Basic/Expert

I dig 5th Edition. Got it as soon as I could, as a sort of present-to-myself celebrating victory in a political campaign that I’d had some involvement in. (Get ’em, Jim Kenney!)

Before 5th, I had written a 4th Edition version of my personal Viking-themed campaign, complete with house rules for class/race/equipment/setting peculiarities for a friend who was jumping in to the Amazing Universe That Is D&D.

What a shitfest! I never played the edition, other than a brief run-through of a couple stock encounters to get a feel for it, solo and with another player. I pored over all of the tomes he had purchased, as well as whatever I could pirate or barter for.

(Sidenote to those offended by my copyright infringement:  you’re right, it was morally wrong. I’ve long since deleted the pirated files. I’m older and wiser, now. My apologies to the developers, writers, and artists.)

There are a million arguments for and against 4th Edition, but they are not the focus of this post. I will say only that I would rather be eye-fucked by a rusty railroad spike than ever play 4th Edition again. If that’s your game, then play your game, friend! …but it sure ain’t my game.

Pathfinder3rd Edition, and 3.5 were all played heavily by me. I loved the balance, the modularity, the character and rules customizability! Loved it all!

…and abso-fuggin-lutely hated adding +2 thirty separate times to every goddamned d20 roll. Wow, that’s a bunch of modifiers. Too slow! I’m a guy who likes to play fast, loose, and hard. Slogging through addition and subtraction wears me out. I responded by simply cutting lots of rules, rigging up new (hopefully cleaner) rules, or just forgetting rules. Had a blast. Played lots of campaigns:  dungeon hacks, urban crawls, epic adventures, sociopolitical intrigues. All the fun you can have with “modern D&D”.

No Ragrets.

It was 2nd Edition that I first truly learned to play in. It ate up the “early years” of middle/high school. It was AD&D, so it made me feel like a grown-up. Those campaign sourcebooks for Vikings, Charlemagne, pike-and-shot, all the Race Guides and Complete Class guides and all that… hell, I must’ve read every one at various gaming stores throughout the nation, even if I couldn’t afford to buy them.

(We moved alot when I was a kid; luckily, this meant broad exposure to bookstore inventories throughout both coasts from North to South).

But it was Basic D&D, in its various incarnations, that I started with. I fucking learned to read playing that game. Ol’ Dad sat my brother and I down one evening when we were about 3 and 4, respectively, and pulled this new purchase out:

That product line didn’t exactly stick around, but it gave us the little paper minis, the fun poster-map of the dungeon, the dozens of monster cards, and the quick & dirty rulebook that really hooked us. We’d spend the next 10 years picking apart that box (which was ours) and Ol’ Dad’s massive hoard of Basic/Expert and 1st Edition stuff.

I love B/X most of all. The exploration rules (1 or 2 on 1d6 to break down the door!), race-as-class, 3-choice alignment, XP for GP, all those quirks and bits to fiddle with… all in a quick, loose, rules-light system with a logical endgame.

That’s right, mudderchuckers:  Name-Level PC Strongholds.

Why slog through a campaign when you could just roll up a 9th level fighter, set a budget, build a stronghold, draw a hexmap, raise an army, and then…?

Do it again and again. Every stronghold on the map. Years of hexmaps (few ever actually played on.) A decade of PCs rolled just for the fun of it. Dungeons you could just roll up right outta the DM chapters.

And that doesn’t even cover the intense awesomeness that is the entire B-Series of modules.

I currently DM a 5th Edition game, and I love it. My players are awesome. The ruleset is awesome. Advantage/Disadvantage blows the lid off a “fast, loose, and hard” DMing style. Modern game design has much to offer, and most of my players are more comfortable with modern assumptions:  epic progressions, ongoing narratives, tactical/”gameboard”-style combat (that also takes forfuckinever and comprises the majority of table-time), skills-based role-playing NPC interactions, all that.

(Disclaimer:  We’ve been playing “Keep on the Borderlands” for eight months! I updated the stats and soforth, but it’s really JUST “Keep on the Borderlands”! Can’t keep a B/X-lover down, baby!)

Now a friend is going to DM a Basic/Expert campaign that starts in two weeks. I can’t wait. I’ve rolled up a dozen PCs already, kicked out a few House Rules suggestions, and printed out about 30 pages of blank hex paper. Hell, I’m throwing together some notes for a B/X campaign of my own. I haven’t been a player for ten years, so it’s just habit for me to get excited about a ruleset and campaign, and start doing some worldbuilding.

 

POSTSCRIPT
I’m planning on resuscitating this blog and expanding its scope a bit. I figured the first “new” post should be a paean to the greatest edition of them all:  Basic/Expert.

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