Sunday, 8 February 2009

Mollusc World: To BECM or not to BECM?

As I think I might have said before, for sentimental reasons 2nd edition AD&D will always be my favourite version of D&D, but I'd always make the case that the best is BECMI. ('Favourite' and 'best' don't always have to be the same thing, I'm sure you'd agree. My favourite TV series, for example, is Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is hardly the best ever made.) Why BECMI? Because it perfectly melds the make-it-up-yourself aspect of OD&D with a more comprehensive and sensible framework of rules - moreover a set of rules which work as one volume and don't become overly complicated or require you to memorise very much. No edition of (A)D&D ever managed anything like that.

So I think on the face of it I'd like to make my Mollusc World setting a BECMI/RC one. But this could cause a problem.

Viz: just how popular is BECMI these days? The so-called 'legacy gaming' trend tends to focus more on OD&D and 1st edition AD&D than anything else. As far as I can tell BECMI comes a distant third, only just in front of 2nd edition (the big loser in the 'old school renaissance'). Labyrinth Lord is partly to blame for this, in that it scratches the itch that Classic D&D used to. My suspicion is that the people who would have been using the Rules Cyclopedia to run games are now mostly relying on LL. (No bad thing in itself, but I've come to the decision that for aesthetic reasons if nothing else BECMI beats LL hands down.) And there is still, I think, an entirely misplaced prejudice and dislike of race-as-class at large in the D&D playing community.

Just how much interest there would be in Classic D&D products these days is questionable.


  1. Moldvay/Cook Basic/Expert is my current second-favorite edition (after OD&D). It was my first experience with D&D, it's a great "closed system," it's n00b-friendly, and it's cheap on eBay.

    I find BECMI repulsive because of its aesthetics, tone, and power level. I've always been baffled by the reverence for the Rules Cyclopedia, but am aware this is a personal thing.

  2. Well, different strokes for different folks and all that.

    I think the reverence for the Rules Cyclopedia comes from the fact that: Shock! it does in one book what pretty much every other edition of D&D could only manage in three - sets out a complete game. And a game that I think works better than the others, but of course that's just opinion.

    I've never actually played Moldvay/Cook though, so I can't comment on whether it does what BECMI set out to do even better.

  3. Well, I like it. I love both Moldvay-Cook and Mentzer BEC; I think the Masters set was a bit of a let-down and isn't needed for most campaigns. 25th level is plenty high enough. I like the Elmore aesthetics just as much as I love BX's Otus art. I'd love to play a BECM campaign.

  4. RC is by and far my fav D&D. I love having all of my campaign options in one place(Before each game We decide as a group if we're going to be using skill, weapon mastery, domains ect. i have never used every option.. LL / Cook is definitely second place for me.

    I say if you want to go BECMI go BECMI.

  5. I'm not a big fan of the weapons mastery and skill stuff, which I regard as cruft, but other than that I view them as largely the same least to the extent that I wouldn't look at some new product or supplement and say "oh, it's for BECMI, no way could I use that with L&L or BFRPG..."

  6. I own and love the Rules Cyclopedia, myself (more so than I do 2e at any rate, and probably almost as much as I love 3.5, which is still my favorite edition because it was the one I was weaned on), so I'd favor it.

    And I think I'd argue that TNG is AMONG the best shows ever made. <,<

  7. S'mon: I like the sense of completeness that comes with the master's and immortal set - you can literally take a character all the way up to demigodhood, which I think is great.

    Bluskereem: Yeah, that's one of the reasons I love the RC too. It's all there in one book.

    jamused: Well yeah, in the grand scheme of things they aren't that different. I rather like weapon mastery actually, though skills I could definitely do without, and rarely use.

    Rach: I think TNG is often pretty poorly made, but I really love it. It's nowhere near as accomplished as something like The Wire or ER but that doesn't matter when it comes to sentimental value.

  8. After running AD&D2 for over a decade, I am going back to Classic D&D. However, my BECM/RC books are in even worse shape than most of my AD&D books, from the previous decade's gaming. So, Labyrinth Lord and BFRPG are on my to-buy list... and I reckon I can encourage folks to buy LL more readily than hunt down out-of-print "zero edition" (as they were dismissed by 3.x/d20 gamers).

  9. Since I'm an inveterate tinker, I went with LL and then hacked at it and welded on the bits I wanted. Part of this is because I like the more streamlined and simple Moldvay/Cook to BECMI, but honestly, there's not a ton of difference between the two. Rules Cyclopedia is just LL with a few more barnacles and an extra sail or two.

    The big plus for LL is, of course, that it's free and easy to get.

    - Brian

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