Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dr. Holmes and the Cthulhu Mythos, part II

Excerpt from Dr. Holmes' typed manuscript

     I previously wrote about Dr. Holmes' role in co-authoring (with Rob Kuntz) the article "The Lovecraftian Mythos in D&D" in Dragon #12, which was later revised by Jim Ward to become the Cthulhu Mythos in the Deities & Demigods rulebook. I concluded that Holmes was the primary author of the original article, though it remained unclear exactly what was written by Holmes and what was by Kuntz. 

     In 2004, a copy of the original typed manuscript for this article, as well as correspondence between Holmes and Kuntz, was auctioned at GenCon. Here are Frank Mentzer's pre-auction notes he posted in the forums:

      At GenCon 1977, [Holmes] met briefly with Rob Kuntz ... to talk about ideas for a revision of the old "Gods Demigods & Heroes" D&D supplement [and] agreed to do a brief summary of the gods presented in the works of H.P. Lovecraft, for use in the upcoming book "Deities & Demigods".
     We have a new entry in our database for a copy of the "Original DDG Cthulhu Manuscript" (from someone's    obscure archives), including:
     a. Letter from Holmes to Kuntz, 10/20/77
     b. Reply from Kuntz to Holmes (undated but presumably early Nov. 1977)
     c. Reply from Holmes to Kuntz, 11/22/77
     d. Typed manuscript of the "Lovecraftian Mythos in D&D" with many hand-written editorial notes and changes

     As it turns out, a fellow Acaeum member won this auction, and was kind enough to let me look at the documents. From the manuscript it's clear that Holmes wrote the bulk of the article, including the main intro and entries for Azathoth, Cthulhu, Hastur, Nyarlathotep, Shub-Niggurath, The Necronomicon, The Elder Sign, Yog-Sothoth, Byakhee, The Deep Ones, The Great Race, The Old Ones (aka Primoridal Ones), The Mi-Go and The Shaggoths [sic]. Kuntz added another introductory paragraph (the one in italics) and entries for Cthuga, Ithaqua and Yig, and made a few minor edits to Holmes' entries - just a few word changes and two added sentences.
     Rob was once asked about the authorship of the article on the Pied Piper Publishing Forum and replied: "Originally J. Eric Holmes (And I added Hastur and a few others)". This matches what is shown by the manuscript and letters, except that he must have mis-remembered when he said he added Hastur. The conception of Hastur in the article is primarily a Derleth creation as are Cthuga and Ithaqua, so perhaps he switched these in his memory.

     One of the minor revisions that Kuntz made was in the entry for The Deep Ones, where he changed "Every large group will have at least one evil high priest, level 3-10" to "at least one evil clerical type, level 3-10", presumably because in OD&D the title EHP should only refer to evil clerics levels 7 and up. In the entry for the Necronomicon, he changed "chaotic" to "chaotic evil". The remaining word changes just correct grammar.

      Kuntz added one sentence (in parenthesis) concerning a saving throw to the entry for Nyarlathotep, and one sentence to end of the entry for Byakhee concerning damage inflicted.

     For the most part, Holmes' original text, including some typos, is printed verbatim in the Dragon article.


  1. This is very interesting and useful information. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. A good piece of textual criticism, Zenopus. I'm glad the owner gave you access!