Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Holmes Manuscript

The Sample Dungeon map from The Holmes Manuscript. Click for a larger view.

At long last! I now have in my 'hands' a scan of The Holmes Manuscript, which is what I am calling the manuscript for the Holmes Basic rulebook that J. Eric Holmes sent to TSR. I plan to blog my way through the manuscript, comparing it with the published version. Above is a teaser: the sketch of the Sample Dungeon map from the manuscript. As you can see, it's very similar to the published version, but with some small differences.

The scan comes courtesy Billy Galaxy, who this year has been running auctions of material from Holmes' collection. This week he has listed a number of science fiction magazines and convention programs and from the '70s-'80s.

More to come! 

"...I persuaded Gygax that the original D&D rules needed revision and that I was the person to rewrite them. He readily conceded that there was a need for a beginners' book and "if you want to try it, go ahead". I went through the original three rule books and the first two supplements, Blackmoor and Greyhawk, of which Greyhawk is the greatest help. Trying to use the original words of the two game creators as much as possible, I edited a slim (48 page) handbook for beginners in role playing, published by TSR in 1977 as Dungeons and Dragons and usually marketed as "the basic set".” 

--- J. Eric Holmes, Fantasy Role-Playing Games, 1981

The posts in this series so far:
Part 1: "D&D for Beginners"
Part 2: "Fearsome Monsters, Fabulous Treasure and Frightful Perils"
Part 3: "Elves Must Decide"
Part 4: "...And a Half-Human/Half-Serpent Naga"
Part 5: "Lawful, Neutral or Chaotic"
Part 6: "Fully Armored and Heavily Loaded" 
Part 7: "Something Has Come Strolling Along" (wandering monsters)
Part 8: "Successively Deeper Strata" (experience, class tables, thief/cleric abilities, "levels")
Part 9: "Zombies are Poisoned by Salt" (magic and saving throws)
Part 10: "Book of First Level Spells"
Part 11: "Book of Second Level Spells"
Interlude: "Who Edited the Editor?"
Part 12: "Clerical Spells"
Part 13: "Melee is the Most Exciting Part of the Game" (Intro to Combat) 
Part 14: "A Curare Tipped Blowgun Dart" (Poison, Oil, Holy Water) 
Part 15: "Hits With Arrows" (Missile Fire, Cover, Magical Weapons)
Part 16: "An Exchange of Two Blows with Ordinary Weapons" (Attacks Per Round)
Part 17: "Highest Dexterity Strikes First" (Melee)
Part 18: "Bruno Dies a Horrible Death" (Combat Examples)
Part 19: "If One Wanted to Use a Red Dragon" (Intro to Monsters)
Part 20: "Monster List - Bandit to Zombie" (Bandits, Basilisks)
Part 21: "Always Hungry and Always Dangerous" (Berserkers to Bugbears)
Part 22: "Fierce Fighters If Cornered" (Carrion Crawler to Cockatrice)
Part 23: "Shy and Beautiful Female Tree Sprites" (Dervishes to Dwarves)
Part 23.5 "There Are Many Kinds of Dragons" (Doppleganger to Dragons)
Part 24: "Winged Beasts of Hideous Aspect" (Elves to Gelatinous Cube)
Part 25: "Horrors Are Naturals for Dungeons" (Giants to Gnolls)
Part 26: "Always Attack Dwarves on Sight" (Gnomes to Green Slime)
Part 27: "Mules Can Often Be Taken Into Dungeons" (Griffon to Horse)
Part 28: "Thus We Find Weresharks in Polynesia" (Hydra to Manticore)
Part 29: "They Usually Inhabit Tunnels, Mazes and Labyrinths" (Medusa to Nixies)
Part 30: "It is, Of Course, Ochre-Colored" (Nomads to Owl Bear)
Part 31: "This Inoffensive Looking Little Creature" (Pegasus to Rust Monster)
Part 32: "Commonly Found Near Graveyards..." (Shadow to Troll)
Part 33: "Spectral Armored Warriors" (Unicorn to Zombie)
Part 34: "Many Monsters Carry Treasure" (Introduction to Treasure, Treasure Types Table)
Part 35: "A Potent Weapon in the Hands of a Dwarf" (Magic Weapons & Armor)
Part 36: "They May Dare a Tiny Sip" (Potions)
Part 37: "Any Ring Spell Except Wishes" (Scrolls)
Part 38: "Rings Can Be Used by Anyone" (Rings)
Part 39: "The Wand Produces a Fire Ball Which Will Travel" (Wands & Staves)
Part 40: "Acts Like a Cannon Blast on Walls" (Miscellaneous Magic Items)
Part 41: "Dungeon Mastering as a Fine Art" (DM Guidance, Sample Cross Section)
Part 42: "Sample Floor Plan, Part of First Level" (a forgotten map by Holmes)
Part 43: "Zap! You're Dead!" (DM Guidance) 
Part 44: "Knights Talk in Flowery Phrases" (DM Guidance, Example of Play)
Part 45: "Roll the Number and See What Happens!" (DM Guidance)
Part 46: "Zenopus Built a Tower" (Introduction to the Sample Dungeon)
Part 47: "The Occupants are Goblins" (Rooms A-E) 
Part 48: "The Shadow on the Gnomon" (Rooms F-I)
Part 49: "Will Drop on Unwary Adventurers" (Rooms J-M)
Part 50: "The Dancing Dagger is Hard to Hit" (Room N)
Part 51: "Indescribable Odds and Ends" (Room P) 
Part 52: "No End to the Rats" (Room RT)
Part 53: "The Room Contains a Giant Snake" (Rooms S and S1)
Part 54: "An Ape in an Iron Cage" (Room S2 and the Coda)
Part 55: Summary of Changes
Appendix A: Manuscript Copy Order Form
Appendix B: Chris Holmes Manuscript Artwork

13 comments:

  1. Wow! Looking forward to these posts. The map is quite the teaser, indeed!

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  2. Thanks, ZA! Can't wait to see what you find in the manuscript.

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  3. I see that the original 'JEH' easter egg initials didn't quite line up in the original sample dungeon map since one of the 'E' rooms is missing. However, room 'J' has a door to nowhere that should lead to that missing room.

    Fantastic news! Waiting with baited breath to see the rest.

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  4. I am on the extreme edge of my seat. :)

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  5. Cool! I'm definitely excited to see this come to light. I'll be eagerly awaiting the next installment.

    Thanx for doing and sharing this research!

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  6. I very much look forward to reading your review of the ms.

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  7. Sweet, looking forward to it too!

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  8. In that collection could be that one magazine that has the article on D&D being bad for your health. Ask if they've got that. As we're aging, we need answers to this important question as soon as possible. I doubt basic makes you very ill though: there isn't even a disease table in basic. At least I don't remember one.

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  9. Gnarly! I won't ask how much it put you back.

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  10. Phenomenal - very much looking forward to your comments and observations!

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