26 June 2015
D&D 30-Day Challenge: Day 2 - Favorite PC Race
So, when I got into D&D, there were really only four PC races to choose from, and in that case race as class was a thing. For those who don't remember this time long ago, what that means is that Humans could choose a class- Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User or Thief. Demi-Humans, that is Dwarves, Elves and Haflings treated their race as their class. There were no Dwarven Clerics or Halfling Thieves in the BECMI rulebooks. Now, such things would be added later by the Gazetteer series and already existed in Advanced D&D, but we're talking about the game I played when I started playing D&D - and that's the Mentzer BECMI rules. BECMI stands for Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, Immortal. These were the five boxed sets that made up the whole of the rules for this "edition" of Dungeons and Dragons.
So... as a Human, you could play the four classes. If you chose Demi-Human, you were what the rest of the adventurers of your race were. Demi-Human classes were kind of paragons of what it was to be that particular race.
Dwarves were fighters with much better Saving Throws and some pretty neat abilities. Dwarves could see in the dark. It was called Infravision in those days, and I still call it that now out of stubborn grognard habit. So, Dwarves saw heat out to 60', allowing them to function in the dark. They also spoke dwarf, gnome, goblin and kobold in addition to Common and their alignment language. They could detect stone traps, slopes, new construction and other details about stonework. You know, Dwarf stuff. Back in the 80s we did not yet have the Scottish Dwarf stereotype, but the rest of the Dwarf stereotype was already alive and well. I enjoy playing Dwarves, they are hardy and their abilities give some good RP fodder, though they tend to be very Tolkien Dwarf- which is a feature, not a bug, if you grew up playing like I did. Lots of fun, but not my favorite.
Elves were basically Fighter/Magic-Users. The orignal Elf in the 1974 rules had to choose whether to function as a Fighting Man or a Magic-User each day, and could only use the abilities of one or the other during that day. The Elf of BECMI D&D did both of them at once! Your Elf could wear plate armor and cast Magic Missiles! Elves had less hit points than Fighters, and required more experience points than any other class to make levels, but they were amazingly versatile. On top of being able to use any weapon or armor and cast Magic-User spells, elves also had Infravision, extra languages, and could detect secret or hidden doors of any type 1/3 of the time. Oh, and they were immune to being paralyzed by ghouls. Lots of fun, Elves. A very do-everything class, but the XP toll was heavy. Enjoyable, but again, not my favorite.
Halflings. I feel like the BECMI Halfling is overlooked a lot. Oh, and I have it from Frank Mentzer himself that they're HOBBITS, damnit. Anyway, these little guys have the most incredible Saving Throw progression in the game, they have an AC bonus versus large creatures, the natural ability to hide nearly perfectly out of doors and fairly well indoors. They also get a bonus on individual initiative and on missile attacks. There's a lot of great abilities here, and a lot of play value in creating a Half- er, Hobbit PC. A very, very entertaining choice and a surprisingly hardy little character- but not my favorite.
I have to go with plain old boring Humans. Why? Well, most of my PCs are human because I identify most readily with humans and, as my current PC Linhardt of Quasqueton proves, I like an underdog. Humans (in most game worlds) are forging their own way in a world populated by races that can see in the dark, or are naturally magical, or have skills Humans lack, and still the Humans prevail on sheer will and Chutzpah. As a Human I can play my favorite character class- to be revealed in the next post. Humans tend to get along with all the other PC races, where some of the PC races don't always like each other in many game worlds. I enjoy the familiarity, yet versatility of the bog-standard Human. May not have Infravision, or an AC bonus, or know jack about stonework- but my favorite PC race.