Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How Long Before Basic Isn't Basic?

I'm a big fan of Basic/Expert Dungeons and Dragons. From Moldvay to Mentzer to the Rules Cyclopedia - it just hits my gaming sweet spot. It's quick. It's simple. It's easy to modify to suit an individual group's needs. It's this last part that I wanted to address. Because B/X is so easy to modify and gamers and publishers in the OSR often do use the game and its mechanics as a springboard for new options, how many additions and modifications can one have before it is no longer B/X?

Barrel Rider Games built its foundation on adding to B/X through a ton of alternate classes. Rules Cyclopedia provides us with 7 (Fighter, Thief, Magic-User, Cleric, Halfling, Elf, and Dwarf - along with the Druid as a later-level option for Clerics) and BRG produced somewhere around 70 additional classes. Seventy. That's ridiculous. Labyrinth Lord has its Advanced Edition Companion, and there are countless other publishers who continue to introduce optional rules. Not to mention our own house rules that we use at the table.

How long before you're not even playing the same game any more? At what point do you some how move beyond "basic" D&D into something beyond the original scope of the game? One of the things that drives me away from AD&D 2nd Edition is the endless plethora of optional rules, splat books, setting modifiers, countless spells - the list goes on forever. But if I'm playing in a Rules Cyclopedia game and the DM sits down with the RC and is using every optional rule in the book, all the info from the Gazetteer series, and all the info in Poor Wizard's Almanac and the other supplements produced in the line then am I still playing B/X D&D?


  1. tl;dr -- No, you are not playing B/X.

    Really, no, you are not, at least, when you use the Rules Cyclopedia. Strictly speaking the RC added in a bunch of stuff from the Companion and Masters sets, so you are literally playing BECM rather than B/X (the I from Immortals got thrown into WotI).

    The materials from the Gazetteers and additional sources that were not included in the RC expanded the system even more. Internally, I've always referred to that as "Expanded D&D," rather than simply B/X or even BECM.

    If you take B/X (Moldvay or Mentzer) and add your own rules, you are still playing B/X, though it's "B/X Plus."

    "B/X Plus" or rather "OD&D Plus" was one of several reasons why Gary created AD&D; to make a single, definitive, codified set of rules, that anyone, anywhere could pick up and play with anyone, from anywhere else, and that is why it is difficult to house rule it as compared to B/X or B/E. This tied in with the desire at the time to create a nation-wide tournament circuit; if everyone was playing "OD&D Plus," it was difficult if not impossible for everyone to be on the same page and transfer characters from one tournament to another...

    AD&D was designed to break the house-ruling that was done with OD&D (and B/X) because OD&D was a set of guidelines rather than rules. So when you went from one region to another, or even from one group to another, everyone had a different set of "D&D Rules" that had developed from local play. The early D&D variants often grew up into their own RPGs.

    Not that I'm a purist, not by any means. Heck, I can't remember the last time I played any version of D&D that was by the rules; I even house-ruled a smidgen in the 5E game I ran (rules on druids, mostly).

    Whatever version of D&D I am running at the time is invariably "My D&D" or "MD&D"... and that's the way I like it.

  2. The known world setting is in its early stages in b/x. Becmi is simply an expansion.
    Imagine if they had gone a different route with rules cyclopedia: The build your own artefacts chapter in masters says an artefact can be an Immortal who can posess the user. So potentially a primitive immortality back down there at 100pp of power (10,000xp=1pp) so immortality at a million xp. So you reach 1,000,000xp and in a deal with a dragon who creates a tiara from your skull and suddenly you are immortal (the tiara of bone). Once you take posession of some adventurer, huzzah.