Sunday, June 21, 2015

Mentzer Cover to Cover: Dungeon Level 1

Third time's a charm, and I'm on my netbook instead of my phone. Should get through this no problem. (fingers crossed)

So, we've finally gotten to the actual dungeon part of the sample/starter adventure. The first thing Frank notes is that the first level has been stocked according to the Random Dungeon Generation Table (later, on pages 46-47. I've seen a lot of blog posts about that little d6 for contents, d6 for treasure table over the years. Like it or hate it, the sample provided here gives a novice DM a pattern to study and analyze if they're into that sort of thing. I sure wasn't as an 11 year old. My early dungeons had something in every room, and often in the corridors, as well. It took a while for me to learn the importance of the empty room.

Next, we're warned about Room #27, the harpy/yellow mold room, which can only be entered once one of the PCs gets to 2nd level. So probably the Thief or Cleric, if there is one in the party (and they don't die). The room is a killer encounter, potentially, much like the warm-up carrion crawler outside. I think I remember Frank saying in one of his Q&A threads on Dragonsfoot that he loves to start off new players with a TPK just so they're warned that such can and will happen.

Anyway, the most interesting bit of this introduction to the level is the advice that the party should be able to easily return to town, rest up, and come back fully healed and with spells replenished whenever they want. It also says that later, when dungeons are farther from town, the party may want to rest in an empty room, to get back spells, and RECOVER FROM INJURIES. Frank says, and I quote, "A brief stay overnight in an unoccupied room may allow spell casters to relearn their spells, curing any badly wounded characters in the morning."

There's no mention of 1 hit point per night, or 1 hit point per level per night, or 1d3 hit points per night. Just that "badly" wounded characters recover after a night's rest.

So the "Extended Rest" that totally heals you in 4E and 5E has its roots right here in Basic D&D. Glad I discovered this. And yes, the interpretation I'm taking from this is not the only possible reading of the line, but it's certainly one that could be drawn from the text.

Finally, there's a list of standard dungeon features.

Now, we get to the keyed entries. And like a normal module, now the map has numbers and the entries match. So we've gone from a barely interactive story (Player's Book) to a more interactive story (players' book again) to a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style game (this book) to a normal map-and-key module format. Well done, Frank!

I'm not going to go through the entries for each room. There are kobolds, giant rats, giant bats, zombies, and some weird stuff in there. The bedrooms are tricky because there's not enough information about them that can be learned by testing to fully make use of them, and there are no clues to them otherwise. And as I mentioned above, even at level 2 the harpy room can be tough.

For level 2, we're given a map (very simple, similar in fact in some ways to the quick digital map I posted a couple of days ago) and a list of possible creatures that might be found there. And we've been told that on Level 1 there were no wandering monsters, but from Level 2 there should be.

Level 3 we're left to our own devices to map out, and given a few ideas for monsters, including a lair for Bargle, everyone's favorite villain. And there's the suggestion that there could be more levels lower down, including portals to other sections and a dragon's lair.

All in all, this is not a bad little adventure with a nice learning curve. There are some problems with the layout of the keep section (level 1), but this is a game, not an exercise in medieval architecture so I can let them slide (although I try to be more realistic when designing castles myself, with lots of functional space rather than dungeony maze rooms, and yes, even as a kid my castles had some thought about what each area was used for, while dungeons were chaotic messes.)


  1. That's an interesting reading, but I suspect the intended subject of "curing any badly wounded characters in the morning" is "their spells" (i.e. cure light wounds) rather than "brief stay overnight".

  2. I also read the part about the room-resting as the Cleric using cure light wounds, or similar. If we remember the players handbook, it says that we stay a few days in town to heal our wounds. So I believe "a few days" is needed for that, if played as written. No need to play it that way, of course :) Given that Frank have told us that the natural healing should have been 1hp per day, we can do it that way too, "by the book" i guess :D

    I always look forward to your posts on the Red Box, Dennis :)