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D&D Basic Set - Player's Manual (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
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D&D Basic Set - Player's Manual (BECMI ed.) (Basic)

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This is the 1983 edition of the D&D Basic Set Player's Manual, part of the "BECMI edition" Red Box Set.

Product History

The D&D Basic Rules Set (1983) by Frank Mentzer was the third and final iteration of the boxed Basic Rules for Basic D&D. It was released in summer 1983.

The Evolution of Basic D&D. By 1983, Basic D&D had gone through two major editions. The first was edited by J. Eric Holmes (1977) and was essentially an introductory set for the original D&D game (1975). The second was edited by Tom Moldvay (1981); it was the first truly standalone version of Basic D&D, and the start of the short-lived (but well-known) "B/X" edition.

Frank Mentzer's version of Basic D&D, which would come to be called the BECMI edition (1983-86), was thus the third edition - or fourth, if you count original D&D as part of the sequence of games. BECMI would also be the most long-lived edition of Basic D&D, lasting almost eight years from the publication of the this Basic Set until it was superseded by The New Easy to Master Dungeons & Dragons Game (1991) and the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia (1991).

A New Introductory Game. Mentzer claimed that the main reason behind this new edition of Basic D&D was that previous versions "were not 'revised', merely 'reorganized.'" He clearly wasn't talking about the mechanics, which demonstrably had been revised in Moldvay's version of Basic D&D, but instead how the game and its rules were structured. Mentzer's version of Basic D&D thus made some large changes to how the game was taught and presented.

Menzter's first two goals for the new Basic D&D were to make the game approachable by beginners and to make it learnable from the rules. Mentzer's Basic Set is thus laid out almost as a tutorial, with new rules and concepts being introduced to players very carefully; the rules about GMing are then introduced only after all of the basic player concepts have been discussed.

Mentzer also had three general goals for the new Basic D&D: it should be fun, playable, and true (i.e., to the spirit of D&D).

A New Art Design. Mentzer's Basic D&D took advantage of the new "Product Finishing" Department at TSR, whose goal was to make TSR's books look as good as possible. You can best see their work through the upgrades to the trade dress of D&D that occurred in 1983. However, it's also very obvious in the Menzter Basic D&D, which is full of attractive graphic design (for the era), as well as artwork that's all by iconic D&D artists Larry Elmore and Jeff Easley.

Color-Coding the Boxes. Some people like to classify the D&D boxes by color. This is thus the "Red Box," to differentiate it from the "Magenta Box" edition, which was the previous edition edited by Moldvay.

New Adventures. The new Basic Set was the first D&D rule set to include a solo adventure, intended to make it easier for a player to learn the game even if he didn't know the rules yet. This was just TSR's second stab at a solo adventure for D&D, following M1: "Blizzard Pass" (1983), which was published earlier in the year. Of course, it wasn't a first for the industry; that was Buffalo Castle (1976) for Tunnels & Trolls (1975), published a full seven years earlier.

Mentzer's Basic Set also included a GM adventure that was meant to be an introduction to and tutorial for the rule system.

TSR's new tactic of trying to teach the game via a rulebook that acted as a tutorial and which contained carefully crafted teaching adventures was a technique that was very popular in roleplaying at the time. Yaquinto (1982-83) and Pacesetter (1984) were two other companies that pushed hard on the same idea.

Goodbye to the Keep. The expansion of the Basic Set into two rulebooks meant that something else had to go... and that something else was B2: "The Keep on the Borderlands" (1979), the adventure that had been packaged with Basic D&D since around December 1979. It was the end of an era for TSR's best-selling adventure, which thereafter faded away; the Acaeum reports that its seventh and final printing occurred in 1983, the same year that Mentzer's Basic Set was published.

About the Creators. Frank Mentzer was one of the star creators at TSR in the early to mid-80s, working closely with Francois Marcela-Froideval and Gary Gygax on the most important rulebooks for D&D. Mentzer took total control of Basic D&D around 1982 when Gygax approved the BECMI project, and would remain in that position through his work on the Immortals Set (1986).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (7)
Discussions (35)
Customer avatar
allen P October 01, 2021 6:30 pm UTC
Please contact WotC so that you can make a print copy of this, thank you!
Customer avatar
Edward A July 18, 2021 1:35 pm UTC
Today I downloaded the player's book. Below is how I make copies of this booklet to have and give to my players.

I am headed to Staples to have it printed on color cardstock. The first page is the only color page. I can choose to have it bound there. It is in a 3 ring binder and lies flat on a table.

I can also have them printed loose. Get a red, three-ring binder pocket folder with a translucent pocket on the cover and some translucent pocket protectors with ring holes. The color page of the booklet goes in the pocket on the cover and the rest of the pages go inside the page protectors and are attached inside the binder.

For my group, I then add character race/class options like the PC-11 Warlock from DTRPG. They can be printed in the same fashion and added inside this book neatly. I may also copy the pages from Old-School-Essentials Advanced Fantasy Genre Rules pages 36 and maybe 48-54 because these rules are also amazing for any becmi game.

I make...See more
Customer avatar
Edward A July 18, 2021 1:40 pm UTC
I have already done this for the entire white box core and supplement books. I had them printed into small, digest-sized booklets from Staples at about a cost of $30 a book. Every player that sees these booklets is blown away by the very sight of these booklets. I prefer to find the original covers, but I went with the mocked-up pdf versions here whenever necessary.
I don't consider this a playable version of the game, so I only have these for nostalgia.
Customer avatar
Edward A July 22, 2021 7:40 pm UTC
Going today to pick up the printed copy of the book. 1st-page color, the rest black, and white. Printed on cardstock. I have a red folder with a translucent front cover pocket and a three-ring binder. The translucent paper protectors were $17.50 for 100 and the folder was $3.25. The printed, cardstock of the book was $20. I think the book has a cost around $28.00. I could have had it spiral bound. I'll have to do that next and get a post the price on that for comparison.
Customer avatar
Ray E June 01, 2021 2:04 am UTC
Come on! POD of this whole BECMI series please!!
Customer avatar
Edward A April 15, 2021 3:04 am UTC
Prime candidate for POD. Seriously guys. Printing this series is like printing money. It's beyond the obvious thing. And the community is looking for you guys to do this. I printed my own copies of the white box from your pdf's. I'm considering that being my move here. I would much rather have a copy from you guys.
Customer avatar
Grant M March 20, 2021 12:55 am UTC
It is what it says on the box.
Customer avatar
Mark G February 06, 2021 12:57 am UTC
If the becmi set was POD, I'd buy it in less than a heartbeat, the whole set, despite having everything but the immortal set.
Customer avatar
Thaddeus W December 23, 2020 8:56 pm UTC
+1 POD
Customer avatar
Mark W December 22, 2020 9:59 pm UTC
Seriously DTRPG, you must be making some money to afford print on demand copies of this already by now. As popular as what this version of the rules is there is no excuse to not have these ready in solid format. I didn't even need to buy this as a pdf it's so easy to find from other sites, but if you can manage to print it, I guarantee they will buy it.
Customer avatar
Grant G December 05, 2020 4:20 pm UTC
I love this PDF -- It's a trip down memory lane for me, as this was my introduction to D&D as a kid. My only complaint is that I wish this was POD. I would absolutely love to be able to buy a softcover reprint of this. I know the info is included in the Cyclopedia, but it just isn't the same without the classic Elmore artwork. Please make POD of this original '83 set available!!
Customer avatar
Sean M November 01, 2020 6:26 am UTC
I wish this was POD.... I have the cyclopedia, but I’d buy 10 of these to give out to players to introduce them to the game, the cyclopedia is daunting to new players, this however, isn’t.
Customer avatar
kristiaan L October 10, 2020 5:42 am UTC
POD = instant buy
Customer avatar
Raymond S September 19, 2020 3:22 pm UTC
Please make this POD
Customer avatar
Tiago M August 08, 2020 2:10 pm UTC
Another vote for POD! Paying over £50 on the 2nd hand market for very used products is not very appealing.
Customer avatar
James M May 25, 2020 3:20 pm UTC
I really wish this was available for POD.
Customer avatar
Paul J May 19, 2020 11:50 pm UTC
Great rule set that brings back a lot of memories. Would love a POD version though.
Customer avatar
charles B May 19, 2020 2:10 am UTC
Please POD
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This title was added to our catalog on July 16, 2013.