Saturday, February 15, 2014

Mentzer Basic Cover to Cover: The Dwarf

Today, we start in on the demi-human classes with the Dwarf.  My brother's main character when we played back in the day was a Dwarf named Larry.  Later, his brother Gary also joined him as an adventurer.  My brother liked the Dwarf class a lot.  For a while, I couldn't remember actually playing a Dwarf back in our old games, but then I remembered I did play a Dwarf named Doli (also taken from Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles), but I don't think he lasted very long.  Either he bit it in some unremembered dungeon, or I lost interest and stopped playing him.  In AD&D I've played a few dwarf characters, but it's never been a race I've been particularly called to play.  I do use them fairly often as NPCs, though. 

So, what did Frank Mentzer have to say about the dwarf as a fantasy trope?

They're pretty much described as what has become the stereotype.  Take Tolkien and Snow White, mix well, there you go.  Short, stubborn, practical, hard-working, hard drinking, rowdy little dudes.  And their women-folk have beards, don'chaknow.

As a class, we're told that they should behave like Fighters, so go read the Fighter class entry for tips on how to play.  We're given a rundown of their basic abilities, including their restriction to small or "normal" size weapons.  Of course, it's not until much later, in the Masters set or maybe the RC that we finally get anything like weapon size categories.  The text itself prohibits two-handed swords and longbows.  Lances and pole arms are allowed (confirmation of the lance comes in the Expert Set, where Dwarves are allowed to make a charge for double damage with a lance).

One thing I notice that's lacking is explicitly pointing out that Dwarves have amazing saving throw scores.  It's really their biggest advantage, IMO.  And it's something I never actually paid any attention to until much later.  Maybe my brother noticed it way back when?  Nah, I think he just liked the concept. 

For special abilities, we get a concise description of infravision (repeated on the next page for the Elf class).  If it's hot, it's red.  Cold, blue.  Room temperature, it can faintly be seen.  60' range.  Simple.

For the detection abilities, we're given a description of the things they can look for, but aside from traps (which is obvious) and to an extent sliding walls (how are they different from secret doors?), it's not obvious why sloping passages or new constructions would be relevant or not.  The rules were formed with the megadungeon environment in mind, but by the time these rules were written, the lair or scenario dungeon style was becoming more popular, so as a beginning DM I didn't take advantage of these abilities in scenario design. 

One last interesting note.  In the section on level titles, we're told to call the character Rolf the Warrior, not Rolf the Second Level Dwarven Fighter.  Yet the class is called Dwarf, not Dwarven Fighter.  And the level advancement table puts "Dwarven" before each of the Fighter level titles. 

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