I've never liked D76 as a choice. I agree with your principle, and I think it's a very sensible approach to take. I'd suggest another classic developer as a starting point - Rodinal. Lasts forever (don't believe me? look up Rodinal lifespan here on APUG for plenty of documentation), can be used with different dilutions to achieve different effects, has very high acutance so even when images are grainy, they're sharp. I didn't used to be a Tri-X fan, but I've played around with it a bit lately and now I like it a lot. That said, I started my black-and-white learning curve using Tmax films - used properly, they're capable of outstanding results. Just don't overdevelop them and you'll be FINE. Learning not to overdevelop them is a pretty simple process - keep all the steps in your development process consistent, and pay attention to the timer when the film is in the developer. For good starting points for time and temperature, stick to the Massive Dev Chart's times and temps for any given developer and film. This isn't brain surgery or quantum mechanics - heck, it's easier than assembling IKEA furniture!