Rethinking Moldvay's Basic

Come on, admit it. You thought Basic was a kiddie game for babies. Ok, maybe you didn't but I sure did. Everybody I ever played with did. Oh, I still bought it, I just didn't let any of my friends see it. It didn't matter that we didn't fully understand the complexities of the First Edition game in the beginning. There is no way we would be caught playing anything but the real deal.

I'm sad to say that I attached that stigma to Basic by Tom Moldvay for all of my early gaming years. In fact it's an attitude I maintained until very recently. It only changed after reading a stellar series of posts by Al at the excellent blog Beyond the Black Gate.

Al discusses some of Moldvay's Dungeon Mastering advice and it's really good stuff, so good that I tracked down my old Basic set and dusted it off. Guess what? I was surprised to find a lot of stuff I really like in there. You mean to tell me there's variable weapon damage in Basic?! Huh. I never knew. Guess I need to find that Expert set that I stowed away and take a look at it next.



  1. You're probably right. Moldvay/Cook was our game of choice in the early years – though that probably had a lot to do with the fact that we were twelve and liked the brightly colored covers. We only shifted to AD&D later in high school and college. I think "growing up" made us want to move toward the more "adult" set of rules.

  2. I never saw Moldvay Basic, even though I started playing well before it came out. I've still never actually even held a copy in my hands. I'm like a crow, anything shiny catches my eye, so when the Mentzer boxed sets started coming out, I did snap those up. Now, in my later years, I am returning to those days and realizing just what I missed by bypassing B/X. I may even order it off Amazon, so I can actually hold a copy and read it . . .

  3. The art is worth a physical copy for sure.

  4. I was already playing AD&D by the time Moldvay Basic came out and I did, indeed, assume that it was a kiddie game, and I disregarded it as such. Nor did I realize that, combined with the expert set, it is a complete game, not just a kiddie introduction to AD&D. It's only in the last few years that I've taken a look at it and realized that it is a nice, tight, game system and I now understand why it still has a loyal following after all these years.