Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wandering Monster Table - 1st print

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Above is a scan of the Wandering Monster Table from the 1st print of the Holmes Basic rulebook, July 1977. This particular image is of the reference sheet from the back of the book. Thanks to Serian at the Acaeum for providing the scan several years ago at my request. The table is also found on page 10 of the rulebook.

A few years after the Basic Set Holmes wrote, “The first Basic Set rulebook contained some irritating typographical errors. Someone at TSR rewrote the wandering monster table and put in a number of creatures that were not in my list of monster descriptions. But most of the errors were corrected for the second printing” (pg 18, Dragon #52, 1981). 

The monsters not found in the MONSTER LIST in the rulebook include:
1st level: Centipede, Large Spider, Giant Rat
2nd level: Troglodite [sic], Giant Toad, Huge Spider, Gnoll, Leprechaun, Piercer
3rd level: Shrieker, Giant Snake, Giant Spider, Giant Weasel, Giant Lizard

Some of these monsters are found in the original tables from Vol III of OD&D and the Greyhawk supplement, and most can be found in the Monster & Treasure Assortment that was also included in the first three printings of the Basic Set. In addition, the "number appearing" are also mostly the same as those found in the M&TA set. These makes me think that the secondary TSR editor rewrote this table using the M&TA set. I have yet to see Holmes' original wandering monster tables from the manuscript, but hopefully they will be made available in the future for further comparison.

Why didn't Holmes include such low-level staples such as Giant Centipedes, Giant Rats and Huge/Giant Spiders in the Basic Rulebook? Possibly because these creatures never had a full write-up in OD&D. They are encompassed by the "Small" or "Large" Animals found in Vol 2 of OD&D, and some additional scattered stats appear in other places, but a full "monster entry" didn't appear until the Monster Manual. And then these entries were used as the basis for entries in the 2nd edition of the Holmes rulebook (Nov 78). Overall, Holmes included only a single "giant" animal - the "giant tick" in the MONSTER LIST, despite using a number of them in the Sample Dungeon - giant rats, giant spiders, giant crab, giant snake and large octopus. He may have thought that the full entries for these creatures was not a necessity.

The reason I requested the above scan is that in my personal copy of the first print, the table has been annotated (by a previous owner) to "fix" the undescribed monsters, in a unique way:

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The replacements include "Guinea Pig", "Chicken", "Map Devoerer", "Large Orc", "Purple Pig", Rabbit", "Hawk" and "Ants" (just Ants, not Giant Ants, which were not in the first print). 
As I once wrote on Dragonsfoot, "it's fun to imagine a party encountering 1-8 Hawks on the 2nd level underground. "Map Devoerer" sounds like an especially nasty critter - sort of a cross between and Intellect Devourer and a Rust Monster - as Gygax wrote in U&WA, "sure-fire fits for map-makers". Note that Holmes uses the term "guinea pig" on pg 38/39, although it's in reference to Players using their henchmen as experimental subjects to test Magic Items.


  1. Stats for the Purple Pig:

  2. If you've ever seen (and who hasn't?) Monty Python's Holy Grail, you should also never underestimate the power of a rabbit one encounters in a dungeon, which would doubtless be surrounded by piles of gnawed bones. Whoever changed those encounter tables was on the right track.