"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Moldvay Basic: Forward

I have a stack of B/X rulebooks. They typically are scattered around the house never far from reach - much to my wife's delight. Last night I picked up the red basic rulebook and flipped it open to the very beginning - the Forward.

The Forward was written by Tom Moldvay and consists of seven short paragraphs. The entire Forward takes up about 2/3's of a page. I have read this many times in the past but this time I specifically noticed a few things that I found interesting - your milage may vary ;)

1. The first paragraph is a short introduction to a scene about saving a princess from a dragon. The scene is concluded in the final two paragraphs. When the scene concludes it does so in a way that appears impossible to replicate in the given ruleset - ie killing the dragon with a single blow.

2. I find the second paragraph very interesting for two reasons. a) it gives credit to the Original D&D rules and stresses how Mr. Moldvay tried to hew closely to that rules original intent, and b) it describes how a closely D&D is to a movie or novel - this would draw a lot of ire from the OSR now.

3. Mr. Moldvay identifies the need for a re-written version due to the difficulty for new gamers to understand the Original D&D rules.

The Expert rulebook doesn't have a Forward.
I think that I may try to make it through the other sections of both of the books and post any comments, thoughts (as spares as those might be), and/or reactions.

8 comments:

  1. Actually, as it is a two-handed sword +1/+3 against dragons, it is possible to kill a red dragon with one blow... assume a fighter with 18 Strength, maximum damage potential is 16 points (1d10 + 3 + 3). A red dragon in Basic has between 7 and 13 hit dice, depending on age, and in Basic, the dice are rolled, not pre-determined as in AD&D, so it is entirely possible, though unlikely, to have a red dragon with 7 to 16 hit points!

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  2. I knew someone would bring that up... anal D&D players ;)

    In my mind a 50-ft long red dragon with teeth the size of daggers does not have <16 hit points. I stick by my original assertion that the scene is impossible given the B/X mechanics.

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  3. I'm totally with James on this one (and that's something I don't say lightly).

    A massive red dragon in B/X has 7 to 13 HD. Even if we drop the possibility of it being younger than average and having a full 10 HD, there is still a probability that it can be slain by a single blow.

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  4. Two words (well, an acronym and a word): DM Fiat. The mechanics may not make such a thing probable (regardless of your assertion, it is clearly not impossible), but the rules make it possible - to quote from page B3:

    "While the material in this booklet is referred to as rules, that is not really correct. Anything in this booklet (and other D&D booklets) should be thought of as changeable..."

    If the DM says the dragon's dead on the first blow, then so it must be. :)

    Of all of the game's "rules," this is the one that got the most play in my games back in the day. Everything else was just guidelines.

    (Word verification: "rizing" - as in: "When the starz r rite, Cthulhu will b rizing.")

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  5. 2. I find the second paragraph very interesting for two reasons. a) it gives credit to the Original D&D rules and stresses how Mr. Moldvay tried to hew closely to that rules original intent, and b) it describes how a closely D&D is to a movie or novel - this would draw a lot of ire from the OSR now.

    It might, but I think its a matter of which order they happen in. DO you play the game, and it becomes a story, or do you write a story and them make the players act it out. I prefer the former.

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  6. DO you play the game, and it becomes a story, or do you write a story and them make the players act it out. I prefer the former.

    Yes, story-making, not story-telling; although, despite the fact that the word "story" is anathema to the OSR, thinking about elements of story--plot, character, conflict--is helpful in planning adventures (or at least it is to me).

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  7. I don't think that I agree that story is anathema to the OSR. OSR IS anathema to railroading by way of heavy text descriptions or rules-laden modules. I'd say the movement is much more about seeing the story evolve organically, and 'story-making' is much more in line with that. Perhaps it's the word 'story' itself that's causing confusion because roleplaying already is a story-building exercise. Otherwise it would just be wargaming and not roleplaying!

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  8. Dragon Killing 101:

    "I unwrap the sword which the mysterious cleric had given me."

    Funny, but if it was a regular sword it wouldn't be wrapped up and why'd the cleric give it to him?

    Ah, yes, it's a sword blessed by a deity that will slay the first creature it strikes (perhaps with a saving throw, perhaps not). Given to help with the quest and wrapped up so it won't be wasted....

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