So, as part of my desire to read up on Classic or "Basic" D&D, I’ve read through Moldvay’s Basic Set. Here’s how I sum up my thoughts after reading it:
The nostalgia that I felt was heavy duty (again, I never played it when I was young, but it still reminded me in some ways of reading through the AD&D 1E books).
The only real difference that I could see between Moldvay Basic and Labyrinth Lord was the rules for attribute adjustment. It might be clearer to state that the only rules difference that matters to me is attribute adjustment, which I think is absent from Labyrinth Lord (then again, I haven’t read Labyrinth Lord from cover to cover, so I could be wrong). But really, I don't think that there are any other differences of any considerable size.
If I wanted to play by these rules or something like them, I’d rather play Labyrinth Lord.
This last statement is how I felt after finishing my read-through. I feel like Labyrinth Lord has a much better organization, appearance, and some small changes in the rules that make it much more accessible, at least to me at my current stage of life.
The big factors that appeal to me when thinking of running a Classic D&D game are:
Limited class options make it easier for the GM to remember class abilities and faster for players to create characters (even faster than Castles & Crusades/C&C, which is pretty quick when it comes to character creation).
Saving throw progression and other similar mechanics don’t require the thought process that goes into systems that require the GM to create target numbers for attribute checks (an issue I had with D&D 3E, but C&C mitigates much of the thought process with the SIEGE Engine system). If I ever thought there was a need for attribute checks in a Classic D&D game, I like the thought of making players roll under the appropriate attribute score. I’ve always felt that D&D attribute numbers were sort of useless, and their modifiers or lack thereof had more effect on the game (perhaps that was just my style of play back in the day…)
The four human races and the demihuman race-as-class options lend a certain archetypal/mythic aspect to the game that appeals to me. I have ideas for developing my own setting for use with Classic D&D rules, and using that in a future campaign.
How Classic D&D lends itself to a certain style of play that is appealing to me (i.e. simpler, faster, rules-light, archetypal/”mythic”). I truly believe that system influences style of play.
Actually, there’s one other big thought on my mind, as you can probably tell from all my references to C&C above: I still prefer C&C for my number-one go-to game. I love that system and its combination of AD&D and d20 D&D concepts. It’s the rules set that makes me want to do the least amount of house ruling. To me, at this point in my life, I find that “limited need for house ruling” is a big factor for me when it comes to a game system. This is mostly due, I think, to my limited free time for gaming. I would prefer to spend my time prepping for game time and actual play rather than rules tinkering. And less house rules means that players can depend mostly on published rules and not have to worry about tons of house rules that I might foist upon them.
While I was reading Labyrinth Lord, I found myself doing a lot of house ruling in my head. There were a lot of tweaks I found myself wanting to make. And in considering the changes, they were mostly efforts on my part to put C&C functionality into Classic D&D. Such as thinking about how to do attribute checks in Classic D&D in a manner that was satisfying to me.
I KNOW that this is a big heresy when it comes to Classic D&D play. I know there’s a rabid contingent of people, many many people out there, who would balk at my attribute check fixation. Trust me, I do so myself. In our C&C games, I try to minimize attribute checks when possible, resorting to asking my players to roleplay out the actions they want to accomplish as much as possible. Even if they are asked to make an attribute check, I still ask them to roleplay things out (and depending on how convincing they are, I will often give them bonuses to the associated rolls).
And come to think of it, instead of resorting to Classic D&D rules to get the Classic D&D “style” of gameplay (archetypal), I could very well just run C&C but restrict races and classes to what would be close to what is available in Classic D&D.
I am thinking of potentially asking my group if we could sometimes run Classic D&D one-shot sessions. Just so I can get a fix. One other aspect of Classic D&D that I like, funnily enough, is how deadly it can be. I would like to run a game that is more deadly and less about epic adventure. Again, this is just my own perception of game systems, but I find that AD&D/C&C (at least for me) lend themselves to more epic adventure style of play, where characters are more hardy at lower levels and therefore have a much greater chance of living to reach high levels and forging great destinies.
Anyway, there you have it, folks. For good or ill. Please give me your thoughts. I guess I’m on to read Moldvay Expert, and then on to Labyrinth Lord (for a more through read than I’ve ever given it).