Wednesday, August 13, 2014

#3 First RPG Purchased - Holmes Basic blue box on the cheap #RPGaDAY

I first started role-playing when I was nine years old, learning from friends at school and playing with their books. With an allowance limited to less than one dollar per week, I relied on birthday or Christmas gifts for my first RPG books. I could afford to buy a few dice or miniatures for myself but would take all summer to save up for one AD&D hardback manual.

My mother was an antique dealer and visited thrift stores in a hunt for underpriced artifacts to resell in her shop. I was often in tow and would always scour the games, toys and books. It was on one of these trips that I made my first RPG purchase: an unplayed copy of the original 1st edition Basic D&D boxed set edited by Dr. John Eric Holmes.
Not my original Holmes Basic set, but a close replacement

I was pleased but puzzled as I'd never seen a D&D set like this one. I knew the 2nd edition basic set edited by Tom Moldvay. This game, I was sure, must be the original D&D set: the near-mythical 0th edition (that wasn't quite right, but it was still a good find). The price was right (probably 75 cents - the cost of one new lead miniature) and I took it to the register.
A tale of two B2 spear-wielding, armored minotaurs. Erol Otus' original Holmes-era illustration on the left and Bill Willingham's Moldvay-era version on the right

Once I got home and read the rules, I was even more puzzled. This was a D&D set from an alternate universe. Cardboard chits instead of dice? All weapons deal 1d6 damage? Why does this copy of The Keep on the Borderlands have different illustrations like that goofy minotaur eating a drumstick? Most importantly, where is Morgan Ironwolf?
Instant adventure: just add dice

Long before the days of "edition wars" we used whatever rule books we had together in a mishmosh of Basic/Expert/Advanced D&D. I'd alternate between the Moldvay and Holmes rule books, but defaulted to Moldvay for any rules differences. Soon thereafter, I completely switched to AD&D and rarely played the B/X or BECMI rules after that. We still played some of the modules (B4 The Lost City is still a personal favorite) but adopted them to play with AD&D.

For more on The Keep on the Borderlands and the Holmes edition basic set, be sure to bookmark Zenopus Archives and the Zenopus Archives Blog. Zenopus' latest project is a fascinating, page-by-page examination of Holmes' original manuscript for his rule book and a comparison with the printed version. Highly recommended!

No comments:

Post a Comment