|Revisitation: a series of posts that each feature a quote from a classic source along with a short discussion. Quotes that make me question some previous assumption I had about the game or that seem to lead to otherwise unexpected consequences will be preferred.|
This entry comes from the Normal Human monster entry in Moldvay Basic (page B40):
A normal human is a human who does not seek dangerous adventure. A normal human does not have a class. … As soon as a human gets experience points through an adventure, that person must choose a character class.
So this is how humans in Moldvay D&D become adventurers: not by training, not by having exceptional ability scores, but rather by sheer audacity.
Retainers (at least the kind recruited in a tavern) should probably have the statistics of normal humans. Once they survive their first excursion into the underworld or wilderness, perhaps the player of their employer should be allowed to select the retainer’s class? That would help give the player a stake in the fate of the retainer, and maybe also be a good time to introduce the traditional idea of the retainer as a PC-in-waiting. I’ve liked that idea ever since I read about it, but I have never seen it used in play.
Finding a retainer with a class (like some of the NPCs in Bone Hill) could be a special occurrence, almost form of treasure or reward, rather than a disposable grunt. Especially if that means that dying means that you go back to level N (where N is the level of your highest retainer) rather than level 1. That, however, is probably anathema to many new school players, who suffer from “my precious character” syndrome just as much as many referees suffer from “my precious encounter” syndrome. Many people are only happy with wish-fulfillment characters, which also undergirds much of the drive for being able to control every aspect of character creation.
When discussing normal humans, it is also perhaps worthwhile to note that many monsters in the bestiary are in fact thinly disguised versions of other monsters with minor cosmetic changes and trivial rules differences. There are four alternate type of troll, for example, in the Fiend Folio (giant troll, giant two-headed troll, ice troll, and spirit troll, in case you were curious). I would argue that most of the humanoid races as presented in D&D are pretty much just this. Much like the aliens of Star Trek, they are just humans in makeup.
James Raggi said it better than I could. In the LotFP Grindhouse Edition Referee Book, he wrote (page 51):
Humanoids are basically man-like creatures who have a gimmick and are present merely to give PCs intelligent, organized opponents which can be slaughtered wholesale with little reflection, remorse, or consequence.
Whenever you think to introduce a humanoid, just ask yourself, “Why would these not work as humans?” Much of the time it is of the desire to not portray humans of a barbaric bent as savages.
This also allows the referee to keep the truly monstrous humanoids waiting in the wings for portrayals such as Beedo’s Orcs of Gothic Greyhawk or my own Goblins as Corruption. And to make more use of the monster entry on page B40: the normal human.