Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Holmes Alignment is Six-Point

A Black Pudding has no alignment, but a Carrion Crawler is neutral

The alignment scheme in Holmes is generally referred to as "five-point". This scheme is adapted from the Strategic Review #6 (Feb '76) and includes lawful good, chaotic good, neutral, lawful evil and chaotic evil. These are all that is described in the section on "Character Alignment" (pg 8). But there's actually a sixth option for monsters: no alignment. A number of monsters simply lack a line for Alignment. The 1st edition contained a nonsensical explanation for this, presumably due to an editing error ("If the monsters' alignment is given here, then there follows a brief description which should include any special powers and attributes of the creature"). This was corrected in the 2nd edition (Nov '78): "If the monster's alignment is not given, it may be assumed to be an unintelligent beast that will attack anyone who comes near". 

The following monsters in the 1st edition of Holmes have no entry for alignment:
Black Pudding, Gelatinous Cube, Giant Tick, Gray Ooze, Green Slime, Horse, Ochre Jelly, Yellow Mold

The 2nd/3rd edition adds the following to the above:
Fire Beetle, Giant Ant, Giant Centipede, Giant Rats, Shrieker, Spider*

*Giant Spiders are described as chaotic evil in the entry, being of low intelligence.

As with other products from this era, usage is not always consistent. The entry for Purple Worm says they are "unintelligent and always attack", exactly the conditions for having no alignment, yet they are neutral. Basilisks and Cockatrices are also described as unintelligent but are neutral. Skeletons (and Zombies) are listed as neutral, although they seemingly have no intelligence of their own and "act only under instructions of their motivator, an evil magic-user or cleric".

In terms of game play, the sixth option provides an economical way of indicating whether a reaction roll should ever be made for that monster. "Unintelligent" monsters are also the only ones possibly deterred by food (pg 11) and can never accept a surrender (pg 21). The Monster Manual went in a different, more standardized direction, including both an alignment and an intelligence for every monster.

Another implication of this scheme is that some "neutral" monsters could be more intelligent than normally assumed based on other rule sets. Carrion Crawlers, Hydras, Owlbears, Rust Monsters and Stirges are all "neutral", and thus do not necessarily attack on sight. By way of comparison, they could be considered more intelligent than other creatures lacking alignment such as Giant Rats and Horses. 

Up for a parley with that Carrion Crawler coming towards you on the ceiling?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Crystal Ball - July

I use the Holmes G+ Community to quickly post links to articles & discussions related to Holmes Basic, generally only with a brief comment by myself. I'm going to start periodically rounding up these links for a blog post. Here are some from the last month, roughly in the order I posted them. I've only included material not featured in a separate post here.

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Does D&D play better when the players don't know the rules? 
Daztur on The RPG site writes: "Since last year I've run 1 hour-ish D&D (roughly Holmes Basic) mini-sessions with eight different classes of Korean 5-6 graders. They're great lab rats for testing rules and GMing styles since they have no idea what tabletop role playing is and are very enthusiastic (beats doing grammar lessons)."

The Acknowledgements in the Rules Cyclopedia include John Eric Holmes among others

Rules Cyclopedia pdf available on 
The product history by Shannon Appelcline mentions Holmes Basic twice, including this interesting observation: "The Rules Cyclopedia was the result - and it also offered somewhere for the Black Box players to go when they finished with fifth level. Ironically, this was reportedly the exact same setup that Gygax had planned for the J. Eric Holmes Basic Set and also for AD&D, way back in 1977."

Mentzer Basic pdfs (DM and Players) also added
Two pdfs, one for Players book and one for DMs. I'd imagine the rest of BECMI will follow in the coming weeks. So we've got the revisions (Moldvay and Mentzer) but are still waiting for the original Basic! DrowningMan on DF reports: "Pdf quality is much better than the previous one, but some illustrations got too dark (i.e. pages 22 and 23 from PHB)" 

In response to a question, I added:
"There's some neat content by Mentzer: a solo introductory adventure in the Player's book, and an introductory DM adventure in the DM book. Only if you are partial to that kind of stuff. You can see the first few pages of each in the sample files" and "if you want just the Menzter introductory DM adventure, Wizards still has it up on the site as a free download (albeit a poor scan). It's generally called Mistamere Castle. Bargle appears for the first time in these adventures."

Most influential game book ever (and why)
An thread that begins, "Most influential gaming book ever published; one volume only; one vote only. I personally think there are only two credible candidates: Holmes Basic D&D (the obvious choice, based on units sold and 'gateway drug' status for a generation) and the 1st Edition AD&D Monster Manual, which is my pick for the top dog..."

Characters Sheets in 1975
From the Playing at the World blog (Jon Peterson), a survey of early character sheets for OD&D. These predate Holmes Basic but are all suitable for use with it...

Two Different Takes on B1 on blogs:
B1 Hack - Into Cytheron Background
Adios, Caverns of Quasqueton

On Role-Playing (Part 2 of 11)
Part 2 of an 11 (!) part series on the B/X Blackrazor blog. This one focuses on the guidance (or lack thereof) on how to role-play in OD&D and Holmes.  

Holmes Blue Book
New Dragonsfoot thread with lots of guidance for someone new to Holmes Basic.
A new thread, five pages currently, in response to a critical review of Holmes Basic. Much of it consists of nice folks correcting misconceptions of the original poster.

From Wayne at the Semper Initiativus Unum blog. A thoughtful essay on combining Holmes Basic with Cook Expert, with a focus on preserving features of Holmes: "At the table, Holmes is simpler and cleaner in many ways, but it requires some expansion past 3rd level. The easiest way to do this is what I call "Blue Book" D&D - Holmes Basic plus the Cook/Marsh Expert rulebook" 
Reboot of a 2007 thread on DF. The eternal question regarding Elf HD in Holmes Basic.

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Feel free to add anything that I have missed.

Edit: Renamed the post "Crystal Ball"

Monday, July 22, 2013

Holmes Clone nominated for award

A Holmes clone, Mazes & Perils, has been nominated for an ENnie for Best Free Game.

The pdf can be downloaded from free here at RPGnow.
From the product description:
"Mazes & Perils is a game of imagination and role playing in a fantasy world, suitable for ages 10 and up. To play, you need this standalone rulebook, some dice, paper, pencils, a few friends, and your imagination. If you have played other fantasy role playing games, the Mazes & Perils rules may feel familiar to you. Inspired by the 1977 “Holmes” version of the worlds most popular role playing game, Mazes & Perils goes beyond what the Holmes version provided, allowing for longer-term campaigns. Even if you don’t need another standalone fantasy role playing game, you may find a few useful new ideas herein that you can use with your other games. This PDF is absolutely free of charge, and always will be!" 
The name is, obviously, a tribute to Holmes' 1986 novel, The Maze of Peril.
Congratulations to the editor, Vincent Florio of the Evil GM blog.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Original Sharknado

Air Shark by Dave Hargrave from The Arduin Grimoire Volume 1 (1977)

Air Sharks - even more gonzo than Weresharks. Enough Said!

Air Shark from the cover of Arduin Dungeon #3 - Citadel of Thunder (1979)

Bonus Squidnado:

Air Squid by Dave Hargrave from All the Worlds' Monsters Volume 1 (1977) - click for larger view

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Random Names One-Sheet

Screenshot of Holmesian Random Names One-Sheet (click for larger view)
I've formatted the Holmesian Random Name tables as a one-page pdf. 

Download it here (version 1.0 - no shading) or here (version 1.1 - with line shading)

Upgraded features:
1. More Holmes. I went through Holmes' D&D fiction and added a bunch more syllables. 
It's now possible to roll up Boinger, Zereth, Ajax or other names from Holmes' stories. 

As a result there are now 200 entries for the syllable portion. Some appear twice, all of which are ones that appeared in two different names in the sources. So there's a slightly higher chance of rolling one of these syllables.

I added the syllables "Ek" and "Omes" so you could possibly roll up "Erekomes" (which I once used for a wizard's name). The list already had the syllables "Car" "Mich" and "Ael" from the "Saint Carmichael" mentioned in B1, so I wanted a Holmes tribute as well.

2. More Titles. There are now 100 entries on the title table. The additional ones are just from brainstorming on my part for interesting titles. I made an effort to include terms favored by H.P. Lovecraft (gibbous, beetling etc) since Holmes was a big fan of his work.

The one-sheet includes a few examples created using the new sheet (and Holmes dice, of course). Here are a few more:

Am-zef the Arcane
Alem Yor the Ominous
Ger Arkagaith 
Zengar Ky the Dandy
Sporr the Perceptive

Update: I revised the table to include line shading for readability. This is version 1.1. I'll leave up the original version (1.0) in case that is preferred by anyone.