I’ve offered to run a Basic D&D (Moldvay edition) game session for my group, and they’ve accepted. I’ve actually offered a few times through the years, but this is the first time they’ve agreed.
I started D&D with the Basic edition. One of my Players started with OD&D (1974), another Player started with AD&D1 (early to mid 80s), and the third Player started with D&D3 (2002-2003). So at least two of my guys have no previous experience with BD&D, and the other two of us hasn’t had the experience for around 30 years or so.
My goal with this one-shot is to get and give a little taste of the old, classic D&D play feel. So I’m going to use a classic module, and I’ll run everything right by the book. And this is where I have a slight problem.
The adventure module I plan to use is: B1 In Search of the Unknown – it’s a classic dungeon crawl, with plenty of classic monsters, traps, tricks, puzzles, and gimmicks. Strangely, though, what it doesn’t have plenty of is treasure. For those who don’t know or remember, B1 maps out and describes the dungeon areas in great detail, but it leaves the monster and treasure placement up to the DM.
There are 25 monster encounters listed in the back of the book. The text says to use only 16-20 of these encounters, but because there’re 56 rooms in the dungeon, I’m going to place all 25 encounters somewhere. That will still leave over half the rooms empty of monsters. (Random wandering monsters are 1 in 6 every two turns.)
There are 34 treasures listed in the back of the book. The text says to use only 15-25, and the treasures are relatively very small – at total gp value of just 2,841 (counting all 34). That’s not much gp (or xp) for a two-level dungeon of 56 rooms. In fact, it seems extremely cheap compared to other classic modules I’ve read – even the Caves of Chaos (in B2 Keep on the Borderlands) has a total treasure of 29,852gp (over 10 times the B1 amount).
If I were designing this dungeon, with an eye on playing the numbers, I’d put enough xp on the first dungeon level for a party of six 1st-level PCs to reach 2nd level if they fully completed (secret rooms and all) the first dungeon level (assuming all beginning PCs survived the dungeon level completion – not at all a sure thing by BD&D standards).
Then enough xp on the second dungeon level for a party of six 2nd-level PCs to reach 3rd level if they fully completed (secret rooms and all) the second dungeon level (assuming all PCs survived the dungeon completion – not at all a sure thing by BD&D standards).
You may think this leveling is too fast or too slow, but this is what I would like. It’s enticing to the Players. But with the dungeon as written – with only 2,841 gp – it’s not likely (arguably not possible) a group of 6 PCs would gain a single level even by fully completing both levels of this adventure. Wouldn’t that be rather disappointing? To complete a whole dungeon and still all be only 1st level?
So, I’m considering placing enough treasure in the dungeon to make this level-gain formula happen. (Again, assuming they fully complete everything, and all survive.)
Or, maybe I could use the Basic D&D rule book to roll the entire dungeon randomly? I’m thinking, though, this is a lot of work.
But whichever I do, I’m concerned that it might not be a “fair” example/test of classic Basic D&D if I increased the treasure in a published adventure. Hell, my Players may not care to play more than this one game session, regardless of the treasure/experience haul their PCs get. But then I’d hate for them to decide they don’t like the game because for all their work in the adventure, all they ended up with a rather pathetic/unexciting reward.