Saturday, November 23, 2013

Part 3: "Elves Must Decide"

Part 3 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 6 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along...

Fighting Men: No changes to the text, other than the very last sentence, where we see the first reference to AD&D inserted by TSR:

This sentence illustrates two general points about the manuscript:
(1) As I have speculated previously, the references to AD&D in the text are made just by changing Holmes' references to "D&D", or a supplement, to "AD&D".

(2) There has been some speculation in the past that Holmes' original draft may have gone to higher levels, but was cut down by TSR. This sentence is the first in the manuscript showing that it only covers levels 1-3. I haven't seen Holmes' earlier drafts, so I can't rule out that one of them went to higher levels.

Magic-Users: The only change here is in the parenthetical aside in line six about the ability to cast spells, which Holmes originally had as "(shared with elves and clerics)" and TSR changed to "(shared with clerics and some elves)". Possibly TSR corrected this because Holmes also makes reference to Elvish thieves, which if single-classed would not be able to cast spells. Or they were anticipating single-classed Elves in AD&D.

Clerics: No changes.

Thieves: The only change in this section is the replacement of "GREYHAWK" with "ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS" in the sentence about special rules for non-human thieves:

So again we see that TSR has simply just replaced a reference to OD&D with AD&D.

Dwarves: Two minor changes here. The words "about one-third of the time" have been inserted following "new construction" in the list of features that can detected underground. And the languages (Gnomes, Kobolds, Goblins) were capitalized in the manuscript. 

As might be expected, Holmes' original contains the sentence about the +3 Magic War Hammer, which made it into the first print rulebook:

This was later deleted because it didn't make sense - there was no +3 Magic War Hammer described later in the published rulebook. I can now report that Holmes' section on Treasure does describe this magic item. More on that later.

Elves: In the first paragraph there are just minor changes similar to that of Dwarves: "about one-third of the time" after the note that they can detect secret hidden doors, and the languages they speak are de-capitalized. 

However, in the second paragraph several sentences were deleted, bringing about the most significant change to Holmes' version of the rules so far. Here it is in whole:

The deleted sentences are: "Elves must decide before an adventure begins, however, whether they are going to act as fighting men, in which case they can wear armor but can not throw spells, or assume the role of magic-user, gaining the use of spells but forfeiting weapons other than the dagger. For each adventure the elf can change his role but once the adventure stars he must not change". The last sentence was retained, forming the entire second paragraph in the published version.

Holmes' deleted sentences reflect the rules for elves in Men & Magic, Vol 1 of OD&D, pg 8:

The original rules allow elves to wear magic armor when acting like a magic-user, implying they cannot wear normal armor when acting like a magic-user. Holmes is more explicit about the trade-off between the use of armor/weapons and spell-casting, and does not specifically provide any exception for magic armor.

The Greyhawk Supplement (early 1975)  seems to change the "alternating elf" to the standard "multi-classed elf" that works in different classes simultaneously. This version was used in AD&D, so TSR probably decided not to include the earlier version in the Basic Set. So why did Holmes include it? He probably hadn't seen the AD&D rules in progress, and even Greyhawk is not entirely clear that the earlier rule has been replaced. Also, Holmes may have used the "alternating elf" in his own games.

Holmes' novel, The Maze of Peril, published in 1986 but probably written earlier (he mentioned it in a 1979 interview), has a scene where Zereth the Elf removes his armor so he can cast an invisibility spell:

"As the halfling [Boinger] watched with interest, the black elf divested himself of sword, helm, chain mail, and jacket, and boots until down to soft linen tunic. Then he washed his hands in the basin beside the bed and put on a long sleeved robe. "Can't have iron touching the body anywhere," he explained, "no iron, even nails in the boot heels. It drains the flow of force from the other world" (pg 34). 

Boinger and Zereth were two of Chris Holmes' first characters and their stories evolved from the games that Dr. Holmes ran, so this scene may reflect the rules they used.  On the other hand, there's a Boinger and Zereth story from 1981, "The Sorcerer's Jewel" (Dragon #46), where Zereth casts spells and uses scrolls, while also fighting with a sword and probably armored. This may have been written later and reflect the AD&D rules.

Hobbits: No changes.

Continue on to Part 4: "...And a Half-Human/Half-Serpent Naga"
Or Go Back to
Part 2: "Fearsome Monsters, Fabulous Treasure and Frightful Perils"
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript


  1. Sheds a lot of light on the elf in Holmes, and the pregens at the back of the original version of B1...

  2. Major bummer. I was hoping for more about the elf. It is amazing how many version of rules the elf went through. Dual-classing in the playtest, then alternating classes per adventure then finally being both classes at the same time. All within the first few years.

  3. Another BLUEHOLME™ edit coming up, methinks ...

  4. My analysis above was slightly flawed as I missed the line in Men & Magic about elves being able to wear armor while acting like Magic-users. Holmes seems to imply otherwise. I've edited the first sentence after the OD&D quote to reflect this.

    1. Feel I should point out that it is magic armor that elves are able to wear while acting as M-Us.

    2. Correct. My edit needs an edit! Thank you.

  5. One hair-splitting detail I'll recall is that single-classed (non-magic-using) elven thieves were already present as of OD&D Greyhawk ("Elven thieves work in all three categories at once (fighter, magic-user, and thief) unless they opt to never be anything other than in the thief category." [Sup-I, p. 5]).

  6. Very interesting. Thanks again for this.