Sunday, 3 September 2017

Let's read Basic D&D: Learning to play Dungeons & Dragons games

Two core books come in the Mentzer Red Box, the Players Manual and the Dungeon Masters Rulebook. One is admonished in capital letters on the Players Manual: READ THIS BOOK FIRST. Exclamation Point. The DM Rulebook states the same emphatically: READ THE BOOK NEXT!

Learning how to play Dungeon & Dragons games

Games. Plural.

The Preface and How to use this book on the inside cover tease the newcomer with everything that awaits new players to D&D. The Preface by Frank Mentzer, dated in my copy as February 1983, set out with a prompt: a roaring dragon! It sets a narrative to the famous Elmore box cover. Frank hopes to set the expectations of the reader about they hold: a game that is a tool to create epic adventures. He promises fun, but only after an investment of "a few minutes to learn the basic rules, and another hour or two to play a full game." A hobby awaits you as become more experienced. Miniatures, expert rules, and "lots more."

The bottom half of the inside cover is the most ubiquitous section of every technical book you've ever read: How to use this book.

We are introduced in this section about where to start. Page 2 of course, Start here. How a regular game is played in groups and eventually you'll need a Dungeon Master. Important sections lie ahead: Characters and Playing with a Group. The new player is told about the path ahead. Level 1-3 are covered in the Basic Set, Set The BECM is outlined by levels: Expert, 4th-14th; Companion, 15th-25th; Master, 26th-30th. The Immortal set is conspicuously missing. There's probably a story there I'm not familiar with, comments are welcome.

Start Here

The accustomed three-column layout begins and the reader is set on their first adventure and introduced to three of the most important tools of D&D: a pencil, a piece of paper, and the twenty-sided die.

The "strong hero, a famous, but poor fighter" is the role the reader is given. The vehicle for learning to role play. The fighter, day by day, explores the unknown for monsters and treasure. Why? To become more famous and more powerful!

The reader learns the game mechanics for a role begin with abilities, the first game noun. Three abilities are introduced as the reader is set forth on the adventure:

17 Strength
11 Dexterity
 9 Intelligence
And here I think we get to the root of all powergaming going forward into history. "Nearly the highest possible!" the reader learns of the fighter's Strength ability. A fighter doesn't need a high Dexterity and a fighter "often isn't very smart" so we set forth the idea that Intelligence is the fighter's dump stat.

Page 2 and we start to see how presentation sets the expectations going forward. By 1983 the game is six or seven years old and at it's height in popularity. The seeds of the Moral and Satanic panic are being sowed in Richmond, Virginia with the suicide of a young man and in California as the first reports and false allegations of abuse at the McMartin preschool are surfacing.

Posted by caffeinated at 6:59 PM in d10


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