This week, I finally bit the bullet and cracked open my Mentzer Red Box to check out the goodies inside. Though I did notice some of the rules differences between it and my older Moldvay box set (Thieves knocked down again! Why?), I really liked the organization and especially the introduction. It reminded me of the old Lone Wolf books that I used to borrow from my best friend Conor when I was in middle school. I'd always loved Choose Your Own Adventure books ever since I was small and the addition of combat and roleplaying elements to the standard "if you want to go east, turn to page 26" formula gave them a lot of re-read value.
In my online searches for Lone Wolf books, I came across a website called Project Aon, where you can read and play all of the Lone Wolf books for free, legally and with the expressed permission of Joe Dever, the original author. Naturally, I started into the first one, which got me thinking: what would it have been like if I'd gotten this box set when I was 12? My influences at the time were the Lone Wolf books, Magic: the Gathering cards, games like the Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past and emulated copies of Chrono Trigger and Shining Force. Reading the Mentzer Red Box made me want to revisit all of those old sources and see if I could put together a whimsical kind of D&D campaign with them in mind.
I'm still a heroic kind of guy at heart. Saving an imaginary village from rampaging ogres is definitely more satisfying for me than acquiring imaginary loot. So whatever this campaign would be like, it would have plenty of danger, monsters and potential good to be done on top of the normal loads of treasure and magic items. I think 12 year old me would be satisfied.
(Note: Looking through my old Magic cards, I had no idea that Liz Danforth and Tony DiTerlizzi did so many illustrations for them. It's cool thinking back on how the worlds of RPG and CCG art intersected before Magic really took off.)