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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Part 1: "Dungeons & Dragons For Beginners"

What I referred to yesterday as 'The Holmes Manuscript' is actually the third draft of this material, which Billy described in a post at the Acaeum earlier this year:

"This [1st] version is a huge folder stuffed with handwritten pages, typed pages, photocopies, lots and lots of corrections as well as some crude illustrations by JEH and some great illustrations by Chris Holmes (which were submitted to TSR and I am surprised they were not used in lieu of some of the art that was) ..."

In the above photo you can see part of a Displacer Beast drawn by Chris Holmes.

"The 2nd is an intermediary stage between the one directly above and the one in the initial post. It is a cleaned up photocopied version of the above with numerous hand corrections/notes. Still includes a rough layout and illustrations by Chris."

"The 3rd [pictured at the top of this post] ... is a clean typeset document with no corrections or illustrations (other than the dungeon layout). There are multiple copies of this version with at least 2 colors of outer cover (blue & gray). The Holmes family retained one for their master set of Holmes material. I have 2, one of which will be up for grabs at some point this summer. And 1 (or possibly more) would have been sent to TSR where it was probably lost or destroyed since none have surfaced yet."

Based on the multiple copies, this is most likely the version that Holmes sent to TSR. When I spoke to Billy last week he told me about a sheet he had found with Holmes' order of multiple photocopies from U.S.C., where he worked. I am hoping there is a date on this.

The 3rd version of the Holmes Manuscript is 138 pages in length, which includes a title page, a dedication page, a three-page table of contents, and pages numbered 1-132. Of the numbered pages, page 37 is duplicated, page 67 is missing, and there is an inserted page 119A with the map of the Sample Dungeon that I posted yesterday. Billy wrote back to me that all of the copies of the 3rd version of the Manuscript are missing page 67, which covers the entries in the Monster List for Doppelganger and Dragon (1st half). This page was either removed from all copies, or more likely went missing before photocopying. The missing material is hopefully present in the earlier (2nd) version of the draft.

The title of the manuscript is "Dungeons and Dragons For Beginners", followed by the words appearing on the cover of the original D&D books, with the addition of "Complete Rules in This Volume", and then the names "Gary Gygax and Eric Holmes". The subsequent Dedication page simply says "for Jeff and Chris", Holmes' two children at the time.

The published version combines these two pages, placing the dedication below the credits. TSR dropped the "For Beginners" from the title, leaving it simply "Dungeons & Dragons"  here and on the cover, and using "Basic Set" instead on the corner of the box cover. As far as I can tell, the term "beginner" does not appear anywhere in the published version, rulebook or box. Holmes would later resurrect the title "D&D for Beginners" for tournaments that he and Chris ran at Gen Con in 1978 and 1979

TSR also dropped the "Complete Rules..." statement from the title page, moving this concept to the back cover of the box, which says (at least in the 3rd print I have): "This Box Contains Your Complete Dungeons & Dragons Game".

TSR also corrected the credits to add Dave Arneson's name, and gave Holmes an "Edited By". I personally think he should have also been credited with "additional material" based on his Sample Dungeon and other examples, which as we shall see are present in the manuscript. 

Continue On to Part 2: "Fearsome Monsters, Fabulous Treasure and Frightful Perils"
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript


  1. Interesting glimpse at the document. I'm looking forward to reading more.

  2. Nice text history! Thanks for posting.

  3. Great start - I'm really interested in answers to some of the questions which have puzzled folks over the years. Our list of so-called "errata" on the OD&D Discussion forum, for example. Stuff as mundane as the saving throw table for dwarves compared to OD&D and inconsistencies in spell descriptions, like Strength and Sleep. I love minutia like that!

  4. Who illustrated the title page? Love that art.

    1. That work is by the late, great David C. Sutherland III. He also illustrated the cover of the box and the lizard rider at the top of my page here, among other art in the rulebook.

    2. Would it be possible to post scans of the artwork by JEH and his son? I would be very curious to see their illustrations.

    3. The version of the manuscript that I have a copy of does not include any artwork other than maps. I am hoping scans of the art will be made available eventually.

    4. Look forward to that. I am very curious to see their interpretations of the D&D monsters and so forth.