Basic D&D: Day One

40 years of history. Two years of extensive play-testing by 175,000 avid gamers. Countless revisions and updates.

Finally, it is here.


Yes folks, the latest edition of the greatest and most influential role-playing game of all time is….. almost….. here! To celebrate this momentous launch we are going to dedicate this entire week to D&D Basic, the freely downloadable (and surprisingly well featured given its lowly version number) edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

We are going to look at what what’s in the (virtual) box, see how it stacks up against other editions of the game and go over the rules with a fine tooth comb.

This is a tooth comb
This is a tooth comb
So is this
So is this


We begin this journey at high altitude, with an overview of what is in the current version of the document. If you are reading this in the future (which, by definition, you are and you’re awesome) this may have changed. Wizard of the Coast’s goal is to take it from the current player-focused tome and turn it into a complete version 1.0 Basic D&D containing everything you need to run an old school D&D campaign from levels 1 to 20. That’s fantastic, and is expected to happen at a fairly brisk pace to coincide with the releases of the PHB, DMG and MM over the coming months.

At the time of writing (Saturday 5th July at 1:16pm, for those who care about such things), D&D Basic is made up of:

  • Character Creation
    • Races: Dwarf (Hill and Mountain), Elf (High and Wood), Halfling (Lightfoot and Stout), Human
    • Classes: Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Wizard
    • Backgrounds (Acolyte, Criminal, Folk Hero, Sage, Soldier)
    • Rules for Multiclassing and advancement to level 20
  • Complete rules for gaming for in and out of combat
  • Magic rules and spell lists for the Cleric and Wizard to 9th level

But isn’t that just like a cut-down System Reference Document, Grey?

Nope. Not by a long shot. The 3rd Edition SRD was a terse document that contained only the direct game-rules with all Product Identity stripped from them and not an ounce of fluff in sight. Basic D&D is an entirely different beast. This a complete working document and homage to the vast and varied history of  Dungeons & Dragons. There are references and quotes from settings as varied as Ravenloft, Dark Sun and Dragonlance with clear emphasis that this is an edition of the game which embraces them all as well as worlds of your own making.

Unlike the SRD this is a document you could print out and pass to to new player of the game and they could read, use and enjoy it. So too could the old school grognard. Basic D&D sets out to be just that – a subset of “Advanced” D&D that streamlines the whole game toward old school sensibilities. It is 100% rules identical to the hardback (and not-free) version but lacks the plethora of options, races and classes of its big brother. D&D without the cruft, if you will.

That’s not to say some modern-day concepts haven’t crept in, but we’ll talk about them another time.

What we have so far is enough to generate characters and know how to play the game. What’s lacking are monsters and the stuff the GM needs. That’s only temporary, and is easily fixed by using a published adventure, monsters from the Playtest Documents (you still have those, right?) or pick up a copy of the D&D Starter Set. This release of Basic D&D is designed to complement the Starter Set though it’s worth emphasising that neither needs the other. The Starter Set is complete as a fully-fledged 5 level starting campaign setting and adventure pack (complete with pre-generated characters and dice) and Basic D&D contains the character generation and rules you need to run your own games (except monsters…. so far).

Tomorrow we will take a look at character generation and build a new virtual buddy together. Let’s see how this old school new kid on the block stacks up.

Till then!


Sidenote: When is controversy not controversy?

These days it seems impossible for anything to be released without some self-righteous fool with too much time on their hands to complain and create a shitstorm where one isn’t needed. I’d say you know who you are but that sad thing is you probably don’t. You think I’m talking about other people, the ones who disagree with you. I’m not. I’m talking about you in your smug self-opinionated chair smiling your smug self-opinionated smile on your smug self-opinionated face. Heck I’m talking about me too. We are all guilty of this.

I say it’s time to stop. You’re welcome to your opinions, and I welcome your input. Please, in the name of all that’s holy, remember that different people can have different opinions & world view to you and that is a Good Thing. There is rarely, if ever, only one right answer. Be polite, show respect for those who do not share your opinions and accept that you might even possibly be wrong. If you can’t do that, shove your opinion up your arse. Thanks.

4 Comments on “Basic D&D: Day One”

  1. Well I am excited about this. I sat at my computer on the day of release waiting. Got fed up wait so I made my Son wait for me. Well it’s what he is for after all.

    Anyway I digress, I got it, I downloaded it. Started reading as soon as I could. I had to fit sleep and work in between.

    I am not a grognard, no really I’m not.
    I love this game for what it is. D&D. That’s all that matters.
    Of course I am eager for the books to be released but edition 0.1 sets the stage nicely.
    Even to the point of printing it into a little booklet.

    Going through character generation with you will be nice. Look forward to your week of D&D Basic.

  2. “These days it seems impossible for anything to be released without some self-righteous fool with too much time on their hands…”

    And now I have to explain to my office why I just uttered, “Daymn Straight!” While submitting expense requests.

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