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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Pathfinder Beginner Box homage to TSR Basic Sets

     Homage: "a show or demonstration of respect or dedication to someone or something, sometimes by simple declaration but often by some more oblique reference, artistic or poetic"

     I previously placed the new Pathfinder RPG Beginner Box as the latest in 35 years of D&D Basic Sets. Paizo appears to have the same view based on the dedication in the Table of Contents in the Hero's Handbook in the set, which goes out to the editors of the first three D&D Basic Sets:

     "This game is dedicated to J. Eric Holmes, Frank Mentzer, and Tom Moldvay" 

     Thanks to jeffb and Azafuse on the OD&D Discussion forums for (respectively) bringing this to my attention and providing the quote. See the thread for further discussion  including a link from kesher to a discussion on the Paizo message boards about using the BB with kids.

     Also, The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope blog has a generally positive review of the set where he writes that "My immediate impression was that of the old Holmes’ basic set".

     I noticed that the cover art of the BB by Wayne Reynolds features two adventurers, a spellcaster and a warrior, facing off against a dragon sitting on its hoard of gold, including a treasure chest, in a dungeon of cut stone: many of the same elements as the original Basic Set cover art by David Sutherland. The Pathfinder spellcaster's raised fiery hand even mimics the original wizard's raised hand with torch. Click here for a large image provided the BB cover provided by Paizo for use as computer wallpaper.

     So the BB pays homage to the Holmes Basic Set by both simple declaration (the dedication) and by oblique artistic reference (the cover).

      In some ways the Beginner Box resembles yet a different TSR Basic Set: the 1991 New, Easy to Master D&D Game designed by Timothy B. Brown and Troy Denning, known colloquially as the Black Box. This fourth version of the Basic Set essentially served as an intro for the contemporary Rules Cyclopedia (1991) developed by Aaron Allston. Like the Beginner Box, the Black Box came in a big rectangular box, included a large set of paper minis, and covered character levels 1-5. 

     If anyone finds any other allusions to previous Basic Sets in the Beginner Box, please post them here.


  1. Covers seem pretty similar, indeed.

    I should check, but IIRC Allston is uncredited in 1991's Black Box (Timothy B. Brown and Troy Denning are credited as designers).

  2. I may be wrong on that. Let me look into it. I have the components of that set except for the box and the rulebook.

  3. I revised the post to indicate the correct credits for the 1991 set. Links for it and the Rules Cyclopedia now go to Tome of Treasures which helpfully has credits listed for each product. Thanks for the clarification, Hamel.

  4. It's almost like a flipped image of the Erol Otus art from the Moldvay Basic Set:

  5. Nice post, Z! I had not noticed the cover similarity, but it's almost too much to be a coincidence...

  6. Those Paizo guys score a lot of cred with that dedication.

    I figure the gigantic pile of treasure would be the tie-breaker if anyone was at all up in the air over whether it was referencing Otus or not.... Still, I'll take my creepy sorceress babe over that rogue-chick any day.