As part of my research into my own fantasy heartbreaker, and because why not? I brought the Moldvay basic book on hols. Me and my son Danny sat down and rolled up characters. Then he sketched out a quick dungeon and we stocked it as we went.
It’s all harder than I remember.
Rolling stats was cool, as was having your choices largely made for you. It did mean copying down text onto sheets with only a vague idea of what it meant at the time (well, I knew, but Danny is fresh to all this and it took some explaining).
Picking equipment was ok, but took a while and as my fighter tooled badly for cash there were only a few options (would rations matter? Iron or regular?)
Having a magic user with a single magic missile and 3 Hp isn’t romantic. It sucks. Danny wasn’t expecting to be so fragile, or to be able to only do one cool thing the whole game. I remember thinking the same back in 1980 to be honest.
We rolled room contents as we went and swiftly encountered some skeletons. As there were only two PCs I adjusted the numbers down to 2 skellies. Dan’s wizard but the dust in one round.
We decided to play on. Met a trader. Had some interaction with ourselves. Got a Potion of ESP from him. Dan asked what happened if you just had a sip. Good question. Then an Orc. Rolled some treasure.
At this point Dan was really interested in having his own ideas in the dungeon. Like a skeleton key, a secret door in a bookcase and an illusory treasure hoard. It beat the random rolls hands down.
And that’s the point. The Basic system is all over the place. It makes it look like its full of little processes and flow charts that unroll the gaming session before you. But it’s all odd and clunky. It makes you want to think up cooler things on the fly. So you do. It really needs a DM (unsurprisingly) to plan out all the stuff and to mitigate the fragility and randomness of the game.
Which is all fine. In the intervening years all those challenges have been solved in various ways. It’s just a matter of picking. What I want to keep is the idea of generating adventure by procedures. Basic offers the idea, if not the implementation.
Danny had a good time in spite of all the potentially dull outcomes. That’s because we played with our imaginations. Which is the whole point.