when I was searching for a more streamlined edition to play virtually.
I read through it, and I realized it's just not for me. Characters are too weak. No spells for clerics/no healing available at 1st level. One spell per day for magic users.
On top of this, the multiple resolution mechanics are confounding. The organization leaves much to be desired. Hard pass for me.


Never played and never will. Played B/X and switched to AD&D.

I did buy a used copy of the RC at the end of the 90s at a local gaming store with the intention of trying it out. Having all the rules between two covers seemed like a good idea. But the full system is daunting. I preferred AD&D2e. So more comments next week!


I think the Immortals set that was released for the RC was Wrath of the Immortals and the set released for the BECMI sets was simply the immortals set. They had some differences between them, but as I ever really studied one of them (I think it was the immortals set, which had different levels of immortality which you gained) I can't say the differences between them off the top of my head.

I think I may have gotten one of the later BECMI sets, or B and E sets. I don't know if Companion came with dice, but the dice I got with the Basic and Experts sets of the BECMI series had colored dice. If I recall right, the D20 was PUPRLE and the D12 was PINK...for the set I got...which was...interesting. I think I still have it somewhere.

I didn't really read through it to learn to play D&D (and AD&D) as I knew how to play from learning many many years prior to that (with earlier versions of D&D), but I did enjoy playing through the choose your own adventure type portions it had. Thus, I never really developed a love or deep abiding interest in the characters (Bargle...and was it Aleena?). However, I felt it was the best introductory game that D&D created for many years (I thought it was much better for an introductory game than Basic was for B/X or the original Basic was...and definitely better than the three original booklets).

It held that distinction for me of being the BEST introductory RPG set (not just D&D, ANY RPG) until Paizo's beginner box basically came out and the new Essentials Box for D&D came out. Before that, it hands down was the best introductory RPG box ever made in my opinion.
Last edited:


Best. D&D. Ever.

Note: it wasmy first D&D and we played it for about 5 years before discovering AD&D. I still pull out the Domain and War Machine rules to use with current editions.

I keep telling myself I should read those (Domain/War machines) but I always keep putting that to later. Now would be a good time (covid-19)

Enrico Poli1

I started with the Mentzer Red Box.
The system works, and it's very simple; the problem is the inconsistency of certain rules. Also, the system breaks after a certain point.
I'll say that the published modules are a strong point in favor of this edition.
The setting is also excellent (the Gazetteers).
Moreover, the Companion rules offer a very satisfying high-level experience.
So sometimes, when I'm tired of 5e, I play a bit of my beloved BECMI wandering about the Known World...

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads