Sunday, January 25, 2015

Part 45: "Roll the Number and See What Happens!"

Part 45 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 41 of your 'Blue Book' (page 40 for the 1st edition) and follow along... 

After the Example of Play, Holmes' advice for DMs continues:

This example could be played with maps and pencil and paper. If miniature figures are used, they can be arranged in battle order on the table top and the movement through passages and rooms imagined, the pieces rearranged for combat or other changes of formation. Figures are available for all the character types of Dungeons & Dragons as well as for most of the monsters. TSR Hobbies and many of the manufacturing companies will mail catalogues of unpainted lead figures, usually for a $2.00 fee.

This is the extent to which Holmes covers marching order and rank in combat. In the Introduction he wrote, "The game is more exciting and spectacular using the lead miniature figures mentioned above, which can be painted to each player's individual taste, but paper markers or chessman can be used effectively" (pg 5). Holmes also mentions minis a few other places in the rulebook, including in How to Use this Book (both pg 5), Numbers of Characters (pg 8), and Time and Movement in the Dungeons (pg 9). 

Holmes regularly used minis in his D&D games, and accumulated a large collection over the years. You can see a 1979 picture of him with part of his collection of minis here, and he dedicated a chapter of 1981 book on FRPGs to minis.

In the published rulebook, the last sentence of this paragraph is deleted. TSR's catalogue was $2 at the time, as listed in a 1977 catalog and in the product listing at the back of the Holmes Basic rulebook. However the product listing also says, "For a complete listing of D&D miniature figures, send two first class stamps". So TSR moved this info to the product listing and corrected the price for a list of minis for sale, as well as removing any mention of competitors also having catalogs.

Obviously, the success of an expedition depends on the Dungeon Master and his creation, the dungeon. Many gamesters start with a trip across country to get to the entrance to the dungeon — a trip apt to be punctuated by attacks by brigands or wandering monsters or marked by strange and unusual encounters. 

A significant portion of OD&D Vol 3, The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures (as expected from the title) is given over to wilderness travel and encounters, in particular pages 14-20. In Basic, Holmes focuses on the dungeon, with just the sentence here mentioning the possibility of wilderness travel to get to the dungeon.

OD&D included a brief entry Brigands in Vol 2, following the entry for Bandits: "Same as Bandits except +1 morale and Chaos alignment". Holmes left these out of the Basic Monster List, not even mentioning them in the entry for Bandit, even though he included most of the other 'man-types' from OD&D and mentions them here.

No changes to these lines in the published rulebook.

The party then enters the underworld, tries to capture the maximum treasure with the minimal risk and escape alive. The Dungeon Master should have all this completely mapped out, hit points and attack die rolls calculated and recorded, so that the game will proceed most rapidly at the exciting moments when the enemy is encountered. Do not hesitate to have lawful or helpful characters chance by at times, your adventurers may need a little help!

This is only place in the Basic Manuscript where Holmes actually uses the term "underworld", despite the frequent use of the term in the D&D source material. He did later use "The Underworld" prominently in The Maze of Peril; see here for his description there.

The use of "Lawful" alone here refers to the original D&D alignment system, which Holmes used throughout the manuscript. In this case it was left unchanged in the published rulebook.

The imaginary universe of Dungeons and Dragons obviously lies somewhere close to the Middle Earth of J.R.R. Tolkien's great Lord of the Rings trilogy. The D & D universe also impinges on the fantasy worlds of Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, classical mythology and any other source of inspiration the Dungeon Master wants to use.

This is the closest that Holmes comes to an "Appendix N" or recommended reading list. 
Holmes later wrote, in Dragon #52 in a review of the then-new Moldvay Basic Set, that it has "a page-long list of “inspirational source material” which is more complete than the one given in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide. I didn’t have such a list in the first edition; this is someone else’s inspired idea. I wish I’d thought of it. Do you know there may be people out there playing a D&D game who have never read The Lord of the Rings?"

As published the "somewhere close" in the first sentence is changed to "somewhere not too far", adding a bit of distance, but even so this remains one of the strongest associations between D&D and Tolkien made in a published rulebook. The first edition of the published rulebook still refer to "hobbits" rather than "halflings", but this would be changed soon after starting with the second printing in Jan 1978.

Also as published, the list of authors is changed a bit, with Fritz Leiber added, and Michael Moorcock changed to Gardner F. Fox. Holmes' reference to Moorcock surprises me, as I can't recall Holmes mentioning him anywhere else. His FRPG book talks about literary references on page 46 and mentions Leiber and Howard among others, but not Moorcock.

Gardner Fox was concurrently writing short stories for Dragon magazine (the 'Niall of Far Travels' series), and designed a boardgame for TSR, Warlocks & Warriors, also published in 1977, so this may have been a bit of cross-promotion. Warlocks & Warriors is even listed in the product listing in the Holmes Basic rulebook, although it fails to mention that Fox is the creator of Warrior & Warlocks. Fox had also recently written the Kother and Kyrik series of Conanesque novels, so may have been in Gygax's mind as a worthy successor to Howard. 
Ad from 1977 TSR Catalog for Warlocks & Warriors by Gardner Fox

A final word to the Dungeon Master from the authors. These rules are intended as guidelines. No two Dungeon Masters run their dungeons the same way, as anyone who has learned the game with one group and then transferred to another can easily attest. You are sure to encounter situations not covered by these rules. Improvise. Agree on a probability that an event will occur and convert it into a die roll — roll the number and see what happens! The game is intended to be fun and the rules modified if the players desire. Do not hesitate to invent, create and experiment with new ideas. Imagination is the key to a good game. Enjoy!

A great paragraph by Holmes, one of the best in the book. It echoes the Afterward of Vol 3 of OD&D in emphasizing guidelines (OD&D: "space requires we put in only essentials only, and the trimming will oftimes have to be added by the referee and his players") and the ability of the dungeon master to improvise (OD&D: "the best way is to decide how you would like it to be, and then make it just that way!).

The published version changes "the same way" in the second sentence to "quite the same way". No other changes.

That's the end of the direct DM guidance provided by Holmes, although there is still plenty to be had in the remaining section of the rulebook, the Sample Dungeon.

Go Back to Part 44: "Knights Talk in Flowery Phrases"
or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Third Level Spell Sheet

Click for a larger view. Follow the link to download

Above is a screenshot of a new single-page reference sheet for use with Holmes Basic, providing descriptions for the third level spells. Download the 1-page pdf here. There's also a link on my Holmes Ref page, where you can find other reference sheets.

Use these spells for NPCs, scrolls, or to take your Magic-User up to sixth level. See my Holmes/OD&D Bridge Sheet for M-U spell progression beyond third level. In fact, with this information you have most of what you need for 4th-6th level. (Perhaps for a "E6" game?)

The Holmes Basic rulebook listed first, second and third level magic-user spells, but only provided descriptions for the first and second level spells. From the Holmes Manuscript we know that this was the Holmes' decision, perhaps to whet our appetite for the full game.

I've provided the missing descriptions by following in the footsteps of Holmes in preparing Basic. I went through the same books that he used - mostly OD&D Vol 1, Greyhawk and Swords & Spells (for some Area of Effects) - I rewrote the descriptions for the third level spells for clarity and brevity, as he did for the lower level spells.
I tried to keep the tone similar to Holmes Basic. For fun, I also illustrated Monster Summoning I, showing a M-U summoning a Gelatinous Cube off the Level 1 table to deal with an ogre.

One note: the detail about when a Hasted character attacks each round comes from the first edition of B2 (for Holmes Basic), page 21, where Gygax clarifies this.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Part 44: "Knights Talk in Flowery Phrases"

Part 44 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 40 of your 'Blue Book' (page 39 for the 1st edition) and follow along... 

Continuing with Holmes' advice to new DMs, line by line:

"Once the game begins, try to keep the action moving at a dramatic pace. If the going gets rough, the characters have the option of turning around and going back to the surface. If time runs out the characters can always be left at some appropriate spot within the dismal depths, time suspended, and the action taken up again another day."

This is the start of the third paragraph, and here Holmes moves to advice without a direct antecedent in the OD&D rules. Holmes sounds like he is speaking from his own experiences as a DM, trying to fill in areas not specifically addressed in the original rules. As far as I can tell, the original rules don't specifically address dungeon delves that last more than one session, although the section on "Time" (pg 35-36 of Vol 3), suggests that "Actual time would not be counted off for players "out" on a Wilderness adventure".

"Dramatize the adventure as much as possible, describe the scenery, if any. Non-player characters should have appropriate speech, orcs are gruff and ungrammatical, knights talk in flowery phrases and always say "thou" rather than "you." When characters swear they call on the wrath of their appropriate deities, be it Zeus, Crom, Cthulhu or whatever. The dramatic talents of the Dungeon Master should be used to their fullest extent. It adds to the fun."

Here Holmes provides some simple advice on role-playing NPCs and monsters. This is also the extent to which he covers material from the Gods, Demigods & Heroes supplement from 1976, which included both Zeus (pg 13) and Crom (pg 45), but not Cthulhu, who Holmes would later write up himself for an article in Dragon #12. This is one of the first mentions of Cthulhu in a D&D rulebook, although there is at least one earlier in the Greyhawk supplement.

"One player should map the dungeon from the Dungeon Master's descriptions as the game progresses. This is easiest done if the Dungeon Master provides him with a piece of graph paper already North, East, South, West with the entrance to the dungeon drawn in".

Vol 1 of OD&D mentions maps created by the referee, but doesn't mention anything about the players creating their own versions of these, although it is a natural inference. In Vol 3, however, there are multiple references to mapping by players (pgs 5-6 and 8). Holmes' advice is more direct: the players should be mapping. Holmes also mentioned this back in the Introduction: "[The players] create their own map as they explore".

In the published Basic book, the second sentence is changed significantly to, "This is easiest done if he uses a piece of graph paper marked North, East, South, West with the entrance to the dungeon level drawn in near the center". The original seems to be advice that Holmes developed himself, and I can imagine Gygax thinking that it was going too easy on the players by giving them a start to the map. : )

"One of the players should keep a "Chronicle" of the monsters killed, treasure obtained, etc. Another should act as "caller" and announce to the Dungeon Master what action the group is taking. If the adventurers have a leader, the caller would logically be that player."

The "Chronicle" is an addition by Holmes, but the "Caller" is included in the Example of play in OD&D Vol 3, pg 12-13. In Dragon #52, Holmes wrote (in a review of the new Moldvay Basic set): "Organizing a Party, The Caller: I think this rule should have been thrown out. I put it into the first Basic Set because it was in the original invention. I have never seen a successful game where one of the players was elected caller and actually did all the talking to the DM. Usually everybody talks at once. The resulting confusion is much more lifelike; one can hear the characters dithering at the cross corridor as the monsters approach. “Run this way!” “Charge them!” “Get out of the way, I’m throwing a spell!” “Here goes the magic crossbow bolt!” “Not from the rear of the party!” “I’m climbing the wall!”"

"Both mapper and caller must be in the front rank of the party."

This sentence is not in the manuscript, so was added by Gygax, and introduces a new limitation on the party rank. Holmes doesn't use the term "rank" himself, but does mention "order" for movement and combat in the Example of Play and the paragraph immediately afterward.


As mentioned above, OD&D Vol 3 has an example of play, titled "Example of the Referee Moderating a Dungeon Expedition". Rather than including this directly, Holmes instead uses it as a model for an entirely new example of a party exploring a room, fighting orcs and being cornered by a gelatinous cube. He would later include examples of play in his 1980 article, "Confessions of a Dungeon Master" and also his 1981 book, Fantasy Role-playing Games, which starts with play examples of D&D and Traveller. 

The Example in the Manuscript is almost identical to the published version, confirming it as a delightful sample of Holmes' own voice in the Basic rulebook. There are just a few changes to the published version:

In the first line by the DM, the height of the corrider is changed from "ten feet high" to "fifteen feet high", for unknown reasons. In the Sample Dungeon, Holmes also has corridors with a height of ten feet, but this was left unchanged.

In the third line by the DM, there is a minor change from "there is nothing to hear" to "there is nothing they can hear".

When the DM describes the party entering the room, the original has "From the door it runs due east for 40 feet and then the other leg of the L runs north". In the published version this was changed to "due east 30 or so feet and then the other leg of the L runs north (They must enter and carefully examine to map a room)". Later on the original says "Other half of the room is the same dimensions as the first one", which is changed to "Other half of the room is the same dimensions as the first one, 40 feet". These changes seems to be teaching the DM to not give precise room measurements until a room is carefully mapped. 

When the Caller says the elf and dwarf will search for secret doors, the original has the DM "(Rolls a secret die) The elf finds a secret door in the northernmost wall of the L" whereas the published version expands this to "(After determining which part of the room is being searched he rolls a secret die) The elf finds a secret door in the northernmost 10 foot wall section in the eastern half of the L".

Go to Part 45: "Roll the Number and See What Happens!"
Go Back to Part 43: "Zap! You're Dead!"
or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holmes for the Holidays IV

The Maze of Peril (image recycled from last year)

Welcome to the fourth annual 'Holmes for the Holidays' where I send a present to a randomly selected reader. This year I am again giving away a brand new copy of Holmes' 1986 D&D novel The Maze of Peril.

Same system as before: if you are interested, add a comment in reply to this post within the next two days. The two days are the time limit before moderation starts on posts on the blog. After two days, I'll stop accepting entries and treat the list of comments as a table and roll randomly for the winner, using dice from a Holmes Basic set.

I'll cover postage (media mail) for any U.S. address. I can ship to other countries but I ask that you cover the difference (any amount over $4) in shipping by PayPal; so if you are overseas please only participate if you have a PayPal account and willing to chip in the extra. I'll estimate the exact shipping and refund the difference if I overcharge at all.

This is intended for folks who don't have a copy of the novel, so please don't post if you already have a copy. Last year we had about 45 entrants.


We have 40 comments, so I rolled a Holmes "d10" (a white d20 numbered 0-9 twice), with a d4 as a control dice. With this the d10 determines the "ones", and the d4 determines the "tens" (i.e., a 1 on the d4 = 1-10, a 2 on the d4 = 11-20, etc). My trusty dice elf took a few practices rolls and then I called for a winning roll:

The winner is comment #6...Kean Stuart! I have contacted him for his mailing address.

Thanks to everyone who entered, and thanks for the many kind comments about my blog.
In the next few weeks I hope to finish the Holmes Manuscript analysis, and eventually put the whole thing together into one document.

Happy Holidays & New Year!

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Holmes Manuscript Auction

One of the auction photos, showing a map by Holmes
Over on Ebay, Billy Galaxy is auctioning one of the original copies of the final version of the  Holmes Manuscript. This is the same version that I have been analyzing here at the Archives, and in fact Billy is the one who last year kindly provided me with a scan of the document for review. So if you take a look at the auction photos (twelve in total) you can get a closer look at some of the actual pages. This is one of five copies of this version that Billy has, 3 of which he will be selling, per this post on the Acaeum. The auction ends on Sat Dec 20th. I have no financial interest in the auction.

For posterity, here is the auction text:
"A rare opportunity to own a genuine late stage manuscript of "Dungeons and Dragons for Beginners" which was to become what was known to most as the basic D&D game. This is one of approximately 10 copies that were made of the original typescript manuscript that were produced by Holmes for reference and use by TSR. Consists of 132 single sided pages. Please note that ALL copies of this version of the manuscript are MISSING page 67. These copies were produced at the University where Dr. Holmes worked at the time and were bound in covers that his widow described as "whatever the cheapest thing that we could find at the time" [I note a 49 cent price tag inside the back cover - Z]. The metal binding components have begun to rust, other than that this copy is in excellent overall condition. The last page (132) is bound a bit higher than the other pages as can be seen in the photos. Please feel free to contact our retail location directly with any inquiries regarding this item and do yourself a favor and check out the wonderful and expansive review of this item on the Zenopus Archives blog."

Friday, December 12, 2014

Part 43: "Zap! You're Dead!"

Part 43 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 40 of your 'Blue Book' (page 39 for the 1st edition) and follow along... 

Below the map of the "Sample Floor, Part of First Level" the manuscript text continues without a new title, so it's actually a continuation of the "Dungeon Mastering as a Fine Art" section rather than a new section (Holmes' Index has no other title for this section). Holmes continues with his coverage of material from OD&D, Vol 3, "The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures". Since this material is both greatly condensed from the source and supplemented with new ideas I'll go through each line. The manuscript text is in bold, my commentary is below each line, including changes to the published version.

"Each new room or area is given a code number and a record made on a separate page of what it contains, treasure, monsters, hidden items, etc."

This is not stated explicitly in OD&D Vol 3, but is obvious from the Vol 3 Sample Level and Key (pg 4-5). Also, OD&D Vol 1, page 5, says "the referee must ... people them with monsters of various horrid aspect, distribute treasures accordingly, and note the location of the latter two on keys, each corresponding to the appropriate level."

"Place a few special items first, then randomly assign treasure and monsters to the other rooms using the appropriate tables."

Vol 3, page 6, section "Distribution of Monsters and Treasure", says "It is a good idea to thoughtfully place several of the most important treasures, with or without monstrous guardians, and then switch to random determination for the balance of the level".

The published rulebook changes the end of the sentence to "using the selection provided in the game or the appropriate tables", indicating that use of the tables is not required.

"Many rooms should be empty. Roll a 6-sided die for each room. A roll of 1 or 2 indicates that some monster is there. Ochre jellies, green slime, black puddings, etc. are randomly distributed, without treasure, usually in corridors and passageways."

This comes from the top of page 7 in Vol 3, where a monster is only present in a room 33% of the time (1-2 in 6), and the same advice is given about the "clean-up crew" (as they are dubbed in Vol 2).

The second sentence was changed in the published rulebook to end "...usually without treasure, most often in corridors and passageways", seemingly to indicate that jellies and slimes could occasionally have treasure.

"Wandering monsters are usually determined randomly as the game progresses."

This is from Vol 3, page 10. Holmes put the rest of the material covering Wandering Monsters earlier in the manuscript, in the section he called "Traps, Closed Doors, Hidden Doors, Surprises, Wandering Monsters". Moldvay later moved this material, including the Wandering Monster tables, back to this section of the Basic rulebook.

"Traps should not be of the "Zap! You're dead!" variety but those which a character might avoid or overcome with some quick thinking and a little luck."

This is extrapolated from page 6 of Vol 3, section "Tricks and Traps", which mentions a "reasonable chance for survival" and examples of pits that are undesirable because they are too deadly.

"Falling into a relatively shallow pit would do damage only on a roll of 5 or 6 (1 die at most) but will delay the party while they get the trapped character out."

From the OD&D Sample Level, room 8 on page 5 of Vol 3, "Falling into the pit would typically cause damage if a 1 or a 2 were rolled. Otherwise, it would only mean about one turn of time to clamber out, providing the character had spikes or associates to pull him out, and providing the pit wasn't one with a snap-shut door and the victim was alone". The 1-2 in 6 for springing traps is also mentioned again, and applied more generally, on page 9 of Vol 3, "Traps are usually sprung by a roll of a 1 or 2 when any character passes over or by them. Pits will open in the same manner". Holmes also mentioned this in his earlier "Traps..." section referred to above.

In the published version, the parenthetical "(1 die at most)" is changed to "(1-6 hit points at most)", clarifying which die is meant.

"Hidden rooms, movable walls, teleportation devices, illusion rooms, dead ends, etc., make interesting variations."

In Vol 3, these features are either part of the Sample Level (pg 4) or mentioned in the list of "Tricks and Traps" (page 6). In particular the list includes the last three: "teleportation areas", "illusion rooms," and "sections which dead-end".

"Since the game (and the Dungeons) are limited only by the imagination of the Dungeon Master and the players, there is no end to the variations possible.

This is the start of the second paragraph in this section, and echoes OD&D Vol 1, page 4, "[The rules] provide a framework around which you will build a game of simplicity or tremendous complexity - your time and imagination are about the only limiting factors..."

In the published version the word "Dungeons" is changed to the lowercase, "dungeons", and the word "variations" is made singular.

"Try to keep the dangers appropriate to the levels of the characters and the skill of your players. The possibility of "death" must be very real, but the players must be able to win through with luck and courage, or they will lose interest in the game and not come back."

See page 6 of Vol 3, section "Tricks and Traps": "The fear of "death", its risk each time, is one of the most stimulating parts of the game. It therefore behooves the campaign referee to include as many mystifying and dangerous areas as is consistent with a reasonable chance for survival (remembering that the monster population already threatens this survival".

I've been busy this week, so I'll pause there for now.

Continue on to Part 44: "Knights Talk in Flowery Phrases"
Or Go Back to Part 42: "Sample Floor Plan, Part of First Level"
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript  

Friday, December 5, 2014

Maze of Peril is Most Popular

Screenshot of NK's Most Popular list on 12/5/14

The Maze of Peril is currently on the 'Most Popular' list over at Noble Knight. I have no idea how they calculate this list, but by my count at least 20 copies sold in the last two weeks, and they re-stocked it (37 copies currently). Not bad for a book published nearly 30 years ago. Thanks to everyone who purchased a copy. (I have no financial interest in this book or Noble Knight). Noble Knight's Fall sale ends tonight, I believe, so after that the price will revert to $9.95 + shipping. For more info see my previous post.