Friday, September 29, 2023

OSR Commentary- '84 One Set To Rule Them All With Mentzer's Dungeons & Dragons Set 3: Companion Rules

 Let's pick it right back up from here on the blog. Nineteen Eighty four was a huge year when the Companion Dungeons & Dragons boxset hit the stands by Frank Mentzer. The Companion box set hit like a ton of bricks bringing the levels of the BECMI Dungeons & Dragons PC level climb past fifteenth level. And this was a big deal on multiple levels because it brought domain level play into Mentzer D&D. And this was a big deal for those of us who had switched up our D&D game campaigns. 

 What Mentzer Companion rules brought to the game were new monsters, higher levels, treasures, warfare rules, domain play rules, and more. Suddenly player's PC's could and were expected to rule a kingdom or vassseldom. The player's PC's had kingdoms, church dominations, and more to worry about. And this was hands on rulership for the adventurers. This wasn't a mollycuddle set of rules. Instead the players were expected to have thier hands get dirty leading hirelings and NPC retainers of thier armies from the frontlines. 

The Companion rules box set was completely different from say Moldvay or Cook in the fact that it spelled out levels 15-25 for PC's. And heavy was head that wore the crown. The Wilderness adventures that were featured in so many Expert adventures & dungeons were the realms that the PC's controlled. Strongholds, wizard towers, temples, etc. became the PC's stock and trade. 
And the Gods themselves couldn't help you if your old adventuring partner's decided to turn on you. Because party dynamics were very much in vogue in Mentzer's Companion rules. Because the Companion rules set was actually a real step into Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition if played right. 

Mentzer hit different because when going from Expert into Companion no longer was the X1 The Isle of Dread a place to be explored but a land to be conquerored! Companion had a whole cloth feel of something different because adventuring took on another aspect and marshalling your armies was part of the charm. 
Because D&D had gone so far mainstream it was a readily available rpg system. So  one could not only get it in '84 from hobby and toy stores. But it was becoming available through Sears & Wards toy catalog. 
Suddenly the possibilities opened up by the  Mentzer's Dungeons & Dragons Set 3: Companion Rules seemed within reach. Why have just a stronghold when you can have your PC's rule a kingdom! 

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