Thursday, July 31, 2014

Part 35: "A Potent Weapon in the Hands of a Dwarf"

Part 35 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 34 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along... (page 33 for a 1st edition rulebook) 

Magic Items Die Roll 

Immediately after the section on "Maps and Magic Item Categories", the manuscript has a series of tables for magic items. As published these are all on page 36 (page 35 for a 1st edition rulebook). As I go through these, I'll skip ahead to the relevant descriptions for each.

The first table is "Magic Items Die Roll", which comes straight from OD&D Vol 2, page 23, and Holmes' only change is to combine "Armor" and "Misc. Weapons" into one entry, "Other Weapons and Armor". This table, and the paragraph of instructions following it, are unchanged as published except for correction of a typo ("20-40" for "Other Weapons and Armor" is changed to "21-40"). Moldvay Basic also uses this table without any further changes.


Holmes' original table for Swords:

At the start of the section on Treasure, Holmes wrote that the "tables have been abbreviated from the GREYHAWK supplement for simplicity of use". That he referenced the Greyhawk table, rather than just the shorter one in OD&D Vol 2, is shown here by the presence of Greyhawk items like the Sword of Cold and the Vorpal Sword. 

The first six swords in his table are found in both the original table and Greyhawk, although the Flaming Sword (#3) is simplified a bit by making it +2 vs Undead rather than +3, and leaving out the references to Pegasi, Hippogriffs, Rocs & Ents. 

The last four swords reference Greyhawk, though with some changes. The Sword of Cold is changed to a "Basic" version mirroring the Flaming Sword, +1/2 (instead of +3/5). The Sword +2 against Dragons seems a hybrid of the original's Sword +1, +3 vs Dragons, and Greyhawk's Dragon Slaying Sword +2. Greyhawk simply lists "Vorpal Blade" but here Holmes includes the bonus (+2) from page 47 of that book.

The published rulebook keeps Holmes' idea of a "Basic" ten-item table, as well as several of the swords. However, changes were made to the third and the last five swords, with the net result of only one entry that references Greyhawk.

At #3, the Flaming Sword is reverted to the original, giving +3 against Undead.

Holmes' choice for #8 is reverted to the original version from OD&D Vol 2: a Sword +1, +3 against Dragons, and moved to spot #6, replacing the second sword with a spell-like ability, Sword +1, Charm Person Ability. 

At #7, the Sword of Cold is changed to Sword +1, +2 against Magic-users and Enchanted Monsters, also from the original table. The definition of an Enchanted Monster is not explained further in this section. As we saw back in Part 10, Gygax amended the description of Protection from Evil to add some examples of Enchanted Monsters, including "elementals, invisible stalkers, demons, etc" - although none of these are found in the Basic rulebook.

Item #8 becomes Sword +3, also from the original table.

Item #9 is merely clarified from Sword +1 Cursed to Sword -1 Cursed. The original table had just a Sword -2 Cursed, and Greyhawk confusingly had this and a Sword +1 Cursed. Holmes may have thought that Sword +1 Cursed was the clearest way to explain this (perhaps because the sword resembles a Sword +1), but TSR went with the -1.

Item #10 is drastically nerfed from the awesome Vorpal Blade +2 to the Sword -2 Cursed, and doubling the number of cursed swords from 10% to 20%, a bit harsh for Basic.


This picture of a sword in a jeweled scabbard is found within the tables in the published
rulebook. It has been reported that Tom Wham indicated that this is his work.  

Moldvay Basic keeps Holmes' idea of a short list, and in fact makes it even shorter: only 8 swords. Sword +3 and Sword -2 are the dropped ones. Several of the others are simplified; the flaming sword +1 becomes a sword +1, +3 vs undead. The sword with the locating objects ability is changed to a sword that casts light on command. (Holmes indicated at pg 9 of the rulebook that all magic swords shed light).

Armor and Weapons

Holmes picked all of these except the last from the two original tables for Armor and Miscellaneous Weapons in OD&D Vol 2. For #5, he slightly modified the original's Dagger +1 vs Man-Sized, +2 vs Goblins and Kobolds by adding Orcs to the group; in the original Orcs are only included with the Dagger +2 vs Man-Sized Opponents. The cursed armor at #10 appears to be Holmes' simplification of the Armor of Vulnerability in Greyhawk, which appears to be from +1 to +4 but is actually -1 to -4. 

In the published rulebook this table is changed less than the Swords table. Item #5 is removes Orcs, to conform with the original, and at #6 a second dagger is added, the Dagger +2 mentioned above (a nice addition for M-Us). Axe +1 and War Hammer +1 are each shifted up one position, and the War Hammer +3 is deleted from spot 8. (Perhaps the Sword +3 was thought to be a better choice). The Cursed Armor is left unchanged rather than making it -1 like the Cursed Sword, possibly because at this point in D&D you were still instructed to subtract the armor's bonus from the opponent's to hit roll. Making the Armor -1 but then adding it to the opponent's hit roll would have been confusing.

The first edition of the published rulebook refers to a War Hammer +3 in the section on Dwarves (pg 6), complete with a "described later" reference, so it is not surprising to find it in the manuscript. The second edition of the rulebook removed this errant reference.

Moldvay Basic also shortens this list to 8 items. The Dagger +2/3 is dropped and the Dagger +1/2 is changed to just a plain Dagger +1. The War Hammer +1 is changed to a Mace +1. The Spear +1 and Bow +1 are dropped, and a combined Armor +1 & Shield +1 entry is added.

Now we'll skip ahead to the corresponding description under "Explanation of Magical Items"

Magical Weapons 

For this section, Holmes draws on OD&D Vol 2, pages 30-31. There's just one major change here in the published rulebook. The first seven sentences are identical, but the eighth and ninth relate to the powers of the War Hammer +3 and are thus changed. 

Holmes' original:  "The magic war-hammer +3 is a potent weapon in the hands of dwarf, for then it does 2 die of damage per hit, can be thrown 60 feet and will return to the dwarf's hand after each throw. In the hands of any other character it has normal range and damage and no return capability, merely conferring +3 on the ability to hit".

This follows the description in OD&D Vol 2, but omits the extra +3 damage versus giants.

The replacement text as published: "Magical weapons other than swords always add their bonus to both hit probability and to the points of damage scored. Thus, a War Hammer +2 adds to the chance of hitting and also does 2 additional hit points when it does strike." 

So the text about the War Hammer +3 is changed to refer to War Hammer +2, although this lesser weapon is not included in the list of items. 

Holmes unfortunately omits any description of what a Vorpal Blade does, which may have contributed to the decision to delete it from the list. 
Update: I originally posted this on July 30th, but then I accidentally erased it the next day by saving a draft in place of it. Fortunately, I was able to grab the text from going back in another broswer window and re-create the identical post. The comments were magically restored when I reposted it.

Update #2: I went back added a few notes of comparison about the corresponding table in Moldvay Basic. Holmes' overall idea of a series of short tables is kept, along with many of his particular choices.  

Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Part 34: "Many Monsters Carry Treasure"

Part 34 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 34 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along... (page 33 for a 1st edition rulebook)


The material in Holmes' manuscript roughly follows the sequence of the original three OD&D booklets, so the section on Treasure immediately follows the Monster List, as in Vol 2 of OD&D (Monsters & Treasure). 

Holmes starts off with an introductory paragraph that I don't see in the original sources, so I think he wrote this from scratch. There are a few changes from the manuscript to the published version. The first two sentences are unchanged, including the typo that many monsters "secrete" treasure in their lair (so that's where all that treasures comes from...), but the third sentence is deleted; it read: "These tables have been abbreviated from the GREYHAWK supplement for simplicity of use". Holmes' fourth sentence is kept, but "the various supplements" is changed to "ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS". These changes are in line with the general trend to refer readers to AD&D instead of OD&D.

The fifth sentence is unchanged, the sixth sentence is truncated and the seventh sentence is deleted. Here are Holmes' originals:

This material may have been deleted when Gygax added the note about only using the Treasure Tables for large numbers of monsters (see below).


Immediately after this Holmes provides the Treasure Table from pg 22 of OD&D, Vol 2, with a few simplifications. He leaves out the column for copper pieces, and he drops the entries for Desert and Water from Type A, leaving only the numbers for Land as the only option (and omitting the word "Land"). In the published rulebook, Holmes' version of the Table is completely replaced with a new table covering Treasure Types A-T. The Monster Manual would later extend this table to Type Z, so the table in the published Basic rulebook may represent a work-in-progress of the table destined for the Monster Manual.

Use of the Treasure Table

This is Holmes' next section, which means the manuscript is missing the sections "BASE TREASURE VALUES" (covering conversion rates), "Gems" and "Jewelry". Earlier, in the section on "EXPERIENCE POINTS AND EXPERIENCE LEVELS" (See Part 8), Holmes simply included two sentences that stated: "Jewelry and Gems are worth 50 to 500 gold pieces each. Ten silver pieces are equal to one gold piece". I believe this is the sole extent of his discussion of these topics. So for Basic, Holmes intended to simplify coins to just silver and gold, and keep gems and jewelry with simple values. Gygax (or someone else at TSR) went back to OD&D Vol 2 and put back in material from pages 31-32 covering coin conversion rates/gems/jewelry, with a few changes.

Holmes' guidance in "Use of the Treasure Table" is included in it entirety, with no changes except for the addition of one sentence at the end: "It must be stressed that treasures shown are very large and generally only for use when large numbers of monsters are encountered". This echoes the note at the end of the Treasure Table in OD&D Vol 2 (which Holmes doesn't include): "All Treasure is found only in those cases where the encounter takes place in the "Lair". Gygax added similar material to the guidance at the beginning of the Monster List (see Part 20): "The TREASURE TYPES TABLE (shown hereafter) is
recommended for use only when there are exceptionally large numbers of low level monsters guarding them, or if the monsters are of exceptional strength (such as dragons). A good guide to the amount of treasure any given monster should be guarding is given in the MONSTER & TREASURE ASSORTMENTS which are included in the game". The first edition of the Basic Set included Set 1 of the Monster & Treasure Assortments, which included 100 treasures for each of dungeon levels 1-3. So at this point in the history of D&D, Gygax was trying to steer DMs that were stocking dungeons away from the Treasure Tables and towards these lesser treasures for general use.

Maps and Magic Categories

This is Holmes' next section. The 75% chance of magic / 25% chance of map comes from a short table on page 23 of OD&D Vol 2. Holmes leaves out all of the map tables from pages 26-27, but includes the note after the tables that treasures will be "guarded by appropriate monsters". He adds the ideas that maps should be made up in advance by the DM and incomplete, inaccurate or guarded by riddles. This entire section is unchanged from the manuscript to the published text.

In the first edition of the rulebook, this section is followed by a small illustration by David C. Sutherland III of treasure,  including coins, gems & jewelry. This was removed in the second edition.

Next Time: Magic Items! 

Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

TSR's response to Warlock

Guy Fullerton recently posted this early TSR advertisement on the Acaeum. It's from the back cover of the Spartan Simulation Gaming Journal, issue #10, August 1976. The ad looks like another iteration of the earliest D&D ad (posted on the Playing at the World blog) being identical to the 5th version that Jon posted, except for the addition of a Lizard Logo at the bottom, and a change from "VISIT A WORLD OF" to "TRY THE REAL THING!". As followers of this blog may remember, most of the the prior issue of Spartan was taken up with one of the earliest non-TSR D&D supplements, WARLOCK or how to play D&D without playing D&D. So it seems that TSR's reaction to the competition was to place this prominent ad on the back cover (the prior issue didn't even have an ad in this location) touting the genuine article.

Guy also reports on the Acaeum something else that I have never seen mentioned anywhere - issue #10 also has errata for the original Warlock, specifically a page detailing the Thievish Abilities table, which was missing from the article in issue #9. Warlock gives Thieves a lists of abilities to choose from, organized by level like spells. There's a full table in the later Complete Warlock (1978), but it was missing from the original article, so it's good to learn that it was actually published. 

As an aside, Spartan was published by Balboa Game Company, which also published the Complete Warlock. Balboa was associated with The War House in Long Beach, CA, which is still in existence, possibly with the same owner as back then (Steve Lucky). See the comments to this post. There is a combined advertisement for Balboa Game and The War House on the back of my copy of the Complete Warlock.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Part 33: "Spectral Armored Warriors"

Part 33 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 33 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along... (page 32 for a 1st edition rulebook)


Holmes follows the original in OD&D, Vol 2, with a few changes. Holmes strangely has them listed with an alignment of Neutral, although they appear with the forces of Law in OD&D, Vol 1. The published rulebook corrects their alignment to lawful good.

The published rulebook adds a new third sentence, "They typically avoid humans" and clarifies that Dimension Door can be used "once per day", which are two bits in OD&D that Holmes left out.

Holmes translates their ability to resist magic as an 11th level M-U as an "8 or better", per the Saving Throw Matrix in OD&D, Vol 1. This was necessary as the Basic rulebook does not include higher level saving throws (although it really should for monsters with HD over 3). The published rulebook clarifies this by adding that the roll is "on a 20-sided die".


These are the most powerful undead in OD&D, Vol 2, and get a relatively long entry. Greyhawk adds a few clarifications, which Holmes inserts in the appropriate place in the text. Holmes further adds that they "cast no reflection"; the original only mentioned that a mirror causes them to withdrawn. Holmes drops a sentence about their coffins from OD&D, and the mention of vampires from the Middle East in Greyhawk. Holmes also drops "bats" from the "10 to 100 rats or bats".

The published rulebook adds a lawful evil alignment, the same as all of the other higher undead (skeletons/zombies are neutral, and ghouls are chaotic evil, but the rest are all lawful evil). This implies a "lawful" hierarchy of the higher undead. The Monster Manual keeps this for all but the Vampire, who changes to chaotic evil, messing up this hierarchy.

The description in the published rulebook makes one addition to the manuscript text, adding "(or similar holy symbol)" after cross in the list of items that vampires withdrawn from. This is the only place that the Holmes rulebook refers to a "holy symbol"; the Equipment table only has a silver and wooden cross. One year the Players Handbook came out and only referred to holy symbols.

Were-Wolf, etc. - see Lycanthrope

Holmes has this cross-reference in the manuscript, and it made it into the 1st edition. It was deleted from the 2nd edition (Nov 1978) of the rulebook, when the Monster List entries were reformatted.


The reference to "Barrow wight (as per Tolkien)" is straight from OD&D, Vol 2 before the Tolkien references were excised. I don't have a copy of this, but a compiled list of changes to the OD&D books can be seen here at Tome of Treasures. Wights actually go back to Chainmail, where they are grouped with Ghouls and paralyze their opponents for 1 turn.

Holmes follows the original with a few changes. He changes "nasty critters" to "nasty immaterial critters"; the published rulebook changes this futher to "nasty nearly immaterial creatures". Holmes adds a new second sentence: "Their appearance is as spectral armored warriors", perhaps based on his impression of Tolkien's wights in Lord of the Rings. However, this must not have been Gygax's vision, as the published rulebook deletes this entire sentence. The Monster Manual doesn't have much more of a description, but the Trampier picture shows a relatively solid, unarmored member of the walking dead. Moldvay takes a different tack, describing them as a corpse inhabited by an undead spirit.

The published rulebook makes one other change to the manuscript text, adding "under the control of the draining creature" to the end of the first paragraph. This type of relationship sort of fits in with the "lawful evil hierarchy" of undead I mentioned above. One could easily extend this to allow Vampires to control Wights, etc.


In OD&D, Wraiths have a brief entry that just describes them basically as higher-powered Wights. Holmes keeps his entry similarly short, and there are no changes to the published rulebook.

Yellow Mold

In OD&D Yellow Mold doesn't really have any stats on page 4 of Vol 2. The first four columns are blank, and the last two (for % in Lair and Treasure Type) are "Nil". Holmes basically follows this in the manuscript, but with one big change: instead of no HD, he gives it 2 HD per 10 square feet of mold. Since their is no upper limit indicated, this means that Yellow Mold can be the highest HD monster in the rules (a 80' square patch would have 16 HD, more than a Storm Giant or Purple Worm). The published rulebook keeps this HD. Moldvay keeps the 2 HD, but limits the size to 10'. The Monster Manual goes back to the OD&D concept of no HD.

The description on page 19 of OD&D, Vol 2 covers how it damages by touch and asphyxiates via spores. Holmes follows this closely and their are no changes to the description in the published rulebook. The only change the rulebook makes is to the change the Move from "Non-motile" to "Non-mobile".


As I mentioned previously, the only thing distinguishing Skeletons & Zombies in OD&D, Vol 2 is their different HD and AC (1/2 HD, AC 7 for skeletons, 1 HD, AC 8 for zombies). 
Thus, Holmes entry in the manuscript is pretty similar to the one for skeletons. In fact, he keeps it so similar that he includes the same HD (1/2) by mistake. 

Holmes also writes "Armor Class Shield, 7"; Shield alone should be AC 8. Since he correctly separated another dual entry (Goblins/Kobolds), I think this is just an oversight on his part rather than misunderstanding of the notation.

The published rulebook keeps the manuscript text the same, except for adding one new sentence at the end: "By nature they are slow, getting only one attack every other melee round". I assume this change was to keep them in line with the Night of the Living Dead. The rulebook also changes their stats, restoring AC7 but changing the HD not to 1, but to 2. I assume this upgrade is to compensate for their every other round of attacking.

In B2, Gygax provides some twists on the Holmes Basic zombie, including amulets of protection from good that have them turned as ghouls, and Warrior Zombies.

Update: Skeleton/Zombie Hit Dice actually varied over the early printings of OD&D; see this ODD74 thread for details. It appears that Holmes had an early printing where the HD was listed as "1/2". This may have been meant to give skeletons 1 HD & zombies 2 HD, but Holmes interpreted each of them having 1/2 HD.

The first time through I also missed that in the manuscript Holmes gives Zombies a move of 120 feet/turn, which is a change from OD&D where Skeletons & Zombies each have a move of 60 feet/turn. Gygax didn't correct this in the published rulebook, and combined with the new sentence leads to the paradoxical situation that the slow Zombies who get only one attack every other round move at a rate of 120 feet/turn while Skeletons who attack normally only move at 60 feet/turn. See this K&KA thread for further discussion.

The Monster Manual fixes this by switching the speeds - Skeletons at 120, Zombies at 60, and keeping Zombies as slow attackers via a different rule - always striking last rather than every other round.

* * * * *

That's it for the Monster List. Onward to Treasure!

Continue on to Part 34: "Many Monsters Carry Treasure"
Or Go Back to Pt 32: "Commonly Found Near Graveyards, Dungeons or Deserted Places"
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Holmes in the New Basic

The new D&D Basic Rules are out, available as a free pdf download from the Wizards website. They are longer than expected for a free pdf, 110 pages with no art (except for the last page which shows the art from the Starter Set) and this only covers material from the Player's Handbook. Later releases will include monsters from the Monster Manual, to make it a complete game.

Holmes is nicely included in the credits on the first page, being the first name listed for "further development" of the "original game", and followed by his Basic Set successors in order.

The new rules use Dexterity for initiative, though rather than directly comparing Dexterity scores as in Holmes Basic, Dexterity checks are compared (d20 roll + plus Dex modifier). 


DMDavid notes a reference to the Bugbear Lair (Cave H) from the Caves of Chaos in B2, which Gygax wrote for Holmes Basic, in the humorous disclaimer on the first page:

Disclaimer: Wizards of the Coast is not responsible for the consequences of splitting up the party, sticking appendages in the mouth of a leering green devil face, accepting a dinner invitation from bugbears, storming the feast hall of a hill giant steading, angering a dragon of any variety, or saying yes when the DM asks, “Are you really sure?”

Rob Conley at Bat in the Attic references Holmes Basic when reviewing the new rules:

"Like the Basic DnD Holmes Blue Book there are references to the larger rule set embodied by the 5e PHB, DMG, and MM. I am fine with that as obviously one purpose of this FREE PDF is to be a very large brochure to sell the core rulebooks."