I am a life-long enthusiast of Gygaxian Dungeons & Dragons, a term I use to denote a range of rule sets that began in 1974 with the Original Dungeons & Dragons game and include Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the Holmes Basic rules, the Moldvay/Cook Basic/Expert rules, and finally the five Mentzer box sets, which culminated in 1991 with the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Compendium.
Depending on what one considers a distinct “version” of the game (and this subject is much debated by D&D historians), the concept of Gygaxian Dungeons & Dragons as I envision it encompasses five separate versions of the game (OD&D, Holmes, AD&D, Moldvay/Cook, and Mentzer). Yet all of these versions are so close in spirit and so similar in mechanics that they are, essentially, the same game, and enthusiasts of Gygaxian D&D routinely combine elements from all of them when they play. In 1986 company founder and D&D creator Gary Gygax left TSR, and the game would enter the post-Gygax era, giving rise to several subsequent versions of the game which, while “Dungeons & Dragons” in a legal sense (due to the ownership of the trademark) have little, if anything, in common with the Gygaxian game.
I say this because every once in awhile I will have the following exchange with a well-meaning person (not the same person every time, of course, but the exchange is usually identical):
WELL-MEANING PERSON: Hey Rick, I understand you play Dungeons & Dragons.
ME: Uh, that’s true, yes.
WELL-MEANING PERSON: Well that’s exciting, because my [son/husband/uncle/cousin etc.] loves Dungeons & Dragons!
WELL-MEANING PERSON: You two might want to get together!
ME: Ummm, well, it’s complicated. You see, first of all, one does not merely “play” Dungeons & Dragons. It is true that it is a game, but far more than that, it is an intellectual, spiritual, and creative discipline. It is a life-long path. I have been following this path since 1981, when I was 10 years old.
WELL-MEANING PERSON: [Looking confused] Okay–
ME: Furthermore, I have a very specialized interest in the game. I am a follower, enthusiast, and aficionado of the original Dungeons & Dragons game by E. Gary Gygax. This version of the game, along with its immediate ancestors from the late 1970s and early 1980s, including Advanced D&D, Moldvay, and Mentzer, is rarely played or studied today, except by life-long enthusiasts like myself.
WELL-MEANING PERSON: Umm–
ME: Now it is true that there is a game one can presently buy in stores called “Dungeons & Dragons.” This game is produced by a company called “Wizards of the Coast” which legally owns the trademark “Dungeons & Dragons” and so, it is technically accurate to say that a person who plays this game “plays Dungeons & Dragons.” But it is not the Gygaxian game, and in truth, an enthusiast of the Gygaxian game really has nothing in common with a person who plays this current version of the game, although I certainly wish such a person no ill will.
WELL-MEANING PERSON: Oh, well, okay. [Completely baffled and backing away slowly.]
I use many rulebooks and resources, but my core rulebook is the 1991 Rules Cyclopedia: