09 December 2011

Character Creation -- Mentzer Reflections Part 14

After listing all the possible character classes, Mentzer takes us through the 10 steps necessary to create one from scratch.  Reading this again, I wasn't struck by much.  That is, it seemed to jive with my memory and my re-emergent old school sensibilities.  Again, one of the things I am after here is to figure out how the game ought to be, given what the text says.

For the stats, one rolls 3d6 in order.  There are provisions for rerolling an entire set of stats if the highest ability is less than 9 or if two or more scores are less than 6.  This is rationalized on the basis of "suitability."  The said character likely isn't suitable for dangerous dungeon crawling.  I don't want to read too much into that, but it does give some credence to the "characters are extraordinary" stance that D&D evolved into.  Stats come before choice of class, of course, with the reminder to look at a class's prime requisite and compare it to the stats before choosing.

One then has the ability to alter the rolled stats through what seems to be to be an overly complex process.
You raise your prime requisite by 1 for every 2 points you lower another score.  You can only raise your prime requisite.  You can't lower your dexterity, constitution, and charisma.  This means you only have strength, intelligence, and wisdom to play around with. And you cannot lower any score below 9.  Was this some recognition of the potential to min/max?  Was this all done to prevent charisma from being a dump stat?  This whole system puzzles me.

The remainder of the character creation process was straightforward, with the standard roll for hit points, write your saving throws down, figure your armor class, etc list.  One thing made me smile was in the "buy equipment" section, however.  There, we get this line: "Be careful shopping!"  What this means, based on the text that follows, is that one should select one's adventuring materials carefully, because you don't want to be in the dungeon and really need something and not have it.  It also speaks to the resource management aspect of the game, especially at the beginning stages.  It made me smile, however, because I pictured my newly made character getting ambushed and killed while selecting equipment, dying before he ever made it to the actual adventure, a la some other systems.

Two art pieces on these pages.  One is an Elmore drawing of a female elf, sitting on a log listening, with a look of forbearance, to a male halfling while a dwarf stands by rolling his eyes.  The other is another Elmore sketch and more interesting.  It's of a hand rolling dice.  We can see a pencil and character stats on a piece of paper (so far, the player has a 14 strength and a 9 intelligence, with a blank by wisdom).  I think it's interesting because it depcits the process of making a character and is not at all fantasy art.  I don't recall any other art in D&D that depicts a player or the process of playing rather than characters or fantastic elements within the game.  Can anyone help me out with other examples of the former?

Next in the series, I am going to talk about Alignment, which is already making my head hurt.  But we'll get to that next week.


  1. I wouldn't say it reflect a character are extraordinary philosophy myself. More a case that characters who fail the criteria are likely to be ineffective at any trade they try their hand at - and would be especially unlikely to have ever mastered the rudimentary training required to become a 1st level character.

  2. @Brian -- So it's not like adventurers are better than normal people, it's more like those people with a 6 STR are just worse than EVERYONE?

    That makes sense. Looking back at my earlier posts about the Basic set, it does reinforce the humble beginnings trope rather than the "characters as super heroes" stance.