BECMI Basic D&D Now RPG Research's Introductory D&D Version of Choice

by Hawke Robinson published 2019/06/29 06:52:00 GMT-7, last modified 2022-11-12T09:45:27-07:00
As has been discussed in many of our weekly broadcasts, research meetings, talk shows, and board meetings, we haven't been happy with D&D 5e's introductory approach for people that have never role-played before. After years of experimentation, months of debate, and weeks of training, we're officially beginning the transition to use BECMI's Basic D&D as introduction to RPG instead of D&D 5e for ages 10+. For ages 4/5+ we're happily still using No Thank You Evil (NTYE).

We have discussed many times on our shows, meetings, etc., that except for the 1982/3 Frank Mentzer Basic D&D (BECMI) Red Box of Dungeons & Dragons, most of the introductions to RPG from the D&D side have been lacking in many areas. While BECMI Basic D&D fits all the important concepts of the neuroscience of learning and RPGs.

We have found that (arguably), the 1983 Frank Mentzer BECMI Red Box Basic D&D is the single best introduction to Dungeons & Dragons role-playing gaming yet. And this is even as of June 29th, 2019 after their third starter set for D&D 5e.

Unlike many other programs that tend to run around game stores, conventions, and others that are somewhat preaching to the choice, our community outreach programs try to go where there typically are NOT role-playing gamers, and introduce the general public to the joys and benefits of cooperative music and role-playing games.

We have found that the front-end loading of rules discussion creates too high a barrier to entry, and of all the D&D versions the BECMI D&D rules are the easiest for first-timers to quickly grasp, and then focus on interpersonal interaction and cooperative play over bogging down in rules concerns.

Our community programs take place at libraries, schools, community centers, parks, and literally on street corners in high traffic areas, thanks to the wheelchair accessible RPG Bus and RPG Trailer.

These are generally strangers walking in, curious what is going on, and we only have one chance to make an excellent first impression bout the ultimate fun of RPGs. So this first session needs to really stand out, get them actually playing right away, and after trying every version of D&D, this is the best version.

This is not to say there aren't better introductory RPGs for other systems, we're focusing this discussion on D&D versions specifically. Monte Cook Games' No Thank You Evil (NTYE) is an excellent introduction to the bare-bones basic of RPG in just 30-44 minutes, but teenage and older players are often put off by the "kid-ish-ness", though they end up having fun in spite of themselves if they let down their guardedness.

Also we know the problems with referencing and ongoing campaigns do not hold up with these introductory systems, and spanning across so many BECMI books, which the Rules Cyclopedia from 1991 helps address.

Even though 5e is a significant improvement over 3.x and 4th editions in reducing complexity, it is still far too much for an introduction to non-players in a very short amount of time.

We have recently made Level One Game Master Training diploma REQUIRE Basic BECMI D&D, and made 5th Edition secondary to that.

In addition to encouraging ROLE-play, the deadliness of the game system for player character (PC) survival is also very helpful in teaching causality and more quickly learning from mistakes, compared to the more "difficult to die" rest of the D&D versions.

And creating a new character is so quick, just about 10-30 minutes the first time, and then only about 5-15 minutes each time after that.

So, players still don't want to lose a character, but they can get back into the game action quickly, while still learning form their previous mistakes.

Differential learning approach of BECMI, slowly layering in more rules complexity over time with the added rules is how human beings learn best, rather than mass learning.

I have had similar success with this approach with MERP to Rolemaster, a much more complicated system, that anyone can learn if done in layers rather than overloading up front.

The reason why this matters about D&D, is due to current popularity, we literally have people come in, asking specifically for D&D, and they will not try anything else we offer (Doctor Who DWAITS) No Thank You Evil (NTYE), The One Ring RPG (TOR), Star Trek, Star Wars, and many others, because of the now name cache of D&D.

We have the following REQUIREMENTS for any of our community programs:

  • Must be available in print (while available in PDF in expensively, in-print is problematic for the BECMI Basic D&D intro box, but not a problem for the Rules Cyclopedia available in PDF, soft, and hardcover).
  • Able to complete entire adventure within 3 hours maximum
  • Content appropriate for ages 10+ minimum (5+ better, 2+ ideal), while still also of value to adults.
  • For Tier 1 & 2 games, must be appropriate with at-risk populations.
  • Must have some kind of behavior modification to encourage heroic play, especially for our at-risk  populations

While we're using the basic book adventure for our GM's initial training in the dungeon crawl, we will be using other adventures that are more role-play and less combat focused as introduction adventure for the community. We are evaluating which one to go to first. For example we switched away from Lost Mines of Phandelver to Saltmarsh as introduction to D&D 5e.

We will be sharing many sessions this coming Sunday and Monday as our GM's continue to train and learn to run the introductory adventure dungeon crawls. Check out their learning, stumbling, insights, and fun Sunday 1-4 pm and 6-9 pm, and Monday 7-10 pm (Pacific Time).

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