The TSR catalog that came with my Moldvay D&D Basic Set was titled “Gateway to Advnture.” If you’re curious you can take a virtual tour of it here:
Being a kid of about ten—I immediately wanted lots of stuff from it. I loved my Basic Set, but AD&D (1E) looked “cooler” to my eyes—I mean there were all these hardcover books and the covers were great! So of course I felt I should get those—it was only natural, right? Of course, I was entirely unaware that AD&D was more game that I was probably ready for. To compound things even more, I decided that I was going to be the DM. I didn’t have enough cash to go buy ALL the D&D books, so I decided that The Dungeon Master’s Guide would be the best thing to get first (one of my friends bought The Player’s Handbook and I don’t even remember whether we initially even had a Monster Manual). Now I love the DMG, but it is far from a beginner friendly rulebook. Despite Gygax’s claims that AD&D was a separate game than OD&D, it seems to me that to really make use of the DMG it helped to have a background in OD&D.
When I played AD&D, I mostly just reverted to what I understood from my Basic Set and eventually the game reverted to some sort of bizarre Star Wars game where out characters were essentially in charge of the Death Star. It was fun, but it had stopped being D&D of any kind. The rules had mostly disappeared. I can't remember what dice system we were using, but I know I'd mostly stopped paying attention to the hit charts in the DMG.
I ran a few campaigns in later years that hewed much closer to actual AD&D, but I don’t think I played close enough attention to the rules then either. I grew up with AD&D, but I also feel a bit like I’ve never actually played AD&D (with one or two exceptions where I was a player in someone else’s game—usually someone older with a better sense of how to play the game). From what I can tell my experience does not seem to be unusual. Looking back, I might have been happier if I’d have stuck to my Moldvay Basic Set and just gone from there.
It wasn’t until comparatively recently that I really dove in and took a hard look at AD&D’s rules. After I felt I had gained an understanding of OD&D, AD&D 1E’s idiosyncrasies seemed to make more sense. So I did what I never did when I was younger and which I should have done all along. I created my own House Rules document and a custom AD&D character sheet that, while not being the most attractive thing in the world, certainly reflects my “take” on the game.
Sometimes we so desperately want to be "Advanced" when we may have been happier with "Basic".
Now to find that Time Machine--there's a ten year old boy I'd like to give some advice to.