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Well, we're a day late and a dollar short, but let's do this right quick…. Sorry if this is kind of a cut-n-paste, but it and the Basic booklet are really two parts of the same whole.

B/X Expert Rulebook (TSR2015)

Hit Dice: 5/5

B/X D&D is, far and away, my favorite D&D variant. The rules are simple enough to stay out of the way, and the text is light enough that you can easily find the information you're looking for in the rare instance that you do have to look something up.

B/X D&D is comprised of two 64-page booklets. This first one is the “X” (eXpert) booklet. We reviewed the "B" (Basic) booklet earlier.

To understand what we mean by “B/X D&D”, some readers may require a short history lesson. There are several different version of Basic D&D. The very first one is called “Holmes” D&D. This is the second incarnation of Basic D&D, often called “B/X” or “Moldvay/Cook”. It was followed by the 5-booklet “BECMI” or “Mentzer” set, and then by the “RC” or “Rules Cyclopedia”, which is essentially a cleaned up hardcover compilation of the first four booklets of the BECMI set.

Of the two booklets in the B/X set, this second “Expert” booklet takes characters from level 4 up to level 12 (the preceding “Basic” book takes them from levels 1 through 3). This booklet adds wilderness adventures, stronghold building, more spells, tougher monsters, more treasures, and everything else appropriate for adventures up to level 14. The “Basic” book that precedes it pretty much just provides dungeon adventures, character creation, basic combat, monsters, and loot. There was supposed to be a third “Companion” book as well, pushing character levels past 14, but it never came out before B/X was replaced by BECMI. But even though the official TSR B/X “Companion” booklets was never finished, there is a third-party “B/X Companion”, written by a fellow named “Blackrazor”, which “finishes” the set. I find that my players seldom exceed level 14, though, so that book isn't really needed, and B/X can be considered complete as-is without it.

Although I don't like the Erol Otus art in the B/X set as much as the Elmore art in the BECMI set and the very cool interior artwork of the RC, I much prefer the presentation, conciseness, and general flavor of the B/X set over that of BECMI. However, the text font is very ugly and sometimes distracting.

“Basic” D&D, both B/X and BECMI/RC, mash the non-human character races into a combined race/class. “Elves” are all Fighter/MUs, Dwarves are all Fighter-types, and the Halflings are all outdoorsy Fighter-types. This fills non-human PCs with a sort of boring-sameness, but the separate race/class is easily grafted in from AD&D.

The thief abilities in B/X D&D are only spread over 14 levels (instead of 36 as in BECMI). As a result, B/X thieves kind of keep up with the rest of the party, whereas those in BECMI tend to lag way behind and be rather “broken”.

All in all, I love B/X D&D. When house rules are cherry-picked from AD&D and BECMI/RC (namely AD&D's separate race and class, and RC's expanded spell list, treasure tables, and monsters, it approaches my ideal D&D experience. Once your PCs are up to level 3, add this book and adventure onward! Or add it in earlier if you want wilderness adventures before level 3!

Pros:

  • The presentation is much more concise than the proceeding BECMI set.
  • Simple rules stay out of the way during play.
  • Better thief ability spread than in BECMI.

Cons:

  • Ugly text font.
  • Combined Race/Class.

Discussion

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tsrreviews/tsr2015_bx_expert.txt · Last modified: 2016/10/02 08:18 by lee

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