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D&D Burgoo: A Touch of Nostalgia

Being stuck inside on a winter’s afternoon, it seemed an opportune time to run an impromptu game of D&D for two of my children.

(Carolyn’s always in the mood for something fresh, so after weeks of train games and card games like Poo, Uno and Hike, she was willing to dive back into an rpg, while Jonathan was eager to use the new plaster dungeon terrain set he helped construct and paint).

Considering the buzz about 5E/DnDNext from the D&D Experience — that the first public play of the new rules harken back to the days when adventurers cut their teeth on module B2:  The Keep on the Borderlands  — I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic.


So I decided to dig out my two copies of the Basic Rules (Moldvay edition). It turned out to be an excellent choice to run for children, and it reminded me again of why I have such fondness for this version of the game.

Character creation is a snap

Does it get any easier than this? Roll 3d6 for six abilities, roll up hit points, and gear up by selecting from Ye Fast Pack in the back of Module B4: The Lost City? In about 10 minutes were were up and ready to roll, with Carolyn playing a magic user, Jonathan a thief and me running an NPC fighter.

My regular group loves the built-in complexity of Third Edition/Pathfinder skill selection and feats, and in previous sessions my kids have enjoyed the cool-sounding names (and effects) for 4E character powers.

Detailed character creation can be its own kind of fun. But we were interested in exploring a dungeon and rolling dice in some combat, not worrying about a host of modifiers for skills and combat.

On the fly adjustments

Not everything about the Moldvay edition is sunshine and roses. So I made some rules adjustments to keep the action going.

Giant toads are still a hoot

Fire beetles, vipers, and yes, even giant toads with 15-foot long sticky tongues and a taste for humans are still fun to run and to fight.  And interestingly, because I gave the PCs a quest — item retrieval — they started to discuss the need to bypass some encounters because they discovered their resources were being depleted

(As kids, they weren’t using those terms, of course.) But they recognized that some monster fights weren’t paying off with clues to the treasure — only those against those foes they had been forewarned would be guardians. Hey, it’s always refreshing when a party puts XP aside for story, no matter what the age of the players happens to be.

Four-star recommendation

Look, the old rules have their shortcomings, especially during campaign play, because the PCs aren’t being rewarded as they level up with a raft of additional powers and abilities like they do under more robust systems.

But for an afternoon of fun, or for those who prefer casual play or the beer’n’pretzel experience, you just can’t go wrong with the Basic set. But really, you didn’t need me to remind you of that. Tens of thousands of other players who’ve had their characters slain within the Caves of Chaos or survive a journey to Chateau d’ Amberville could tell you the same thing.

There’s adventure to be found around the next bend. Just mind the white roses and any nameless jovial priest whose acolytes have taken a vow of silence.

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10 Comments To "D&D Burgoo: A Touch of Nostalgia"

#1 Comment By Raf Blutaxt On January 30, 2012 @ 5:23 am

Ah, the Keep on the Borderlands! When we tried out older editions of D&D, we started with this module and I think various characters of mine have spent quite a lot of time there, we even started to raise a settlement outside the keep before our campaign ground to a halt. For casual games I personally prefer Tunnels & Trolls though. I just like the bad puns in the rule-book and the way the randomness in character generation is turned up to eleven. Still, it’s always nice to just break out one of those old modules and start exploring without thinking about all the things regular campaigns seem to accumulate over time.

#2 Comment By Martin Ralya On January 30, 2012 @ 7:36 am

I really enjoyed this article, Troy. It made me nostalgic as well!

It’s been a long, long time since I played OD&D. To my great shame, I don’t even own the books; I may need to rectify that now.

#3 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On January 30, 2012 @ 7:42 am

I think the link is [2] if you don’t own the old rulebooks and want to sample one interpretation of it. I’ll poke around the net to see if there are any other hacks out there for this rules set.

#4 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On January 30, 2012 @ 7:51 am

Another is [3]. I haven’t sampled the rules in full, yet, but the pdf is absolutely gorgeous looking. There was a lot of love in putting that rules package together.

#5 Comment By Razjah On January 30, 2012 @ 9:04 am

If you can’t find the books you may be able to purchase OSRIC. It is essentially the original D&D with the serial number filed off.

I don’t like the huge push for constant new toys with leveling. I would love to see a character being knighted and getting a title actually mean something.

#6 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On January 30, 2012 @ 10:24 am

OSRIC captures the feel of AD&D 1e. “Labyrinth Lord” is the Moldvay retroclone.


Moldvay Basic was my first RPG. It made learning AD&D 1e easy since that felt like a bunch of optional add-ons to Moldvay.

That said, to this day I don’t understand why the Halfling class didn’t map to Thief rather than Fighter.

#7 Comment By Martin Ralya On January 30, 2012 @ 12:53 pm

That’s a fantastic bunch of links. They’re not solely directed at me, but thanks!

I’ve just checked out OSH and it looks like a ton of fun. Into the zero-prep Ready to Rumble binder it goes!

#8 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On February 3, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

I cut my teeth on the blue cover, but yeah, this brought back memories.

Gotta get my retro on…

#9 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On February 5, 2012 @ 8:44 am

As a coda to my original post: My middle child, Preston, joined us for a follow up session, encouraged by the others because he had not taken part in the first session. He did, but with some reluctance. (He likes Star Wars and Leogs, but not fantasy. Forgotten, apparently was his enjoyment of Lego Heroica.)

Anyway, in the session’s final combat, his fighter character delivered the klling blow to the lava worm. Forgotten, also, was his reluctance, because in that momen of triumph, he got caught up in the theater of the mind, raised his arms and shouted “Hurray! We did it.” Oh, the infectious nature of roleplaying!

The most inspired bit of problem solving came from the youngest, however. His PC was being chased by a swarm of spiders. So his thief ran up and down the hallways of the dungeon until he came to a pool that they’d passed earlier. He jumped in, as did the pursuing spiders, which drowned. (I don’t know if spiders really would drown in that instance — but as GM, I had to acknowledge the effort).

And my belief the D&D Basic game serves as an excellent lead-up game for roleplaying was reinforced once again.

#10 Pingback By MartinRalya.com | Reading Appendix N: The project, the appendix, and the goal On August 28, 2012 @ 11:19 pm

[…] January 2012, Troy Taylor blogged about running red box D&D for his kids on Gnome Stew, sparking my interest in delving into the roots of gaming as a hobby. That led me to […]

#11 Comment By Levi J Aho On March 8, 2014 @ 12:52 pm

Just wanted to point out that the Rules Cyclopedia is now available once again (as an ebook), so those wanting some DnD rules to recreate this experiment with can now use those (the last official incarnation of Basic).