Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Aleena the Cleric

A few months ago (wow, has it really been that long?!) I made a comment about how a miniature I was painting reminded me of a certain NPC cleric of my past.  I thought the mini seen below was based upon Aleena the cleric from the Metzer red box edition of Dungeons and Dragons.  Well, it turns out my memory of the 80s when I was a D&D fanatic is not as I thought it to be.  I was clearly wrong with my assumption.  But in discovering my error, I took a fascinating journey of reminiscence and discovery into the past.  Please allow me to share.

The WIP of the miniature in question

My first introduction to D&D was through a strange mixture of the Moldvay Basic set and AD&D.  As clueless preteens we gleefully mixed the two systems into a loose ruleset that guided our adventures into strange lands.  While I have very fond memories of that first set it was actually the Metzer version of the basic set that I spent the most time playing back in those days.  Ahh, the memories.  How can one forget the awesome and terrifying red dragon painted by Larry Elmore gracing the cover of the fiery red box or the beautiful cleric that befriended a lonsome adventurer in the introductory adventure?  That of course is where Aleena comes in.

For those of you who may have forgotten, we meet the blonde-haired cleric shortly after wounding a goblin in a cave.  As we cautiously pursue the fleeing goblin, we come upon her silently meditating in a corner of a cavern chamber.  She is drawn to our high charisma and invites us to join her for a rest.  After instructing us on several aspects of an adventurer's life, the cleric not only joins our expedition but kindly offers to heal us as well (that 16 charisma really pays off).  Aleena becomes a mentor of sorts as we explore the remainder of the caves together but she can do more than just offer instruction.  She exhibits her skill and power as she uses her clerical abilities once again, this time turning the undead ghouls that block our route.  We are beginning to fall in love with this woman!

But our love affair is not meant to be.  Bargle, the roguish magic-user that has been terrorizing the countryside around Threshold slays the beautiful young cleric with a deadly spell.  She falls in battle and no matter what we do, we cannot alter that fate.  We either kill the evil Bargle after making our saving throw or unwittingly aid him while under a charm spell.  Either way, Aleena the cleric is no more.

With either outcome, we do manage to recover Aleena's body and return her to the local church.  Hearts are broken, both in the game and in real life over the death of the cleric.  No matter how many times we play the scenario or what we do, we cannot save her.  The cleric's fate is preordained.  It is with great remorse for her loss that we begin our adventuring careers in the world of D&D.  But with her loss comes wisdom and the understanding that death is real in the game and the hero does not always win.  We are shown just how dangerous the adventuring life can be.  This would have been a profound lesson to those new to the game and perhaps this is why the Metzer boxed set remains so ingrained in the collective memory of D&D players worldwide.

I was reminded of her sad story as I went back to my worn red box to research what Aleena looked like and it brought back so many pleasant memories.  I wondered if others thought the same. I turned to the internet for answers.  What I found there was surprising.  The memory of her death was a topic much discussed. I discovered that many others felt the same way I did about the poor cleric and that the solo introductory adventure and her death remained with many players for years.

But I also discovered that her death was not in vain.  Aleena's fall galvanized the will of the countryside and thousands upon thousands of players rose up in anger to find and vanquish the evil wizard.  Who knows how many adventuring careers were launched by the memory of her fair face and kind demeanor? 

The anger directed toward Bargle was both in game and in the real world.  I found that many who played that introductory solo adventure retained a hatred of Bargle well after the Metzer red box became a collector's item.  For example, as a nod to the intense dislike that players held for the magic-user, Paizo included an adventure entitled Kill Bargle in the very last print issue of Dungeon Magazine (#150).

Some expressed this 'anger' in a more artistic manner as evidenced by the poster and t-shirt seen below.  Gamers from across the world were united in the memory of Aleena and a desire for vengeance.

Visit here for a short video about the "Kill Bargle" t-shirt.

One of the creators of the shirt

In my research I also found out that Aleena may not have perished after all.  I stopped playing D&D in 1987 when girls and cars became more important than dice and character sheets so I missed the future developments.  Apparently Aleena was sighted again after my departure in several TSR supplements.  In 1987 she was given a description and stats in GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos as a 12th level cleric along with a note stating that if it were extablished that she had died in the solo adventure from the Basic set to change her name to Anielle.  In 1994 she was again found in Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure with basically the same descritpion but with no mention of a possible earlier death.  Though she may have existed for future players, her death and our failure to save her still sits heavily with those who played the adventure before additional supplement releases.

Is this Elmore's new revised Aleena?

Which brings me full circle with this post.  It was the thought of Aleena the cleric that came to mind when I started painting the miniature.  But my memory of her failed me utterly.  My miniature is the wrong class, has the wrong weapon, the wrong garb, and even the wrong hair color.  Hell, the only thing remotely similar is the helmet.  Maybe that was the memory trigger.  Though the miniature does not resemble Aleena as described by Metzer and illustrated by Elmore, the trip down memory lane was definitely worth the mistake on my part.  And really, as in most things in life, it's the journey that counts...not the final destination.

What memories do you have of Aleena and Bargle and do you have a miniature that aligns more closely with her description? 

Thanks for reading!


  1. Wow! I have honestly never heard of Aleena or Bargle. At the time, my gaming cronies and I were so childishly egotistical that we totally stuck our noses up at the Basic Red Box. I have to be honest and say that I have always secretly been a fan of the Mentzer (B.E.C.M.I.) game and especially the gazetteers. These rules were well thought out and structured nicely. Looking back, I wish I had a copy of both Tom and Frank's visions of Gary's neat little game. Thanks for the trip and I like the mini no matter what!

    1. What did you play? Moldvay or AD&D (or maybe Holmes?)

    2. Nevermind. I saw the answer in your other comment. Holmes it is then!

    3. Holmes, for probably less than 1 year, then straight to AD&D.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Scott. She's not even half way finished though so when I finally do complete her, I expect an even better comment. Ha!

      Thanks for reading buddy!

  3. Your memory is failing you? Or perhaps every female character reminds you of Aleena? She looks great either way!

    1. I think you may be correct on both accounts sir!!

  4. I have a very clear memory of rolling a 20 when it came time to put the smack down on Bargle. I wonder how much impact that early positive experience has impacted my long-term love of the game?

    1. That's a great memory! I wish I remembered my battle with the infamous Bargle more clearly. As an answer to your question, I would like to think that experience may have paved the way for your love of the game!

    2. Tad concerned that Elmore's website identifies the Black haired cleric from the Cleric character class entry page as Aleena.

    3. I'm going to the website to investigate. Roll a d20!