D&D General Veteran fans - did you think of Basic D&D and AD&D as completely different games?


Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Separate game? Yes. Completely different game? No. It's more like the difference between volleyball and wallyball - the same basic game but with a few differences here and there.
And, yes, we raided D&D for adventures while primarily playing AD&D. If there were any discrepancies (weapons, modifiers, monsters), we used the AD&D version of things.

log in or register to remove this ad


Limit Break Dancing
Yep. "A wall between Basic D&D and AD&D, with nothing meant to be used interchangeably."

I don't know if it was the game developers' intent, but it's certainly the way we played it.


It's hard to recall specifics because I started gaming when I was 7-8 years old, around 1988. That group used AD&D1e with some stuff borrowed from BD&D. So my first years with the game were very much a fusion.


While it is extremely easy to import things from one of these to the other, I have always seen them as separate games.

As a huge fan of Basic D&D (or Classic D&D, as I prefer calling it), I have always felt that this game has a unique identity and feel of gameplay. This became especially clear to me in the BECMI iteration with its unique Larry Elmore cover illustrations and Elmore and Easley interior illustrations and its iconic division of the rules into boxed sets for each tier of game play.

While Basic D&D is often associated with low level play, I always loved that the boxed sets promised the chance to advance to extremely epic adventures, even if only a few of my campaigns reached that far. D&D was never just about the game actually played, but also the dreams and aspirations of players for their characters. Nothing felt more alluring than the cover of the Master Set where the "player insert character" is shown riding a dragon high in the skies above the world or the cover of the Immortal Set where the hero is seen ascend beyond his mortal coil.

Basic D&D was often seen as a simpler ruleset, but the brilliant design means it is very simple at lower levels, but adds complexity at higher levels. This makes it one of the few editions that is actually highly playable at all tiers of play (4E and 5E may also rival this, but I have never reached those levels in these editions). Compared to late era AD&D 2nd Ed with its many splatbooks and additional expansions, Basic D&D felt highly manageable as most of the things you would ever need were contained in the excellent D&D Rules Cyclopedia.

Basic D&D was to me personally, also strongly tied to my favorite setting, the World of Mystara (Known World) which encompassed both the dangers of low level dungeon exploration and the sense of wonder of a truly magical world.

Don't get me wrong, I have also had tons of fun with AD&D which I played for decades (mostly 2nd ed). I have also enjoyed and played most later editions of D&D, but Basic D&D/Classic D&D will always hold a special place in my heart.



Answer depends on what you think of as Basic D&D. For me and the people I played Holmes Basic with in the late 1970's they were both the same game. In 1978, you could buy the Holmes basic set and the AD&D PHB, but the DMG hadn't been published. I didn't even know about OD&D so the only rules we had for actually playing the game were in the basic set. We started with Basic and converted our characters to AD&D once we had a PHB, which is what the basic rules said we should do anyway. The basic set was clearly presented as an introduction to AD&D in the same way LMoP is an introduction to 5e. Slimmed down rules and limited character classes that you used until you could get the complete rules. Even the the covers of the introductory modules B1 and B2 said they could be played with AD&D. After playing through levels 1-3 with B1 or B2 there wasn't anything else you could do except continue with AD&D. But the basic set had higher level monsters, so I kept using it as my MM even after we switched to AD&D. It wasn't easy for a kid to find polyhedral dice back then so I'm sure a lot of people who wanted to play AD&D bought the basic set for the dice and an adventure. (My friend who bought the basic set during the dice shortage when it came with cardboard chits was so pissed!)
Even when the revised basic set came out in 1981 it didn't seem sufficiently different that we thought it was a distinct rule system. We looked at it as an introduction to AD&D that still retained some of the features from Holmes like race-as-class and different hit dice. My recollection from that time (1978-1982) was that there was not the clear separation between AD&D and Basic products that they had later on. Chainmail, OD&D and it's supplements, AD&D, Basic, and officially licensed Judges Guild material were all displayed side by side in my local hobby shop. The rapid growth of TSR led to constantly evolving trade dress and artistic styles. Different book sizes, changing logos, monochrome gave way to color covers, module text styles changed. Some of this mishmash was labeled as AD&D but a lot was not. Regardless, collectively it was all D&D and we used it interchangeably. Even within the AD&D line there was not a consistent presentation between modules, so the fact that a B/X module had different NPC stats or monsters wasn't notable. All of the products from that time had their own quirks. There was more of a difference between 1978 and 1981 AD&D modules than there was between AD&D and B modules from 1982.


We only ever played AD&D, with AD&D rules character. But we used Basic modules. The first thing I played was B2 Keep on the Borderland, and among the first two modules I DM’d were B3 Palace of the Silver Princess and “Red Arrow, Black Shiield”.

Dungeon Delver's Guide

An Advertisement