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I'm confused about how to DM the first round of an encounter using Moldvay's rules, specifically, when is the DM supposed to use the Monster Reaction table on page B24.

Say a party encounters a group of wandering monsters. After rolling for number appearing and distance away, the DM rolls 1d6 for both the monsters and the party to check for surprise. For this example, say neither side is surprised.

The DM then rolls for initiative and finds that the party wins initiative.

The DM secretly rolls for Monster Reaction as well, and in this example finds that the monsters are uncertain and are confused (roll = 7).

Here's my question. In this example, the party gets to act first. Does the DM tell the party that the monsters look confused and uncertain BEFORE the party gets to decide what they want to do?

And what if the party, once they do decide what to do, decides to run away in this case? Does it matter what the Monster Reaction was, or does it always just come down to who has the faster movement rate (the party or the monsters)?

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2 Answers 2

Reaction should always be rolled before the DM even reveals the presence of the monsters. They may call out from the darkness for parlay, or greet the party with open arms. Once you're rolling initiative you've already made up your mind that it's a fight and it's too late to gain anything of use from a reaction result that doesn't imply a fight.

One of the joys of running Moldvay is having the dice tell you, the DM, that something has happened that you never would have thought of on your own; it keeps the game fresh, and creates entire subplots at times. I've had a (randomly-generated, natch) bandit hideout turn into a safe haven for the party, based on an unexpectedly-friendly reaction roll which the party talker turned into an warm welcome. Monsters have been annoyed but unnervingly calm about the party intruding on their lairs, putting the party on their heels and making them reconsider their assumptions and tactics. On the flip side, monsters have attacked with surprising vehemence at other times, making the party (and me!) wonder what in Hades got them so mad. Answering such questions and digging for more details is part of what makes Basic D&D constantly engaging and surprising, whether it's the players perking up and getting excited to figure out what's going on, or it's the DM sitting back and putting a random 4 and 6 together and spinning out a new setting detail to account for the dice's decision.

There is an astonishing amount of richness added to the game by honouring the reaction dice. Try to avoid deciding what a monster is doing or what it thinks about the party – ask the dice instead.

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Aside from Sevensidedie excellent answer I would add that B/X Round are 10 seconds long which is more than ample time for the party to see that a party of monsters are uncertain and confused. At which point the party can decide how to act.

Remember in the absence of clear guidelines the D&D referee is expected to look at the situation base their ruling on how it would go if it was actually physically being played out. B/X D&D combat by design is abstract but also meant to reflect how combat actually was fought.

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