Thursday, March 20, 2014

Part 26: "Always Attack Dwarves on Sight"

Part 26 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 27 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along...


Holmes' description is a rewording of the short original in OD&D, Vol 2 (pg 4 and 16). OD&D Vol 1 listed Gnomes along with Dwarves in the column of "Lawful", but Holmes gives them a "Neutral" alignment. In Strategic Review #5 (Feb 1976), Gygax introduced the 5-point alignment system and had placed gnomes in the square for Chaotic Good (near the border for Lawful). Thus it's no surprise that the published rulebook changes the alignment to "chaotic good 75%, neutral 25%". Later editions have them as "Neutral to Lawful Good" (Monster Manual) or "Lawful/Neutral" (B/X).

The published rulebook adds one sentence to the end of the description: "They favor crossbows". This preference doesn't appear in the Monster Manual, where they use short bows, slings and spears as missile weapons, but Tom Moldvay did keep it in B/X.

Gnomes as PCs is usually considered an AD&D-ism, but like many other rules it has roots in OD&D. In the Greyhawk Supplement, the section on Dwarf PCs on page 5 describes Dwarves as being "...of various types (hill, mountain, or burrowers)(such as gnomes)". Being in the character section, the implication is that the player can choose a type for a dwarf character, including a gnome. Holmes used some of the Dwarf descriptive material from Greyhawk in his section on characters, but left out the reference to the sub-types. 

In the Monster Manual gnomes receive an extensive new write-up that gives the first hint of their magical powers: "It is rumored that there exist gnomes with magical abilities up to 4th level, but this has not been proved" (pg 46). Gnomes were finally introduced as a full player character race in the Player's Handbook, where these magical abilities were revealed to be illusionist abilities, but of 5th to 7th level rather than 4th.


Holmes draws on OD&D, Vol 1 (alignment) and Vol 2, pages 3 (stats) and 7 (description). Holmes lists their Alignment as "chaos", unusual because he doesn't usually include alignment if the monster is chaotic. Holmes has their Hit Dice as "1 - 1 point (but always a 1)", a typo corrected in the published rulebook as "1 -1 point (but always at least 1)". Holmes has their Treasure as "1-6 Gold Pieces each" which is from page 3 of Vol 2. The published rulebook changes this to a new Treasure Type, L, which is 2-12 electrum pieces per individual. 

The manuscript description is taken from two paragraphs on page 7 of OD&D, Vol 2, and follows it closely but drops a reference to morale since Basic doesn't include morale rules. Holmes adds a new sentence at the end about the leader-types: "They are large and fearless, fight at full strength under all conditions and take nothing of their hit die, in dark or light". Holmes may be equating these big goblins with Saruman's Uruk-Hai, who had resistance to sunlight. Holmes uses the term "hit die" to refer to the attack roll, something seen occasionally in OD&D. The published rulebook doesn't make any changes to the description.

Goblins are an important part of Holmes' "flavor text" in Holmes Basic: the first combat example is a battle with one, and a group appears in a room in the Sample Dungeon.

Update: Another tibdit. In Greyhawk, Goblins do 1d4 per hit. In the published Holmes Basic rulebook its upgraded to 1d6, the same as would later appear in the Monster Manual.

Illustration from the 1st edition rulebook

Holmes included all of the original OD&D "Clean-Up Crew" in Basic. We've previously seen the Black Pudding and Gelatinous Cube (added in Greyhawk), and next up are two more.

Gray Ooze

The manuscript retains all of the concepts from the original with just the typical minor editing & re-phrasing. The published manuscript changes "two dice of damage" (2d6 in OD&D Vol 2) to "two 8-sided dice of damage" to bring the damage in line with the alternate damage introduced in Greyhawk. Note that both the original and Holmes Basic say it takes a turn to do this damage, which would be ten minutes in OD&D, or 10 combat rounds in Holmes Basic. This may be a place where the original rules used "turn" to mean "round", because B/X clarifies the damage is per round.

Also, Gygax used Grey Oozes in the Shunned Cavern (Area G) in the module B2, which was originally written for Holmes Basic. There he provides some clarification for the Grey Ooze attack: "Each causes 1-8 points of damage on the first round, unless attacking from above, because half of their damage will be taken up in destroying the foot and leg protection of the victim. Thereafter, attacks cause 2-16 points of damage, as do attacks from above".

The 1st edition rulebook includes an illustration of the grey ooze (see above) that was cut from later editions. The art is unsigned but is likely by David C. Sutherland, or possibly Tom Wham. 

Green Slime

Again the manuscript retains all concepts from the original, even the reference to the Cure Disease spell, a third level Cleric spell which is not described the Basic rulebook. Holmes changes the word "non-mobile" to "non-motile, which the published rulebook changes back. I guess Holmes thought "motile" (able to move on its own) was more accurate than "mobile" (which more broadly includes things that can be set in motion). As we've seen repeatedly, the published rulebook adds a new sentence at the end of the description: "It often drops from high places, such as ceilings", perhaps to clarify how it might attack without being able to move. Does it drop from ceilings on its own accord when it senses the heat of an animal?

The Monster Manual clarifies that green slime is a "plant monster", so it could be subject to a Plant Control ring. Perhaps one could keep it from releasing from a ceiling, or even cause it to release itself from flesh. 

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Part 25: "Horrors are Naturals for Dungeons"

Part 25 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 26 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along...


Five types of giants are described in OD&D Vol 2, pg 8: Hill, Stone, Frost, Fire and Cloud. Holmes reproduces the table from this page and adds Storm Giants from Greyhawk, pg 34.
The Vol 2 entry begins, "As stated in CHAINMAIL, Giants act as mobile light catapaults with a 20' range", and Holmes goes to this source, using material from page 12-13 of Chainmail to describe the giants' thrown rocks. The published version keeps all of Holmes' text, including the material sourced from Chainmail, and adds a few columns to the table: "Alignment" and "Damage". The info for the "Damage" column comes from the varying dice table on page 17 of Greyhawk. However, in the last column the published version also retains the multiple dice damage from Vol 2 for the larger giants, resulting in two different ranges for damage. For example, Frost Giants are listed as doing "4-24" in the "Damage" column but 2 die + 1 damage per hit (i.e., 3-13 points of damage) in the last column. This inconsistency remained through all printings of the rulebook.

For those of you with later printings, I'll note that the first printing of the rulebook also contains two short paragraphs of text following the table that were deleted in the 2nd edition (1978) when the Monster List was reformatted:

These sentences are from Holmes' manuscript, and the subect matter is also sourced from the material in Vol 2, with the exception that the original only mentions the gold and not the rocks in the shoulder sacks. In an earlier post ("Blue Book Hydras"), I noted that the Monster Manual doesn't mention hydras in any of the entries for giants. But looking at B/X now, I note Hydras, along with Hell Hounds, are listed as guards for Fire Giants. So this early concept of Hydras as the pets of giants was retained in one later aspect of D&D.

Giant Animals and Insects

This is an important entry that was included in the manuscript but deleted from the published rulebook. It explains the various "giant vermin" that Holmes mentions throughout the rulebook. In the past, I had wondered why he mentions giants rats, spiders and other undescribed creatures in his examples and the Sample Dungeon that aren't described in the Monster List. But these actually did have a point of reference in this catchall entry that follows the lead of Chainmail, which has entry for "Giant Spiders and Insects" (pg 36) and OD&D, Vol 2, which has entries for "Insects or Small Animals" (which includes wolves, centipedes, snakes and spiders) and "Large Insects or Animals" ("includes giant ants and prehistoric monsters"), that give some general, vague guidance on stats for these creatures. Holmes' choice of words in the last sentence echoes the first sentence in the Chainmail entry, which reads "The possibilities for employing such creatures are almost endless, and the abilities and weakness of each should be decided upon prior to the game they are to be used in".

The dungeon encounter tables in Vol 3 of OD&D include some "Giant" creatures in the tables, such as "Giant Rats", "Giant Ants" and "Giant Snakes" but also just "Centipedes" and "Spiders". Greyhawk, page 18, includes some varying dice damage for these creatures, but no other stats. Most of these monsters didn't receive a full write-up until the Monster Manual, which was published after Holmes Basic. So Holmes synthesized what had come previously as this "Giant Animals and Insects" entry. He interprets a Giant Animal's hit dice as equal to its dungeon level, such as 1 HD giant rats on level 1, 2 HD giant rats on level 2, etc. It's a simple way to scale vermin by dungeon level. Earlier in the manuscript (Part 18), we saw an example of Holmes using such creatures in the Second Combat Example, where he has the party attacked by "six giant spiders with 1 hit die each", "armor class 3" and a bite that does the standard d6 of damage plus poison. 

This comes from a simpler era when giant animals weren't so codified, and DMs were expected to be able to easily come up with stats for these creatures themselves. As much as I like the original Monster Manual, I do like this simplicity - do we really need separate entries for every type giant animal? It also allows for more variety in the size of each type of giant animal.

In the published rulebook they simply deleted this entry without any corresponding replacement. This left the rulebook littered with mentions of giant vermin without any reference point in the Monster List. In particular, this created problems with the Wandering Monster Tables, as I've mentioned previously (for example see the post, "Basic Level Monster Tables 1974-1978"), although some stats for these creatures were present in the random tables in the Monster & Treasure Assortment also included in the boxed set along with the 1st edition rulebook. TSR may have thought these stats were sufficient.

Giant Ant, Giant Centipede, Giant Rats

These three entries were adding to the 2nd edition of the rulebook in 1978, after the Monster Manual was published, and are apparently adapted from the entries there. Naturally, they are not present in the manuscript.

Giant Tick 

This is the only "giant" animal that Holmes gives its own entry in the manuscript, and this reflects that it was also the first "giant" animal (along with Giant Slugs) to get its own full standard entry in OD&D, specifically in the Greyhawk supplement (although some aquatic "giant" creatures had their own descriptions in a special section for Naval Advenures in OD&D Vol 2). Holmes' description of the ticks follows the Greyhawk description closely, including a mention of the spell Cure Disease which is not described in the Basic rulebook. The published rulebook follows the manuscript, with no changes to the description and only adding a single attack for d4 damage to the stats.


This is another entry not included by Holmes in the manuscript, and thus not found in the published rulebook but was later added to the 2nd edition. This one differs from the others in that Gnolls were fully described back in OD&D Vol 2, are humanoids rather than vermin, and are even an entry on the 2nd level of the Wandering Monster table that Holmes included in the manuscript (see Part 7). Holmes may have overlooked these humanoids when compiling his Monster List, but possibly in left them out in favor of the many other types of humanoids.

Update: Andy C on G+ asked about the Tom Wham "Gnoll" illustration in the first edition rulebook. Yes, it's there near the 'G' monsters (on the top of page 26), even without an entry for Gnoll. It's not clear if Wham originally intended for the creatures were to be gnolls, although the look remarkably similar to Sutherland's gnoll in the Monster Manual (which was published after the rulebook, but possibly drawn earlier). 

Gnolls are also mentioned in the Holmes manuscript in two other places: the languages that elves speak, and the humanoids subject to Charm Person.

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Enter the Gateway to Adventure

1980 advertisement for Holmes Basic. Click for larger view

Here's a great scan of a Holmes Basic ad from 1980, courtesy grodog in a post at the Acaeum. This particular ad is from the Sept 1980 issue Fantastic Films, a sci-fi/fantasy movie magazine that ran from 1978-1985. The ad probably ran in other publications around the same time.I've posted a shot of this ad before, but it was a low res photo of a clipping that was being auctioned on Ebay so I had no idea of the source.

This ad shows later edition of the Holmes Basic Set, that includes the module B2 and chits instead of dice. This was the same version that I got as my first set, at the rather late date of 1982. The rulebook is probably the last (third) edition, which is dated December 1979 on the title page.

The module B2 has a copyright date of 1980. Frank Mentzer started working at TSR on January 20th, 1980, and one his first jobs was editing B2. The Library of Congress lists a date of July 2nd, 1980 for B2. So mid-1980 may be the date for the appearance of the Basic Set with B2. Which is not very long before the Moldvay Set appeared in early 1981 (January according to the title page, Feb 16th according to the Library of Congress listing).

One interesting detail is that the ad apparently shows a pre-production cover of the module B2. If you look closely, the cover is apparently black rather than purple. Also, the upper left corner with "B2" is white rather than purple. There are also two bits of text that are only found on the title page of the published version: The IBSN number, lower left, below "Printed in the U.S.A." and the last three lines of text on the cover that begin "Distributed to the book trade..." No actual printings of a module looking like this have been found; the consensus is that it is a pre-production mock-up. So the photo may have been taken before the module was actually printed, perhaps in the spring of 1980. 

There's an earlier version of this ad showing the 2nd edition of the Basic Set with the module B1 and chits. The scan I have is black and white although it possibly was run in color as well.

"Gateway to Adventure" was also used as the title of TSR catalogs from around the same time period, which can sometimes be found with Basic Sets on Ebay. Here are several versions of this catalog:

Grey "Demon" Gateway to Adventure catalog, circa 1980

Black "Demon" Gateway to Adventure catalog, circa 1980
I have one of these rare black covered Gateway catalogs but need to make a scan of the cover. This image is from an old auction. IIRC it predates the more common grey cover.

Brown "Doorway" Gateway to Adventure catalog, circa 1981. Source: Tome of Treasures
In my experience this is the most common of the "Gateway" catalogs found on Ebay. And there are at least three different versions of this catalog, all with the same front cover. The earliest one has a blank brown back cover, which can be see here at Tome of Treasures. According to that post, "There are a few items that have "Coming In 1981" in the product picture area for items that weren't quite ready for this publication.

The second version has a t-shirt order form on the back cover, including a Sutherland Red Dragon T-shirt), but also still has a number of items listed as "Coming in 1981". When I bought the pdf of the B/X Expert Set from D&D Classics last year, it included a scan of the entire earlier version of this catalog at the end of the pdf. You can also see it via the flickr link provided by 2warps in the comments down below. 

The third version also has the t-shirt order form on the back cover, but the interior has been updated with pictures for new items. It also replaces the OD&D listings on page 9 with new products like the minigames and the Fiend Folio.

(I updated this section of this post on 3/13).

"Morley" Gateway to Adventure catalog, circa 1982. Source: Tome of Treasures
This catalog, featuring the irksome "Morley" the wizard (also found in the boardgame Fantasy Forest), is the last one to feature the "Gateway to Adventure" tagline. In the 1983 catalog, Morley reappears but with a different tag, "Follow me to the Promised Land of Adventure Games".

"Morley" Adventure Games catalog, circa 1983. Source: Tome of Treasures

Friday, March 7, 2014

Part 24: "Winged Beasts of Hideous Aspect"

Part 24 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 25 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along... 

Elves: The material is sourced from in OD&D, Vol 1, page 17 (alignment) and Vol 2, pages 4 (most stats) and 16 (description). Holmes keeps the stats the same, except for alignment. The original table has Elves listed under Law and Neutrality, but Holmes represents this as "usually Lawful". The published version changes this to "chaotic good (some neutral)".

For the description, Holmes reduces the original from eight sentences to three.  The content of the first sentence is retained, referring to the two types, "wood Elves and meadow-land elves". The published rulebook changes the second type to "high elves". 

The OD&D source then presents elvish leaders: for every 50 elves, there is an elf Fighter Lvl 1-4/M-U Lvl 1-6, and for every 100, an elf of Lvl 4/8. Fighter 4 and M-U 8 were the level limits of elves in the original rules. Holmes changes this to: "When a group of 50 is encountered, they will have a leader (fighter or magic-user) of 4th to 8th level". The "fighter or magic-user" presumably refers back to Holmes' section on characters where elves could decide to be fighters or magic-users for each adventure. It also gives the appearance of allowing for Fighters up to 8th level. The published rulebook takes it back toward the original, with a "leader (fighter/magic-user) of 2-4 level/2-8 level ability", and adds "(possibly fewer)" to the number of elves.

Here we have another 'wilderness' monster that, like Centaurs and Dryads, was cut from the manuscript by TSR. The stats and text are drawn straight from the OD&D source. 

Early printings of OD&D referred to these creatures as 'Ents' per Tolkien but later printings changed them to 'Treants'. This changed was made in late 1977, after the 1st print of Holmes Basic was released, and at the same time other Tolkien references such as "hobbit" and "balrog" were generally removed from the OD&D booklets.

Fire Beetle:  This monster was added, along with several other low HD creatures, by TSR to the 2nd edition (Nov 1978) of the rulebook. As expected, it is not found in the manuscript.

Gargoyles: The material is sourced from in OD&D, Vol 1, page 17 (alignment) and Vol 2, pages 3 (most stats) and 14 (description). Holmes' stats are identical to the original, though he leaves out the alignment as usual when the monster is chaotic and evil. In the description, he adds the descriptor "of hideous aspect" and simplifies the original's 75% chance of attacking to "will attack nearly anything". He also changes "at least semi-intelligent, and usually can be relied upon to behave with forethought and planning" to "are semi-intelligent and cunning". He also inexplicably leaves out the last, important sentence that "Only magical weapons/attacks affect Gargoyles". The published rulebook restores the "at least semi-intelligent" and the final sentence: "They can only be hit with magic weapons". The published rulebook also gives them four attacks for 1-4 points of damage each. This is a simplification of Greyhawk, pg 17, which has them with "2 claws/1 bite/1 horn" for "1-3/claw, 1-6/bite, 1-4/horn". It's quite an attack upgrade from OD&D Vol 2, and the Holmes manuscript, where they get only the single standard attack of 1d6, making Gargoyles much more fearsome opponents.

Gelatinous Cube: Gelatinous Cubes were briefly described in OD&D, Vol 2, pg 22, but lacked any stats. Greyhawk remedied this, providing full stats and an expanded description (pg 39). Holmes follows this source closely, even mentioning the non-standard (2d4) damage in the the description. He simplifies "subject to normal weapons and fire, but lightning, cold, paralization, fear, and polymorph attacks do not harm them" to "subject to fire and normal weapons but not to cold, lightning or most spells". This can be considered a defensive upgrade as it seems to preclude more spells (like magic missile or sleep). The published rulebook retains this change. The Monster Manual later explained this as immunity to electricity, fear, holds, paralyzation, polymorph and sleep; Moldvay Basic simply drops the "most spells" portion. A minor change in the published rulebook is a change from "sweep through rooms" to "move through rooms" in the second sentence.

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