This is the blog. Click here to go to the Zenopus Archives website.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

B/X Expert Set for use with Holmes Basic

Screen shot from the bonus catalog at the end of the new Expert Set rulebook pdf

The D&D Expert Set rulebook by Cook/Marsh is now available on pdf at It was designed to accompany Moldvay Basic, together forming what is commonly called B/X now, but it contains a section in the beginning on using it with the previous (Holmes) Basic Set. So in one sense it's the official Expert Set for Holmes Basic.

As I wrote on the Rules Expansion page on the ZA site: 

In Dragon #35, Gygax also revealed that "Design is now hard at work on the second boxed D&D game, the Expert Set. It will take players through at least 12th level of experience, tie in the best of the “Original” material, and actually add some new classes, spells, magic, monsters and so on." In context, this appeared to be an Expert Set that would complement the Holmes Basic Set. A late 1980 Gateway to Adventure catalog shows the Holmes Basic set side-by-side with an unpictured but soon-to-be-released Expert Set. However, when the Expert Set finally arrived in 1981 it was accompanied by an entirely new Basic Set that replaced the Holmes Basic set (although TSR continued to have the original in stock through the Mail Order Hobby Shop until at least 1986). To aid owners of the original Basic set who did not wish to buy a new set, the Cook/Marsh rulebook contained a section on page X4 titled "Using D&D Expert with an early edition of D&D Basic" which began "If your copy of the D&D Basic rules has a blue cover with a picture of a dragon on it, then this section is for you". This section then provides a summary of the "new material found in the 2nd edition of D&D Basic.

See also the previous post, Holmes Expert Set from TSR catalog.

Update: I ended up buying the new pdf of the Expert Set rulebook. See a future post for some notes.


  1. So originally the intent might have only been to go to level 12. Interesting given I've been thinking about writing my own Holmes Expert using some ideas that went with that.

    1. Yes, level 12 is a decent stopping point with OD&D because it gets you one beyond the highest name level (Wizard, Level 11). The tables in the Delving Deeper clone of OD&D only go up to Level 12.

  2. I never realized this, about to pull it off the shelf now. Thanks!

  3. The Cook/Marsh Expert set is good for expanding Holmes but the instructions are all backward. You have to make Holmes take priority; if you do that, then the Expert book basically fills in the gaps (level charts, monsters, spells, magic items, wilderness rules) that would otherwise be in a Holmes expansion. It's actually more similar than most people realize to OD&D; I actually checked it this morning and Contact Other Plane, which I was researching for my own blog, is a tweaked version of OD&D's spell.

    My ideal "kitbash yer own" D&D takes Holmes, Cook/Marsh, the Judges Guild Ready Ref Sheets and whatever else I want.