Mentzer Reflections, Part 6: "Town Business" & "Battles"

Wow, I can't believe it's  been two months since my last post about the Mentzer Red Box.  My apologies for the gap; I suppose it was principally caused by the choose-your-own-adventure style of the next part of the Player's Manual.  I guess I never felt like I had the time to play through it with my fighter Ragnar.  But I am committed to this project, so let it continue!

You can read the earlier parts: ProloguePart 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

The next section of the Player's Manual is a solo adventure, but before you get to the "go east?  turn to number 34!" section of things, there are two parts designed to get you further aquainted with important aspects of the game.

Part one is "Town Buiness" which is really all about shopping for new armor.  It's a simple narrative, with no choices involved for your character.  You visit the town blacksmith.  He tells you about plate mail.  You trade in your chain mail and then haggle with him, eventually paying only 30 gp for a new suit of plate mail!  You then have to wait around town for a few days for the plate mail before heading out to the caves on the edge of town for more adventure.

I thought the "Town Business" section was interesting because of the implied setting elements it presents.  First, your fighter knows the blacksmith already.  He remembers you from your boyhood, stealing apples from the tree in his yard.  This really emphasizes the local nature of adventuring -- you start in your hometown where you know everyone -- as well as the "from humble beginnings" trope.  You're not some special warrior chosen by the gods for a great destiny.  You're a young guy who'd rather hunt for forgotten gold than get a real job.  The fact that shopping is also the first step in the solo adventure also reinforces the resource management aspect of the game.  You use gold to upgrade your equipment, but such upgrades are also a trade off.  The heaviness of the plate mail is mentioned several times in the section, but it's supposedly worth it because of the better protection.

The next section is called "Battles".  It gives the basic rules for combat, slightly elevating the complexity of the rules from the very basic presentation of them in the first solo adventure.  We learn that we actually should role for damage instead of all hits doing 1 point automatically.  We only roll a d6 for damage, but monsters may roll other types of dice.

As somewhat of an aside, let me say how liberating I find non-variable weapon damage.  All weapons do d6 damage in my current game.  One player keeps narrating complex two-handed attacks, which is awesome, but non-variable damage keeps me from having to worry about two handed weapon penalties or game balance.

Anyway, there in also a section on "getting killed" in the "Battles" section.  I think it's interesting that it's there.  That indicates that getting killed is a fairly normal part of the game.  As the text says, getting killed "is the end of the adventure. But it's not the end of the game!"  This section also had a few paragraphs on mapping (One square equals 10 feet, by the way, in Mentzer).  I had a nice chuckle at the line "If you don't make a map as you go, you will probably get confused."  So true, so true.

Next time, Ragnar ventures into the caves.  And we won't have to wait two months.  I promise!


  1. I really enjoy these old Mentzer box posts of yours, so I really hope not!


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