Tuesday, 7 June 2011

BECMI D&D Beckmee Forever! No, wait ...

I've noticed a photo of mine tuning up in some of the search engines from a forum post, so I'm reposting the picture here in an adoring celebration of a specific set of boxed editions of D&D.

When I first bought my Mentzer "red box" D&D I was teased because is it was "dumbed down" with it's two rule books, solo game (no module!) and had different art from the Moldvay-Cook version (which is also lovely to behold - of course we didn't call it the "Moldway-Cook" edition).  I didn't buy some of the high level boxes until much later, but I craved them.

I'm really proud that I started, by accident of a few months, with the original "Red Box", because there are very few things in my role-playing collection that I can assuredly say I have a complete set of.  When WoC adopted this design for the recent intro-to-4ed D&D set- I'm not convinced that it was because it was "iconic" (as they claimed). Previous box designs seem to be more famous, but perhaps one reason is because it represented a successful line in terms of consistent design. Many RPG lines over the years trail off, and if they are lucky get re-invented, repackaged and republished.  From what I was reading at the time (in White Dwarf and Imagine), AD&D was still king of the RPGs being played, but out of those players many must have owned a Basic set and or Expert set, surely?  I knew players who'd also bought the Companion set, and dreamed of integrating mass battles in their campaigns, but I think very few players invested in the sets beyond Companion. I do sympathise for D&D players who had held out for years for the Companion Set only to have to wait for the Basic and Expert to come out again.  By which time they'd probably got into AD&D, seduced by so many classes and races etc.

When I finally acquired the black Masters set I was really impressed with the alternative damage from the weapon mastery rules, partly because of the advantages  both low and high level PCs would gain from mundane weapons (and less impressed at how the DM is supposed to apply the rules retroactively to a high level campaign).

Immortals' is a fairly bizarre set - I still don't know what I make of it.  Essentially, if the early levels can be played as a capitalistic, gold, experience and land equals power, in the later levels it's about learning to survive in the deity filled cosmos, keeping a balance of energy forces or something, plus a really strange discovery about what the PCs homeworld actually is.  (...You thought it was a normal planet, right?  Of course not!  Why do you think magic comes from? ...) Perhaps the goal of capitalism is immortality?  Just typing this now I realise that most warrior legends and myths are bound up with to desire to achieve feats which live in the memory after the death.  Perhaps becoming a god or saint is a realisation and playable actualisation of a "name-fame".  But I digress, and I'm sure there's a lot of online essays on this sort of thing.  Me just like the prittee dice and orc-killin'.

Incidentally, of all the many D&D retro-clones Dark Dungeons stands pretty much alone in applying weapon mastery damage rules and immortal play.  Of course, I'm forgetting the infamous D&D Rules Cyclopedia - which I think I've only ever seen once.  I was taking a break from gaming to complete my degree - it seemed strange to see it, because D&D came in boxes and AD&D came out in hardback books - someone, somewhere was crossing the streams!  Somehow, boardgames and "kid's" games were boxed, whereas books masqueraded as specialist interest reference manuals (for grown-ups with better attention spans).  I don't remember seeing many of the beloved D&D Gazetteers either, maybe AD&D products just eclipsed them on the shelves.

But enough of all this nonsense!  I came online to post just one picture - to celebrate the simple aesthetics of the boxes.

They may not be Holmes, Moldvay-Cook, but they were designed to make an homogeneous set, they stack beautifully and they are mine!

Edit:  Big up to the mighty Elmore! :)

Edit 2:
Essential reading regarding different editions of Basic D&D by TSR:


  1. You know, I never owned any of the BECMI books. By the time those came out, I was heavily entrenched into AD&D. But a friend had the Immortals book, and I remember flipping through it with wide eyes, wondering how in the heck a DM could pull it off.

    - Ark

  2. The time between publications seemed inordinately long - so by the time Masters and Immortals came out even for the hardcore B/Ex devotees playing AD&D. :D

  3. I am a proud owner of a copy of the Rules Cyclopdia! However, the have artwork by Dykstra and not the master, Elmore!

  4. Excellent, you are one of a select few! Is it hardback?

  5. I've got several D&D cyclopedias... It collates and tweaks Mentzer... and finally eliminated the "1d6 damage for any weapon" rule. It was very common in some places. Note that it doesn't include immortals, and Wrath of the Immortals changes the Immortals rules somewhat.

  6. Thanks for that, I keep forgetting that the Rules Cyclopedia doesn't include immortals rules, which explains why the Dark Dungeons author kept referring to the Wrath of the Immortals rules of the Piazza forum - which is another set I've never seen with my own eyes. I remember in Mentzer's red box the d6-for-all-damage was recommended to beginner players only, and there were definitely variable damage dice since Holmes(?) I love S&W white box compromise where the bigger weapons were 1d6+1 and daggers were 1d6-1, all HD are d6. makes me want to write solo games that use just d20 and d6s. :) Thanks for commenting.

  7. I got into D&D as late as 1991, with the Basic set. Probably the only TSR product ever translated into Dutch along with a couple of modules.
    Shortly after, I got the then-new Rules Cyclopedia and The World Opened Up...


    It's at far right, well worn after twenty years of heavy usage!

    ~ Scerebart

  8. Excellent! One day I will acquire a copy of the Rules Cyclopedia. One day!

    "Fantasy-Rollenspel" - Cool. :)

    Thanks for posting, Scerebart.