Today has me putting aside the OSR clones for a little while and getting back into basics as in Basic/Expert D&D for a moment. This set of boxes was like a fiery jump start in the back of my skull when they came out. Sure I had my copy of the little white books in their box and that was fine but I was a kid, the blue Holmes books sure were great but this was new. There seemed to be more kids getting into the hobby at the time when Basic and Expert hit the scene. Today I want to talk briefly about Expert D&D and why its important to me as a dungeon master. Expert got things out of the dungeon and into the wilderness with hex crawling and wilderness exploration.
I'm a Gamma World/ Metamorphosis Alpha player/DM so this was really welcome news to me. There are lot of resources in Expert that applied to our games back in Eighty and the focus on wilderness adventuring always seemed to bring the PC's back into ruins and dungeons eventually. Basic and Expert went together like peanut butter and jelly, they were streamlined and fast. I got my copies and dived right into the deep end way back when, after school it was D&D and on the weekends Gamma World/AD&D. "We didn't know you were supposed to quit Basic and Expert and move on to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons back then" A snot nosed kid named Scott Kullins who was a DM from another neighborhood wanted us to know. We ignored him and kept right on going at least till I moved back to Connecticut but that's another blog entry.
One of the things about these two box sets was the damn iconic artwork that I still to this day marvel at. There is some thing about these box sets and Holmes that really brings home D&D for me. So here are ten reasons why Expert D&D still has a place in my heart and on my shelf:
- There is still a ton of useful bits and pieces that is edition neutral you can pull from for other retroclones and generate adventures, this keeps players guessing. I've done this many,many, times lately.
- Iconic magic items that have some nasty applications especially when the monsters are using them against the PC's.
- Two Words Underwater termites, these are some of the nastiest bastards to inflict on a sea going party. They're boats capsulize and sink, those magic wooden staffs and whatnot turn to dust, etc. These things can be pure torture.
- Boss monsters, Expert D&D has some really nasty boss monsters that can easily ruin a party's day.
- Outdoor adventures are the bread and butter of Expert so use your point crawls and hex crawls with this system.
- A really nicely balanced and edited version of the Grand Game.
- Wilderness horror, many people don't realize this but Expert D&D is a great frame work for outdoor horror adventures. Think about it. The whole system is geared for weird creatures in the wilderness. This makes Expert a viable option for running those styles of adventure. This is all a matter of perspective.
- Basic/Expert combined into a combination of dungeon and wilderness adventure generating machines if used correctly they can keep a campaign going for years.
- No setting means that the Dungeon master has free range unless he wants to get into the madness of the Isle of Dread.
- The nostalgia factor keeps bring the players back to the table. Basic and Expert D&D are what millions of folks have cut their teeth on in the hobby. So its really easy to whip out these books and get folks to walk down memory lane to get them to your table or even better to introduce new players to the game.