One aspect I love about the RPG hobby is that I always have something new to learn. And, yes, sometimes I learn things that the experts already know.
I did know that the BECMI D&D Expert Sets went through some graphical changes on the boxes to bring them in line with the subsequent Companion, Master, and Immortals sets.
BECMI = Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, Immortals. The revised, unified edition of Dungeons & Dragons (see my reference site page). Also known as Mentzer edition after Frank Mentzer, who led this massive reorganization, revision, and expansion of the earlier Moldvay D&D rules.
EDIT (June 9, 2020): See The Other Side blog post “BECMI: Expert Set review” for more detail.
The earliest date I’ve seen for this change is a box stamp inside the lid of 7/87, meaning July 1987 of course. This switch probably happened earlier; I only started paying attention to these box codes in the last few years.
The Rulebook printings
What I didn’t know was that the Expert Rulebook itself underwent some important changes. But they’re not immediately obvious.
The Acaeum calls the updated set the 5th printing. About the book, the TSR reference site notes:
“A few changes, notably the saving-throw matrices and Thief Skills progression table brought in-line with the Companion and later sets.”
I didn’t see much online that expanded on that. So I put the two books side-by-side, and began flipping pages.
Comparisons between the Rulebook printings
Here is what I saw, with the caveat that it would have been easy for me to miss a detail, so let me know if that’s the case.
1st print will be on Left or Top of photo.
2nd print will be on Right or Bottom of photo.
And that’s what I saw. Perhaps there’s more.
I do believe the PDF at DriveThruRPG is the updated version. Let me know if I’m wrong. (EDIT: I’ve been told the PDF is the 1st printing. See comments below.)