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Class Titles

Basic D&D includes “Level Titles” for each character class. Players are instructed to use these titles when interacting with each other and NPCs. For example, a third-level dwarf would introduce himself as “Thorin the Dwarven Swordmaster” instead of “Thorin the Level Three Fighter”.

Here are my updated level titles:

CLASS TITLES

Cleric:
Level 1: Deacon
Level 2: ArchDeacon
Level 3: Pastor
Level 4: Priest
Level 5: Elder
Level 6: Bishop
Level 7: Archbishop
Level 8: Cardinal
Level 9 (and after): Patriarch

Dwarf:

Level 1: Delver
Level 2: Dungeoneer
Level 3: Adventurer
Level 4: Minewarden
Level 5: Caveshield
Level 6: Axemaster
Level 7: Dwarf Squire
Level 8: Dwarf Knight
Level 9 (and after): Dwarf Lord
Elf:
Level 1: Mystic Swordsman
Level 2: Magician-at-Arms
Level 3: Leftenant of the Scrolls
Level 4: Captain of the Scrolls
Level 5: Battle Mage
Level 6: Warrior Mage
Level 7: Mage Squire
Level 8: Mage Knight
Level 9 – 10: Mage Lord

Fighter:

Level 1: Sergeant
Level 2: Master Sergeant
Level 3: Leftenant
Level 4: Captain
Level 5: Squire
Level 6: Knight
Level 7: Knight Captain
Level 8: Baronet
Level 9 (and after): Lord

Halfling:
Level 1: Yeoman
Level 2: Franklin
Level 3: Constable
Level 4: Bailiff
Level 5: Reeve
Level 6: Sheriff
Level 7: Gentleman
Level 8: Squire
Magic User:
Level 1: Wizard’s Apprentice
Level 2: Illusionist
Level 3: Enchanter
Level 4: Transmuter
Level 5: Invoker
Level 6: Conjurer
Level 7: Magician
Level 8: Wizard
Level 9 (and after): Archmage

Thief:
Level 1: Apprentice
Level 2: Pickpocket
Level 3: Footpad
Level 4: Burglar
Level 5: Robber
Level 6: Highwayman
Level 7: Thief
Level 8: Master Thief
Level 9 (and after): Prince of Thieves

In the original Basic Game, there are a few titles that do not make sense to me. The cleric, for example, has a list of Christian-derived titles (Vicar, Bishop, etc.), but right between “Bishop” and “Patriarch”, where “Archbishop” is the obvious fit, is the title “Lama”, which is a honorary title in Tibetan Buddhism.

Some of the titles I arranged differently, to try to represent more of a progression. For example, the magic-user would be able to master illusions before learning and mastering enchantments. Once the magic user masters enchanting objects and organisms, he learns to magically change them (transmutation), then begins to learn to magically summon energy forces (evocation), and then summon physical objects (conjuration).

In the Basic Game, Elves have dual titles, representing their ability to simultaneously fill the fighter and magic user roles. So, the elf’s first-level title is “Veteran Medium”, which is a combination of the Fighter’s “Veteran” title and the Magic-User’s “Medium” title. I thought up names that seemed more appropriate. Same with Dwarves and Halflings, who in  Basic D&D share the same titles as the Fighter.

Looking at the list, I’m thinking that it might be better to use the titles “Elf Squire, Elf Knight, and Elf Lord”; maybe just “Elf Lord”. The Halfling’s title of “Squire” might need to be “Halfling Squire” to avoid confusion with the Fighter’s title of the same name. The Halfling Squire I envision as more of the “country gentleman” than “knight’s apprentice”, which is a bit anachronistic, but, hey, it’s D&D.

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Several other bloggers and contributors to role-playing fora have written their thoughts of the Mentzer Basic D&D Rulebooks. Here is one I found the past couple of days, and it’s very interesting.

First, the front-and-back of the character sheet:

B. Mentzer Character Sheet 1.1

 

Next, the game data reference sheet (from the Basic Player’s Manual):

A. Mentzer Basic PM Reference Sheets

D&D Cartoon

Someone made a comic based on the final script of the animated series (which was never produced). It’s only in Portuguese, though.

Becmi #3

Halleck and Aleena see a light ahead, and hear someone berating someone else who “sounds like a goblin”. Probably has an ugly, wrinkly, gray voice. Anyway, there’s a back and forth where the goblin swears that he has only seen Halleck and Aleena. Aleena whispers that she knows that guy’s voice, and that it is Bargle the Bandit. It turns out that Bargle is one of those “bad” magic-users. Aleena counsels that going back would be a mistake, because of the ghouls, and that fighting Bargle is the more prudent course, since he only has one goblin with him. She mentions that Bargle probably has the goblin ensorcelled. Bargle is described as a bearded man in a black robe. He casts a spell that makes himself invisible. Before he can make the goblin invisible, too, Halleck and Aleena charge into the room.

Halleck takes on the goblin, while Aleena says she will fight Bargle’s spells with her own. This indicates that she is at least level 3. Clerics in Basic do not get any spells at first level; they get one spell at second level, and two spells at third level.  Aleena already cast one spell, to cure Halleck’s wounds. Regardless, she is fated to die, and she does, after a quick and fierce battle. Bargle casts “Magic Missile”, which conjures a golden arrow that floats in the air. He points at Aleena, it hits her, and she falls down, dead. Halleck kills the goblin. At least, I’m pretty sure he does; there is a sentence saying that if your character’s hit points fall to zero, you won’t be going home. Every time you miss the goblin hits for two points of damage.

Aleena is dead, the goblin is dead, and Halleck is ready to usher Bargle into that same state, when Bargle casts a third spell (Invisibility, Magic Missile, and now Charm Person). The Saving throw is much higher–Halleck needs a 17 or greater to save. There are two endings, based on whether you make the save or not. If Halleck makes the save, he avoids getting magically tricked into being Bargle’s new friend, and he kills him dead, dead, dead (unless, of course, he misses, at which point Bargle screams and runs away). If Halleck fails the save, then he suddenly sees that Bargle is not such a bad guy, really. Bargle was actually helping Halleck and Aleena to fight the goblin, as it turns out. Halleck and Bargle make their escape from the dungeon, Bargle casts a fourth spell (Sleep) and Halleck wakes up some time later.

Whether he is charmed or not, Halleck carries Aleena’s dead body back to town, and delivers it to the church. If he made the Saving Throw against Bargle’s “Charming” spell, then Halleck gets a Potion of Growth, which will make him turn into a giant for a couple of hours. If he didn’t make the Saving Throw, then Halleck gets back to town too late, and the only potion that the church has left is a potion of healing. In either case, the church officials stress the potion’s value, and urge Halleck to save it for a future adventure.

The few paragraphs that follow discuss what the purpose of games are, and the unique nature of the Dungeons & Dragons game. Then, it moves on to “what happens next”.

Becmi #2

Halleck stands with sword in hand, facing down a snake. It’s a ten footer, but it’s got some sweet loot and, uh, 3 hp. See the last post if you don’t know what an “hp” is.

Halleck has to roll an 11 to hit the snake, which means it’s easier to land a blow against it than against the goblin that Halleck fought a few moments before. However, unlike the goblin, the snake can actually hit back. I’ll let you read the gripping blow-by-blow of the battle (What do you mean, you haven’t yet purchased this off dmsguild.com?). I shall mention that the snake auto-hits twice, then hits Halleck no more.

Turning the page, we are given the distressing information that this rattlesnake is actually poisonous! I think they mean venomous! Did you know you could drink a gallon of venom with no ill effect, unless you have a mouth sore, or something? Not that I’ve tried it. Whatever. If the snake bites Halleck, it does one point of damage, but then the concept of the “Saving Throw” is introduced. For a fighter that is level three or below, his saving throw for poisons (or venoms) is 12. The player will want to roll a d20 and hope he gets a result at or above 12. That means that the snake’s bite did not envenom Halleck. If the player rolls less than a 12, then Halleck takes two more points of damage. It’s quite harrowing, but since the poisonous-venomous rattlesnake can only hit twice (“This fighter is Nintendo hard!” ~ P. V. Rattlesnake), the battle ends with Halleck still standing–perhaps only barely, though. He can recover his health with a few days’ rest, but why would he want to do the sensible thing? He’s here for treasure, and P.V. Rattlesnake’s little nest egg will barely cover the cost of replacing Halleck’s beautiful sword when he loses it later to the rust monster. Oops; spoilers.

Now, comes the most unrealistic part of this adventure: Halleck hears a voice, and shutters his lantern and peeks around the corner and sees a beautiful woman. She’s got her own lantern, and she seems to be praying. This is Aleena the cleric. Since she’s beautiful and religious, then I’m sure she’ll survive this adventure. She claims that she lives in the town nearby, so you’d think that Aleena and Halleck were already acquainted, but perhaps she’s lived a sheltered life, all cloistered in the cloister, and stuff. She probably ran through the hills, singing, before entering the cave.

Okay, I’ll stop. Aleena actually helps Halleck out quite a bit. She tells him which way the goblin went, she informs him what clerics are, and she restores his hit points. There is no talk of religion or gods or churches at this point; all we know from Aleena is that clerics can 1. Fight and 2. cast spells that “enter their minds”. She then invites Halleck to sit, and explains the differences between magic-users (not wizards, mages, or sorcerers) and clerics. Magic-users have book-learnin’ while clerics have meditation. She talks about types of attacks, like poison, that require Saving Throws.

We next read of another ability score (for the record, we have already spoken of Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Constitution): Charisma (CHA). Halleck is a likeable fellow; he was able to put Aleena at her ease, even after sneaking up on her with his lantern shuttered. His CHA score is 14.

We also learn about his Wisdom (WIS). This is his lowest ability score, at 8. Halleck is probably the kind of guy who would jump out of a plane at 25,000 feet without a parachute:

 

Aleena offers to assist Halleck, just like the beautiful alien women would help Captain Kirk. As soon as Aleena said she would help, Fate looked up from binge-watching “Early Edition” on DailyMotion, and frowned.

Halleck and Aleena, walking side by side, down dark corridors with lanterns half-shuttered. They run across a few ghouls–foul, undead creatures that seem to be a fairly tough monster for a first-level adventurer, especially since there are four of them. Here we get the first mention of a “church”: the symbol of one of the town churches hangs on Aleena’s silver necklace. She shouts, in a harsh voice, “BEGONE, vile things!” I wonder if she pronounces it “beegahn” or “beegohnee”. Whichever it is, it works, and the four ghouls scramble, Three Stooges style, out the door, while Yakety-sax plays on the dungeon intercom. (As an aside, the themes of The Three Stooges are “Three Blind Mice” and “Listen to the Mockingbird“; either of those would have been acceptable alternative tunes). Aleena pauses to let Halleck know of other types of creatures that are “neither dead nor alive, but something horribly in between!”

They proceed, and come across a door, which one sometimes finds in caves. Halleck can’t force it open, which is a pity, because it probably has a lot of sweet swag, according to Aleena. Aleena bemoans the lack of a thief. Halleck gives her the “WTQ?” look, and she explains that thieves can pick locks and disable traps. Well, this is Basic D&D, so they can eventually, but most of the time they won’t be any more effective than Halleck trying to break down the door. Aleena then lets slip that, while she usually tries to go adventuring with some companions–a thief, a magic-user, and a couple of fighters (Five Man Band, what?), this time around no one else wanted to join her. Considering how things are about to turn out, I don’t blame them; don’t blame them, at all.

Becmi #1

Just after the Preface, we have a section describing “How to Use this Book”. If you’re ready to start, then start at the place that says “Start Here”. He says that a D&D game is usually composed of at least three players; one person must be the Dungeon Master, who plays as the monsters (along with being responsible for a whole slew of other stuff that is not mentioned here).

A section of acknowledgements is just beside the “How to Use this Book” section. You have the two creators of D&D: Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. John Eric Holmes (“Professor Holmes”) did the first reorganization of the rules that is known as “Basic D&D”. Tom Moldvay did the second reorganization. Note also the name “Mike Mornard”; he still posts occasionally on rpg-centered message boards and fora, using the handle “Old Geezer”.  As an aside, when the Dungeon World rules came out a few years ago, Old Geezer expressed a high amount of regard for them.

On the next page, we have the Dedication to Gary Gygax, and the Table of Contents. First Printing, May, 1983. So, thirty-four years ago this month. Turning the page, we find the aforementioned “Start here” section.

We get a definition of a dungeon–it’s a place for adventures and treasure, basically. There are different kinds of monsters, but “dragons are the biggest and most dangerous–and have the most treasure”. Sure, why not? The reader is then instructed to just start reading to learn the game, while playing at the same time. It will be like a “choose your own adventure” book, but with dice.

Well, the reader is first instructed to select the twenty-sided die (d20), and use the crayon provided to color in the numbers (modern dice no longer come with crayons, as I understand it). Grab a pencil and paper, and NOW you can start reading. When you get to page 22, you will have learned the game.

A short explanation of role-playing follows, then a description of the type of character you will play in this initial adventure. You are informed that your character lives in an imaginary world similar to Medieval Europe, and does not have access to any modern comforts of any kind. Your character is a strong hero (already!), and is famous, but poor. Rather than charge money for his autograph, he explores previously unexplored regions, in search of treasure. The section ends with this: “The more [treasure] you find, the more powerful and famous you become.” This is a hint to the rules about gaining experience. Modern versions of D&D and D&D-esque games assign experience based on the number and strength of the monsters the adventurers kill. In Basic (and in AD&D 1st edition), the amount of treasure accumulated is the greatest source of an adventurer’s experience.

So, the player learns about his character’s abilities. It gives a general description of the character, but then explains that these abilities can be assigned numerical values to help adjudicate conflict. This character has a “17” strength. Since the highest value for any ability is 18 in this ruleset, 17 is pretty good. The lowest possible ability score is 3.

Along with Strength (STR), the character’s Dexterity (DEX) and Intelligence (INT) are assigned values (11 and 9, respectively). Equipment is then listed. He (or she) wears chain mail and a helmet, and carries a “beautiful” sword and the standard “dagger in the boot”. The character knows how to use his gear, naturally. He’s (or She’s) all set, so we proceed.

The character–I should give him a name. Since Matthew Colville gave his fighter the name “Duncan”,  then I will call this fellow “Halleck”. So, Halleck lives in a town with dirt roads that has some caves filled with monsters and treasures nearby. Sort of like real life, what? Anyway, since Halleck is “famous but poor”, he needs to get into these caves and grab some of the treasure and fight some monsters. There’s also Bargle the Bandit, who may or may not be hiding in the caves. If Halleck catches him, he “can become a hero!” Wait; I thought he already was a hero. Whatever.

Halleck picks a pleasant day to go adventuring, and stands in front of a cave entrance.

There’s some descriptive text about lanterns and tinderboxes and dark and musty passages. There’s a ugly little gray-skinned goblin, and you have to keep an eye out for the bats, and–oh! A goblin! Before Halleck can say “Boo to your mother”, the goblin attacks. He has no choice; it’s a fight for his life. Says so, right in the text.

The story breaks off here to describe Hit Rolls: roll the d20. If the number is 12 or more, then Halleck hits the goblin. If he manages to miss the goblin, the goblin attacks him back, but always misses. Once Halleck manages to smite ye goblin, then the creature runs screaming into the dark cave. Hit points are explained next, and is defined as “the amount of damage that a creature can take before being killed”.

I’d like to make a digression, here, to talk about what hit points are: they are the numerical expression of a character’s ability to keep fighting. The 4th edition player’s book says: “Hit points (hp) measure a creature’s ability to stand up to punishment, turn deadly strikes into glancing blows, and stay on its feet throughout a battle. Hit points represent physical endurance, skill, luck, and resolve.” (Heroes of the Fallen Lands, p27)

I think this is a better understanding of how hit points interact with the fiction, than the idea that loss of hit points represents actual physical injury to the character. Traditionally, if a monster hits Halleck, then the Dungeon Master (DM) would say something like, “The goblin hits! You feel a slash across your arm, and you start to bleed. One point of damage”.

Anyway, back to the adventure. We learn that Halleck has 8 hit points, and retains all 8 after his encounter with the goblin, since the goblin never actually managed to land a blow. Halleck’s Constitution (CON) is then described. The score is a 16, which means that the player rolled a “6” on an eight-sided die (d8) for hit points when creating Halleck (a 16 CON grants a 2 point bonus to Hit Points). This calculation is not explained in the rules, here; I just know.

Halleck then looks down, and sees A SNAKE! THERE’S A SNAKE! It’s a rattlesnake, and is nearly ten feet in length. It lies on top of a pile of coins, which makes me think it’s trying to pretend to be a dragon. Halleck doesn’t try to talk to the snake, because that would be silly. They fight!