One can trace the evolution of Dungeons & Dragons through its beginner / starter / introductory sets. The eternal quest for TSR (and later, Wizards of the Coast) was to have an easy entry point for new gamers into the unfamiliar world of D&D roleplaying. There were frequent adjustments to the intro sets, changes in teaching strategy and components.

TSR had a number of these sets. Earlier, I profiled a duo of boxes introducing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (the parallel and mostly similar iteration of D&D):

By 1997, TSR had collapsed and was bought out by Wizards of the Coast. For the first couple of years Wizards played it safe, reprinting classics and sticking with the AD&D rules set, even to the point of retaining the TSR branding. But meanwhile Wizards was busy working on what would become D&D 3rd Edition (2000).

Today I’m profiling two similar beginner sets released in 1999 and 2000.

Both boxes have a rules book + adventure book, character folios, maps, and dice.

Despite their similar format, these sets have very different rules. D&D Adventure Game: The Adventure Begins Now! (hereafter “ABN 1999”) was the last gasp of AD&D. Yes, the box lid calls it “Dungeons & Dragons”, but the character classes (Priests, Paladins, etc) tell us this is AD&D under the hood. The rules make good use of THAC0 (the workaround for calculating hits on descending Armor Class). I reckon this is the last official use of THACO in Dungeons & Dragons. PCs go from levels 2 through 5.

D&D Adventure Game: The Adventure Begins Here! (hereafter “ABH 2000”) uses then-brand-new D&D 3e rules (Ascending AC, Fortitude/Reflex/Will saves, etc). ABH 2000 is clearly a conveyor belt to the regular 3rd edition rules; a PC with sufficient XP for level three needs the 3e Players Handbook!

Check Wayne’s Books Inventory

DriveThruRPG (PDF of ABN 1999 is available for $10)

1999 & 2000: Side-by-Side

There is almost no overlap in the credits. The sole exception I see is Rob Lazzaretti.

Both sets have 8 pregen player characters in 4-page folios. Each has the CS, plus class-specific rules. (ABH 2000 PCs not shown: Eberk & Korwyn – they’re attached to other sheets.)

ABH 2000 also has 2 additional folios with Rules Summary, blank character sheet, and monster identification.

ABN 1999 has a DM Screen / town map.

ABH 2000 has a folded tactical map and 2 sheets of counters.

ABH 2000 has 89 counters total: 8 Goblins, 5 Dwarven Warriors, 5 Orcs, 5 Skeletons, 5 Zombies, 4 Dire Rats, 4 Elven Warriors, 4 Ghouls, 4 Gnolls, 4 Hobgoblins, 1 Red Dragon, 1 Unicorn, 1 Rogue, 1 Viper, 1 Ogre, 1 Hell Hound, 1 Displacer Beast, 1 Bugbear, 1 Necromancer, 1 Dire Bat, 1 Gelatinous Cube, 1 White Dragon.

ABN 1999 has serious/cool black dice, plus bag. ABH 2000 has the candy colored polyhedral dice that I love.

Another commonality is that each set had a virtually identical jumbo size version. (I don’t have the large ABN 1999 at the moment).

TSR 11450ISBN 0786914505
TSR 11523ISBN 0786915235
TSR 11641ISBN 0786916419
TSR 11951ISBN 0786919515

The ABH 2000 reg/jumbo sets are so similar, the only difference I can see are minor graphical changes: Rulebook, page 14 and Adventure Book, page 21. (Caution, I’ve seen one of the “jumbo” books in a later “reg” set) The jumbo box also has a paperboard insert because there is so much empty space inside.

Some ABH 2000 have a promo sticker on the lid, featuring the Dungeon & Dragons movie. Yay.

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