The Red Box Blog

Ramblings about D&D.

My Life in Polyhedrons – The Red Box

I always hate talking about the various versions of Dungeons and Dragons that don’t fall under the edition number scheme (AD&D, AD&D 2e, D&D 3E, D&D 4E) mostly because there is always some sort of confusion involved.

In the late 70s TSR relaunched the Dungeons and Dragons brand spliting it into two versions – “Dungeons and Dragons” and “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons”; the former was a simplified, streamlined version of the game meant for beginners, while the latter included all the latest in rules complexity. It was confusing enough at the time to talk about the “non-advanced” version, because the words Dungeons and Dragons have appeared in every instance of the game, but it got that much worse when the third edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons dropped the word Advanced.

Many forums online like to refer to the “non-Advanced” game as “Basic Dungeons and Dragons”, but I find that brings another set of problems. You see, this game was sold in a series of boxed sets, the first of which was called “The Basic Set”. So then one has to question if the speaker is talking about the entire game, or just the very first box set.

I have over the years taken to refering to this game as simply “the coloured box” version of Dungeons and Dragons. While this usually makes it clear what I am talking about, its worth noting that this isn’t a perfect name for it either. You see, the orginal release of this game came in one box that was not very colourful. the next version came in two boxes that were only slightly different in colour (and were dominated by art work, not a solid colour). It was the third version that the boxes were dominated by solid colours, making sense of this title. But then later on the five box sets got compacted into one hardcover book (just to add more confusion).

Anyways, what its called isn’t really the point…

I was awake early on the morning of my eleventh birthday. I honestly don’t remember any of the presents I received save one – the Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set (aka the red box set). As mentioned in my previous article I didn’t have a clue what Dungeons and Dragons was then, and as such didn’t know what to expect. But regardless I spent most of the time I had before school reading through it.

For those of you who have never seen the red box set, it contained two books and six dice (plus a crayon for colouring in the numbers on the dice). The Players Handbook had the words “Read this book first!” in yellow letters to get your attention. After a page of intro, it starts into a section to teach you the basics of D&D, that reads very much like a “choose your own adventure” book.

So I was having a good time with this solo game until the first fight came up. It required rolling the twenty sided die. Never having seen a twenty sided die before I grabbed what I thought was correct and rolled as instructed. After what seemed like a hundred rolls the fight still wasn’t resolved. “This is a stupid game.” I thought and put it on my shelf. I wouldn’t look at it again for two months.

Then one day in May my mother told me she’d be two hours late picking me up from school that day (probably a staff meeting at her school, though I don’t really remember). I decided to take the red box with me to give it another shot. (I was figuring it couldn’t possibly be a bad as I remembered, because if it were nobody would play it).

So after school on that spring day, once I had a little bit of privacy in a library cube, I opened up the box again, and within seconds saw the source of my frustration two months earlier. The twenty sided die was lodged under the second book (I had been rolling the d12).

The next couple hours were amoung the most wonder filled in my whole life. I went from thinking the game was stupid, to wanting to play it more than anything.

Strangely, my clearest memory from those two hours has little to do with gaming. At one point the student teacher in my class came by and saw me reading D&D books and asked “Working on strategy?” (I guess she didn’t realize I was the one boy in the class who was not already a D&D player) I replied something like “Sort of.”

Because I was so late getting home that night, I couldn’t start teach my friends about this fantastic game THAT day. But they didn’t have to wait long before spending time with me became synonymous with playing D&D.

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September 18, 2010 - Posted by | My Life in Polyhedrons, RPGs |

1 Comment »

  1. you might like “The Elfish Gene” it’s a pretty good read

    Comment by middleagedm | September 18, 2010 | Reply


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