Character A Week: Basic Dungeons & Dragons (Moldvay)

So, as mentioned in my last update, I am going to slowly work through my large collection of tabletop RPGs and make a character for each one. I’ll probably have some observations and snarky comments on occasion. And with that, D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic) is the first.

So, back in roughly 1978 or 1979, I used to deliver the local Sunday paper. One sunday, there was an article in the Parade magazine insert on this game called ‘Dungeons & Dragons.’ I’d just recently read every book by Tolkien I could get my hands on, and this D&D thing sounded incredible.

Holmes Ed. Basic D&D

So, I went out in search of it and the Bon Ton department store had 1 single box… and there was totally not Smaug on its horde and in front of it was a warrior and a wizard that, lets be honest, were about to die. 🙂
I was instantly hooked, but didn’t know anyone else that played. That’s a story for another time.

So, Basic D&D was my first roleplaying game and it only seems fitting that it be where I start this project as well. I still have a Holmes box, which did not come with dice, but for our purposes, I will be using the Red Basic D&D book… the Moldvay edition.

We start by rolling our stats on 3d6… and end up with STR 9, INT 13, WIZ 10, DEX 16, CON 11, and CHA 13.  Unlike later editions of D&D, Basic used 3d6 in order: Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma. There was no allowance for reordering stats, or alternative die rolling methods, although plenty of DMs had their own house rules. I was fond of 2d6+ 6, for instance.

With that Dex of 16, Thief and Halfling look good. However, I needed a Str of 13 to be a Halfling… so I’ll be a Human Thief.  However there were some minor allowances for selling a stat down to raise another. And here’s my first choice…

As a Thief, I could lower my Int by two to raise my Dex by 1, but that gains me no bonuses, so I will pass. I should note that this is actually slightly above average for stats (60 – 66) being average.

I’ll note that the non-flexible stat order, and straight 3d6 rolls makes this particularly well suited for a simple stat generation program of the sort that every kid with a home computer wrote at some point. Knock out a couple of pages of that, and you can have a new character ready in a few minutes.

And at this point I am mildly annoyed by the organization of the book… lots of flipping back and forth to find things. As a beginner’s RPG, it should have been organized in the order it would be used, especially the character generation section. This said, maybe I’m spoiled now. I certainly didn’t notice back then. Also, it didn’t come with a blank character sheet, though you could buy them. We generally just used a sheet of notepaper.

Hit points for Thieves are the same as Wizards, a d4 per level. This is one of the things that I do not miss about old school gaming… how fragile a character was at start. Though I suppose this was somewhat balanced by how much easier it was to roll up a new character. And so, I roll my hit points at first level, and start with 3 hit points. I’ma gonna need a meat shield.

We then roll 3d6*10 for gold and get a 14, so 140 gold pieces. Clearly, I managed a big score recently.

So, equipment… My choices are somewhat limited. I can only wear Leather armor, but I can use any weapon. With that Dex (and hit points), missile weapons are going to be my first choice. So I start with Leather armor, a short box & 20 arrows, and 3 daggers. My adventuring equipment consists of a backpack, thieves tools, several sacks, 50′ of rope, a waterskin, and some torches. I have 38 gold remaining, perhaps one of my koleś will need a friendly loan…

Of course, a character needs a name… and I tend to be shite at names, so off I go off to Fantasy Name Generators and a few minutes later I emerge with Jacek (Polish) Greyheart (actually, was Blackheart, but I tend to play Neutral, so…). Yeah, it’s a bit generic but far worse has been done in print. I’ll use it.

So, here we have Jacek Greyheart, a clever, quite nimble, and somewhat charming apprentice thief with flexible morals. His remaining coin won’t keep him going for long, and so he’s looking for a paying job of sorts.

Name: Jacek Greyheart
Class: Thief

Str: 9, Int: 13, Wiz:10, Dex: 16, Con: 11, Cha: 13
Hit Points: 3, Armor Class: 5, Alignment: Neutral

Level: 1, Experience: 0 of 1000, Money: 6pp, 8gp

Saving Throws
Poison: 13, Wand: 14, Paralysis: 13, Breath: 16, Staves/Spells: 15

Leather Armor, Short Bow, 20 Arrows, 3 Daggers, Backpack, 1 large sack, 3 small sacks, 50′ rope, thieves tools, waterskin, 1 week standard rations

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