Thursday, March 28, 2013

Holmes Ref: Current Contents

Here's a list of all of the pages for Holmes Ref that I have right now. Some are pure tables, others are a mix of tables and text. The Wilderness material is the newest addition. Some need to be finished; all are subject to change during editing.

1: TITLE PAGE

2: TABLE OF CONTENTS

3: INTRODUCTION

SECTION FOR PLAYERS -

4: AN ADVENTURER IS CREATED, ABILITY SCORE BONUSES & PENALTIES, TESTS OF STRENGTH

5: THE COOPERATIVE RACES OF THE REALMS

6-7: OTHER RACES

8: ALIGNMENTS, LANGUAGES, SAVING THROWS, PERSONALITY

9: FIGHTERS (inc Paladins & Rangers & Anti-Paladins)

10: CLERICS

11: CLERIC SPELLS – LEVELS 1-5

12: MAGIC-USERS

13: MAGIC-USER SPELLS – LEVELS 1-3 (20 spells per level)

14: MAGIC-USER SPELLS – LEVELS 4-6 (20 spells per level)

15: THIEVES

16: OUTFITTING AN ADVENTURER, COINS OF THE REALMS

17: THE GAME BEGINS, NPCs FOR HIRE, MONSTER REACTIONS, HEADING OUT

18: TIME, MOVEMENT, LOAD, SWIMMING, ANIMALS, SOURCES OF LIGHT

19: LISTENING, DOORS, TRAPS, ENCOUNTERS, SURPRISE

20: COMBAT, ARMOR CLASS, MELEE WEAPONS

21: MAGIC WEAPONS, PARRYING, TWO WEAPONS, SUBDUAL, POSITION IN COMBAT, STRIKING ORDER, ORDER OF COMBAT

22: MISSILE FIRE (inc Oil & Holy Water)

SECTION FOR REFEREES

23-27: MONSTER LIST (100 Monsters), NEW MONSTERS

28: ONE HIT POINT MONSTERS

29: SCALING MONSTERS

30: RANDOM DETERMINATION OF MONSTERS

31: TREASURE

32: RANDOM DETERMINATION OF MAGIC ITEMS

33: MAGIC ITEM POWERS

34: THE WILDERNESS

35: RANDOM GENERATION OF AN AREA MAP

36: THE HOLMESIAN UNDERWORLD, TRAPS & TRICKS

37: THE HOLMESIAN CAMPAIGN, J. ERIC HOLMES SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

There may also be some additional pages with rearranged/condensed tables from the previous pages (e.g., a Combat Table).

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Holmes Ref

Click for a larger view

The project I'm working on these days is Holmes Ref, my take on an OGL expansion for Holmes Basic, which I'm hoping WOTC will release as a pdf soon (or even reprint). "Ref" refers to both Referee and Reference, and pays tribute to the Judges Guild Ready Ref sheets. Like that set, Holmes Ref will be heavy on single-page reference sheets that can be used directly in DIY DM screens. It's not intended to replace Holmes Basic, but should have sufficient information to play the game, much as OD&D can (mostly) be played using only the Ready Ref sheets. 

As a preview, a portion of the table for magic items is pasted above (this is a draft version and specific details may change). The idea here is to take the Basic rulebook magic item tables and make them more expansive. For example, "Ring" powers are not necessarily limited to an item in the shape of a ring, and rings can have powers normally found in other forms. This expands on the 'quirk' in the Holmes rules that allows for Potion, Ring and Wand powers to be found on scrolls.  

Update: Reference sheets completed so far can be found on this ZA site page.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Obscure Art Friday: Sphere of Doom by Greg Bell

Sphere of Doom by Greg Bell - original (left) and published (right) versions

I haven't written an art column in a while, but I saw the original work above this week, thanks to a post on the Acaeum, and wanted to share it. The published version isn't obscure - it's the cover of the Greyhawk Supplement (1975) and one of my favorites by early TSR artist Greg Bell - but the original artwork certainly is. As you can see, the original was altered for publication: the beholder was moved to the right, and lowered, and the words "SPHERE OF DOOM" were removed.

This image is via Diesel, a former TSR artist who contributed to one Holmes Basic product - the module B2 Keep on the Borderlands. The caption in the frame reads: "Cover to the first DUNGEONS & DRAGONS booklet "Greyhawk". Greg was one of the first artists for D&D. Believe it or not I recovered this from the garbage can along with many other illustrations from the first books. 1977". (Two errors here: it's the first supplement, not the first D&D book, and the artwork must be from 1975 or earlier, not 1977). As reported on the neogrognard blog in 2011, some of this other art included: "a large chunk from Deities and Demigods ... the cover to The Dragon #2, Steve Bissette illos for an earth elemental and a bullywug toy, Spelljammer originals, and Dragonlance maps".

As posted on Grognardia in 2012, Bell's warrior was modeled (some call it swiped) on a figure from Dax the Damned, a recurring series in Eerie horror comic magazine. Given the DIY/fanzine level of production of the early D&D books, I find this type of use to be on par with Gygax's appropriation of Tolkien elements (elves, dwarves, orcs etc).


And now Diesel is apparently creating his own version of this scene for the D&D Documentary Kickstarter. A sneak peak of the work in progress was posted here a few months ago:

Diesel's Sphere of Doom - Work in Progress

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lemunda = Tiger Lily?



From J.M. Barrie's original Peter Pan novel (1911, courtesy Project Gutenberg):

"Marooners' Rock stood alone in the forbidding waters as if it were itself marooned. 

The boat drew nearer. It was the pirate dinghy, with three figures in her, Smee and Starkey, and the third a captive, no other than Tiger Lily. Her hands and ankles were tied, and she knew what was to be her fate. She was to be left on the rock to perish, an end to one of her race more terrible than death by fire or torture, for is it not written in the book of the tribe that there is no path through water to the happy hunting-ground? Yet her face was impassive; she was the daughter of a chief, she must die as a chief's daughter, it is enough.

They had caught her boarding the pirate ship with a knife in her mouth. No watch was kept on the ship, it being Hook's boast that the wind of his name guarded the ship for a mile around. Now her fate would help to guard it also. One more wail would go the round in that wind by night. 

In the gloom that they brought with them the two pirates did not see the rock till they crashed into it." 

Compare with Lemunda in Room M (Sea Cave) in the Sample Dungeon:
"The [pirates'] prisoner is a girl, Lemunda the Lovely, whose father is a powerful lord in the city above. Lemunda is a good fighter in her own right and carries a concealed dagger in her girdle, but right now she is bound and gagged. She is lying in the bottom of the second boat, not the one occupied by the pirates. Her family would be very grateful to get her back."

It may just be a coincidence, but in each story the pirate's captive is the daughter of a chief/lord, is a warrior herself (proficient with knife or dagger), and is bound in a rowboat.

In Disney movie of Peter Pan (1953), Marooner's Rock becomes Skull Rock, and Tiger Lily is brought there by Hook and Smee to a location more like a sea cave. I came across the similarities between Lemunda and Tiger Lily, when reading about Skull Rock, which is one predecessor (among many) of the Great Stone Skull (aka Skull Mountain) in the Basic Rulebook.

For the full list of possible Holmes Basic Easter Eggs, see this post on OD&D Discussion.

Hook and Smee take Tiger Lily to Skull Rock
Skull Rock

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Holmes + OD&D Reference Sheet

Screenshot of Holmes + OD&D Reference Table (click for a larger view)

As promised, I've made a one-page reference sheet for using Holmes Basic with OD&D. As with the previous Holmes + Cook Expert Sheet, it includes Combat Tables for characters & monsters, saving throws, character advancement including spell numbers, turn undead & thieves' skills. The sheet follows Holmes for levels 1-3, and fills in the higher levels with material from the LBBs & Greyhawk.

By adjusting the row heights I found I was able to squeeze in the information for each character class up to name level. The resulting sheet is more crowded but contains more useful information on a single page.

This reference sheet can be downloaded from the Holmes Ref page on the Zenopus Archives site.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Gygax on Holmes




Gary Gygax passed away five years ago today, as noted elswhere. In tribute, here's a compilation of his quotes about Dr. Holmes and his work on the D&D Basic Set. The time period ranges from 1977 (the year the Basic Set was first published) to the last year of Gary's life. I started this list in 2010 before I started the blog so it hasn't been posted here before. It's been updated a few times, and I am always on the lookout for more quotes if you find any.

December 1977
“Help in the form of ideas, suggestions or even actual work for us as J. Eric Holmes did for us is always welcome." (Dragon #11, pg 6, guest editorial)

May 1978
“Organizational work was in progress when correspondence with J. Eric Holmes, professor, author and incidentally a respected neurologist, disclosed that the Good Doctor was interested in undertaking the first stage of the project — the rewriting and editing necessary to extract a beginner’s set of D&D from the basic set and its supplements. The result of his labors is the “Basic Set” of D&D”. (Dragon #14, May 1978, Sorcerer's Scroll column titled "D&D relationships, the parts and the whole")

June 1979
“D&D has been edited (by the eminent J. Eric Holmes) to provide an introductory package, and the contents of that offering have recently been expanded to include a beginning module.” (Dragon #26, pg 29, Sorcerer’s Scroll column titled “D&D, AD&D and Gaming”)

March 1980
 “As we realized that “Original” D&D (the first three booklets and the supplements) wasn’t anywhere near adequate for the needs of the readership it was attracting, it was decided that a simplified, clarified, introductory piece was needed. Shortly after this was decided, as if by divine inspiration, J. Eric Holmes got in touch with us and actually volunteered his services for just such an undertaking. All of you know the result, of course.”

"By the time the final manuscript from Eric was in our hands, the rough of the Monster Manual was also finished, rough outlines of Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide were typed up, and several portions of both works were likewise in manuscript form. We had two choices to consider with the new Basic Set: As it took players only through three experience levels, they could thereafter be directed to the “original” works, or we could refer them to AD&D ... Faced with a choice between chaos and a clean slate, we opted for the latter.

"Pieces and parts of the various components of AD&D were grafted into the Basic Set rules manuscript so that D&D would be more compatible with the Advanced game. Readers were directed to AD&D throughout the Basic Set ... our production people had no idea then just how well it would all work out in the end, because much of the AD&D system was still on rough notes or in my head at the time. It turned out to be relatively acceptable as an interim measure, too." (Dragon #35, pg 13, From the Sorcerer’s Scroll, “What’s ahead for TSR?")

Summer of 1980
"But we knew initially, probably in early 1975, that we had to do a more clearly done introductory piece. We began looking at it. Dr. Holmes was kind enough to volunteer. I got talking with him and Eric and I arrived at a very happy agreement and he took that over." (Gryphon magazine interview with Rudy Kraft, as quoted on Grognardia
)

Summer of 1981
In an RPGA interview with Gygax, the interviewer (presumably Frank Mentzer) says "We've been explaining to people how the first set was for hard-core gamers, and then the audience became more widespread. The version written by J. Eric Holmes was a little bit easier, and now the latest version is easily understandable by anyone willing just to spend the time to read it". The reviewer then asks Gygax about the direction of the D&D game, to which he responds without specific reference to Holmes or Basic D&D (Polyhedron #1, pg 5, "RPGA INTERVIEW with E. Gary Gygax").

10/17/02 & 12/5/02 - in threads describing work on a Lejendary Adventure primer
"The plan is to create a sort of short-term intro to the system ... So in that regard it is akin to the J. Eric Holmes approach to the D&D game." (Dragonsfoot forum post)

 

"What we hope to manage is to have sufficient information across the board to enable play for a group for a limited period of time--enough to determine if the game is "right" for the group. That's what the Basic Set of D&D was for, and that was a good idea that J. Eric Holmes came up with." (Dragonsfoot forum post)

11/14/02 - in response to a question about whether the "cross section of Stone Mountain with a Great Stone Skull" was ever a complete product
"The dungeon was never fleshed out as a product, just shown as an example. Now that you mention it, I wonder why we never did make it into a product, as it would have had a ready and waiting audience." (Enworld forum post archived at greyhawkonline)
 


11/30/02 - in response to a question regarding "splintering of the market"
"All that said, the splintering of the market occurred when AD&D was published, albeit that was a minor one, and I covered the matter fairly well by including some of the concepts I had devised for AD&D in the revised D&D game edited by J. Eric holmes. Thus the two systems were somewhat compatible adventure material, including monsters, from AD&D could be adapted without much trouble, to the D&D system, and vice versa." (post on the gygax-games yahoo group)

September 2003
"John Eric Holmes—Dr. Holmes—contacted me. His son played, and he was like ‘you know, I’d really like to clean up Dungeons & Dragons. And I said ‘that’s good, but I’m working on an advanced game. Why don’t you pass the stuff through me?’ So as he passed the stuff through me, he organized the basic rules, and then I passed on the stuff that I was working into Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, so there would be a smoother transition between the two, in case somebody wanted to switch from one to the other."
(interview with Computer Games Magazine, as reprinted here)

9/26/03
"When I was immersed in writing AD&D in 1976, J. Eric Holmes approached us about doing a revision of the D&D set of three booklets and supplements. I was delighted to have him do that, and when he turned in his initial draft, that became the Basic Set for D&D, I was far enough along with AD&D rules to add a good bit from the latter to the D&D game so as to keep them as compatible as possible in mechanics." (Enworld forum post archived at greyhawkonline)

12/17/03
"J. Eric Holmes pushed hard for a revision, the Basic Set rules, so I agreed. When I got his ms. it seemed a good plan to add in a few of the new rules I was in process of writing for AD&D." (Enworld forum post archived at greyhawkonline)

2/3/05 - in response to a query regarding the mention of a witch class in the Basic rulebook
"That mention slipped by me, and all I can assume was that either Eric was planning to force such a class upon me, or else someone editing the work thought it a good joke to play. i never had a PC class of that sort in mind for the game." (Enworld forum post archived at greyhawkonline)

2/4/05
"Thoughts and practices at TSR? Heh! As it happened, I reviewed Eric/s ms. and put in the material I was creating for the new AD&D system, thus making a transition from D&D to AD&D easier for those who wished to do so. In short, I was 99% of the creative force in regards to the D&D/AD&D game until I put Frank Mentzer in charge of the D&D line."

"The Basic Set was not meant to be AD&D, or an introduction to it despite what someone at TSR put into the work. There was never any intention of melding the two games. that should be obvious from the continuation of the D&D game product line, its direction being different from AD&D's." (Enworld forum post archived at greyhawkonline)

2/22/05
"Rest assured that Dr. Holmes came to me first to propose the work, and I was in charge of the ms. when it was turned over. That is how it came to have new material quite similar to the AD&D game--I was writing the PHB at the time, and I wanted D&D to have some of the new features of the AD&D game. To cut to the chase, I thought that Eric did a fine bit of editing with the set." (Enworld forum post archived at greyhawkonline)

2/19/06 & 5/19/07 - responses to queries regarding the authorship of the Sample Dungeon.
"Yes, J. Eric Holmes did design the sample dungeon in the first D&D Basic Set."
(Dragonsfoot forum post)

"The Tower was Eric's...possibly with input from his son who was a young teenager back then." (Dragonsfoot forum post)

5/23/06
"The set edited by John Eric Holmes was more like AD&D than D&D in many respects, because at the time he turned over the ms. I was completing my own for the AD&D PHB. I included material from the latter into the D&D game to update it." (Dragonsfoot forum post)

8/11/06 - in response to a query regarding Gygax's involvement in the D&D product line
"A very big part, as all of those works were derived from my own. I also reviewed and approved the final drafts. In the Holmes Basic Set I inserted all of the now character information found there that was not in OD&D." (Dragonsfoot forum post)

5/27/07
"John Eric Holmes approached me to do an edited beginner's version of the D&D game at the time I was in the throes of designing the AD&D game. Eric's son was a dedicated D&D gamer, and after chatting with the Good Doctor and his son, I gave the go-ahead. When the ms, was turned over to me for approval, I inserted a goodly number of the new AD&D game rules so as to upgrade the D&D system as well. The Basic Set sold very well, and it was to TSR's benefit that Holmes' did that version, and it cost the company nary a red cent."
(Dragonsfoot forum post)

"Oops! I forgot to mention that Dr. Holmes was a neurosurgeon, and he did no additional FRPG material. However, he did write a novel based of ERB's hollow earth setting, Red Ax of Pellucidar.  I found it most entertaining, a worthy addition to the Burrough's series. He was going to do an additional novel, but the Burrough's Estate decided to refuse permission. Pity that..." (Dragonsfoot forum post)

6/6/07 - in response to a note correcting the title of Holmes' published Pellucidar novel
"Thanks! As a matter of fact Lorraine Williams stole my autographed copy of Mahars of Pellucidar as well as a copy of Eric's ms. of Red Axe of Pellucidar given to me by him. I was working from memory, and clearly it was fuzzy." (Dragonsfoot forum post)