Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Part 52: "No End to the Rats"

Part 52 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 44 of your 'Blue Book' (page 43 for the 1st edition) and follow along...

Room RT: Rat Tunnels

Here Holmes includes an old-school "endless maze" with limitless monsters ("there is no end to the rats"). Rather than being arbitrary, this fits the undercity setting extremely well, with the rat tunnels "being dug through the soft earth of the cemetery". This also gives us a clue as to what is above this location on the surface.

I meant to mention back in Room N that Delta suggested that the rat encounters in Room N/Room RT bring to mind Lovecraft's Rats in the Walls. In a review of Lovecraft in the Comics in the zine Crypt of Cthulhu #97 (1997) - one of his last published articles - Holmes mentions that this is one of his favorite Lovecraft stories.

This area presents one of the larger divergences between Holmes' original map (above left) and the redrawn version in the Basic rulebook (above right). In the original the rat runnels have a single entrance to Room N, and another in the east-west corridor north of Room P. In the published version, the tunnels have been shifted west, with two entrances to Room N and one to a corridor to the west, which has been extended. It's not clear why this was done.

The original map fits the description of Room N better since it doesn't mention multiple entrance points for the rats that burst into the room "through the loose dirt at the north end of the room". The text of RT indicates that the tunnels intersect at Room N and and "at the northernmost corridor". In the original map this was the corridor north of Room P, but in the published version it is the extended corridor to the west of Room N. So the altered map was changed in a way that still fit the text for RT.

The tunnels are small, only 3 feet wide, requiring humans to crawl through them. Holmes gives a mechanic, not otherwise mentioned in the rules, for humans fighting in such a situation ("a minus 1 from his attack die roll"). This was changed in the published version to a -2, making it the same as the modifier for partial cover (pg 20). Holmes further notes that halflings and dwarves are not so disadvantaged.

Holmes gives chances for independently encountering a rat or treasure as the tunnels are traversed. A 50% chance of a rat every 100 feet, and the same chance for 5 gold pieces "or a piece of jewelry" every 200 feet. Notably, the jewelry is deleted from the published rulebook. This is a big change, as a piece of jewelry is worth 300-1800 gp (3d6 x 100 gp; the average value is 1050 gp) in these rules. Once again Gygax/TSR has reduced the amount of treasure Holmes placed in the dungeon. Holmes' original presents a much greater reward for entering the rat tunnels. Note that Holmes' rats originally had 1 HD as described in Room N (which the entry for RT references).

DM guidance:
Example of a lair maze with a repeated chance of encountering inhabitants/treasure 
Rules for fighting while crawling through tunnel

Go Back to Part 51: "Indescribable Odds and Ends"  
or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The "D&D For Beginners" Dungeon Model - Part II

This is the second in a series of posts looking at the dungeon model that Chris Holmes designed for a "Dungeons & Dragons for Beginners" scenario that he and his father ran at Gen Con XII in 1979. The first post is here. All color photography is by Chris Holmes and is posted here with his permission.

In this post we'll look at the three areas in the first row of the dungeon:

The middle room is the same entrance chamber we saw in the first post, but from the opposite side. It's hard to see but doors (behind the archway in this shot) lead to the left and right rooms.

Entrance chamber. Click for a larger view.

The room on the right has brick walls, and two areas. There are bear skin rugs in the corner and a giant battle-axe on the wall. Chris mentioned that the dungeon had an Ogre and Orcs so this was possibly their chamber.

Brick Room. Click for a larger view.

And on the left is a temple chamber, with images painted on one wall.

Temple. Click for a larger view.

This temple also appeared on page 163 Holmes' FRPG book:

Original caption: "Temple of the Bloodstained God. Temple Set by Grenadier. Aztecs by Minifig. Dungeon decor by Chris Holmes, photography by Steve Pyryezstov"

The Grenadier Temple Set is SS07 The Temple, seen here at the Lost Minis Wiki.

Ad for Grenadier SS07. Scan by the Lost Minis Wiki.

Note that the big statue at the top of the stairs seems to have disappeared between the 1981 photo and the more recent photo.

Here's another shot from directly above the entrance, the temple and the small area behind the temple. You can see the doors between rooms more clearly here:

Chris: "The temple had a hidden chamber with a trap door containing real green slime!"
"Here you can see behind the temple the secret room which is a couple inches higher than floor level. It had a trap door which fell into a cup of green slime. Matell actually made green slime as a toy, unrelated to the D&D monster. My green slime trap fooled both groups we played through the dungeon which made me very happy."

Hidden Chamber with Green Slime Trap. Click for a larger view.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The "D&D For Beginners" Dungeon Model

In a recent post I mentioned that J. Eric Holmes and his son Chris ran a game at Gen Con XII in 1979 called "Dungeons & Dragons for Beginners". And for this they used a large 3 by 6-foot dungeon model decorated by Chris. This amazing model still exists and Chris has sent me pictures of it to share.

Essentially the dungeon is a grid with nine sections each about 1 by 2 feet (by my estimate). Some of the sections are further subdivided into multiple areas/rooms. Per Chris, the "rooms were originally covered by pieces of cardboard until their doors were opened".  For transport to Gen Con - then at the University of Wisconsin Parkside - they "boxed up the dungeon and checked it as oversized luggage".

Today we'll just start with the entrance. A staircase leads down to an archway:

This room has actually appeared publicly before: it was used as the setting for two pictures in Holmes' 1981 FRPG book. The first, on page 49, illustrates an encounter in the sample dungeon found in chapter 4:

Original Caption: "In the maze of the minotaur. Figure by Archive, photographic effects by Steve Pyryeztov"

I think the minotaur miniature shown here is actually from Heritage 1351 Minotaurs.

The second appears on page 171, as part of Chapter 11, "Little Metal People". Here you can see several of the same marks on the tiles that appear in the recent photo above:

Original Caption: "Poof! Alkarzotz the sorcerer meets the flaming salamander. Magician figure by Ral Partha, photographic effects by Steve Pyryeztov.

The wizard Alkarzotz is a very early Ral Partha figure, 01-001 Evil Wizard Casting Spell, sculpted by Tom Meier as part of the Fantasy Line. 

Chris says: "I got to assist the photographer the day he took those photos; we all had a lot of fun.  Dad probably paid the photographer more than he ever made off that book but he did get an excellent portrait and I got to see my dungeon in print."

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Part 51: "Indescribable Odds and Ends"

Part 51 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 44 of your 'Blue Book' (page 43 for the 1st edition) and follow along... 

Recently it was noted that I missed the entry for Ghouls when I was going through the Monster List, so I'll cover them now. Timely, because the next room in the Sample Dungeon in Room P, home to ghouls.

Ghouls: Ghouls first appeared in Chainmail, as part of the entry for "WIGHTS (and Ghouls)", where there is no difference between the two. They have the ability paralyze a "normal figure" (i.e. non-fantastic) for one complete turn. In OD&D Vol 2 they are treated separately from Wights with stats on page 3 and a short description on page 9. It references the Chainmail entry for paralysis, adding that Elves are immune. This wasn't an made clear in Chainmail, but normal figures in Chainmail also paralyzed by Wraiths but can be restored by the touch of Elves, Heroes or Wizards. So the immunity has been carried for generally for Elves, but not for Heroes or Wizards, who will have to rely on their saving throws. OD&D also adds that Ghouls are subject to normal combat rule, distinguishing them from the more powerful undead, and that any "man-type" killed by a ghoul becomes a ghoul.

In the manuscript Holmes keeps all of the ghoul stats the same as in OD&D Vol 2. Since there wasn't much of a description in Chainmail or OD&D, Holmes adds such a sentence to start off with: "Ghouls are hideous humanoid creatures of bestial aspect who live on dead bodies". This probably draws on Lovecraft; in particular Pickman's Model, which describes ghouls as canine bipedal beasts that feed on corpses:

"It was a colossal and nameless blasphemy with glaring red eyes, and it held in bony claws a thing that had been a man, gnawing at the head as a child nibbles at a stick of candy. Its position was a kind of crouch, and as one looked one felt that at any moment it might drop its present prey and seek a juicier morsel. But damn it all, it wasn’t even the fiendish subject that made it such an immortal fountain-head of all panic—not that, nor the dog face with its pointed ears, bloodshot eyes, flat nose, and drooling lips. It wasn’t the scaly claws nor the mould-caked body nor the half-hooved feet—none of these, though any one of them might well have driven an excitable man to madness."

Different from how they've come to be viewed in D&D, which is more like Romero's Living Dead (now starring as the Walking Dead), but Holmes' description is generic enough to fit either embodiment. As pointed out recently, the entry doesn't actually mention they are undead, although it is clear from other parts of the book such as the turning that they are.

The manuscript then follows the OD&D entry, but omits the reference to Chainmail. Holmes adds two sentences clarifying that the ghoul must make a hit, which also does damage, and that a character gets to make a saving throw against paralysis. For unknown reasons Holmes omits the last line from OD&D about their victims rising as new ghouls.

The published version keeps the stats from OD&D, but also adds an alignment of "chaotic evil" and gives them the three attacks of Greyhawk, although the damage for their bite is changed from 1d4 to 1d3, so that each of the three attacks does 1d3.

The published version makes two changes to the description: the paralysis of "any normal figure" becomes "any human/humanoid figure", and "does a regular die of damage" becomes "which also does regular damage. The latter change is due to change in attacks and damage.

Moldvay Basic keeps the descriptive language used by Holmes ("hideous", "beast-like") and the stats, and adds a few more clarifications: the paralysis only affects Ogres or smaller; they will attack a different opponent once one is paralyzed; and cure light wounds will remove the paralysis. The last two additions improve PC survivability. The Monster Manual provides its own description and restores the OD&D language about the creation of new ghouls, adding that a bless spell will prevent this. It also ups the bite attack to 1d6.

And now back to the Sample Dungeon...

Room P: The Ghoul Room. Holmes describes the room as 50 by 80 feet with doors in all four walls, and this is rendered accurately in the published map, although the doors are shifted about - in the original they are closer to centered. Holmes' text describes the east door as leading "to a short dirt tunnel which ends blindly under the cemetery". This description fits the irregular tunnel shown in the original map much better than the published one, which only has a single ten-foot square beyond the door.

The reference to "under the cemetery" probably refers back to the introduction to the Sample Dungeon (previously covered in this series), which stated that the Zenopus built his tower "next door to the graveyard" and the "reputed dungeons lie in close proximity to the foundations of the older, pre-human city, to the graveyard, and to the sea" (As noted by Delta, this language is similar to that found in Pickman's Model). So the tunnel beyond Room P gives us another clue to the surface features of Portown. Paleologos has synthesized these clues into a great map of Portown based on a real-world ancient city.

The room contains two ghouls and "some smashed coffins". To me the text implies the ghouls dug dug the coffins up from the cemetery, dragged them back here, and ate the corpses found within, leaving only their other contents behind.

Holmes simply notes that the two ghouls as "can take 2 die of hits" without giving any hit points; the published book changes this to "can take 2 hit dice (11, 9 hit points respectively)". Also note that in the original, the ghouls would only get one attack for 1d6 points of damage, and thus only one chance per ghoul per round to paralyze opponents, whereas in the published rulebook each ghouls gets three attacks per round.

Despite the increased power of the ghouls, Gygax drastically reduces their treasure from the original, as we've seen throughout  Holmes had 5000 silver pieces (500 gp) and 5 gems worth 500 gold pieces (2500 gp total) each in the coffins, for a total value of 3000 gp. He may have used the Treasure Type table to generate this; Type B includes a chance of silver and gems. But as I noted earlier, Gygax added guidance that the Treasure Type tables are only to be used for large numbers of mosters. So the published book changes the ghoul's treasure to 50 platinum pieces (the only place in the Sample Dungeon with platinum pieces), which is equal to 250 gold pieces, half the value of Holmes' coins, and five gems worth only 10 gp each. This gives a total treasure value of 300 gp, one-tenth of Holmes' original.

The closing paragraph of the Sample Dungeon also ties back to this room, asking "What inhuman rites are practiced deep in the ghoul haunted passages beneath the graveyard?" This invites the new DM to add more passages beneath the graveyard, perhaps leading off from the tunnel from Room P. 

DM guidance:
Example of linking a room to the introduction to the adventure.

Hints of further areas for expansion.

Go Back to Part 50: "The Dancing Dagger is Hard to Hit"  

or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hand-Drawn Basic Box Cover (1980)

This charming image is a small part of an advertisement in the Spokane Daily Chronicle, December 5, 1980, which was recently featured over at 2 Warps to Neptune. See the entire page below. The Chronicle was a daily afternoon newspaper (absorbed by another still-existing daily in 1984), and the ad is by The Crescent, a Spokane, Washington-area department store chain that lasted until 1988 (thank you Wikipedia). For the holiday season the store ad is labeled "The Christmas Crescent". D&D is advertised together with a number of electronic handheld games and video game systems ("Giftable Fun For The Family"). But for some reason the advertiser has used small hand-drawn images of the D&D Basic Set and the Players Handbook instead of photos. As 2 Warps points out, the picture is pretty faithful, except for missing all of the treasure! I note the wizard is also missing his belt & shoulder bag, and the TSR logo is missing. The PHB cover is also altered, which you can read more about over on 2 Warps.

The advertising copy to the left starts "The original adult fantasy role-playing game everyone is talking about. The basic set enables a new player to get into fantasy adventure gaming smoothly and quickly." This was to be the last big holiday season for the Holmes set as the new B/X sets would be released in early 1981.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Holmes at Gen Con XII (1979)

Thanks to Tony at The Cryptic Archivist for providing a high res scan of the above photo from The Dragon #31, November 1979, which shows John Eric Holmes with his wife and son Chris talking to Tim Kask, the editor of the magazine. The photo was taken at fifth Strategists Club Banquet at Gen Con XII, August 16-19. This issue also has the distinction of including Trollshead, the first Boinger and Zereth story published in The Dragon. For more on issue #31, see this recent review on The Land of Nod blog.

Above is an advertisement for Gen Con XII from the Dragon #25, May 1979, with fantastic artwork by Kenneth Rahman aka Elladan Elrohir aka Eymoth. His tag is not to be mistaken for the EO used by Erol Otus, and can also be seen on the covers of other TSR games including Boot Hill and Divine Right (which Rahman co-designed with his brother Glenn). The same artwork, but printed in red and black was also used for cover of the convention program. A thumbnail of this can be seen on a page over at Tome of Treasures, which also gives an overview of the contents.

According to the info listed there, Holmes ran two games at Gen Con XII, "D&D For Beginners" and "D&D on Barsoom". Holmes had earlier used the title "D&D For Beginners" on his original draft of the rulebook for the Basic Set. In running the "D&D For Beginners" game, the Holmes employed an impressive game aid. Per Chris, we used "my rather large model dungeon 3'X6' ... Dad did the basic carpentry on it and together we ran "Beginners D&D" at our 2nd Gen Con". 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Chris Holmes on the Origins of the Wereshark

Chris' original illustration of the Wereshark from A&E #13, July 1976

On his website, Chris Holmes has a new article about the origins of the Wereshark. He said I could repost it here, but I'd rather have you check out his website. It's accompanied by a contemporary picture by Chris, different than the one shown above:
WereSharks Created by Dr. Holmes

Instead I'll share some supporting information:

-"Were-shark" is J. Eric Holmes' second A&E article in issue #13, July 1976, with Chris listed as a co-author. It's an early version of Chapter 2 of the Maze of Peril.

-There are no stats in the article, which is written as a campaign story, but they are compared to were-tigers ("If there are were-tigers and sharks are tigers of the sea..."), implying similar strength (5 HD in OD&D). Update: After writing this I remembered that in the story a M-U puts 4 of 5 were-sharks in a group to sleep with a Sleep spell, meaning they must have a HD of 4 or less. The 1975 Warlock version of Sleep affects "one 6-sided die of 3rd or 4th level types". This differs from the OD&D Vol 1 version which affects 1d6 of 3 HD but only 1 of 4 HD.

-Gygax sent in letters published in A&E # 2, 8 and 15, and the last letter references issue #14, so it's likely he also read issue #13.

-Holmes next mentioned the were-shark in one sentence in the Basic manuscript: "Thus we find were-wolves in Europe, were-tigers in India, were-leopards in Africa and were-sharks in Polynesia". Per Gygax, "I reviewed Eric's manuscript" and "I was in charge of the manuscript when it was turned over", which means he would have encountered the idea of the were-shark here even if he didn't see them in the A&E story. Gygax left the sentence referring to the were-sharks unchanged in the published Basic rulebook, which is where most of us encountered and wondered about it. Update: I meant to also mention that the were-shark is also significant because it is the first non-mammalian lycanthrope in D&D.

-The Monster Manual then mentions, "There are some other forms of lycanthropes, but these are very rare in the extreme". This comes after Holmes mentioned the possibility of were-leopards and were-sharks. Eventually in 1983 the Monster Manual II would include a few more of these, including Gygax's take on the were-shark.

-Holmes' were-sharks surfaced again in the Maze of Peril (1986), where we learn more about them and the Dagonites they associate with. One detail from Maze of Peril I liked is that the Dagonites clad the hulls of their outriggers with silver to "ward off the were-sharks", suggesting an uneasy alliance.

See also: Part 28: "Thus We Find Were-Sharks in Polynesia"