"Quiet Fools! The Dungeon Master has arrived!" - Tom Servo
No, this isn't an April Fool's joke, despite the date. I'm just looking back at Basic/Expert set D&D and why I'd actually jump in on a game of it. Assuming I had free time for another game, which is a joke. Springtime is busy time for me.
Jeffro's brief discussions of running X1 prompted me to pull out (one of*) my copies of X1 and re-read it. Then I started in on Expert Set.
One thing I like about B/X, and about the Expert Set in particular, is how clean and simple the rules presentation is. There aren't a lot of special cases. The explanations are clear, the layout makes it easy to find things, and there isn't a whole lot of extraneous discussion, High Gygaxian waxing about The Game or The Mighty Master. It's purely how-to-do-it, with quick asides where the DM's decision needs to cover a situation.
The stat rules are simple, too - +1 to +3, not a lot of cases where one class benefits from one thing but not another, or people will eleventeen languages, or percentile strength to make the gap between 18 and 19 a huge one. Not only that but everything 13 and up gives a bonus, so you don't need ultra-high stats like in AD&D to matter (ST 15 on 3d6? Wow! Worth close to nothing in AD&D, sorry, next time roll better.)
Not only that, but the assumptions are spelled out well - everyone can climb, Thieves can climb sheer walls. Everyone can swim unless you rule otherwise. Everyone can build a stronghold at the same level. Alignment is simple and oriented on broad strokes of action (group oriented vs. selfish vs. actively destructive). And so on. There are plenty of figured examples, too, for folks who just want buy a freaking castle and not design every 10' square of it by hand, or who aren't sure what a good campaign area should look like.
In a way, it reminds me of GURPS - the rules complexity is a bit lower than GURPS, but it really sounds like "take these and go do stuff with it" rather than "take these and do them in a particular way." It's not a prescription to play but a solid set of baseline rules that cover 90% of what you need and has enough to let the GM know how to consistently make up the other 10%. I feel like I know what was intended by the rules and how to just go with it without violating that intention.
It doesn't need a lot of house rules, either, not obviously so. Maybe just a few - I think the Thief really needs d6 hit points to survive. I'd consider using the Advanced Edition Companion's rules for race split from class if people bothered me enough about it. And I'd dump the Tarantella spider (the joke wore thin by the time I was 10, nevermind now). Maybe another to deal with weapon choice and two weapon use.**
But otherwise it's clearly a pretty good rules set. Too bad they marketed it so heavily as the kiddie intro to D&D.
Now I'm not saying I'm going to stop playing GURPS, or that I'm planning on running a B/X game. I think I'd quickly get to the point where I wanted a lot of what GURPS offers in my game. But as long as both the players and I were willing to take it all lightly, play it as written to see what happens, and just go with it, I think it would be fun. That really goes for all games, but it's a case of not wanting to play B/X with people who want it to be GURPS or AD&D or white-box D&D or anything else. Just, let's play this thing as see how it goes. I'd certainly play in it (as a fighter, I'm not a fan of not-fighters when I play games.) It still has a lot of the pull that D&D did back in the day when I first read it.
Good stuff. And much respect to the retro-clones, but man, the original B/X is just cooler to me. I'm glad it's back in print and people like Jeffro are out there running it.
* I didn't throw out my D&D stuff, and I inherited a couple collections. So I have 2-3 copies of X1, Basic, Expert, and other adventures. Some are in terrible condition, some aren't, but I've got them. Don't hate on me for not having a family that chucked my stuff, okay?
** One rule I thought of while reading the Holmes translation notes:
Two-Handed Weapons give +1 to AC, but you strike last in the round (and then in initiative order, if there are multiple wielders). Dual weapon attacks are fine - anyone can do them, and you get to attack normally with both weapons on the same target (fighters can split targets). Shields give +1 to AC as well (and magical ones would give more.) You'd get a nice spread this way - two-handed weapons give some protection and high damage, but act last. Shields let you act quickly but give you a defensive bonus. And two-weapon attacks give you more damage, potentially, but you're losing a lot of AC. On the face of it, it seems like it gives you a lot of real choices - a mix of offense and defense, a mix of offense and defense that trades off speed for damage, and pure offense.
Obviously this would go with the rules for differentiated damage by weapon type.