Friday, 23 August 2019

Let's read Basic D&D: Doors, Thieves, and Story

Locked Doors and the Party

Aleena and Fighter-with-No-Name venture deeper into the caves, avoiding the route the ghouls took and encounter a locked door. There are no dice rolled, only narrative. Aleena asks you to break down the door, to no avail. Aleena laments your weakness and pines for a thief. Ok, she is disappointed at the idea of treasure behind locked doors and suggests next time they bring a thief!

The idea of a party is being seeded by Frank. A thief can pick locks—and pick your pocket! Aleena even seeds the idea that one better be watching your own purse around a thief. Though it's all good intentions or at the very least not Evil. 

Aleena "usually goes ADVENTURING" with a Thief and a Magic User. "...and a couple of big fighters like YOU to handle the rough stuff."

We certainly can read between the lines on this that Aleena is at least an experienced adventurer, so my earlier guess of her being 2nd or 3rd level is not too far fetched.

Bargle, murderous and bad Magic User

Aleena leads our hero further still and you hear voices ahead. "It's Bargle, one of those bad Magic Users," says Aleena. Bargle has charmed a Goblin, the same goblin that ran from you in the cave entrance.

Frank really leans into the narrative. But again, and I've been stressing this throughout these posts: it's circa 1983! There is something about how D&D was played by the Grognards that contemporary players, e.g., 21st century players are rehashing, dare I say "inventing," only they are not. They are at best rediscovering how the game was played and have failed to read the source documents.

But I digress. Aleena and the Fighter-with-No-Name have decided to take the fight to Bargle and the goblin. A quick flip of the pages reveals only two outcomes. As part of the history of the game Bargle and Aleena are touchstones to the past. And there is part of me that wants to reach into the narrative on these pages and change the outcomes. But let's get through the fight and close this chapter

Box Text and a Fight!

Goblin: 2 HP, Fighter: 8 HP

The opening rounds of this fight start with Box Text and some narrative. Throughout the fight Aleena is struggling to find and hit Bargle. Bargle opens the fight casting Invisibility on himself. Aleena hits Bargle at least once with a wild swing, but you, the fighter, are concentrating on the gobbo.

Round 1

The goblin misses his first attack. Because the goblin attacks first, we can draw the conclusion that Bargle and the goblin have Initiative—which is not introduced until much later. The fighter rolls a 6. Again, ability bonuses are not being added.

Round 2

The goblin hits the Fighter. Ouch, two points of damage. The fighter hits with 15. Bargle appears with a Magic Missile ready. He points it at Aleena and it hits. "She wails and falls with a sigh..." 1

Round 3

Goblin: 1 HP, Fighter: 6 HP

Bargle moves to the corner. The goblin hits—narratively, no roll is made—OUCH! The fighter swings and misses!

Round 4

Goblin: 1 HP, Fighter: 4 HP

Goblin swings and misses and you hit with a 15! The goblin falls to the ground.

Round 5

Goblin: 0 HP, Fighter: 4 HP

Bargle casts a spell and as you charge him you feel it in your mind. Roll a Saving Throw vs. Spells. The target is 17.2 The roll is 10. You are Charmed.

Ending #1

In failing the Saving Throw, Bargle charms you, helps you loot the bodies of Aleena and the Goblin, then leads you through the caves toward daylight. He then casts Sleep and you collapse outside. No saving throw, this is all in the narrative.

You wake, find that you've been robbed by Bargle and likely escaped a coup de grace simply because Bargle got spooked, or you guess. But Aleena! 

This ending concludes with you, the fighter, going back into the caves to recover Aleena's body. Chased from the caves by the ghouls, escaping to daylight and recalling the words of Aleena, "...creatures of darkness..." you surmise the ghouls won't follow.

Back in town, you deliver Aleena's body to her church for a proper burial and receive a Potion of Healing as a gift.

You are ready for adventure, if a bit sad at the loss of Aleena.

Touchstones to the Past

I cannot stress enough that Aleena and Bargle have stayed with me thick and thin. 36 years later, I believe there is part of me that still wants to change the words on the page in the narrative, but know that Aleena advanced to become a powerful priestess. And Bargle met a suitably nasty end dabbling in magic he should not have.

Making it all so much worse is that Ending #2 is no different in outcome for Aleena, she perishes. And in this version of the story, you as the Fighter-with-No-Name, can deliver a vengeful blow to Bargle, killing him. A proper burial for Aleena and a Potion of Growth is awarded at the church.

Next, we look at Frank's words on "Winning D&D."

  1. [1] I've been arguing that Aleena is a 2nd or possibly 3rd level Cleric. Magic Missile does 2-7 (1d6+1) points of damage. At 2nd Level, a cleric could have, depending on Constitution, 1-14 HP (2d6+/-3), or 1-21 HP at 3rd Level. As a Cleric, a Constitution of 10-12 could be expected, so no adjustment. Bargle is also 1st to 3rd Level and can only cast one missile. The average HP for 2d6 is 7 and 11 for 3d6, so Aleena is very likely a 2nd Level Cleric with an average amount of Hit Points and Bargle rolled for maximum damage!

  2. [2] This is not right. The narrative specifically states that a 16 or less is a fail. However, the fighter has a Saving Throw vs. Rods, Staves, and Spells of 16. So, a 16 would "save." Fighter-with-No-Name is not a Normal Man after all.

Posted by caffeinated at 9:00 AM in d10
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