Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Movie Review: The Great Wall

Last Monday I went and saw The Great Wall, but I've been busy so I'm only getting to blog about it now (Wednesday). I was looking forward to watching this film. I've enjoyed Zhang Yimou's work in the past, and this is "Ancient Chinese fantasy" which is pretty much what my little RPG is all about.

I was a bit hesitant, though, because here in S. Korea, they've oversaturated the market with ads for the film. I mean, try to watch anything on YouTube, and you have to sit through a 10-second ad for the film. I've got a bit of a contrarian streak from my dad. He hated Elvis and the Beatles back in the 60's when they were super popular (he prefers Elvis but doesn't mind the Beatles today). Because of the annoyance, I almost just waited to watch it on VOD later. But I thought, hey, I'm kinda the intended audience for this sort of film, so I'll go see it.

The basic story, if you haven't been over-inundated with ads, is that a pair of foreigners arrive at the Great Wall to "trade" just on the eve of a monster attack that happens for a week once every 60 years. And since the main character, William (that would be the Matt Damon character), is an excellent archer, he helps out. Oh, and it helps that he thinks Commander Lin (Tian Jing) is cute.

So yeah, it's not really wuxia, but it does play out a bit more similarly to how my Flying Swordsmen games have actually turned out in practice. Lots of combat, some cool stunts, monsters here and there, but not really a lot of interpersonal relationship development. In that department, it's more like a typical Hollywood film, although as far as the visuals go, it's very Zhang Yimou. This is a hybrid film, designed to try and appeal to both mainstream U.S. and mainstream Chinese audiences, after all.

And finally, my opinion of the film? I liked it well enough, but I can't say it was great. The beginning was pretty solid, but when the Nameless Order (the Chinese army defending the Wall) are first introduced, the very brightly colored armors looked like something out of a Koei strategy game. But again, it's Zhang Yimou. He loves to play around with colors in his films, and in this one the backgrounds were pretty stark, leaving only costuming as an area to use colors symbolically. The first attack of the creatures (tao tei) was fun to watch. Commander Lin's Crane Corps was very wuxia.

The second half of the film, though, was a predictable and not so exciting playing out of a typical Hollywood cliche. I don't want to spoil things, but we've seen this plot a hundred times, and they didn't really bring anything new to it. It's by the numbers.

I did appreciate that at the ending, they used a more traditional Chinese style ending than a traditional American style ending.

So, not the best film I've ever seen, but not too bad, either. A more creative plot would have really helped this film, along with a bit deeper character interaction (William and Lin spar about Western individualism and Eastern communalism, General Shao and Strategist Wang spar a little over how to deal with the tao tei, William, Tovar and Ballard disagree about how to get what they want and escape, but it's all fairly tangential to defeating the tao tei).

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Poison in Chanbara

While in general I'm fine with "save or die" poison in RPGs both as a GM and as a player*, my recent foray into reading Mentzer Basic cover to cover (many monster venoms in Basic have a time delay before death, but potions/spells seem to be immediate), some reading up around the web about actual effects of poison (wracking pains, vomiting/diarrhea, muscle spasms, impaired cognition, nerve/tissue damage), and Alexis's musings on poison back in November got me to revise how I handle poisons in Chanbara.

I'm not 100% sure this is the best way ever to handle poisons in game, or anything like that. But it is a bit different, allows for a few different types of effects of different poisons, and tries to remain simple enough. It does require a bit of reference-checking for me still, but I think if I played with these poison rules long enough, I'd probably get them down in my head without needing to look them up.

I have divided poisons into four types (the names are not really relevant to their real world meanings, necessarily). Each does some damage over time, but also has another "side effect" such as sleep, paralysis, sensory deprivation, pain/vomiting/diarrhea/other hindrances, mental stupor, and yes, instant death. It may require a bit of extra book-keeping, but it also allows GMs to ignore any of the types they don't like. If you don't want Vizzini to just keel over a few seconds after drinking iocaine-laced wine, don't use the deadly poisons in your game.
No save-or-die poisons? Inconceivable!
In addition to having four broad types of poison, each one is listed with a strong/normal/weak dosage, which affects the duration. For most, a stronger dose has a longer duration, but for the deadly poison it's reversed (it kills you quicker). Characters take damage based on the strength of the dose over the duration of the effect. This is one area I like in concept, but I'm not sure if it works well in practice. The stronger doses of non-deadly poison deal more damage, but less frequently. Weak doses could be unbalanced as written due to the fact that the damage is concentrated into a short time, even though the dice being rolled for damage are smaller. Some people also may not like the fact that "sleep poison" doesn't only put the victim to sleep, it also deals damage to them. Well, nothing's perfect about this game, and Marilyn Monroe and plenty of other people have died from taking such poisons.

And to quit rambling on about it before anyone besides me really knows what I'm talking about, here are the snippets of rules from the draft. First are the players' side prices and types of poison commonly available (at least for criminals or Shinobi) from the equipment lists (mon is the standard silver coin of the realm, equal to a normal D&D gold piece).

The actual game effects are kept "behind the screen" so GMs can choose to add a bit of uncertainty with respect to duration/damage dealt when PCs use poison on monsters if they choose. Or, if they want they can reveal the mechanics behind the poison to the players. Those mechanics are (as they currently stand) found in the Combat Rules section of the text:
Finally, to help you gauge how useful or not it might be to rob a monster or NPC of their senses, paralyze them, etc. I present rules from the Combat Rules section that describe a variety of conditions or "status effects" to borrow the video game nomenclature.

A few notes: AC is of course armor class, TD is Tactical Defense - like AC, but for special maneuvers like disarm/trip/wrestle etc. (borrowed idea from Pathfinder). TN is target number.

*Save or die is simple. There's not really much you need to worry about remembering during an often messy, chaotic battle, or typical rambunctious RPG session. You get bitten by a giant spider and test your luck. Done.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Ultimate OSR Franken-Setting?

One of my well-read posts from last September (currently over 1200 page views) but with no reaction (0 comments or plusses, other than the one I gave it for promoting it on G+) was a book review of Ernie Cline's second novel, Armada. In it, I (like most of the reviewers of the book I'd read before picking it up) invariably compared it to his debut novel, Ready Player One. RPO is the superior book, and since I'm on winter break and the dissertation is complete, a few weeks ago I re-read RPO. I likely could have gotten through it in a day if I didn't have family obligations. As it was, it took me two. It's a quick read the second time through.

If you're unfamiliar with it, the book takes place in the near dystopian future, where peak oil and global warming have pretty much ruined everything. But the world's first true persistent VR, the OASIS, has become for most people their means of escape from the hell Earth has become. It has its own economy, and game credits translate into real money. People work there, aside from just playing. Pretty much every internet service is delivered through it. And from the way it's described, it's amaze-balls awesome.

The original designer/coder was a geek roughly the same age as me (born in '72, I was born in '73) and loved to throw in all the stuff he could referencing pop culture from the late 70's to the early 2000's, but mostly from the 80's. Within the VR there are countless planets. Some allow high technology. Some allow magic. Some allow both. As with any MMO, there are PvP zones and safe zones.

There is a zone with planets based on Star Wars, another on Star Trek, one on Firefly, etc. Every D&D module has been coded in there as a 3D environment you can explore, most on the planet Gygax. There are giant Japanese robot worlds and cowboy worlds and Middle Earth, Zork, Hyrule, etc. Whatever cartoons you grew up watching in the 80's? There's probably a world in there for it.
Acererak challenges you to Joust (by J. Delgado)

Basically, it's the Mother of All Kitchen Sink Settings.

So I'm imagining (some day, when time is no hindrance, which will probably never come) setting a game there. Players would start with Classic D&D (or Labyrinth Lord or whatever) on a D&D style planet, but once they've got the funds or means to teleport or travel through space, other worlds open up, and each world has the potential to add new options for the players' character races, classes, equipment, spells, etc. based on other OSR rule sets.

So visit the world of Tombstone, and Go Fer Yer Gun or Boot Hill cowboy characters, sixguns, etc. become available. Visit Gamma Terra, and mutant characters and recovered high tech "artifacts" enter the game. After visiting planet LV-426 (if you survive the face huggers), colonial marines and pulse rifles enter the game. Visit Smurf Village and um...try to catch them and turn them into gold like Gargamel? Or something.

Basically, I'd just be giving myself cover to throw in any sort of interesting pop culture references I feel like. And I'd be forcing myself to actually read through and implement stuff from lots of these OSR games I've collected on my hard drive, but haven't bothered to look at other than a cursory glance or two. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Cartography for Chanbara

I've got a hand-made map of the various provinces of my "Jade Islands" setting for Chanbara that I've been using in my play test games. I've been meaning to get it converted to a digital map for over a year now. Last night, I finally got that done.

If you've got Flying Swordsmen, the Jade Islands, or Yu Archipelago as the Zhongyang Dalu residents call it, is in the upper right hand corner. Here's the zoomed in version I finally completed last night. The coast lines, mountains and rivers are all hand drawn. Everything else I added to it using GIMP.

I've also been using this completely hand drawn map in my games. It's of Enzan Province in the middle of Tatsuo Island (18 on the map above). I'm including both maps in the game, with a brief overview of the nation as a whole, a few notes about the Spirit Realm, and extra details about Enzan, which has been fleshed out a bit from my two play test games.

It's not a very detailed rundown of the setting, but that's intentional. I think I've mentioned before that the bits of the "Known World" from Mentzer's Expert Set (Threshold and Karameikos) and X1 The Isle of Dread (a paragraph or two about each nation on the map) was enough to run years worth of games in that setting.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Chanbara nears completion!

I'm on vacation. The dissertation is finished (a few weeks ago actually, graduation at the end of February). Next week, I need to start editing down the dissertation into three or four publishable papers. But for now, I'm working on Chanbara.

I've made a few minor class edits based on play tests. I've added a couple of monsters, and changed speeds of characters and monsters to match up with Classic D&D. I made some changes to poisons based on an old post of Alexis' from last November at The Tao of D&D (if you're reading this, it's not exactly your method, but the new system was influenced by yours). Oh, and I've got wandering monster and wilderness encounter tables! It's one thing I completely forgot to add to Flying Swordsmen.

I'm thinking of possibly splitting the book in two. A player's book and a GM's book. Maybe. The draft text is sitting at around 70 pages, but there are some more things I could add (like more monsters and magic items, more examples of organizations that can serve as allegiances for PCs), and a few things I might cut (like the campaign setting, which I could expand and release separately). If I go with the two book approach, they'd both be pretty short though, even if I use ample amounts of art. And I have collected ample amounts of public domain art to use. But I doubt I'll be making any box sets, so I'll probably stick to the single volume approach.

Tonight, I pulled up GIMP and noodled around with a more simplistic (Zen) cover idea, trying to make it look like an old Japanese block print rice paper book. Lee Barber, if you're reading, I could use your graphic design criticism on this!
It could be even more Zen by removing the image and subtitle, enlarging the title, and lowering it a bit on the page. But I'm not sure if people who don't read the blog would have their interest piqued or not by such a simple cover.
For reference, here's the previous version I came up with. I liked it at the time, but now I agree with Lee that it's just sloppy and too busy. I like that picture of a female samurai battling a giant spider, though.

Friday, January 20, 2017

2017 Movie List

Last year, I don't think I got around to doing a post like this, and there were quite a few movies I wanted to see last year that I didn't have time to see. Well, the dissertation is finished. Next month I receive my diploma and I can start referring to myself as Dr. Laffey. Don't worry, I won't let it go to my head. Hopefully, I'll have more time to watch movies this year. Also, now that Son #2 is old enough to start day care in March, I'll be able to take in a movie or two with my wife. I've been mostly limited to stuff I can see with Son #1 the past two years, or sneaking off to see a movie solo while at work. Like me, my wife enjoys big budget sci-fi and fantasy movies, super heroes, and the like. And yes, I do enjoy more cerebral movies too, but when you're as pressed for time as I seem to be these days, it's usually popcorn fare that I want to watch for a bit of escapism, at least on the big screen. After the kids are asleep, if I'm not reading a book, working on some game stuff, or catching up on the Arrowverse or some Netflix or HBO series that's worth watching, I watch those sorts of movies.

Anyway, enough rambling. On with the list of films I think will be worth watching this year (not that I'll get to watch them all, and a few others that are currently under my radar may pop up).

January -- Nothing really grabs me this month. xXx might be something to watch if it's on cable TV or something. I enjoyed the first one well enough way back when, but not enough to keep up with the series.

February -- My son will likely want to see LEGO Batman, so I'll probably take him to see it. I'm more excited to see The Great Wall, which looks like Flying Swordsmen RPG the Movie. Matt Damon as a European mercenary in [Tang? Song?] China, battling an invasion of monsters from Mongolia? Count me in. And trust me, having foreign mercenaries in Medieval China isn't as far fetched as some people believe. Tang China was pretty cosmopolitan. There were Christian churches and Muslim mosques in the capital in the 9th Century. The Silk Road was active since Roman times, Marco Polo is just the most famous of the Western and Middle Eastern merchants who visited China in pre-Modern times.

Two movies look like ones I'd like to see in March. Logan, the possibly final Hugh Jackman Wolverine solo movie, looks bleak, and might possibly be the best X-Men universe film to date, if it lives up to the quality of the trailer. Fox's X-Men films have been hit or miss, but usually at least entertaining (and yet, none of them seem to live up to the potential shown in the old 90's Fox cartoon version). This one may be different. At least, I hope so.

The other is Kong: Skull Island. I love me some King Kong. I love lost world dinosaurs and stuff (Isle of Dread is a top module for me). I'm also always interested in Vietnam War movies. I grew up in the 80's, when it was popular in film and TV. My Dad had a draft deferment and joined the Peace Corps, but several of his friends served, and a few died. The war of my parents' generation has always fascinated me. Mash them together, and I'll go see the film, even if it may not be one of the best movie experiences of my life.

Again, nothing looks like a must-see in April, but in May there's probably my #1 must see movie for the year (yes, more than Star Wars!), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The first was just a super fun movie, and I'm excited to see the next installment. Also in May is Alien: Covenant. I love the Aliens series, and yes, after the first two they kinda became crap, but they're still guilty pleasures of mine. So I'll be watching this one if my wife and I can spare some time away from the boys (Son #1 is still not old enough for these films). Oh, and there's another Pirates of the Caribbean movie. They're fun films, usually. So while not a must-see, it's one to check out if time allows.

In June, there's the Wonder Woman film. I really hope this is good, but I've been disappointed by both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. I doubt I'll go see this one in the theaters, unless it gets some amazingly good reviews. Still, I hope it's good. I'd like to see DC comics doing well on the big screen the way they are on the small screen.

July brings us Spider-Man Homecoming. I liked Tom Holland's take on Peter Parker/Spider-Man in Civil War, so I'm hoping this will be a good, fun movie more like the MCU movies than the "Amazing" line of a few years ago. Also in July comes the first installment of Stephen King's The Dark Tower. It's not an adaptation of the books (which I love), it's a continuation. That seems like such an awesome idea, because the film makers and show runners have all the stuff in the books to use as reference, but aren't bound to slavishly follow the plot of the novels. If you've read the book series to the end, it makes total sense to do it this way. If you haven't read the books, they're up there among King's best work.

August and September have nothing catching my eye, but in October, there's the new Blade Runner 2049. I'm again optimistic about this one. Yes, it could just be a Hollywood cash grab, with no real effort put into making it good, but hopefully it'll tell a good story set in the Blade Runner future.

November brings us Thor: Ragnarok. Of the MCU movies, I've found the Thor movies to be a bit weaker than the others, but with Bruce Banner/The Hulk teaming up with Thor for this one, I'm optimistic. Also, it's Ragnarok, so you know things should be getting crazy in it. Also in November is Justice League. See my comments above about Wonder Woman. Same apply here.

Finally, in December, yes, we have Star Wars Episode VIII. The Force Awakens has a lot of problems, but watching it, I didn't really notice them. It was a rollercoaster ride with the feeling of the original trilogy (although a few too many call-backs/fan service). Rogue One was even better. Hopefully, Rogue One has raised the bar, and Ep. 8 will rock.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Mentzer Basic Cover to Cover: Creating Dungeons

Alright folks, I'm gonna power through the final sections of the Basic Set to wrap up the series in this post. About time, I know, right?

Creating Dungeons
Frank starts out this section of the book by defining a dungeon as "any place where monsters and treasures may be found. A dungeon is usually a group of rooms, connected by corridors. It could be a castle (new or ruined), some caves, or anything else you can imagine" (p. 46). I do like this definition, as it frees up the DM to go crazy and not worry too much about needing to stick to subterranean mazes (although those can be really fun). This is followed up with a reminder of the basic risk-reward scheme of the dungeon, the "level" where higher levels mean tougher monsters but greater rewards. It's a bit brief, but described in more detail below.

Types of Dungeons
This section is more about dungeon level orientation than type of location that could be used as a dungeon. Levels increase in number as you go down, or up, or farther from the entrance. Multiple entrances, especially entrances straight to higher levels, is a good thing. Frank closes the section suggesting to stick to traditional vertical dungeons at first, and gradually experiment, possibly after looking at a few modules.

Good and Bad Dungeons
Here, Frank is defining a "good" dungeon as a logically constructed one, and a "bad" one as a random mismash of rooms, monsters, traps, etc. "A good dungeon is reasonable. Its design is carefully thought out, and the monsters and treasures are placed for a reason" (p. 46). Of course, he does admit in the next paragraph that a randomly generated dungeon could still be a good dungeon if it has some sort of theme tying the otherwise random encounters together, and monsters that should logically be found in that sort of location. He admits that the Solo Adventure isn't really a "good" dungeon, since it was designed to help new players experience a variety of game mechanics and situations, but with a few changes could be made better.

I'm not sure that I agree with Frank 100%. The random, nonsensical dungeon can still be a lot of fun. And since people have a natural desire to see patterns when none exist, players will often construct a more logical narrative from a random experience. Frank does mention that dungeons shouldn't just be places to fight monsters -- it should have other forms of entertainment like puzzles and RP situations as well. And on that I fully agree. If I just want to grind through some random monster battles, I'll go fire up Dragon Warrior on my NES emulator.

Step By Step
This is the heart of the section, as Frank gives a six step process to create a dungeon. Of course, the above description of dungeons and levels seems to assume a "mega-dungeon" setting, this step-by-step section assumes dungeons as one-shot type deals, made specifically for that adventure (like in many modules). This did color my early dungeon crafting. I stared out with fairly random multi-level caves, then moved on to smaller, mission-specific dungeons as I grew as a DM.

1. Choose a Scenario
By scenario, Frank means both a theme for the dungeon, and a hook to get the PCs to explore it. He lists several good rationales for adventure. The only flaw with the presentation is that it left me assuming that the DM would just provide the players with their motivation, rather than letting players dictate their motives and me as DM creating the dungeon in response. I think this must have been fairly common (maybe it still is) due to the number of "You've been captured by..." adventures DMs love to spring on players. Yes, I've been guilty of this in the past as well.

The scenarios listed are: Exploring the Unknown, Investigating an Enemy Outpost, Recovering Ruins, Destroying an Ancient Evil, Visiting a Lost Shrine, Fulfilling a Quest, Escaping from Enemies, Rescuing Prisoners, Using a Magic Portal, Finding a Lost Race.

I do like how a lot of these don't require the PCs to go in guns blazing to complete the objective. I really think something like this, slightly modified, presented as a "Reasons to Adventure" advice section in the Players Manual would have been useful. As I mentioned above, this section seems to assume the impetus for adventure is on the DM. "Hey players, I wrote up a dungeon. Wanna run through it?" rather than "Hey DM, we want to do this next time..."

2. Decide on a Setting
This gives us a short list of potential dungeons (expanded in the Expert Set to include wildernesses, but for here it's fairly traditional): Castle or Tower, Crypt or Tomb, Caves or Cavern, Ancient Temple, Abandoned Mine, Stronghold or Town.

That covers a good amount of adventuring locations, and provided me with enough fodder for dungeon creation for years.

3. Select Special Monsters
Before making the dungeon map, you should have a few ideas about what monsters live there. In other words, make sure there's some thematic monsters to face that are appropriate to the scenario and setting selected.

4. Draw the Map
There's some general advice on dungeon map drawing, starting with setting the scale, defining the general shape/style, and finally filling in the details. It references the dungeon symbols on the inside front cover of the book, and again these did help inspire me to create more interesting dungeon maps than simply a connected series of rectangular rooms and 10' wide corridors.

5. Stock the Dungeon
Fill up the map key! First place the Special Monsters and their treasures, then select or randomly roll for monsters and what not in the rest of the dungeon.

6. Fill in the Final Details
Now that you know what monsters are where, you can add details about dungeon dressing, sounds, smells, etc. Frank gives some good advice to keep it simple, as players get bored by excessive descriptions. Just give them the feel of the dungeon. This is one area I could improve on, personally, as I'm often a bit too sparse in my dungeon keys, and rely on improvising such things in play, which means I sometimes for get to give enough description, or useful clues for players to work with.

Frank also suggests making Wandering Monster charts for each dungeon to fit the scenario. I used to do this often, but more recently I've gotten lazy (with the exception of my Megadungeon). I need to make wandering monsters a more important part of the games I run, especially Chanbara. It (and Flying Swordsmen before it), lacks that in the rules.

Random Stocking
This section (and the original version in Moldvay's Basic Set which developed a very simple system in OD&D) has rightly received much praise from various old school bloggers over the years. It's a simple system of rolling two six-siders, one of which determines room contents, the other treasure. The OD&D version simply said roll a d6, with a 1-2 being a monster, anything else is an empty room. Another d6 roll then determines treasure (1-3 for monster rooms, 1 for empty rooms IIRC). The same basic system is presented here, but fleshed out (by Moldvay) so that:
1-2 Empty Room (1/d6 treasure)
3 Trap (1-2/d6 treasure)
4-5 Monster (1-3/d6 treasure)
6 Special (usually no treasure)

This means that, aside from intentionally placed monsters (and treasures), about one third of all rooms are inhabited, one third have dangers or oddities, and one third are empty. Approximately one third of all rooms will also have some treasure.

We get a Random Treasures Table for use with this system as well. In my early days, and even up until more recent years, I tended to ignore this table, and just use the Treasure Types tables. That meant that sometimes fairly small groups of monsters would be guarding fairly large treasures. Sometimes that's not a problem, but it does make monster encounters more of a lotto style. Using this Random Treasures table, small amounts of treasure will be found more often, and every now and then there will be a jackpot. From what I've read about modern game design, that's a winning method. When I revamp my Megadungeon, or if I go ahead and prepare the 5E Dragonlance game I'm thinking of trying to run, I'll probably use this table more often.

Room Contents
This section gives advice and suggestions for Traps and Specials indicated by the random stocking method described above.

Traps
We tend to think of D&D traps as killers (Tomb of Horrors casts a long shadow), but Frank is explicit that traps should not usually be deadly, or at least not always. He defines traps as "anything that could cause damage, delay or a magical effect to occur" (p. 47). He mentions that Thieves are good at finding and removing traps (failing to mention Dwarves' special detection ability), and that while an area may have a combination of traps, they shouldn't be too dangerous. "Deadly traps are not recommended until the 2nd level of a dungeon (or deeper) is reached" (p. 47).

He then gives us a list of types of traps, and some possible variations, and while many do result in damage, poison, etc. there are quite a few non-lethal traps as well. He lists out:
Blade (damage), Creature (attacks with surprise), Darts (damage, paralysis, poison, curse, etc.), Explosion (damage), Falling Item (damage), Fog (strange but non-damaging effects), Illusion (as phantasmal force), Light (temporary blindness), Pit (damage, or chute to lower level), Poison Gas (damage or instant death), Poison Needle (unspecified).

Special
A lot of the fun of D&D, and many memorable encounters, are with specials, which Frank defines as "anything you place which is not normal, but is not a trap, monster or treasure" (p. 48). He provides a list of these as well:
Alarm (summons a monster, opens a door, or just makes noise), Illusion (a dungeon feature or creature is not really there), Map Change (shifting walls), Movements (shifting rooms), Pool (lots of strange potential effects), Sounds (moaning, screaming, talking, etc.), Statue (may be treasure, magical, alive, etc.), Transportation (hidden doors or stairs, elevators, magical portals, etc.), Trick Monster (examples are either variant normal monsters, or pun monsters), Weird Things (flying weapons, reverse gravity zones, shrinking/growing zones, etc.).

Basically, specials are there to add complications, mysteries, unexpected twists, or just plain old color.

Wandering Monsters
The final textual section of the book explains what wandering monster encounters are and what they are for, and how to run them. Having some monsters on the move makes the dungeon feel more alive. They also serve as a subtle reminder to players to keep things moving, although the book doesn't lay that out explicitly here.

Frank gives some advice on deciding when to have wandering monsters appear. Check once every two turns by rolling a d6. On a 1, wandering monsters appear. Noises, curses, or special areas may increase the frequency or probability of monsters appearing. Wandering monster numbers are typically less than a full room encounter, but the monsters rarely have treasure with them.

The inside back cover has wandering monster tables for dungeon levels 1 to 3, along with some Dungeon Master Reference charts (all saving throws, including for Fighters up to level 12 for use with monsters, and Monster Hit Charts up to 17+ hit dice).

For the Wandering Monster tables, there isn't much rhyme or reason to them. There are of course plenty of normal animals/giant insects, humanoids, some undead, and a few oddities on each level. While there are a few tough encounters on the first two levels, the third level chart does up the danger a fair amount with medusa, wererats and shadows making appearances. One handy thing about these charts is that it lists the page number on which each monster can be found in the book.

Index
The back cover of the Dungeon Masters Rulebook gives us an index of both volumes, with entries listed as P# for Players Manual entries, and D# for Dungeon Masters Rulebook entries. It's pretty useful to have, but I don't remember using it that often. I read through these books so often that first year I had them that I was able to find anything I needed so easily for years afterwards. But it is nice to have a good index in the book.

____________________________________________________

And there you have it, folks! Mentzer Basic D&D, cover to cover. fin