NOOB QUESTIONS REGARDING BASIC SET

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Hey, there, I just had a question or two regarding the basic, pre A D & D set.  How much easier is it to play than Advanced?  I've got a son who wants to try the game.  I picked up a new 4th Edition Starter set, but it's just beyond him at this point.  Sadly much of it is beyond me too.  If I bought a copy of the original basic set would we have an easier time of it?  I've been looking at editions going back to the 70s from when I was a kid and I'm not sure which one to get.  Any advice would be much appreciated.  I'd be DM-ing for him and trying to put together some very basic scenarios for him. I'd prefer to get one of the updated, anniversary editions of the basic set, just to get a newer copy, but I'm interested in going with the original game.  Thanks! 
I don't know that I've ever seen the original boxed sets nor the 4e starter but I'm guessing that if the 4e starter is too hard I wouldn't touch the earliest stuff.

Now I have the Basic Game for 3.0 and have seen the 3.5 version of it which is very similiar.  Both of those include miniatures and tiles for a more visual experience which can help along with a set of dice and a simplified 3x game.  Simplified in that you know what the numbers are even if you aren't told exactly where they come from.  I don't know how old your son is but I used the basic game with my cousins when they were much younger and they seemed to like it.

In the modern era there are some adventure games that remind me a little bit of the 3e Basic Game.  Expedition to Castle Ravenloft and its successors aren't exactly cheap but you get a boat load of unpainted minis and a new game system that is card based.  I haven't actually tried to use the games system but I think I could adapt its gameplay to "real" DnD without a lot of difficulty.
   
Thanks for the reply!  Very helpful stuff.   The big hurdle for me is calculating all the totals, it tends to make my head spin.  I may try to locate and join a local game and try to get a clearer idea of the mechanics.  I haven't actually played since probably about 1980, so my memories of the game are very hazy.  I discovered the D and D novels and sort of gave up on the game, sadly enough.    Thanks again.
The Basic Set of BECMI D&D is very easy to play. The monsters are few, the rules are light, the spells are simple and characters don't have too many of them. Much of 3.5 is built upon the ease and simplicity of the classic Basic Set.

A major difference is that races are classes themselves....elves are elves, effectively f/mu's, while dwarves are dwarves, effectively the toughest of fighters, and so forth.

It plays different then AD&D because of the lower power of spellcasters and fewer unbalanced spells at low levels, although Sleep still rocks the world.

Very easy intro to the Genre.

Now, if you're referring to some other boxed set, I have no clue!

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I'd say Moldvay Basic D&D or Mentzer Basic.  You can't go wrong with either.  Actually, Mentzer with the two red books may be easier since it has a solo adventure that walks the new player through the process of creating a character and playing the game at the same time.  I would think this would be very helpful to teaching your son.

The character choices are simple, you can be a human fighter, cleric, magic user or thief.  Or you can be elf, dwarf or halfling. which is basically a race as class as mentioned above.  Just roll the six stats, pick a class, roll for money and equip the character.  Then go adventure.  It's easy to DM too.  I'd say the Mentzer (1983) version or Moldvay (1981).  The rules are pretty much the same, but Mentzer has the solo adventure for teaching new players.  Hope that helps.
It helps a lot, thank you.  In fact I spent some time reading up on the Moldvay edition last night, before I read your post.  I may track down a copy of that or the Mentzer.  He's 8, so it's going to be a very basic setup, mostly a 'choose your own adventure' scenario.  He just loves the maps and tokens and monsters, so we'll ease into it.  Thanks again to everyone.
Sounds like Mentzer might be the way to go, and those books can be easier to track down that Moldvay.  Be sure to check any used book stores you may have in your area, such as Half Price Books or even the local game store.  Sometimes they buy and sell old stuff.
I've tracked down the red box set from 83 for about 20 bucks on eBay, is that the Mentzer?  I'm assuming it is from what I've read here.  I've also found a few copies of what I think is the 1981 Moldvay set, it's go the purplish cover with a green dragon, and there are two human characters on the right facing the dragon?  It comes with a red rule book and the Keep on the Borderland module.  I may get both of these and compare them.  Thanks again for the info, much appreciated.
I've tracked down the red box set from 83 for about 20 bucks on eBay, is that the Mentzer?  I'm assuming it is from what I've read here.  I've also found a few copies of what I think is the 1981 Moldvay set, it's go the purplish cover with a green dragon, and there are two human characters on the right facing the dragon?  It comes with a red rule book and the Keep on the Borderland module.  I may get both of these and compare them.  Thanks again for the info, much appreciated.


This should really help distinguish them if you can. What you think is the Moldvay set probably is Moldvay (I forget what was on the box, but I have a Moldvay basic rulebook, pictured there) and the 1983 edition is the Mentzer one.

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These are NOT all my creations! The lead authors are identified as follows: [TS] Tempest Stormwind, [AR] Andarious Rosethorn, [RT] Radical Taoist, [SN] Sionnis, [DH] DisposableHero_, [SH] Seishi.

[TS] The Pinball Brothers: Large And In Charge (Melee, Lockdown, Charge, Juggling)
[TS] Ashardalon Reborn: I Will Swallow Your Soul (Melee, Fear, Negative Levels, AoE, Theme)
[AR] "A"-Game Paladin: Play That Funky Music, Knight Boy! (Team Support, Melee, Theme, Single-Class)
[RT] Uncanny Trapsmith: Get in, make it look like an accident, get out. (Skillmonkey, Stealth/Scout/Infiltration, Unorthodox Methods, Theme)
[AR] Wizsassin: *Everything* is permitted. (Spellcaster, Support, Sneak Attack, Utility)
[TS] Phantom Rush: General Gish Gouda. (Gish, Theme, Setting-Specific(Eberron), Early-Entry PrC)
[TS] Storm Knight: Another kind of gish. (Melee/"Gish", Theme, Setting-Specific(Eberron), Unorthodox Methods)
[TS] Inevitable Nightmare: The weapon you only have to fire once. (Melee, "Unorthodox" Methods (no charging), Reliability)
[AR] Captain Constitution: The number one threat to America. (Melee, TOUGHTOUGHTOUGH, Defense, Theme)
[AR] Nuker: I casts the spells that makes the peoples fall down! (Spellcaster, damage, blasting, damage)
[TS] Dread Lord of the Dead: Let the Reaping Begin! (NPC-only, Variable (combat/casting/leadership), Iconic Villain, Theme)
[AR] Heavy Crusader: No Rest. No Mercy. No Matter What. (Melee, Damage (No charging), Variable, Theme).
[TS] Gun Fu: It's bullet time (Ranged, THEORETICAL, Twin weapons, Theme)
[RT] Face First: We should talk. (Psionic, social, mind-control, info-management)
[SN] Chaingun Porcupine: Never Enuff Dakka. (Ranged, Skirmishing, Spike Damage, Incarnum)
[RT] Always On Edge: The Mortal Draw deals death. (Melee, Generalist, Dungeoneering, Stunt)
[AR] Feral Druid: Real feral taste. Zero druid calories. (Melee, offense, damage, murder)
[RT] Rusty!: Man's Best Friend (Sentry, Support, Backup, Rearguard)
[RT] The T3 (Tashalatora Triple Threat): My Kung Fu is More Powerful (Hybrid, Flex-Function, Melee, Caster)
[RT] The #1 Snoipah: Boom. 'Eadshot. (Caster, Theme, Spike, Trapscout)
[AR] Dreamblade: Rest in Pieces. (Melee, Damage, Single-Class, Combo/Momentum)
[AR] Evasion Tank: “When fighting angry blind men, is best to stay out of the way.” (Melee, Tank, Unorthodox Methods (attack negation), Theme)
[DH] Psycarnum Warrior: ↑↑↓↓←→←→BA Start (Melee, Tank, Psionics, Incarnum, 1337 h4x)
[AR] Heavy Weapons Elf: WHO TOUCHED MY BOW? (Ranged, Cohort, Damage, Unorthodox Methods (ranged ToB))
[RT] Gnowhere Gnome: A little man who wasn't there (Caster, Stealth, Single-Class, Elusive)
[AR] Uberflank: I got your back. (Melee, support, stunt, teamwork)
[TS] Flip the Bird: Everyday I'm shuffling (Ranged, harrier, unorthodox methods (ranged ToB / off-turn movement), support)
[DH] Eat Sleep Gank: Real Ultimate Power (Stealth, Assassination, Spike, Magic Versatility)
[AR] Slash and Burn: Mind, Body, Blade, Flame / Aspects of a greater whole / which delivers death. (Melee, Theme (flex-style), Damage, Stunt)
[RT] Edge of the Light: Cut, Fade to Black (Melee, Defense/Offense, Momentum, Tactical)
[RT] Quiet Murder: Cut throats, not corners. (Melee, Stealth, Harrier, Tactical)
[TS] Wand Overdrive: Say Hello to my little friends. (Caster, support/artillery/variable, wand specialist)
[RT] God Hand: What did the five fingers say to the face? (Melee/Gish, Unarmed, SAD, Theme)
[AR] Zero Buff Time Gish: Try to keep up! (Gish, Speed, Movement, Opportunity)
[TS] Robo Tackle: I Am Iron Man. (Melee, setting-specific (Eberron), positioning, theme, stunt)

[TS] Holy Fire: Just getting warmed up! (Casting, damage, theme (fire), theme (sacred), blasting)

[TS] Groundhog Mage: ♪Let’s do the time warp again♪ (Casting, stunt, setting-specific (Faerun), spell stamina / versatility, spontaneous wizard)

[RT] Captain Charisma: All she wants to do is dance (Hybrid (melee/support), SAD, Theme (criticals), Theme (flex-style)

[TS] Assassin's Speed: A blade in the crowd (Melee (technical), iaijutsu, SAD, theme (Assassin's Creed), tutorial)

 

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[All] Party Optimization Showcase: Dead for Nothing
[TS/RT/AR] Optimization Article: The Flash Step
[RT] Optimization Article: Kung Fu Witchcraft

 

Seishi: I think it might be fun to have a one-off [game] tuned fairly, but with the intention of wiping the party. 

DisposableHero_: if [my campaign] has taught me nothing else, it is that with this group, nothing tuned fairly will ever wipe the party

RadicalTaoist: I've been throwing **** at this group that's 5 levels over CRed in DFN, and have yet to wipe the party.

This is fantastic, thank you!  I really appreciate it.  I'm leaning toward the Moldvay right now, partially because that cover is what comes to mind any time I hear the name Dungeons and Dragons.  Very nostalgic.  Thanks again.
You gotta love the Erol Otus art.  This was the book I learned with.  You really can't go wrong with either edition.  The rules are pretty much the same either way.  If you are teaching it, Moldvay might be better simply because it's better organized, in my opinion.  What Mentzer offers is the solo player learning tool with the player book.  It has a fun little story there too, but it's not needed if you are going to teach the game to your son.  And it's a simple systen to teach anyway.  Hope it works out and would love to hear how it works out for you.
Personally I would have gone with Holmes Basic.  It's the easiest.  Prolly too late now though.  Have fun
The Moldvay box set had the basic rulebook and the module "B2: Keep on the Borderlands" and a set of dice.  You can get the rulebook and module separately on amazon for pretty cheap used in the event  that your ebay attempt does not pan out.  Looked like after shipping cost the rulebook could be had for as little as $7, and the module for as little as $10.  I highly recommend both.

I have not yet had an opportunity to read the Mentzer version, but I ordered it yesterday and am looking forward to having a look.
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Are you talking about the Holmes set? The one with the blue book, with the dragon on top of the treasure horde? It's the only basic set I know of that pre-dates the completion of AD&D (Holmes released in 77, the DMG in 79)

All in all, it's pretty simple.

You roll for stats, pic your class. The combat sequence is very straight forward. You get some spells and some bad guys. The basic set only goes from 1-3rd level though - and if you're using holmes there isn't an official expansion to that. However, if you're using the Moldvay/Cook basic/expert set you can go up to level 14. In the Mentzer sets you can go up to 36 and 'immortal'
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Oops, you are right. Holmes was 1977, Moldvay was 1981, Mentzer was 1983.  I do not yet have a copy of the Holmes one.
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I'm late to the conversation, and slightly off topic, but...

"He's 8, so it's going to be a very basic setup, mostly a 'choose your own adventure' scenario. He just loves the maps and tokens and monsters, so we'll ease into it." from OP

Another even "more basic" form of D&D might be the Dungeon board game. For the record, it's definitely not traditional D&D. (No role playing involved, and played on a board). But it is very D&D flavored, fairly simple, graphical (involiving tiles for monsters, spells and magic items, and a token for your character), allows for combat, some strategy, allows for accumulating wealth and items to help you along your journey, allows for you to pick your own path through the dungeon, you can avoid tough monsters, and I think you can choose a player type, etc.

Additionally, it was likely produced by the folks who were making D&D at the time (don't quote me on that) - as a get your feet wet sort of thing.

It's essentially a dungeoncrawl style of game (no role playing involved - just dungeon exploration), but may be a good preliminary introduction to some of the things D&D is about.

That having been said, I started playing basic D&D when I was about 8 years old (using Basic/Expert boxed sets and AD&D around the time they came out), so if you're willing to be "lax" on the rules - and ease into things, an 8 year old can likely handle the basic set, and in some ways may excel in the roleplaying side of things (thanks to an 8 year old's less inhibited imagination).

Plus, Dungeon is fun.

PS - D&D also has older choose your own adventure style D&D books. I believe "Dragonlance" (a D&D campaign world essentially) started out as an advanced choose your own adventure type book that also allowed for some minor item accumulation and minor dice rolling. So that's another "get your feet wet" option.