Editon Experience: Did/Do you Play B/X? How Was/Is It?

How Did/Do You Feel About B/X D&D?

  • I played it, and I didn't really like it.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I'm playing it right now; I'll have to let you know later.

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

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    35

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
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 the 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 B/X or BECM Edition. 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 1981 Basic/Expert set, written by Tom Moldvay and David Cook (which was then revised and expanded two years later by Frank Mentzer). These two books, right here:

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Note that this edition is different from the revised and expanded "BECM" edition, which came in four different boxes and were published from 1983-1985. And it's not the other "Holmes Basic" edition, that was published in 1977.

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 "Moldvay Basic" rules, and what they remembered (for better or worse) about it.

Next week we will tackle the BECM version. So if that's your flavor of choice, I hope to hear from you next week.

Other Surveys
OD&D
Basic D&D
AD&D 1E
BECMI / Rules Cyclopedia
 
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Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I have come to B/X late in life, having only started playing it in the 4e era as a side game. It is my hands down favorite version of the game. In the D&D space only Freebooters and Pathfinder 2e come close.
 
I played it after starting with 1E. I found its simplicity very enjoyable compared with a lot of the complexity of 1E. Honestly, I think that overall the best adventures I ever played or ran came from this edition. Eventually I went back to 1E, but mainly kept to these adventures.
 

Ace

Explorer
I played B/X with my group a while back. It was fine, nothing special though the lethality gave the other players who had come in near the end of 3.5 some pause.

Its not a bad game all in all though I prefer 5th or baring that 2nd edition to it.
 
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not-so-newguy

Explorer
At age 10, this the one that started it all for me. I have raided castle Mistamere several times: first as the Dwarf named Dweeny, then several characters named Eagle-Eyes after that (I was ten and fixated on that name because that name is bada$$).

Spoiler! There's a carrion crawler under the door laying in front of the castle walls. I think. Maybe. It's been 35+ years. I could be wrong.
 

dnd4vr

Tactical Studies Rules - The Original Game Wizards
Wait! Where is the "I"??? Did you forget the "I"? It should be BECMI...

I know, I remember playing in the Immortals set. :D
 

Tallifer

Adventurer
Note that this edition is different from the revised and expanded "BECM" edition, which came in four different boxes and were published from 1983-1985. And it's not the other "Holmes Basic" edition, that was published in 1977. 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 "Moldvay Basic" rules, and what they remembered (for better or worse) about it.
I am confused. What is the difference between all these different editions of Basic D&D? Anything truly significant with regards to Classes, Races and Monsters? Curious minds want to know.
 

Koren n'Rhys

Explorer
Love it - my goto edition. I'm currently playing in a 5E game, which is fun and I'm all in as a player, but it isn't something I'd run as a DM. BX is where I started back in '81 and for me it allows a flexibility I absolutely love. When I run a game, BX it is!

The recent retroclone Old-School Essentials by Necrotic Gnome is a perfect clone with FAR superior presentation and organization. That's what I actually use to play nowadays.
 
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Koren n'Rhys

Explorer
I am confused. What is the difference between all these different editions of Basic D&D? Anything truly significant with regards to Classes, Races and Monsters? Curious minds want to know.
No particularly meaningful differences between BX and BECMI, no. BX was published in 1981 as two boxes (Basic 1-3 and eXpert 4-14) and is also referred to as "Moldvay/Cook" for it's editor/authors. Tom Moldvay and Zeb Cook for B, then Cook and Steve Marsh for X. It only runs 14 levels and features race as class for Elves, Dwarves and Halflings.
BECMI was a reworked version released starting in 1984 as a revised version edited by Frank Mentzer. It was expanded to cover 36 levels over 4 box sets (Basic 1-3, Expert 4-14, Companion 15-25 & Master 26-36) and also added in a lot of additional options for domain level play, weapon mastery, additional spells, monsters, magic items, etc all to support those higher levels. A fifth box, Immortal, offered a higher tier where you essentially play as gods. The popular Rules Cyclopedia book combined the BECM content into a single hardcover but didn't cover I.
B and X/E are essentially identical between the versions. The big difference is in the progression of the percentile thieves skills, which by being stretched over 36 levels rather than just 14 really cripples low level thieves in BECMI. Even Mentzer acknowledges he messed that up.
 

atanakar

Adventurer
Nostalgia is strong with this one!

It's the first version we actively played and I was the first DM. It was very lethal which we didn't mind at first. But looking at the XP tables in the Expert set made us realized we needed to make some rule changes to raise survivability. We didn't have 8-10 players. We had 4-5 and hiring henchmen to die was a thing. We grew tired of it fast - not to mention it felt really evil. So we decided death occurred only at -10.

I believe we played B/X for the winter and spring of 1981. We switched to AD&D during the summer when we had money because of summer jobs.

I have fond memories of that period because we were discovering RPGs and made long time friends but I wasn't impressed one way or another with B/X. Like I said in the other threads. I tried playing it again in 2019 but it just does not work for me. The turn sequence is too much like a wargame. If 5e didn't exist, maybe, I would play a pre-WoTC edition but not B/X. I was happy to leave Race-as-class behind in 1981 and don't want that in 2020.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I am confused. What is the difference between all these different editions of Basic D&D? Anything truly significant with regards to Classes, Races and Monsters? Curious minds want to know.
@Koren n'Rhys is correct; there isn't much difference between the two (and Rules Cyclopedia, which was released in the early 1990s.) I separated them out for the sake of consistency: there were so many "basic D&D" editions out there in the 80s that many people, myself included, were confused about what edition they were actually playing when they were kids.

From what I can tell, the B/X and BECM games used the same rules structure and were fairly identical for the first two books. Frank Mentzer added a lot of "optional rules" like the druid and mystic classes, rules for strongholds and mass combat, and rules for weapon mastery. But I never played the B/X version; I can't say for sure. And the Rules Cyclopedia added more stuff as well, including an entire Mystara/Hollow World campaign setting...even though the base rules system was the same.

TL;DR: things got weird in the 80s with Basic D&D, and I'm trying to keep the peas from mixing with the carrots.

This is another of the older editions of D&D that I never played, but wish I had. I started playing with the BECM "Red Box" set back in 1986, and until I started researching this little "satisfaction survey" project I thought I had grown up playing one of the oldest versions of D&D.
 
From what I can tell, the B/X and BECM games used the same rules structure and were fairly identical for the first two books. Frank Mentzer added a lot of "optional rules" like the druid and mystic classes, rules for strongholds and mass combat, and rules for weapon mastery. But I never played the B/X version; I can't say for sure. And the Rules Cyclopedia added more stuff as well, including an entire Mystara/Hollow World campaign setting...even though the base rules system was the same.

TL;DR: things got weird in the 80s with Basic D&D, and I'm trying to keep the peas from mixing with the carrots.
My first set was the the Red Box Basic from BECMI. When I leveled up, my parents got me the Expert set from B/X. They didn't know any different-- and since I was 10, neither did I. And I turned out just fine, despite mixing peas and carrots. 🤪
 

Koren n'Rhys

Explorer
My first set was the the Red Box Basic from BECMI. When I leveled up, my parents got me the Expert set from B/X. They didn't know any different-- and since I was 10, neither did I. And I turned out just fine, despite mixing peas and carrots. 🤪
I mean, it's really more like cut up carrots and baby carrots. The B and X are essentially identical and mostly just a new layout. Most of Mentzer's work was the CMI stuff.
 

Stormonu

Hero
<EDIT:Removed a mistake>

I DMed B/X in several campaigns, longest one went up to 6th with X1.
I didn’t do very long games as I had the impression B/X was for “beginners“ and you were supposed to move on to AD&D once you grasped the basics. I guess that was why I never did much with the BECMI ruleset.
 
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teitan

Adventurer
I never really got to play BX, I played BECMI as noted in the Basic thread. I honestly view BECMI and B/X as different games because of the added layers that Mentzer brought in that made BECMI almost as complex as AD&D2e was but in a more logical manner aside from the Race as Class thing, which I totally didn't understand why it was a thing even though my first exposure was the White Box. I'd gotten so used to AD&D with race and class separate that I didn't connect the dots that other than the Thief class, the race as class element was basically just playing OD&D with some experience requirement modifications.

B/X is, from my reading and nutshell analysis, a more favorable thief and less cluttered system that shows how the core D&D design is extremely elegant without all the barnacles of Non Weapon Proficiencies, skill systems, weapon proficiencies, psionics and blahdee blah. Stripped of all that, as B/X is, is a remarkably simple, efficient & elegant system for an RPG that I think gets to the root of why D&D is popular. It's simpler than the majority of so-called "rules lite" games while having depth. The lack of fiddly bits allows players & DMs to focus on the story and the numbers take a back seat when necessary.

When I played BECMI & enjoyed it, it was stripped by the DM of Weapon Mastery and the like, no Mystics or Druids. The only flaw was the thief sucked. B/X doesn't have quite so much thief suckage.

Heck, reading got me to buy Lamentations of the Flame Princess, which is a B/X derived system and it's very well done and the alterations to the thief make it work even better. I've thought about extrapolating it into an AD&D game and integrating a simple skill system based on it.
 

Orius

Adventurer
The only version of Basic D&D that has any significant differences is Holmes. That is more of an introduction to the original game than anything else. Moldvay, Mentzer, and the Black Box are all fairly similar. The main difference with the Black Box is that it has 5 levels instead of 3, including the spells to go along with those levels and a some small differences with monster selection. There might be some small difference with magic items too.
 

atanakar

Adventurer
The author of Dark Dungeons is working on a second edition of his BECMI (B/X) / Rules Cyclopedia rewrite. You can take a look at the document in the below link. He is seeking help on the proofreading. You can contribute at The Piazza forum. (Do not post proofreading comments here).

Dark Dungeons 2e: (free pdf)

The Piazza forum: Darker Dungeons 2e proofreading:
 

GreyLord

Adventurer
No particularly meaningful differences between BX and BECMI, no. BX was published in 1981 as two boxes (Basic 1-3 and eXpert 4-14) and is also referred to as "Moldvay/Cook" for it's editor/authors. Tom Moldvay and Zeb Cook for B, then Cook and Steve Marsh for X. It only runs 14 levels and features race as class for Elves, Dwarves and Halflings.
BECMI was a reworked version released starting in 1984 as a revised version edited by Frank Mentzer. It was expanded to cover 36 levels over 4 box sets (Basic 1-3, Expert 4-14, Companion 15-25 & Master 26-36) and also added in a lot of additional options for domain level play, weapon mastery, additional spells, monsters, magic items, etc all to support those higher levels. A fifth box, Immortal, offered a higher tier where you essentially play as gods. The popular Rules Cyclopedia book combined the BECM content into a single hardcover but didn't cover I.
B and X/E are essentially identical between the versions. The big difference is in the progression of the percentile thieves skills, which by being stretched over 36 levels rather than just 14 really cripples low level thieves in BECMI. Even Mentzer acknowledges he messed that up.
There were a few other differences as well.

Spells granted to Clerics and Wizards had different progressions between the two. B/X had spells and more of them given at the higher levels than BECMI did.

For Basic, BX only used d6 for weapon damage, changing that up with the Expert set (I think, I'd have to go back to my sets and make sure, but I think that's how it was done).

B/X set up advancing for over 14th level, but didn't have as specific rules for it. Fighters gained an extra attack I think for every 5 levels over 15 (once again, I'm too lazy to simply walk up my stairs and check the booklet, but this if from the top of my head) and such things as that.

B/X after level 9 was probably higher powered up for levels 9-14 than BECM was, though BECMI definitely got much higher powered once you got to the Companion sets.

Probably some others that I can't recall off the top of my head right now, but those are some that stand out.

Overall, though, differences were minor and the two easily could be converted one to the other back and forth.
 

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