Welcome to the newest category of Start in a Tavern, “Basic Expert.” As with Game of Roles and Three Point Eh, Basic Expert is dedicated to a particular edition of Dungeons & Dragons — in this case, First Edition.

Over the weekend, I worked together with my brother-in-law to roll up and puzzle out a B/X character using the Labyrinth Lord rules. We used the “down the line” method to determine ability scores, rolling each ability score in turn.

Fortunately, he got pretty good Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution scores. He chose to play a Halfling if I remember correctly, which enabled him to secure experience point bonuses for having high Strength and Dexterity.

His mental ability scores were terrible. I think he wound up with Charisma 5. His character had a penalty to reaction rolls, which I think meant he was basically guaranteed an indifferent or negative reaction from NPCs and monsters.

We ran a test combat between his character and an “average” group of goblins. He had decent enough equipment — I think he had an AC 3 which meant the goblins could only hit him with the roll of a seventeen or greater.

Of course even with decent equipment, a fight between a single halfling and a gang of goblins meant a slaughter — his single action to their five attacks meant they were bound to get lucky eventually, and they did.

Three hits over three rounds ended his career as an adventurer.

The experiment gave us cause to review the retainer and morale rules for a means of “evening the odds.” It certainly makes sense that with character creation being such a simple affair, and with retainers using the same rules as player characters — retainers are the way to go when your party is outmatched.

But then there’s always that chance that retainers will flee the fight — or to refuse to accompany an adventurer at the conclusion of each crawl. When faced with certain death, only a player character has the courage to continue.

Retainers that have left a player’s service will refuse to work with them again — and cheating a retainer or using them as fodder will ensure that no NPC will work for the player in the future. In encourages Evil Overlord List tactics.

I have to wonder why easy-access retainers were dropped from later editions of Dungeons & Dragons. They seem like such an important aspect of gameplay — regular NPC interactions that could serve as a lifeline to the “social” world.