Friday, September 18, 2009

Basic Sets - a review

I like the old box sets for D&D - a rules booklet, an adventure some dice...they were a good way to start the game. At different times I had all 3 versions of the basic set.

I can't objectively review the Holmes edition as it was my Radioactive Spider Bite.

The 1981 Moldvay basic set was very cool too, if somewhat different from the earlier version. The rules were a little simpler and the monsters were different. The one thing that still stands out to me now is the artwork. I would call it and the associated expert set the last of the old-school artwork sets - Bill Willingham, Erol Otus, and Jeff Dee all had pieces in this version and they made a very strong impression. Most of my friends had this version when I was starting out so I spent much time with it in the early 80's.

The 1983 (and final) Red Box set was much more sophisticated than the earlier versions - 2 separate rule books, much more polished art, and a stronger emphasis on training the new player to play rather than being a reference book. The artwork was mostly Larry Elmore pieces which I liked, but his style in this always felt more like a children's book illustration rather than the edgy, sort of comic book/sort of just weird art of the earlier versions. It was still good, but it was just a different tone. Reading through it the first time I felt it was a much stronger introduction to the rules, but that maybe it had lost something as far as atmosphere and tone.

I know there were later starter sets than these but I never owned them so I can;t comment on the good/bad points.

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