Friday, January 31, 2014

Micro-Dungeon: Monster Mountain #1

Monster Mountain #1. Click for larger view.

Above is a micro-dungeon I created on the fly tonight using Lego Heroica pieces for minis and dungeon tiles. It was successfully explored by a fighter of 4th level using the Holmes Basic rules, although it should work for any old D&D rules.

Monster Mountain #1

The Town is built against the base of a forbidding mountain. At the back of town, against the side of the mountain, is an old metal door shunned by the villagers. Rumors say that beyond the door lies the 'Rat Room', but further in the corridors are never quite the same...

1. Rat Room. The metal door is stuck and must be forced open. Light from the outside will dimly light the room. The floor is covered with garbage such as rotten timbers, rusty pieces of metal and musty fabrics. There are all sorts of small openings the walls. There is always one Giant Rat here when the room is entered from outside the dungeon, and it will immediately attack. If the garbage is searched for 3 turns there is a 50% chance of findingup 1d6 gp but another rat will always appear at the end of that time. When re-entered from inside the dungeon there is a 50% chance of 1d2 rats being here. The corridors exiting the room are completely dark.

2. Water Pit. The corridor is interrupted by an open pit filled to within 1' of the edge with water, 10' feet across and 20' feet deep. The water can be safely traversed with the 15' ladder from Room #7.

3. Gem Room. This room is empty except for a large 500 gp yellow topaz wedged in a crack in the floor in the northwest corner. It can be kept, sold or fed to the frog statue in room 6 to get the key to Room #4.

4. Helmet Room. The entrance to this room is blocked by a locked metal gate. In the room is an invisible Helmet of Health, which allows the wearer to heal 1d8 hit points, once per day. If the room is unlocked with the key from the frog in room 6, the helmet will immediately become visible.

5. Abandoned Archway. Steps lead up through an elaborate archway and back down into this room. On the wall above the archway inside the room lurks a Large Spider (9 hp). It will pounce on anyone entering the room. It is an ambulatory dungeon predator so it makes no webs and keeps no treasure.

6. Frog Statue. The tunnel ends at a 3' high arch. A faint glow can be seen beyond the arch. To enter a character must crawl on hands and knees. At the end of the room is a phosphorescent 2' tall stone frog statue. If approached it will ask the character what it wants. If asked for treasure, the frog promises to reveal 'a magic treasure' if fed a gemstone (minimum 500 gp value). If given such a gem the frog will open its mouth and spit out a metal key that opens the gate to Room #4.

7. Goblin Ambush. The 10' high door of this room is resting lightly in the frame, unattached. It has been rigged to fall on a character that tries to open it. It can be avoided with a successful Dex check (3d6, roll under); otherwise 1d6 damage is taken. Inside the room are two Goblin Guards (hp 6, 2; fight as hobgoblins) armed with spears, one standing to each side of the door. They will be alerted by the falling door and simultaneously attack if the room is entered. If one is killed, the other will attempt to flee if it fails a morale check (2-6 on 2d6; check again each round). They have a sack of gold (100 gp). A rusted but sturdy 15' metal ladder lies discarded on the floor at the south end of the room. It can be used to successfully cross the water pit at Location #2.

Wandering Monster:
Dungeon Dog (HD 1, hp 2 out of 7 when encountered, AC 7, DX 15, AT 1, DMG 1d4). This poor fellow is in bad shape, barely surviving in the dungeon. He hunts giant rats but they often wound him. If he smells a character carrying food he will try to knock them down and get their pack. If given rations he will stop attacking, grab the food and slink off to eat it. If given a second feeding (one day's worth), he will begin following the character. If treated well he may become a loyal companion.


-Rooms, monsters and treasures were chosen/built and placed on the board as they were encountered. It was fun so I wrote up the key afterward.

-The Lego Heroica game pieces ('microfigs') are smaller scale than regular minifigs, so they lend themselves well to quick, compact builds. Regular scale Lego animals (rats, frogs, spiders etc) make suitable giant animals at this scale.

-The Rat Room is, naturally, inspired by Rooms G, N and RT in Holmes' Sample Dungeon. From a design standpoint it's at the beginning of the dungeon to reduce running back and resting between encounters.

Update: I changed the title of this post to "Micro-Dungeon" since that is the 'scale' of Legos that were used.

Update 2: This dungeon is now available as a downloadable one-page dungeon.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Part 19: "If One Wanted to Use a Red Dragon..."

Part 19 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 22 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along...

At this point the manuscript finishes with material covered by Volume 1 of OD&D and moves onto material covered by Volume 2, "Monsters & Treasure".

1st paragraph


Published: Adds "ADVANCED" before "DUNGEONS & DRAGONS", as in most other instances where Holmes referred to the original. The reference to demons being described in ELDRITCH WIZARDRY is also removed, although they left the reference to the other supplement, GODS, DEMI-GODS and HEROES, which leaves the reader thinking demons are also described in that booklet.

2nd paragraph

The last two sentences of the manuscript were changed in the published versions:

Manuscript: "If the monster's alignment is not obviously evil and chaotic this also is given here. Then there follows a brief description which should include any special powers and attributes of the creatures."

Here, Holmes indicates that he is not going to include an alignment stat for all of the monsters. He refers to "evil and chaotic" monsters here even though the only alignments given to monsters are chaotic, lawful or neutral (3-point system).

Published, 1st print: "If the monster's alignment is given here, there there follows a brief description which should include any special powers and attributes of the creatures."

Obviously, this edit doesn't make sense, so it was later changed to:

Published, later prints: "If the monsters’ alignment is not given, it may be assumed to be an unintelligent beast that will attack anyone who comes near. "Attacks" means the numbers of blows, bites, etc. the creature can deliver in a single melee round. "Damage" gives the effect of these attacks. Then there follows a brief description which includes any special powers and attributes of the creature".

3rd paragraph

The big surprise in this paragraph is that Holmes originally had a red dragon in the example of scaling down a monster for low level parties. The published version changes the red dragon to a chimera. I'm guessing Gygax didn't want anyone nerfing his red dragons. Or perhaps it was just because dragons already have a mechanism for scaling using the Age categories.

Sometimes Holmes Basic is criticized for containing 'difficult' monsters in a Basic Level rulebook. Holmes considered this but felt that including the iconic D&D monsters was more important, as we see by his comments in Dragon #52: "I’m glad to see Moldvay included the dragons just as I did in the first edition. It seems almost silly to describe dragons in a book intended only for player characters up to the third level. On the other hand, think how disappointed you would be if you were an inexperienced player who bought a DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game and found nothing about dragons inside!"

This section in Holmes' manuscript ends after this paragraph. In the published rulebook, Gygax/TSR added two more paragraphs about determining the appropriate amount of treasure for monsters, referencing both the Treasure Type Table and the Monster and Treasure Assortments, which TSR included in the first three printings of the Basic Set.

In the next part we'll start delving into the Monster List entries themselves.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Land of the Great Kingdom and Environs

If you haven't seen it yet, check out the video by Jon Peterson (author of Playing at the World) highlighting some awesome pre-D&D treasures from his collection:

"History of D&D in 12 Treasures"

Item #5 is a map, labeled in the video as "Great Kingdom Map, Gary Gygax, 1971, Territories of the Great Kingdom". In the accompanying post he further describes it as  "showing Blackmoor and other Castle & Crusade Society holdings". In the video Jon gives us several glimpses of the map that show a number of familiar kingdom names from the published World of Greyhawk, 1980.

An earlier version of this map, originally published in Domesday Book #9, appeared in Jon's book in 2012. This map has some geographical features named but is mostly missing the names of kingdoms. However, at the time I noticed that Dave Arneson's hand drawn map of Blackmoor from the First Fantasy Campaign (1977) matched a portion of the Great Kingdom Map. Combining the information from the two, I posted ("The Weird Enclave of Blackmoor") an annotated map with speculative locations of Blackmoor and Greyhawk:

Great Kingdom Map from Domesday Book #9, annotated by myself in 2012 with speculative locations

Now, thanks to the glimpses of the "new" map that Jon has shown us in his video, I see that I was basically correct in the locations for Blackmoor, the Egg of Coot, the Duchy of Ten and The Great Kingdom, each of which is named in this map.

While the outlines and geographical features of the "new" Great Kingdom map are not identical to the previous one, they are close enough to roughly transpose the kingdom names back on to the mostly blank original map: 

Great Kingdom Map from Domesday Book #9, annotated with locations from 1971 Great Kingdom Map


-Obviously, many changes were made when this world was later adapted as the World of Greyhawk in 1980, but it is striking how many familiar names appear in familiar locations. 

-Perunland is between the mountains to the northwest of Nir Dyv lake, as with Perrenland in the published Greyhawk map. 

-A Paynim Kingdom is further to the northwest, south of the Far Ocean. In the published Greyhawk this becomes the Plains of the Paynims, south of the Dramidj Ocean.

-The Hold of Iron Hand, north of the Paynim Kingdom on the Great Kingdom map, likely became the Hold of Stonefist. In published Greyhawk it is not anywhere near the Paynims, instead being at the western base of a northwestern peninsula in the same position relative to the Barbarian Kingdoms. Gygax seems to have split the northern areas of his Great Kingdom map, putting the the Hold and the Barbarian kingdoms on a great peninsula to the northeast, and leaving Perrenland, the Paynims and Blackmoor in the northwest.

-A Grand Duchy of Urnst is to the immediate southeast of Nir Dyv lake, as in the published World of Greyhawk. A Kingdom of Catmelun is to the southwest of this, possibly where the Kingdom of Nyrond is in the published version.

-A Grand Duchy of Geoff is to the west near the mountains, as in published Greyhawk.

-Where the City of Greyhawk should be, there's C. of Yerocundy [sp?] and to the west, a Kingdom of Faraz. There is the possibility that these two were combined to form the Kingdom of Furyondy, which in published Greyhawk is to the west of the lake like Faraz.

Interestingly, Andre Norton's 1978 Greyhawk novel, Quag Keep, uses similar but not identical names for two kingdoms:
"We shall have Yerocunby and Faraaz facing us at the border. But then the river will lead us straight into the mountains" (Chapter 6). 

-A Duchy of Maritz [sp?] also appears as an island on the Great Kingdom map. 

Quag Keep further mentions:

"In addition he saw a dozen of these silver, halfmoon circles coined in Faraaz, and two of the mother-of-pearl discs incised with the fierce head of a sea-serpent which came from the island Duchy of Maritiz" (Chapter 3)

This warrants a closer look at the geography mentioned in Quag Keep versus the Great Kingdom map. Andre Norton consulted with Gygax in writing Quag Keep so she possibly saw an earlier version of Greyhawk using these names.

-Neron March (possibly "Nekon") might possibly be a predecessor of "Gran March".

-In the comments Jon mentions Walworth north of the lake and that In published Greyhawk The Shield Lands appear in the same location and are ruled by the Earl of Walworth. In the video, Jon mentions that Gygax was named the Earl of Walworth in Domesday Book #2, and Walworth represents his holdings in the game (and is also the name of the county that Lake Geneva is in, in Wisconsin).

-I left out material from the map in the video that I couldn't read, and several small areas around Blackmoor that don't seem to correspond to anything significant: March Slove, County of Celate and County of Stabilny

-The title of this post references the Foreword to the original D&D Set, also reprinted in Holmes Basic:

"From the map of the "land" of the "Great Kingdom" and environs - the territory of the C&C Society - Dave located a nice bog where to nest the weird enclave of "Blackmoor", a spot between the "Great Kingdom" and the fearsome "Egg of Coot"". 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Part 18: "Bruno Dies a Horrible Death"

Part 18 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 21-22 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along...


Who can forget Bruno's triumph in defeating the big goblin in single combat or his horrible death from a spider bite? The highs and lows of D&D. The combat examples are some of the best "flavor text" that Holmes contributed to Basic D&D, but also do an excellent job of showing how D&D combat is run, something that was missing but sorely needed in OD&D.

The first combat example, featuring Bruno versus the goblin, is identical in the manuscript and the published rulebook. Since there are only two combatants, the example doesn't reference rounds and thus doesn't show the two attacks per round for each combatant. 


This example is substantially the same as published, but with many small changes, so I will go through it paragraph by paragraph.

First paragraph, first part:

Holmes' original encounter was with "six giant spiders with 1 hit die each", which was changed to six large spiders with 1+1 HD. Giant spiders having but a single hit die may seem strange in light of later write-ups, but many of the "vermin of unusual size" (giant spiders, rats, centipedes, etc) never received a standardized write-up in OD&D prior to Holmes Basic. The first printing of the Holmes rulebook does not even contain an entry for spiders; they were added to the 2nd edition in November 1978, after the Monster Manual had been released.

Holmes' reference to the "Wandering Monster Table" (which we covered in Part 7) probably refers to entry 8 on the level 1 table, "Spiders". As I mentioned previously, this table is the same as in Greyhawk. Back in OD&D, Vol 2, vermin are covered by entries for "Insects or Small Animals" and "Large Insects or Animals". The former indicates that "These can be any of a huge variety of creatures such as wolves, centipedes, snakes and spiders. Any hit will kill the smaller, while larger beasts (such as wolves) will receive one Hit Die". This is possibly where Holmes sourced his 1 HD for giant spiders. I'll discuss this further in the section on Monsters.

As in Part 9, Holmes used the name "Flubbit" for his wizard, and this was changed to "Malchor" by Gygax/TSR. As I mentioned previously, the name "Flubbit" originated in the description of the spell "Magic Mouth" in Greyhawk, pg 22.

First paragraph, second part

The changes here relate to the differences in the stats for the spiders envisioned by Holmes versus those of Gygax. Holmes' "giant spiders" had only a single hit dice but were heavily armored (AC3); this is scaled back to AC8 in the fourth sentence here.

In the fifth sentence, the spider's hit point calculation is changed from "comes up a 4" to "comes up a 3 (+1), equalling 4 hit points". The change was necessitated by the hit dice change from 1 to 1+1, and also provides Gygax with a way to show how hit points are calculated for a creature with a HD such as 1+1.  

Finally, the last two missed arrow shots are changed from 8 and 12 to 6 and 9, because a 12 would hit AC8. The end of this sentence is also changed from "the shaft bounce off the beast's armor" to "shafts miss!", possibly because Gygax did not envision AC8 as being armored. However, a reference in the next paragraph to the spider's "armored head" was not changed.

Second paragraph:

Here in the manuscript we see a clear example of two melee attacks per combatant in a single round, with the attacks alternating in order of dexterity. TSR changes this single round to two rounds of melee.  Thus, in the manuscript Bruno dies during the second set of blows in the "first round of melee", but in the published version he dies in the second round. Bruno's second attack roll is also changed from a 13, which would miss AC3 but hit AC8, to a 10 which just misses AC8.

Third paragraph:

In the manuscript this paragraph describes the second round of combat, but in the published version the first two sentences are re-written to remove the reference to the "second round". Each combatant is still given two attacks, but as we will see below, the published version instead counts this as two more rounds. Thus in the published version three rounds have now elapsed instead of two. 

Fourth paragraph:

In the manuscript this paragraph describes the third round of combat, but in the published version it is the fifth round, with Mogo's two swings changed to a single swing. The published version also adds a note that the saving throw is "(adjusted according to the weak poison of the spider)". This reflects the description of the "large spider" in the later published Monster Manual (Dec 1977) and the revised Basic rulebook (Nov 1978). As I mentioned above the early printings of the Basic rulebook do not include Spider in the Monster List, so in those printings this reference is cryptic. Presumably, Gygax was working off his draft of the Monster Manual material when he edited this section.
Fifth Paragraph:

Again, the reference the third round of combat ("three melee rounds have gone by") is changed to the fifth ("five melee rounds have gone by"). The only other change here is that "Clarissa the Cleric" becomes"Priestess Clarissa", perhaps to give her a "level title" rather than the title "Cleric".


This single paragraph section follows the combat examples and provides further commentary on combat. There are no changes between the manuscript and the published version. 

In this section Holmes presents a general order of combat: spells-missile fire-melee. This is not found in OD&D, but is present in the Warlock rules, which I've discussed previously; see "The Influence of Warlock on Holmes Basic Combat".

Holmes also gives some guidance on spell casting by magic-users:

"If a magic-user is not involved in the melee he can get another spell off after 1 or more melee rounds have gone by". This statement makes it clear that only a single spell can be cast per round despite regular melee weapons getting two attacks per round. It is also the closest that Holmes comes to describing a "casting time", something not generally found in OD&D (although the Eldritch Wizardry alternate initiative system touches on this). 

Holmes continues, "If he is personally attacked he can't concentrate to use his magic but must draw his dagger and defend his skin!". There is no "spell disruption" in OD&D or Holmes, and while this statement is not crystal clear, it can be interpreted that if a wizard is hit in combat he loses his concentration and won't be able to cast the next round. 

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Part 17: "Highest Dexterity Strikes First"

Part 17 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 20-21 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along... 


This is the section where Holmes presents the famous dexterity-based initiative rules. In this section the manuscript is identical to the published version, except for at the end where TSR adds: "If combat is broken off, the fleeing party must accept an attack without any return on his part, the attacker adding +2 to his die roll for hit probability, and the armor class of the fleeing party can not include a shield". In the published rulebook this information is completely redundant with the second sentence of the section "Melee Resolution".

Using dexterity to determine the order of actions has its ultimate origins OD&D Vol 1: "Dexterity ... will indicate the character's missile ability and speed with actions such as firing first, getting off a spell, etc" (pg 11, Vol 1). The original rulebooks don't explain initiative any further (there is a complicated optional system presented in Eldritch Wizardry), so you can understand why Holmes went with the only statement in the original rules that spoke to it.

Thus, Holmes included an updated version of LBB sentence in the section on Dexterity: "Characters with high dexterity can get off the first arrow, throw the first spell or draw a weapon and strike the first blow" (pg 5 of the published rulebook). Note the addition of melee attacks to the list of actions. Other games using dexterity in combat that predate Holmes Basic include Warlock, a 1975 non-TSR OD&D Supplement, and the Metamorphosis Alpha RPG by TSR (1976).  

In Dragon #52, while reviewing the new Moldvay Basic Set, Holmes wrote: "The new rules introduce surprise and initiative die rolls into the combat situation. I had merely had the creature with the highest dexterity strike first. The initiative roll makes combat a good deal more chancy, and I’m not sure I like it. I will not object, to it on the basis of its being less “realistic,” however!"


This paragraph is unchanged between the manuscript and the rulebook. This means the inclusion of these parry rules, unusual for D&D, was due to Holmes. However, it's pretty clear that Holmes derived these rules from the parry rules in Chainmail, particularly these two sentences: "...the defender may parry the blow by subtracting 2 from the attacker's roll, but he has no counter blow ... If the attacker equals the original requirement for a kill the higher weapon breaks the defender's weapon" (pg 25-26). This is in the same section, "Man-to-Man Combat", that I believe led to Holmes decision to have two attacks per round in combat (see Part 16). I'm left with the overall impression of Holmes taking a serious look at Chainmail Man-to-Man Combat in order to understand how it could be used with D&D.

Note that the "person parrying does not get his next hit", but with Holmes giving two attacks per round a character could potentially attack and parry in the same round.


I always loved the flavorful title of this section, and it's exactly the same in the manuscript. The only change to this paragraph is that the end of the second sentence in the published rulebook adds  "...and shields do not count as protection when withdrawing". So both references to shields not counting in AC when withdrawing were added by TSR. So this is another example of Gygax clarifying the OD&D rules via the Basic Set rulebook.

Next up - Melee Examples!

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Part 16: "An Exchange of Two Blows With Ordinary Weapons"

Part 16 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 20 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along... 


These days this section is one of the most notorious in Holmes Basic, due to the rule that "Light weapons such as the dagger allow two blows per round". This rule, combined with single dice damage (d6) for all weapons, makes daggers twice as effective as swords and four times as effective as two-handed weapons, which "can be used only once every other round". As I once wrote, "Not a big deal if only M-Us with poor AC are using daggers, but if all the fighters in plate & shield are also using daggers it gets ridiculous". It's been theorized that this "broken" rule came about due to changes in Holmes' manuscript by TSR. Now with the manuscript we can finally look more closely at what Holmes intended. I'll start by quoting this entire section from the manuscript for your reading pleasure:

Now, let's go through this section sentence-by-sentence:

There are no differences in the title, or the first three sentences, between the manuscript and the published version. The ten-second rounds and ten-round turns are the same as in the section on "Time" described earlier (See Part 6). Here Holmes also gives us movement rates for each round of melee that are 1/12 of the rate per turn. One might expect the rate per round to be 1/10 of the rate per turn, since there are ten rounds per turn, but the 1/12 rate is clever because it is easier to use with the 10' squares common on maps back then, such as the Sample Dungeon. As far as I can tell Holmes came up with this himself since it is in the manuscript. And Gygax was fine with it, as he left it unchanged in the published rulebook, and expanded it in the module B2 by giving a rate of 5 feet/round for fully armored/heavily loaded, and by explicitly stating that the 1/12 calculation is to be used for determining monster movement during combat. See this OD&D thread for more on this.

In the fourth sentence we see the first difference. The manuscript says, "Each round consists of an exchange of two blows with ordinary weapons" (emphasis added), and the published version is the same except for dropping the word "two". By itself this is not a big change, and could just be attributed to editorial style; Holmes' choice of "two blows" might simply refer to the attacker's and defender's alternating attacks. 

In the published rulebook the next sentence is the problematic one: "Light weapons such as the dagger allow two blows per round". The manuscript is missing this sentence. So  Holmes did not single out daggers or light weapons for two blows per round and this represents a change by Gygax/TSR.

But look carefully at Holmes' next sentence, the fifth in the manuscript:

"The heavy two-handed sword, battle axe, halberd, flail, morning star, and pole arm can be used only once per round". This was changed to "...once every other round" in the published rulebook. If heavy weapons can only be used once per round, this means that all other weapons (swords, maces, daggers) can be used more than once per round. So when Holmes wrote "two blows per round" what he meant is that all other melee weapons get two attacks per round. Holmes makes this crystal clear in the melee examples, which I will cover in a future installment, where characters and monsters get two melee attacks per round.

The next two sentences in the published rulebook deal with crossbows:

"The light crossbow takes time to cock and load, so it likewise can be fired only once every other round. The heavy crossbow takes twice as long to load and fire". However, in the manuscript, there's just a single (sixth) sentence about the heavy crossbow:

So in the manuscript the light crossbow could be used once per round (as all other missile weapons) and the heavy crossbow every other round.

The rest of this section is unchanged between the original and published verison. Of note, the last sentence mentions that the DM should consider 'friendly fire' during combat if missile weapons are used, although earlier on the same page in the section on "Cover" (Part 15), Holmes said that missile fire was not permitted at all once melee was engaged.

In summary, here are Holmes' original number of attacks per round:

Normal Weapons: 2 attacks per round
Heavy Weapons (e.g., Two-handed): 1 attack per round
Most Missile Weapons, Spells: 1 attack per round
Heavy Crossbows: 1 attack every other round

[Update: The "1 attack per round" for missile weapons is my interpretation of the text. See this thread for discussion of the possibility that missile weapons should also get 2 attacks per round]

This was changed by TSR in the published rulebook to:

Light Weapons (e.g., Dagger): 2 attacks per round
Normal Weapons: 1 attack per round
Heavy Weapons (e.g.,  Two-handed): 1 attack every other round
Most Missile Weapons, Spells: 1 attack per round
Light Crossbows: 1 attack every other round
Heavy Crossbows: 1 attack every fourth round 

In Holmes' original rules, the heavy weapons are at a disadvantage compared to normal weapons, having only the potential for half as much damage per round. But TSR's changes exaggerate this, making it twice as bad.

If you want to use Holmes' original version, I'd suggest using double damage (2d6) for heavy weapons and allowing them a free parry per round to mitigate the loss of shield (along the lines of what I suggested earlier for the published rulebook).

So, where did Holmes get the idea of two attacks per round for normal weapons?

In the absence of clear description of how combat works in the LBBs, my guess is that Holmes went back to Chainmail. The section on combat in Chainmail has the following sentence: "A man wielding a weapon four classes lower (1 vs. 5, 2 vs. 6, and so on) strikes two blows during every melee round" (pg 26 of Chainmail). The "two blows during every melee round" is very close to the "two blows per round" that Holmes includes in the manuscript. In Chainmail, many of the one-handed weapons are four classes lower than many of the two-handed weapons. See the Man-to-Man Melee Table on page 41; e.g., swords (class 4) are four classes lower than pole arms (class 8). Chainmail balances this fewer blows of heavier weapons by having them be more effective against heavier armors, but Holmes didn't include this part in the Basic rules. Kudos to Grey Elf at OD&D Discussion for suggesting the influence of Chainmail on the Holmes rules back in 2010).

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Part 15: "Hits With Arrows"

Part 15 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 20 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along... 


1st paragraph: The only change here from the manuscript is that "in inches" in the second sentence is changed to "in feet" in the published version. This is simply a correction of a typo, because Holmes' table shows the ranges in feet, not inches. Perhaps in an earlier draft Holmes had the ranges in inches like in OD&D.

Table: As in the published version, this table in the manuscript has no title, although the manuscript Table of Contents refers to it as "TABLE Range of Missile Weapons".

The original table is basically the same as the published one, but with a few differences. First I will discuss the sources of the material for this table.

The original source for the bow/crossbow ranges is Chainmail, pg 41, "Individual Fires with Missiles". Gygax then reprinted these ranges in Greyhawk, pg 14. These sources simply note the max range, and a convention of thirds: short range is the first third, medium the second third, and long the remaining third. Holmes uses the same ranges but writes them out in the table, which makes it easier for beginners to see.

Holmes also adds entries for "sling stone", "javelin" and "handhurled axe, spear or dagger" (despite slings and javelins not being listed in the Equipment Table). I'm not sure where he sourced this material, possibly Chainmail and/or Swords & Spells, although the numbers are not exactly the same. Chainmail has a somewhat hidden note on page 10 that "throwing axes and spears" have a range of 3" (30 feet), and the Missile Fire table in Swords & Spells, pg 9, follows this with a long range of 3" for "spear, axe, hammer". No short or medium ranges are listed in Swords & Spells. Holmes uses the 3" max range but then follows the 1/3 convention: short 0-10, medium 10-20, long 20-30. Swords & Spells has javelin as 1"/4"/8"; Holmes changes this using the thirds rule to 0-30/30-60/60-90. Sling Stone seems to differ the most. S&S has 4"/8"/12" for sling stones and 5"/10"/16" for sling bullets, but Holmes put slings stones at an even greater 0-60/60-120/120-180.

In the published rulebook, Gygax changes the range for axe/spear/dagger to short range "0-10 feet", long range "10-30 feet" - dropping medium range completely for unknown reasons. In AD&D, however, Gygax stuck with the 10/20/30 for each of these weapons; see pg 38 of the Players Handbook. Gygax also changed the javelin range slightly to 0-20/20-40/40-80, which is closer to the Swords & Spells ranges. In AD&D the javelin's long range is further lessened to 20/40/60. The other ranges in the published rulebook remain the same. A note is added under Horse Bow indicating that it is a "(Short Composite Bow). This is another item not found in the Equipment List.

2nd paragraph: In this paragraph Holmes provides the adjustments "to hit" at different ranges, and illustrates their use by way of an example with an archer firing at a giant rat. The manuscript version is basically the same as the published version, but with different modifiers: 0 for long range, +1 for medium range, and +2 for short range. These match the modifiers given in Men & Magic, page 20, so here Holmes was following the source material and Gygax changed it to -1 for long, 0 for medium, and +1 for short. The numbers are in the example are also changed to match the altered modifiers. The AD&D Players Handbook would further alter these modifiers to -5 for long, -2 for medium and 0 for short.

3rd paragraph: This paragraph, which adds some clarifications about missile fire, is absent in the manuscript, so was added by Gygax. This is the only place in the Basic rulebook that mentions "Outdoors read feet as yards".


This paragraph is identical in the manuscript and published rulebook. Here Holmes provides adjustments for partial cover (-2 to hit) and full cover (-4 to hit). I'm not sure about the source for this info. I don't believe it's covered in the original D&D books, though I may be overlooking it. Chainmail has a short section on cover, and Swords & Spells provides a list of "Missile Fire Adjustments" on page 23, which includes several types of partial/full coverage, though with much greater subtractions (listed in percentages) than here.


Another paragraph without change between the manuscript and published version. Here Holmes follows the OD&D convention of having magic armor and shields subtract from the attacker's die roll rather than improve armor class. Gygax would modify this is the module for Holmes Basic B2, which has armor classes below 2.

* * * * *

In the next installment I'll finally cover the section with the infamous 'broken' rule allowing daggers two attacks per round. Stay tuned!

Continue on to Part 16: "An Exchange of Blows With Two Ordinary Weapons"
Or Go Back to Part 14: "A Curare Tipped Blowgun Dart"
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Part 14: "A Curare Tipped Blowgun Dart"

Happy New Year! I've been distracted by the Holidays including frequent sessions of our new Lego Heroica Set - a D&D 'Basic' if there ever was - but now return to our regularly scheduled comparative analysis.

* * * * *

Part 14 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 19 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along... 


No changes from the manuscript to the published rulebook in this section. Holmes seems to have drafted this section from scratch from scattered references to poison throughout the OD&D volumes. The mention of "curare" in "curare tipped blowgun darts" is more specific  about poison than D&D usually gets, possibly a nod to his background as a neurologist.


In this section Holmes' draft has but a single short paragraph:

The original D&D rules for oil are extremely minimal: Vol 1 has "flask of oil" in the equipment list and Vol 3 says simply, "Burning oil will deter many monsters from continuing pursuit" (pg 13). That's it; there is no suggestion of hurling flasks of oil in combat. In this context, Holmes' brief paragraph makes sense. Earlier in the manuscript in the section on Wandering Monsters he included the line about deterring monsters, and here adds some clarifying info about the size and damage caused by a burning pool of oil. As far as I can tell he simply picked out these numbers himself. As with OD&D, there's no implication of use in combat.

In the published version, the first paragraph of this section is the same as Holmes' paragraph, except that the 20 foot diameter and "2 die" of damage (presumably d6) is changed to a 5 foot diameter and "2 8-sided dice" of damage. So Gygax kept Holmes' additions but tweaked the numbers. 

And then added much more. The remainder of this section in the published rulebook, consisting of four paragraphs covering use of oil in combat, is missing from the manuscript, suggesting it was written and added by Gygax. These rules are somewhat unique in early D&D, in that they rely on a d20 attack where the chance to hit is based on size rather than armor class. In a thread on OD&D Discussion, I once summarized these rules in a table:

The rules further require require a second hit on above table with thrown flaming object (torch, lantern, etc) at +2 on die roll. Once lit, damage is 1d8 for first round, 2d8 for second round, none thereafter.

There are some details that suggest these rules might be an early version of material that ended up in the complex "GRENADE-LIKE MISSILES" (pg 64) section of the 1E Dungeon Masters Guide. As far as I can tell that section doesn't have oil ignoring armor class but it does have (1) hurled oil causing damage for two rounds before burning out, and (2) requiring secondary contact with flame (unless flasks are specially prepared with a lit rag).


No changes from the manuscript to the published rulebook in this section. As far as I can tell there are no rules in OD&D explaining the effect of holy water; it simply appears in the list of equipment without further explanation. So Holmes simply has it having effects 'equivalent' (presumably 2 dice of damage) to oil but only on the undead.

Holmes later wrote a short story, The Sorcerer's Jewel (Dragon #46, February 1981), which has Boinger and Zereth using both oil and holy water in combat. In one encounter the oil is spread and then separately ignited. In another encounter Boinger uses holy water against a powerful type of undead.

Continue on to
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript