Friday, 16 August 2019

Let's read Basic D&D: Your first adventure

Your first adventure

After almost two years—WTF!?—I'm back reading the 1983 Mentzer Red Box Players Manual for the Basic D&D.

In the opening eight pages, the reader is programmatically, and more than a little procedurally, introduced to the Player Character attributes and more importantly an introduction to adventuring.

The hills are full of caves, possibly monsters, and the murderous thief Bargle. Your character is a strong man or woman (hey, it doesn't matter, we're told this on page 2!), not to quick, but not slow, nor dumb-witted, but adventurous. 

The very first encounter is a bold goblin. Dodging its swing, you prepare to swing. But this is your first game. How do you swing? How do you hit the goblin? You are quickly introduced to the "twenty-sided die," the Hit Roll, and Hit Points.1

The goblin is never going to hit you in this instruction, but you know to hit the goblin you need to roll a 12. Just one hit. The goblin is more afraid of you than you it. It runs away on the first hit. 

Damage and hit points

A new noun. In 1983 D&D was possibly eight years old. Today, we have endless wankery about what Hit Points are? Do they represent anything? Are Tim Kask's words on YouTube worth listening to? Could Frank Mentzer have the gaul to write something to help us? Maybe.

The number of hit points is the amount of damage that a creature can take before being killed. Hit points can be any number; the more hit points a creature has, the harder it is to kill.
Your fighter starts with 8 hp (hit points) and still has 8, since the goblin never hit you. He may have hit your armor or shield, but never got through your protection, so these attacks are still called "misses"—they didn't actually damage your character.

Debate settled. Hit points are an abstraction. Always have been and I've said as much. Immersion and narrative are a function at the table and can be learned, too often the debate starts at and seeks only perfection... to become the enemy of good.


Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and introducing Constitution. Our hero has a Constitution of 16. This positively affects our character's hit points. Write it down and let's learn about Saving Throws!

  1. [1] the shorthand forms of dice, e.g., d4, d20, d%, are not introduced for another eight pages, on p. 12.

Posted by caffeinated at 9:38 PM in d10


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