Friday, 30 August 2019

Basic D&D: Your Character, The Character Sheet

The Character Sheet

Our Fighter-with-No-Name is no more. Cadman Cadsonn, Lawful Veteran, a Fighter of First Level. I almost went Neutral, after all Cadman values his life and will help others, if that will help Cadman. Or, I could pick Chaotic. Oh. "if I want to take the chance!"

Depending on the printing of the Red Box, new players could be very confused with the tour of the standard BECMI character sheet. I have two different printings. The first is a PDF which states it's a First Printing from May 1983. The second is a First Printing from May 1983. The problem is the character sheet in the center fold of the PDF is not the same character sheet in the center fold of the dead tree version.

Incorrect stats

The PDF version has incorrect Abilities, Hit Points, and Armor Class1. The printed copy corrects the Abilities and Hit Points, but the Armor Class is still incorrect. To the experienced player—as we all are—we shrug our shoulders and maybe correct them.

Only the provided character, and the instruction to use the one provided, has printed these incorrect values. This becomes incredibly confusing and I have 35 years of experience. I did a double take as the tour around the character sheet:

Since your fighter is wearing sturdy armor, your Armor Class is 4; write that number in the shield shape.

Wait. What? The number 3 is written there for me. What's my armor class?

This continues with Hit Points:

In the box above the words Hit Points, put 8.

Wait. The number 6 is written there for me. I'm confused.2

Ability Scores

The tour continues. If, in 1983, you had the uncorrected version of the character sheet you were instructed to "... carefully [fold] along the dotted line and then [tear] along the perforation" you got to this section and compared the table with the character sheet one probably became more confused.

I don't have any negative memories to suggest that these problems troubled me in 1984. It however has provided me with some amusement in blogging today. 


Page 10 introduces players to Ability Score adjustments framed against our "study" fighter. Each is discussed and not much has changed in the game 36 years, only the progression scale. In BECMI the upper and lower bounds of adjustments are 3 and -3, respectively.

Saving Throws

Cadman's Saving Throws are completed for you on the character sheet (and properly reflect a first level Fighter.

Special Abilities and Combat Chart

Cadman is a fighter. He can fight. Fighting is not a "special ability." The special abilities of other classes—and races!—are detailed later.

And we get to the mechanic that introduced me to Algebra, THAC0. THAC0, or To Hit Armor Class "Zero," oft spoken as "THACK-Oh", is shown as a "quick reference" chart on the front of the sheet. In the pages that follow we will get to use this chart a lot. Frank quickly introduces that all creatures have an Armor Class and roll a "twenty side die," adding or subtracting adjustments, to see if you can hit the Armor Class.

We are instructed to turn the Character Sheet over and we will equip Cadman for adventure as well as account for wealth. 'Til next time.

  1. [1] The Armor Class is actually correct, but should not have been printed on the sheet, but blank. We will learn that our fighter buys better armor in part of the narrative leading up to the Solo Adventure.

  2. [2] Six (6) is technically also correct, but again it should not have been printed. Our fighter's Constitution score of 16 gives him a +2 adjustment. This was properly included in the revised printing it seems.

Posted by caffeinated at 9:00 AM in d10


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