Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Mentzer Basic Cover to Cover: Procedures and Rules 4

This is the last of four posts covering this grab-bag of game rules section, and it covers Multiple Characters to Turning Undead. After this, we move on to the monster section of the DM book.

Multiple Characters
First off, Frank advises that beginning players should NOT run multiple characters, as it may get confusing and they have a lot to learn already. Fair enough. He goes on to suggest that when the players are more experienced, they may run more than one PC, but he suggests each be in a different town in the campaign world. The assumption I'm making here is that like in an old Wizardry computer game, Frank expects that nothing exists except for "The Town" and "The Dungeon" at this point in the process.

And looking back at my own experience as a DM, that's more or less what I did at first. After a few months of just making dungeons that were "near" the unnamed town, I took a bunch of graph paper and made a "wilderness" area with several small dungeons, forests, a dry lake, an old temple, some mines, etc. scattered around the area beyond the town. When I later got the Expert Set, I ended up basing the campaign in Threshold, and this area I'd made up I put somewhere in the northern "viking" kingdoms of the Known World map.

However, in my early gaming there was often only myself and one or two friends playing, so we almost always ran a stable of PCs, with one player running a whole party if it was just two of us, and even if there were more players we'd usually have several PCs each -- and some of the DM's PCs would often round out the party. But we never did the dreaded "DM PC" thing, we were always careful to let the player make decisions about how to handle any encounters.

New Rules and Items
First off, we get some good advice about winging it when players try something unexpected or not covered by the rules. Frank suggests checking to see if an ability score would work, and give a roll (equal or lower on 1d20 plus or minus a penalty as appropriate, or 3d6, 4d6, etc.). These rulings should be written down to be consistently applied, and become new rules -- but if a rule in a later set trumps these rules, he says switch to the official rule and let the players know there's a change. Obviously, informing the players of a change is necessary, but if what you're already doing works and makes everyone happy, there's not much need to switch to the "official" rule.

So again, we've got that idea that rules need to be "official" in here, and so many players over the years have bought into that. I was one of them once. But maybe this is a discussion for another day.

For the DM, creating new monsters and magic items, Frank wisely suggests not to do it while you're learning the rules, and when you do start to do it, base them on monsters and items already in the books. Frank says, "the entire game system is carefully balanced, and a too-powerful item is very hard to get rid of, once it has been put into the game" (p. 20). While again 'game balance' is a topic that's been beaten to death and isn't what I want to discuss here, this is good advice. One of my cousins, when he was DMing, created the "Hell Axe" (based on something in a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure type book he'd read) which was a battle axe +20. Yeah, you read that right. It might also have been flaming. I don't remember. Anyway, with that kind of bonus, you will never miss unless you roll a natural 1, and even many dragons (in this rule set anyway) will go down in one hit. I allowed it for one session and one session only.

If you have questions, Frank advises you to read carefully through the rules again, as the answer might be there already, and also to consider that the Expert Set may also have an answer to some questions. If that doesn't help, it's best to find some other gamers with more experience and ask them. Of course, for me, a kid growing up in very rural Illinois, that wasn't really an option. I didn't know any older kids who gamed (or if I knew them, I didn't know they gamed) and my parents weren't the type to frequent comics or hobby shops when we went to town. If all else fails, Frank provides an address for questions to be sent to TSR, please include a self-addressed stamped envelope for the answer.

If you have 3 or more players, you shouldn't need retainers, Frank tells us. But if there are only one or two, you might consider it. He suggests that every class except for the Thief and Magic-User could survive alone, if they are careful, but they may want to bring some assistance. If the DM wants to allow this, then you can just say the party finds some retainers, tell them how much they cost (or allow them to have a half share of treasure), and write up sheets for their stats and give them a bit of personality.

If the players and DM agree, though, the process of hiring can be role played. Frank gives us a three step process for running this.
1. Be ready to describe a local tavern or other location where potential retainers can be found.
2. Have plenty of "Normal Men" apply, and a couple of classed NPCs of the type preferred. Have some general descriptions ready for each of these NPCs.
3. For classed characters, roll their ability scores on the spot, or just make them up (so the Fighter has high Strength, for example), and again give them some personality quirks to make them memorable.

In our early games, before we started using the stable of PCs I describe above, I did allow some retainers, but I just went with the hand-wave system above. Also, "retainers" were always classed NPCs. I never bothered with what AD&D calls hirelings. Now, I think it might have been fun if I'd thrown in some normal men pretending to be Fighters, Magic-Users, etc. and when the players ask the 'cleric' retainer to turn undead and they can't... Fun. Something for the next campaign, I guess! Anyway, there's a modified version of the Reaction Roll to decide if the potential retainer accepts the deal or not.

Retainers have Morale scores based on the hiring PC's Charisma score and modified by good or poor treatment, but unlike monsters, when to check it is different. Always check at the end of an adventure to see if the retainer stays on. There's also a fuzzy sentence saying that it can be checked during adventures, with a reminder to check the Morale rules section (where, if you remember, we're told to check if the retainer is ordered to do something dangerous while the PC sits back in safety, or if they are damaged and have 1/4 or fewer hit points remaining).

These days, I'm always allowing "normal man" hirelings to be employed, and I think next time I run a campaign (still playtesting Chanbara on the rare times I get to run a session these days), I'll also throw in some classed NPC retainers/henchmen, and some 0-level wanna-be retainers for the players to consider hiring on.

Sleep Spells
This is the most powerful 1st Level spell in the game, so it's fitting that it (like Charm Person) gets its own section describing its effects. First, we're reminded that this spell will only affect creatures with 4+1 hit dice or less (so ogres can be affected), there is no saving throw, and only 'normal' creatures. Undead are immune, as are fantastical creatures like a medusa or gargoyle.

The next two paragraphs explain how to roll for and determine the hit dice of creatures affected by the spell (roll 2d8, ignore 'pluses' or 'minuses' to hit dice, no partially asleep creatures, start with the weakest creatures first). Finally, we get an optional rule saying that the DM can just decide how many creatures are affected up to the maximum possible result instead of rolling, in order to make a killer encounter into an easier one.

It actually doesn't touch on many of the problems that have cropped up because of this spell, but maybe back in '83 most of those problems weren't considered problems yet. Personally, I think the spell has been overly nerfed in more recent editions. 4E allowed a saving throw EVERY ROUND! 5E has you roll a random number of hit points instead of hit dice, and with the hit point inflation of that edition, that doesn't leave it affecting many creatures, AND they get a saving throw. But again, this is a discussion for another post (one I do have planned to write, comparing spell durations and numbers of spells per day across different editions as a means of balancing spell casters).

Thief Abilities
First, be aware of what these abilities are, and be sure there are opportunities for their use in your dungeons. I'm often guilty of the flat dungeon, with very little vertical challenge that allows low level thieves to use the one ability that they actually have a good chance of success on. Sure there are traps and locked doors, and places where listening, hiding or moving silently are useful. But the climbing one I should really work into my dungeons more.

Frank reminds the young DM that Hear Noise is on a d6, but other abilities are on a d%, and that the DM should always ask the player for their chance, and the DM should roll. Why the DM should roll is discussed later.

Next, we've got a section that it seems many DMs I read about on the internet ignore (or never learned, if they stared with a different edition). "A failed roll will often simply have no result" (p. 21). Frank specifically calls out Remove Traps, leaving it up to the DM to decide if failure sets off the trap or not. Maybe so many people complain that the Thief is worthless because too many DMs always have the trap go off if the roll fails. Maybe, just maybe, if the Thief were able to try to remove the trap without consequences of failing that 15% chance roll, there would be more perceived value in the Thief.

Finally, Frank mentions that the DM is free to simply decide whether the attempt succeeds or not (but as usual, always roll to keep players guessing). He gives an example of the PCs running from a tough monster and being blocked by a locked door. In this case, wanting to avoid a TPK (no, Frank doesn't use that term), the DM can decide the Thief is successful, but maybe after forcing the group to fight for a round or two.

Nowhere near as dramatic as Mr. Gygax in the AD&D DMG with its all caps warning, Frank simply suggests that in order to keep track of things like spell durations and wandering monster checks, it's good to have a system in place to keep track of time passing.

Transferring Characters
Way before there was a FLAILSNAILS Convention to reference for this sort of thing, Frank suggests three things to look for in a character that a player wants to bring to your game from another game:
1. higher level
2. more or better magic items
3. treasure owned is more than 50% greater than that of the current PCs
If any of these are true, don't allow the PC in the game, unless you and the player can negotiate some changes (in private, before the game).

I think the first one might be hard for players to accept. "Yes, you can run your PC, but only if they drop from 6th level down to 2nd." Since rolling up a new character isn't that hard in this edition, I think I'd rather do that. But then I'm always full of ideas for characters that might be fun to play. Some players really love their character (you know, they pretty much play the same character all the time). Leaving behind some treasure or magic items might be easier to swallow.

And of course, you've then got the question -- if I go back to my original game, do I get the XP and treasure I earned in this game along with the levels and/or treasure that was given up? Or is this now an alternate universe doppelganger of my original character? If the change to the new campaign is expected to be permanent, a lot of these issues cease to be issues, but they aren't really mentioned. It's just assumed that the PC will now be part of this game, with any changed necessary, or else they can't be imported into the campaign.

Turning Undead
As with Charm and Sleep spells, Turning needs a bit of extra explanation, and we get it here. Frank again covers the basic mechanics - the player declares they will Turn Undead, and rolls 2d6 against the chart by the type of undead. If they roll the number or better, the undead are turned, and the DM rolls 2d6 hit dice (or can choose the result, maximum numbers turned by type are listed up through Mummy).

Because the chart lists Wraiths and Mummies for reference (both are in the Expert Set), there's a chart for Clerical turning up to level 7 for Wights, Wraiths and Mummies. In this way, higher level NPC Clerics might appear and turn some undead.

One interesting note - Frank describes a wraith as "a shadow which flies, and drains levels as a wight" (p. 21). There's been some discussion in the OSR about how physical wraiths are, based on Tolkien, the LBBs, etc. Here, Frank is saying they're incorporeal. Of course, DMs are free to disregard that, and other editions may describe them differently. But here, in this version, they're explicitly stated as being ghostly.

As with Sleep spells, monsters can't be partially turned. Remainders are discarded. While it doesn't say, if turning a higher hit die undead creature and you roll lower than even one's hit dice, none run away. But if the attempt is successful, the Cleric can attempt to Turn again in the next round. This is actually something I don't think I ever considered the full ramifications of until now.

Higher level Clerics get to automatically succeed against lesser undead, but you still need to roll for the number of hit dice affected. So when facing off against a vampire or specter, say, a Cleric may succeed to turn, but still roll too few hit dice to affect it this round. But next round, they might. The Cleric still succeeded in the attempt, it's just that none were affected. I think I always just used the alternate rule especially with vampires, in that if the Cleric succeeded, ONE vampire would flee (and it's not often that multiple vampires were encountered). But by the rules, the Cleric may spend the round Turning Undead but have no effect, and the rest of the players are battling it out (and the vampire, if smart - and many are - is trying to level drain that Cleric!) waiting for the next round for the Cleric to attempt it again. That would make for a great tense battle situation. Note to self, remember this!

Finally, we get something I think I've always overlooked -- the official duration of a Turn effect. 1-10 rounds (roll or decide). I've more or less just always ruled that the undead flee and won't return until much later (if at all), but by the book, Turning is only a temporary measure. Again, this could add some great tension to a battle as written. Again, note to self, remember this!

And now I've finally completed this 8-page section of the rules. I'll be moving on to the monster chapter hopefully next week.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Little Black Book: White Wolf Trinity

Some have leveled criticism at the OSR as being nothing but nostalgia. Many of them were 3E/Pathfinder fans. But well, what do you know, it's been so long that 3E is finally a source of nostalgia.

Over the weekend, my second boy (just shy of his second birthday) was opening the bedroom closets and various random drawers and pulling things out. These consisted of stored clothes, spare electronics cables and accessories, and some gaming stuff. I keep my board games, HeroClix, Magic: The Gathering cards, etc. in those closets. And among the various "finds" was this little black pocket notebook from my time in Japan, the years 2005-2007 to be exact:
 The notebook contained, among other mundane things such as notes on sister-city activities and planning things to do with my wife-to-be, lots of gaming notes. In fact, the first three pages are notes I took playing a game of Trinity (White Wolf's weird mutant street-level supers versus Lovecraftian freaks sci-fi game) with the Yamanashi Gamers.

I know that the notebook dates to 2005 because I joined this game the day after watching the movie Sin City in the theater. And my PC was heavily influenced by the film. Harlan was a big, tough, not necessarily so smart but clever private eye with extra-sensory perception (meaning he could project all five of his senses to distant locations - and yes, he spent time tasting many things he probably shouldn't have this way...).

There are three pages of notes from the sessions, and reading these does take me back!

The game was one of suspense, mystery and shifting alliances. Very noir. My PC fit right in. If I remember right, the final big battle against the abomination that was sucking psions' minds dry was pretty hectic but Harlan survived it, thanks to a rail gun and just being tough as nails.

Anyway, there are more notes, plans, and characters in this notebook, most from d20 system games with the Yamanashi and Ebisu gaming groups. I'll be sharing more over the next few weeks just to fuel that gaming nostalgia for the mid-oughts!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Quick Capsule Movie Reviews

I'm way behind on my movie reviews, and some of these movies are fairly old now, but oh well. Time is limited and my focus is on academics and family more than gaming or movies. I'm still watching movies, just not always blogging about them. So, here goes:

Ant-Man -- We were back in the States when we saw this one, so I got to take my son to see it along with my brother and his two kids. And we all loved it! It's a less serious MCU movie, but full of heart and it does fit in well with the other MCU films. And it really shows that Marvel is good at giving each major character their own style while still retaining a constant feel to their movies overall. I'd rate this as my #2 MCU film, personally, right behind Guardians of the Galaxy and before Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Cursing?: a little, IIRC but not much

The Martian --  I read the book early last year, and really really enjoyed it. And I think they managed to hit all the important plot points in the movie, and really got the feel of the situation and the characters. But it just wasn't quite as funny as the book was. Worth watching, but I'd recommend the book over the film. It's not a long read.

Cursing?: you bet your sweet patoot there's cursing

Star Wars: The Force Awakens -- Holy crap, they did a Star Wars movie right! It's not perfect. Some of the intentional call-backs to the original trilogy were sorta annoying and didn't seem to be there for any other reason than to make middle-aged geeks geekgasm. But the film was solid, the acting was decent, the sets and CGI were stunning, and the action was all I could have asked for! And Han's death (come on, surely that's not a spoiler any more) was really fitting, even if it did surprise me. I was going "Oh, no! They're not. Ah, they're not! Oh, wait, are they? Oh crap, they did!" in my head the first time I watched it (luckily the first time seeing it without my son, who asks about 100 questions per scene). I'm looking forward to the Disney handling of the series.

Cursing?: not that I remember

Fantastic Four --  Looked like crap, so I still haven't seen it. Maybe I'll torrent it some day. Maybe not. Fox, you're doing great with X-Men, but please, please please give F4 back to Marvel!

Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice -- Man of Steel bored me, so I still haven't seen this one. Unlike F4, though, I do intend to watch it when I've got some free time.

The Hateful Eight -- Completely missed this when it came through Korean theaters. Something also to be watched when I've got some free time (probably before BvS, too).

Captain America: Civil War -- Finally, a movie I got to see! And it was good! I liked it better than Age of Ultron, and maybe, pending a repeat viewing, it might even bump off Winter Soldier from my MCU Top 3. Maybe. The ensemble cast didn't distract from the fact that this was a Cap film from beginning to end. And the cameos by Spider-Man and Ant-Man as the respective sides' "ringers" really worked well for me. And it's tangential, but it looks like the new Spider-Man series won't start with the origin story, thankfully! It was a fun popcorn movie that explored some deep issues at the same time. And I'm actually happy that it was quite different from the comics Civil War storyline.

Cursing?: yeah, some

X-Men: Apocalypse -- I just saw this one the other day, and I liked it a lot. There were a few problems with the film (poor pyramid design, Apocalypse disarming the nations of the world -- sorry, that's a bit spoilery, but it's not plot essential), but for the most part it really worked for me. I like how they introduced most of the new characters, and how everything looked mostly (the "desert outside Cairo" looked like a 1960's movie set). And the after credits teaser has me excited for the next installment (I assume that's for a new X-Men film not the next Wolverine film, as the villain they tease isn't really a Wolverine baddie). Fox and Bryan Singer, keep up the good work!

Cursing?: Magneto drops an F-bomb when he first meets Apocalypse, other than that I don't remember any.

Up next? Probably the new TMNT film since my son wants to see it (I'd skip it otherwise).

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Mentzer Basic Cover to Cover: Procedures and Rules 3

This post is the third of four covering the alphabetical rules reference section of the Frank Mentzer edited "red box" Basic D&D Dungeon Masters Rulebook. This post covers Hit Points to Morale.

Hit Points
What do you, as a novice DM with, it is assumed, novice players do when one of them roles low for hit points? Frank gives us three options to consider: keep the number rolled, reroll if the result was a 1 or 2 (although consider carefully allowing this for the MU and Thief), or don't roll and just take maximum HP at level 1 and start rolling from level 2.

Well, I always preferred #3, and so did my friends. It was our standard practice long before it became the default rule with the advent of 3E. I've played in games with option 1, and it was satisfying, too. Of course, one game I had a cleric with only 1 hit point, but never got into combat before the campaign quickly fell apart. So it didn't matter. But we've had plenty of casualties at low level even with automatic maximum hit points that it never seemed to be an issue in my games.

Being proficient in one second language (Japanese, although it's getting a bit rusty) and working on a third (Korean, slowly), but retaining a passing familiarity with some basic Spanish and French from my early years, and being a language teacher, this section plays right into my expertise. Yet, like many of you (and many SF/F books, TV and movies), this is an area that doesn't actually get used much in play.

Anyway, Frank's advice is to make a list of languages in the campaign (a list of 20 is given, convenient for random rolling) and let any human characters with high intelligence to select languages from that list, or else as the DM assign them languages. It's interesting that he only notes this is for human characters. Demi-humans of course have their lists of extra languages in their class description. Was the intention that they only get those languages, and don't get extra due to high intelligence? Do demi-humans get them all automatically, or are these just short-lists for them to choose from? And do halflings not get bonus languages at all? That would be odd, since Halfling is one of the 20 languages listed.

We always gave Dwarves and Elves the bonus languages listed automatically, and extra if they had high Int. Yet, as I mentioned above, we rarely had linguistic barriers in our early games. Sure, every now and then someone would remind me that they spoke such and such, but if they didn't, the monsters usually seemed to understand Common. Yes, lazy. And it's had a bad effect on my gaming to this day. It makes the parlay option harder, and Charm Person, and lots of other fun things can happen due to language barriers. Something I need to work on, anyway...

Looking at the list of languages, there are a few odd ones. Doppelganger, for instance, is a language choice. You'd think since doppelgangers mimic humans and demi-humans that they'd just speak Common (and maybe a demi-human language or two). Gargoyles also have their own language, which implies they're less magical constructs like in later editions (and maybe in AD&D?) and a living, if magical, being, like in that 90's Gargoyles cartoon show. Medusa is also a choice, and an interesting one. I have only rarely seen anyone talk to a medusa, unless the medusa was in disguise in order to surprise the party. And of course, the medusa then spoke Common. Number 20 on the list is "other human tongue" which of course there should be a multitude of, not to mention a multitude of dialects and branch languages. But then the rest of the list, aside from Minotaur and Dragon, are humanoid types, so you do get a bit of that. Are Orc, Gnoll, Kobold, Goblin, Hobgoblin, and Bugbear all related, like the Romance languages, coming from a common root language? Is Ogre or Giant that root language? Or is Goblin the root? Is Pixie related to Elf, Dwarf and Halfling? If you're a language nerd like Professor Tolkien or (to a lesser extent) myself, you could have all kinds of fun with this, and there are interesting implications for the implied setting of the "Known World" (although we won't get the "Known World" until the Expert Set and Isle of Dread).

The DM is encouraged to customize the list, and make up more languages that will fit the world (even suggesting that "Rock Baboon" language of hoots and growls might be learnable by a PC if they chose) the DM wants to run, and thinks will be useful in the campaign. And for the newbies, there's the "thank you Dr. Obvious" note that you don't actually need to create artificial languages for the game. Even as an 11 year old first reading the rules, I never thought I'd need to do that. So, a bit too much hand-holding in this section, but otherwise a lot of good stuff to think about a half column segment of the text.

The very first sentence of this section is explicit - ANY character can try to listen for noises. It's not a skill limited only to thieves and demi-humans (although they're better at it). There's an idea that common sense should trump game mechanics. I know, how could anyone think otherwise? Well, it happens. I may have mentioned this before, but once in a Pathfinder game, I told the DM I wanted to search the bed. DM asked me to roll. I rolled a 1 (and didn't have skill ranks, just a small Wis bonus to the roll). Even though the module states there was a bag of treasure hidden under the bed, the fact that I rolled poorly meant the DM decided my character failed to look under the bed while searching it. In that instance, common sense failed to trump game mechanics.

Unless a character is deaf, there's no reason why they shouldn't be able to listen for noises. Now, there's only a 1 in 6 chance to hear anything that would give a clue about what's beyond the door or down the corridor for Clerics, Fighters and Magic-Users. 2 in 6 for demi-humans and low level Thieves, better chances for higher level Thieves. But that's to detect a subtle clue or hint. If there's something loud going on behind the door (an orc thrash-party or lizardman orgy or whatever), you probably don't need to roll at all (although the rules don't say that...).

Getting back to what the rules do say, everyone needs to be as quiet as possible while doing it. No moving around. So if you want to listen, you can't be doing it while someone's casting a spell, or someone's searching for traps or secret doors or something like that. It doesn't give a time listed for the listening attempt, but since it's similar to the mechanic for searching for stuff (x in 6 chance), and it's for listening for subtle clues, I think a DM is within his or her rights to say it takes a Turn. In the "action economy" of classic D&D (to borrow the term from newer editions), that's a significant choice. Yes, listening may allow you to get the drop on what's ahead, but you run the risk of wandering monsters and use up resources like spell durations and torches/lanterns when doing it. For the game aspect of the game, it's really important. As Gary told us in the AD&D DMG, YOU CANNOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF ACCURATE TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT. More free-form play between monster encounters does make the game go faster, but there's something to playing it by the book, too. Not every important decision needs to be about how to kill the monsters. Making getting there and back again full of interesting choices also makes the game fun.

Giving Magic-Users Spells
This section is obviously out of alphabetical order, and it's also using a subheading (bold typeface the same size as the text). The Table of Contents (I checked) lists this section as "Magic-User Spells" and deals with giving initial spells and the other subheading, "lost spell books" is below. Looks like either an editorial mistake or someone intentionally removed the main heading for layout reasons.
The only illustration in this section
This section gives us advice on dishing out spells to starting players of Magic-Users or Elves. It's assumed they have an NPC teacher, who gives them spells, although it's stated as up to the DM whether or not to play out this master as a character or not. We didn't bother early on to do so, but these days I like the ability to have an older, more experienced NPC for low level characters to get advice, spell casting, or quests from. Anyway, more implied setting. You don't just know magic, you're a student of magic learning from a master.

We're given some sound advice here. By giving starting spells out this way, the DM can control what magic is allowed in the game. It gives the example of Charm Person. If you don't want to deal with this spell, don't give it out to the players as a starting spell (and by implication to NPC spell casters or on scrolls). That flies in the face of modern gaming sensibilities, where players expect carte blanche access to anything and everything in the rules at all times. But it's an important tool for a DM to build their campaign their way.

All beginning MU/Elf characters get Read Magic as their first spell. It's important, as it is the key to getting more spells (by finding scrolls or other spell books). In recent years - since I began my megadungeon project -  I've started adding spells hidden here and there throughout dungeons. They may be carved into walls, in arcane patterns in a tapestry, etc. Trying to reward the players who bother to memorize Read Magic. The search for more spells can be a great incentive to adventure!

For magic-users, the second spell (and you start with two) should be one of the powerful ones: Charm Person, Magic Missile, Shield, or Sleep. This way, the player will feel they have something to contribute. Elves, on the other hand, can get any old spell, since they can also function as Fighters, and have their special abilities. Makes sense, but it seems like most players of Elves also want Sleep or Magic Missile as their first spell. Most players seem to be given their choice of spells these days. One of these days I'd like to run the game by the rules, with me as DM deciding what spells they get to start.

The next paragraph tells us that utility spells (Frank calls them miscellaneous spells) like Floating Disc and Hold Portal make good "third spells" for when the MU reaches 2nd level.

Finally, it's mentioned that if there are more than one MU in the group, they should have different starting spells. They're both going to want Sleep, I'm sure, if they're experienced players. Newbies given a choice often go for Magic Missile, in my experience. Good advice, of course, as it adds variety and gives the group more options.

Lost Spell Books
I was just going on about this the other day. Anyway, we have a brief section saying that basically, if this happens (and it might, nothing implying it should, in reference to my previous post) the player is severely penalized and likely won't be having fun until they get a new book. But if it happens, make it a reason to get out there and adventure! The master (or whoever is replacing it) will require a quest or service! Or it will cost money (that you maybe don't have) so go adventure and get some! Or you can borrow the money, but will have to adventure to pay it back!

More implied setting - no one will lend you a spell book if you don't have your own.
The message to the inexperienced DM, while subtle, is strongly there. This setback for the player is an opportunity for you, the DM, to make the game more fun for everyone. Yes, it's a challenge for the player to not have their book, or to have only the beginnings of a new book with limited (or different from their normal) spells. But it's a chance to make things interesting. Just don't drag it out too long or it will lose its fun.

This section gives some general advice on mapping, as it's hard for players, especially new players. Frank gives us four pieces of advice:
1. Describe things as accurately as you can, and let the players know if you've made a mistake.
2. Be consistent in the order of your descriptions, and be sure to hit the major points (room dimensions, exits, creatures, other contents). He gives a few terms useful for mapping corridors.
3. Have a "standard description" of hallways and typical features. It saves time, and when something isn't "standard" it alerts the party that things are different.
4. At first, keep the dungeon layouts simple. Even for experienced gamers, twisty passages and unusual shapes slow down the game.

Pretty solid advice, really. These days, since I mostly play online via Google+ Hangouts, we use the online white board Twiddla for maps and images, and as DM I usually just draw the map to speed up play. And of course, for small encounter dungeons or quest dungeons, a map may not be so necessary. Mapping is most useful for megadungeon style play, when you may be returning over and over again to the same location. But that was the expected norm in the early days, rather than what's come to be the norm today.

Morale (optional)
The classic D&D morale rules are simpler than those found in AD&D, and a bit more elegant IMO. Of course, here they're listed as optional for the beginning DM. Personally, I think that may be a mistake making them optional. It's a bit complicated seeming at first, but it's not really so bad. And because we didn't use it in our earliest games, and we had bad influences from video games (where the bad guys never run away), every monster encounter that turned into a fight became a fight to the death. And that's not the best way to play the game.

Morale is easy in this game. Every monster has a morale score between 2 and 12 (while there are a few 12s, I don't remember any monsters with morale below maybe 5 or 6). Roll 2d6. If the score is equal to or lower than the morale score, the monster continues to fight. If over, it breaks and runs or tries to surrender. Monsters with a morale of 2 never fight, those with a morale of 12 always fight to the death once combat starts.

For single monsters, check morale twice. When it first takes a hit, and when it's down to only 1/4 hit points remaining. It's usually the first one where I forget to check morale, to be honest. Especially for big monsters like dragons or giants.

For groups of monsters, check twice as well. Check when the first death happens on either side (emphasis in original), and when half of the monster group has been killed or incapacitated.

These rules are pretty awesome, actually. Many animals may flee when they get damaged, and even intelligent creatures are likely to rethink combat if they get hurt. And in a group, the first death on either side can be a reason to rethink what's happening. If it's on the monster side, they may want to cut their losses after that first one goes down. If it's on the PCs' side, they may be thinking, "oh shit, they're gonna be pissed now!" or else be thinking, "We got one, time to fall back and regroup while they deal with their downed comrade."

I read a great interview with a former Viet Cong soldier. He said their main tactic was usually just kill or wound one U.S. soldier, then get out of there before any of them got killed. Because they knew the U.S. troops would stop to deal with that casualty, and wounding was actually better than killing because it slowed down the whole group. From that perspective, this makes sense. Monsters may try to whittle down a party through attrition, while preserving as many of their numbers as they can.

The next subsection is about Retainer Morale. This is determined by your Charisma score (and you thought it was a dump stat!) and checked whenever one of these two conditions applies: 1. the retainer is ordered to do something dangerous while the party is in less danger (no, that never happens...) or 2. the retainer is reduced to 1/4 hit points remaining. That's fairly badass, when you think about it. I mean, unless you're telling your retainers to open every door, stick their hands in green devil faces or sample your potions for you, they're not gonna run from combat unless they're in danger of immediate death (although since most have only 1 hit die, if they survive a single hit they're likely going to be checking morale right away, or dying in combat).

Adjustments to Morale Checks is the next subsection. It gives a guideline of adjusting the morale check from -2 to +2 depending on situational factors, like a death on the PC side may boost monster morale, but flashy magic may lower it. Up to the DM to decide.

Results of the Morale Check tells us what happens when monsters break morale. Usually, when DMs actually use morale, they tend to treat it as a route, with the monsters just running away. However, Frank mentions that the monsters may use a retreat or a fighting withdrawal, and if that's not possible, surrender. I've never seen a DM play a loss of morale treated as a fighting withdrawal, where the monster party just tries to disengage but stays wary of the party. And that's including myself, of course. Something to think about, especially in cases where the morale check was caused by the party suffering a casualty, or for more organized, militant, or tough monsters.

Intelligent monsters that surrender, the book mentions, usually offer to provide treasure, either their own or as ransom. I know B2 Keep on the Borderlands has notes on what happens if the PCs get captured by some of the humanoid tribes, but I don't remember any notes in any modules about what sort of treasures monsters might offer if they surrender. And of course, being of Irish descent, I'm reminded of tales of the leprechaun, who will offer you their treasure if you promise to let them go, but use any and all means to not actually deliver on the promise. Again, monsters surrendering sounds like an opportunity to make the game more fun, rather than simply having every fight be a battle to the death like we're playing some computer RPG. However...

Surrender: despite having just given us some interesting tidbits about monster surrender, we have a subsection of the morale rules saying that of course, neither side needs to accept a surrender, or even "stop fighting long enough to listen" (p. 20). However, the paragraph then goes on to remind the DM to use common sense, and play the monsters as they should be played, having them flee from hopeless battles.

And that brings us to the end of this post. I'll try to get the fourth post about this section of the rules up sometime next week, covering topics from Multiple Characters through Turning Undead.