Saturday, June 18, 2016

Free RPG Day: Holmes Ref 1.0

Before NTRPG Con, I put together a 10-page pdf of Holmes Ref sheets which I thought might be handy for a pick-up game. While I didn't get a chance to use it there, I thought I would make the compilation available today for Free RPG Day.

Holmes Ref 1.0 includes:

1. Character Generation Worksheet
2. Blank Character Sheet (new!)
3. Advancement Reference Sheet (formerly "Holmes + OD&D Bridge Table")
4. Holmesian Random Names
5. Backgrounds for Human Characters (optional)
6. Cleric Spell Reference Sheet Levels 1-6
7. Magic-User Spell Reference Sheet Levels 1-3
8. Monster Reference Sheet
9. Magic Item Reference Sheet
10. Pre-Generated 1st Level Party

The new blank character sheet matches the format of the character generation sheet for ease in transferring information.

Click here to view or download Holmes Ref 1.0

I'll use the comments section below to record any typos noted for future correction.

The individual sheets remain available via the Holmes Ref page

What's next?
A glaring deficiency is the M-U spells Levels 4-6, so I'm working on a sheet for those.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Reminder: Holmes Panel at NTRPG Con this Saturday

A reminder: if you are at the NTRPG Con this weekend, there will be a J. Eric Holmes appreciation event on Saturday morning at 9 AM CDT (GMT -05:00), at the Centreport Meeting Room - Table 2. The panel will consist of Chris Holmes (son of Eric), Allan Grohe of Black Blade, publisher of the forthcoming Tales of Peril compilation of Holmes' D&D fiction, and myself. 

Before the event, you may wish to listen to Chris Holmes' recent interview on the Save or Die podcast.

There are still plenty of open seats left for the seminar, and if you are at the Con you don't need to be registered for this session to attend. 

Also, if you are not attending the Con, I believe the event will be livestreamed (and hopefully recorded, as well). I'll update date this post with info once I find out more.

I'll be at con this weekend from Fri morning to Sun evening, and besides the seminar I will be playing in a variety of games. Hope to see you there!

The NTRPG Con Live Streams are up for today. I believe Camera 1 is in the Centreport Room where the Holmes Panel will be on Sat.

Per Doug Rhea on Facebook:
"Streams are up. Info below.
Camera 1 URL: - Special Events
Camera 2 URL: - Special Guest Games
Camera 3 URL: - Random Games
Camera 4 URL: - Doug’s Random Stream
Camera 5 URL: - Con Overview
Please SHARE these links on your favorite forums so as many people know where to catch a glimpse of one of the most awesome Old School RPG cons out there!!!"

Here is a schedule to go with the links:

Monday, May 30, 2016

Cleric Spells Reference Sheet

I recently shared a MU Spell Reference Sheet (Levels 1-3) & now I've made a similar one for Clerics. With far less spells, I was able to fit an entire six levels onto a single sheet (!). The first two levels are from Holmes Basic, and the next four are from OD&D Vol 1 and the Greyhawk Supplement. However, since I had room I followed the lead of Gygax and added two new spells from AD&D to each of levels 3-6: Animate Dead (because OD&D/Holmes implies that both M-U and clerics can make skeletons/zombies), Glyph of Warding, Divination, Exorcise, Flame Strike, True Seeing, Heal and Stone Tell.

I didn't list out the details for the Reverse spells because OD&D and Holmes don't; generally they just do the opposite.

My decorative cartoon at the top of the sheet represents a cleric holding a "holy symbol", casting a spell. I made this symbol cross/ankh-like because OD&D and Holmes had wooden and silver crosses in the Equipment List.

The direct link for download is below, or you can find it on the Holmes Ref page.

Click here to download the Cleric Spell Reference Sheet Levels 1-6

Any typos I spot after this post will be noted in the comments below for eventual correction.

Now that I've finished sheets for Character Creation & Progression, Spells, Monsters & Treasure, the Ref Sheet series includes most of the details necessary to run a Holmes-esque game up to level 6. I do plan to do another sheet for M-U Spells levels 4-6.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Part 55: Summary of Changes

Now that I've finished my series going through the Holmes Manuscript, I've put together a summary of the major changes from the manuscript to the published Holmes Basic rulebook. Use this list if you want to play Holmes Basic as Holmes originally wrote it. I call this the "Zeroeth Edition" or "Holmes Zero". I haven't listed every change here, just the more notable ones. I'll update the list if I've missed anything of note.

Title: "D&D for Beginners" rather than Basic D&D. 

References to Higher Levels: All references are to the original Dungeons & Dragons booklets or the Greyhawk Supplement, rather than AD&D.

Dice: If dice are unavailable Holmes suggest using playing cards (4 locations in the manuscript), chits (twice) or even "certain pocket-sized calculators".

Elves are the "Alternating Elf" from OD&D. Per Holmes: "Elves must decide before an adventure begins, however, whether they are going to act as fighting men, in which case they can wear armor but can not throw spells, or assume the role of magic-user, gaining the use of spells but forfeiting weapons other than the dagger. For each adventure the elf can change his role but once the adventure stars he must not change". This is an interpretation of the original elf from OD&D.

Dwarves get a special powerful magic item; "the only ones who can wield the +3 Magic War Hammer (described later)". This sentence remained in the 1st print rulebook even though the magic item was removed from the lists. This sentence was edited out of the 2nd edition.

Hobbits rather than halflings. This remained in the 1st printing, but most instances were changed for the 2nd printing.

Additional Character Classes: No Witch class, and more examples of player-chosen classes: "Thus, an expedition might include, in addition to the seven basic classes, an African witch doctor/magic-user, a centaur, an Amerindian medicine man/cleric, a lawful werebear, a Japanese Samurai fighting man and a half-human, half-serpent Naga".
Number of Characters: Holmes says most DMs allow one to three characters per player. 

Alignment is the three-point system from OD&D: "Characters may be lawful, neutral or chaotic". 

Languages: Only humans (not demi-humans) are noted as knowing Common.

Movement: Only use the first column of the table, as standard movement.

Encumbrance: Remove this section and only use the categories from the Movement table.

Wandering Monster Tables are the 1st to 3rd level tables from the Greyhawk Supplement, which can be seen here. Do not use the Level Beneath the Surface Table.

Numbers of Wandering Monsters: Adjust to party size, with 1 monster for a party of 1-3; 2 for a party of 4-6 and so forth, but "Orcs and similar creatures tend to travel in groups".

Experience Points for Monsters: Use the numbers from Greyhawk up to 9 HD, but ignore the lines for partial hit dices (1+1, 2+1 etc).

Level Limits: None, example refers to 20th level characters rather than 14/15th.

Saving Throws: Delete line for Normal Man from Table. In the section on Monsters, include note that "(except zombies who are poisoned by salt)". This aside made it into the 1st printing but was later deleted.

Magic-User Spells:
Remove Dancing Lights, Enlargement, Tenser's Floating Disc (1st level), Audible Glamer and Ray of Enfeeblement (2nd level). Change Continual Light to 24 inch (240') diameter.

Clerical Spells:
Remove Remove Fear, Resist Cold (1st level), Know Alignment and Resist Fire (2nd level). 
Also remove the list of Evil Cleric Spells; Holmes has a vague reference to these in the section on Clerics, but did not include the list itself.

To Hit Table: Remove the line for "Normal Man".

Fire: In first paragraph, change the 5 feet pool of flaming oil to 20 feet, and the damage should be 2d6. Remove the all remaining paragraphs relating to burning oil.

Missile Weapons: Some changes to ranges in Table (follow link for details). Modifiers for range are 0 for long distance, +1 for medium, +2 for short range.

Combat: One-handed weapons get two attacks per round, two-handed weapons get one attack per round, heavy crossbows can only be used once every other round.
Monster List

Hit Dice: Use d6
Attacks/Damage: In general, monsters get a single attack for d6 damage.

Add the following entries from OD&D: Buccaneer, Cave Men, Centaur, Dervishes, Dragon - Blue, Dragon - Gold, Dryad, Ents, Giant Animals and Insects, Mermen, Nomads, Pirate. Also Nixies if you have a 2nd or 3rd edition rulebook.

Remove the following:
Djinni, Dragon - Black, Dragon - Brass, Lycanthrope - Were-Boar, Lycanthrope - Were-Tiger (if using the 1st edition rulebook), plus Fire Beetle, Giant Ant, Giant Centipede, Giant Rat, Gnoll, Shrieker, Spiders, Troglodyte (if using the 2nd or 3rd edition).

Adjust the following:
Berserkers get their +2 to hit only when fighting normal men.
Carrion Crawlers get a single attack for 1d6 damage plus chance of paralysis
Dragons include a Chance of Sleeping and a Chance of Talking for each type.
Giants use only the damage listed under Special Characteristics.
Hell Hounds do damage in hit points equal to their hit dice (i.e., a 3 hp damage for 3 HD).
Ochre Jellies do 1 die (1d6) per round to exposed skin.
Ogres do 1d6 + 2 points of damage per hit.
Orcs: if 100 are found, 10% chance of a dragon being with them.
Zombies have 1/2 HD and attack every round rather than every other round.

Coins are only Gold and Silver Pieces, with 10 SP to 1 GP. Omit Copper, Electrum and Platinum Pieces.

Gems & Jewelry are simply worth 50-500 GP; omit the Value of Gems table.

Treasure Table is the one from OD&D Vol 2, but omit the column for Copper Pieces. Thus no Treasure Types J-T.

Magic Items
Swords: Flaming Sword change to only +2 against Undead
Sword +1, +3 against Dragons change to Sword +2 against Dragons
Sword +1, +2 against M-Us change to Sword +1, Charm Person Ability
Sword +3 change to Sword of Cold +1, +2 against Fire Creatures
Sword -2 Cursed change to Vorpal Blade +2 
Armor and Weapons
Dagger +1 against Man-Sized change to add +2 against Orcs
Dagger +2 against Man-Sized change to War Hammer +3, and add that it "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".

Potions: For Giant Strength, change the damage from 3-18 to "2 dice of damage" (2d6). 

Rings: Replace Weakness with Human Control.
Change Protection +1 to be equivalent to "plate armor +1" (AC 2) and a +1 on saves.

Wands and Staves: Replace Rod of Cancellation with Staff of Power (Limited).

Miscellaneous Magic Items:
Replace Helm of Good/Evil, Rope of Climbing, Gauntlets of Ogre Power with Girdle of Giant Strength, Horn of Blasting and Mirror of Life Trapping.

Sample Cross-Section of Levels: Replace Skull Mountain with Holmes' three-level dungeon cross-section.

Sample Floor Plan, Part of First Level: Add Holmes' sample partial map.

Dungeon Mastering As a Fine Art: Add back advice that "the Dungeon Master provides [the Mapper] with a piece of graph paper already North, East, South, West with the entrance to the dungeon drawn in".

Influences: Replace Gardner Fox with Michael Moorcock.

Sample Dungeon: In general, reduce monster numbers/difficulty, and increase the value of treasure.

Evil Magic-User: Change his level title from thaumaturgist to theurgist.

Pirates: Change from normal men (1d6 hp) to 1st level (1 hit die, still 1d6).

Go Back to Part 54: "An Ape in an Iron Cage" 
Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Appendix B: Chris Holmes Manuscript Artwork

As a further bonus to the Holmes Manuscript series, here are pics of some of Chris Holmes' artwork from the earlier (2nd) draft of the manuscript.

Each of these images, except for the Dragon, was previously posted publicly on the grizzlebanged tumblr by someone who works with Billy Galaxy. I've cropped a few so they will show off the artwork better in the blog format. The Dragon picture was sent to me directly by Billy as part of the missing page of the final version of the manuscript. I believe they are all cell phone pics; if I ever get good scans of these I'll make an updated post.

I've ordered them based on their appearance in the published rulebook, and added some of the descriptive text from the published rulebook. Chris sticks closely to the given details.
As noted previously, Chris drew these illustrations directly on the manuscript document.

Carrion Crawler
"This scavenger is worm shaped, 9' long, 3 feet high at the head and moves quickly on multiple legs ... The mouth parts are surrounded by eight tentacles, two feet long, which produce paralysis on touch..."

Displacer Beast
The beast "resembles a puma with six legs and a pair of tentacles which grow from its shoulders. It attacks with the tentacles which have sharp horny edges", which Chris captures perfectly.  I'm not sure a Displacer Beast had been illustrated previously in D&D. Gygax's original inspiration for the creature was the Coeurl in the Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. Van Vogt.


"As depicted in medieval architecture, gargoyles are reptilian, horned, taloned, fanged, winged beasts of hideous aspect."

"A huge lion-bodied monstrosity with human face, dragon wings, and a tail full of iron spikes. There are 24 spikes ... and they can be fired, 6 at a time..."

Ochre Jelly
The text of the entry refers to it as a "giant amoeba", and Chris has given it a large central nucleus like their real-world microbial kin.

You can see more of Chris' illustrations on his website, HolmesWest.

Go Back to Appendix A: Manuscript Copy Order Form
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript

Friday, May 20, 2016

M-U Spells Level 1-3 Ref Sheet

Screenshot of the Magic-User Spell Reference Sheet Levels 1-3

Above is a picture of my latest one-page pdf reference sheet for Holmes Ref, now ready for download and/or printing for your DIY DM screen. This one compiles brief summaries of all of the first to third level magic-user spells. The direct link is below, or you can find it on the Holmes Ref page. If you need the complete Third Level Spell descriptions (since Holmes only provides a list), the Holmes Ref page also has a link to that sheet; see also the original post about it.

Another use for these sheets is for PC or NPC spellbooks. Simply use one sheet per character and mark (circle, check etc) the spells of each level which are known.

Click here to download the M-U Spell Reference Sheet Levels 1-3

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Appendix A: Manuscript Copy Order Form

Now that we've finished our journey through the Holmes Manuscript, here's a look at what Holmes did after he finished writing & editing it. Here's a picture of a related artifact that Billy Galaxy sent me:

This is the form that Holmes filled out to order ten photocopies of the final version of the Manuscript at his work place, the University of Southern California School of Medicine, where he was an associate professor of neurology. Presumably either the original and/or at least one of these ten copies was sent on to Gygax at TSR.

The 138 pages of "originals" listed here exactly matches the length of the Manuscript, which includes a duplicate page (37) and a missing page (67), as I noted here. It's unclear whether the duplication/missing page occurred before or during copying, although Billy noted that all copies of the final version he has seen have the missing page.

Importantly, this form tells us that the final version of the Manuscript was completed prior to February 4, 1977, when the request was made. The copying work was finished & paid for on February 7th. The Basic Set first appeared in July 1977, so it took about five months for TSR to receive, review and edit the rulebook into form for publication.

As Chris mentioned in his recent Save or Die interview that after his father wrote to TSR proposing the beginner's rulebook, TSR told him "they didn't have any money, so if he didn't mind doing it for free, he could go right ahead". In 2007 Gygax wrote on DF, "The Basic Set sold very well, and it was to TSR's benefit that Holmes' did that version, and it cost the company nary a red cent."

When I sent this picture to Chris he wrote, "I think we have a good case here that TSR owes Dad $55 for printing."

Go Back to Part 54: "An Ape in an Iron Cage"
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript