04 February 2013

Basic Dungeons and Dragons is Back

I’m sure that this is old news for those readers who follow ‘old school’ RPG blogs and websites.  Nonetheless, I am pleased to report that, for the first time ever, the 1980 version of the Basic Dungeons & Dragons rules – the version edited by Tom Moldvay – is available (legally) as a PDF.

The 1980 Basic D&D rules, along with the 1981 Expert rules – commonly referred to by grognards like myself as ‘B/X D&D’ – constitute my favourite version of D&D.  While I remain very fond of the original Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game (including its ‘High Gygaxian’ text), as well as the (much later) Dungeons and Dragons Rules Cyclopedia, B/X D&D is number one in my view.  It covers everything you need to run a classic fantasy campaign in two slick 64-page books.  

Moreover, B/X D&D has the best art overall (with the possible exception of 1e AD&D Players Handbook – Trampier’s work is simply amazing).  Erol Otus’s cover (posted above) really stands out as the best D&D cover ever, in my judgement.  It has a dragon, two adventurers (a fighter and a magic-user), and clearly is set in a dungeon.  

Moreover, while the cover illustration portrays a pretty standard fantasy 'action scene', Otus's evocative and unique style confers a strangeness and 'otherworldliness' upon the game that other covers simply don't -- including Dave Sutherland's fine cover for the earlier Holmes-edited Basic Set (the one that I in fact started out with).

I can't look at Otus’s cover – or his one for the Expert rules – and not want to run some classic D&D!


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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who divides his time between Milwaukee and Toronto.