I'm skipping ahead in the red Basic book a bit, mainly because I find myself with a quiet house for a few hours tonight. The kids are asleep (though my poor daughter is sick) and the wife is out with some friends. Now is a great time to run through at least part of "Your First Adventure," which begins on page three. I'll go back and talk about the "How to use this book" and "dedication" sections later.
Now, I've got my dice, a piece of paper, and the Basic book. So let's see what this Dungeons and Dragons thing is all about.
Who am I?
I am a fighter. A strong hero. I am famous (yeah!) but poor (boo!). Day by day, I look for monsters and treasure in the unknown. Sounds a lot like a job. I think it's interesting that, while I am a "hero", my primary motivation is looking for monsters and treasure. There's very little here at this point about "doing good".
My fighter has abilities (17 Str, 11 Dex, 9 Int). I write those in the middle of the paper as instructed. I have all the equipment I need to survive in the wilderness. And, interestingly, a "beautiful sword." Also, chain mail and a dagger. I'll say my fighter is a male named Ragnar. Let's go!
The First Adventure is, essentially, a solo module. There is boxed text that gives plot points and scene descriptions. These boxes are followed by rules descriptions. The first box gives the basic setting: a small town, surrounded by hills with caves. Here, we also meet one of the most infamous men in all of fantasy -- Bargle. That SOB has been terrorizing my town! Reading the text, I venture into a cave and am instantly attacked by a goblin. Time for combat.
My first role is, no joke, a 20. Take that, goblin! (I needed an 11 or better to hit). That causes the goblin to run away.
This section is very low stakes -- the goblin can't hit me and I get to keep rolling until I hit him. This introduces the concept of "hitting" and, subsequently, damage and hit points. Ragnar has 8 hit points. Hit points, long a sore spot for many critics of D&D are simply explained here. They are how much damage it takes to kill a creature. Hits are not necessarily physical contact, but any physical blow that gets through a character's protection.
Next the Constitution ability is introduced, with a brief note about how it influences hit points. Ragnar has a 16 Con. Then, the adventure continues.
In the next room -- er, "chamber" -- I am set upon by a ten-foot-long rattlesnake. Using the new concept of hit points, I roll for both the snake and myself. Of course, I roll a "1" first for myself, missing the snake. The text then says the snake hits me, so my 8 hp are reduced to 7.
The book then says "when playing a D&D game by yourself. . ." which implies that the game CAN be played by oneself. Interesting. I guess that's what I am doing right now, but the possibility of solo play isn't one I expected to see mentioned.
Of course, it's a snake, so now's a logical time to introduce the idea of the Saving Throw. I fail my saving throw, rolling a "9" (I needed a 12), so I take 2 more points of damage. In this combat, I get taken down to 2 hit points between the snake's fangs and poison. Fortunately, after the second pass (I don't know about rounds yet), the snake can't hit me any longer. Emboldened by my invincibility, I roll a "12", "16", and "17" and dispatch the snake.
Now, the treasure! The snake was sitting on a pile of coins, so I learn about electrum and platnuim pieces. I also learn to search rooms -- er, chambers -- because when I do I find a pearl in a corner. The book then reminds me that I am hurt and I should probably run away if I find anything else too dangerous, but that "I shouldn't run away just because of a little fighting."
I keep going and hear a voice. Then, well, Aleena waits for me in the next room. *insert wistful sigh here*