21 June 2011

Mentzer Reflections, Part 7 "Into the Caves"

Fair warning -- what follows contains some vivid descriptions of intense situations.  Things may get pretty crazy, folks, so be warned.  If you're squamish, you may want to skip this one. ;)

Armed with his new plate mail, Ragnar ventures into the caves outside of town in an effort to avenge the death of Aleena and collect some treasure.  It did not go well.  Apparently, I was better at this game when I was 12.

The next section of the Basic Player's Manual is a choose-your-own adventure section, where you make choices which send you to various numbered paragraphs.  I decided that Ragnar, being on his own and still stinging from his recent loss, took a cautious approach.  He listened in the first room and heard squeeking.  He searched the first room and found a note: "RATS EAST! GOBLINS NORTH! BEWARE WEST!"  Figuring he could take care of some rats, he went east.  He tried to frighten the rats away, but still had to fight two of them.  No problem.  Collecting some copper and silver pieces from the rats, he ventured into a strange room where a giant mouth posed him a riddle which, if answered successfully, would double his treasure.  What's next in the sequence: O-T-T-F-F-S-S?

I don't want to spoil it for you by giving away the answer.  Let's just say a Ph.D. is good for something, because I got it right and Ragnar got richer.  He then wandered into the goblin chambers where, it a move I will always regret, he opted to talk to the goblins.  One ran away, while the other stayed to chat.  Soon, though, Ragnar "got the feeling the goblin doesn't like you".  Eff that, goblin!  So Ragnar attacked, only to be confronted by the other goblin and his snide goblin buddy coming back from another chamber.  Ragnar vs. three goblins!  He held is own, getting whacked early on for 3 points of damage (he has 8 and lost one to the rats), but then killing two of the goblins.  That last one, though -- that snide bastard who acted all nice to me even though he secretly hated Ragar -- that one jabbed me with his crappy rusty sword, did 5 points of damage, and laughed as Ragnar slumped to the floor, crimson blood spilling on clawed goblin feet. . .

Once I picked my head up from the table and dried my eyes, I thought about this section as an exercise in how to play the game.  I think it reveals a lot about how to play.  It's a good basic tutorial, but it also shows what's rewarded and expected.  Running away was always an option, one that Ragnar never used (because I thought I could take three goblins!).  Preparation was rewarded, as I gained knowledge about future challenges when I stopped to listen or search.  There was also the interesting riddle room, showing  that those sorts of things are a big part of the game.  That room is presented as is -- there's no backstory, no narrative justification for the mouth, riddle, or strange magic that doubles or steals your treasure, no stat block that says what sort of spells went into the crafting of the mouth -- it's just there.

I mapped what bit of the dungeon Ragnar made it through.  I'll try to scan it and post it, so everyone remembers what happened there.  RIP, Ragnar.