Friday, January 3, 2014

Part 15: "Hits With Arrows"

Part 15 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 20 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along... 


1st paragraph: The only change here from the manuscript is that "in inches" in the second sentence is changed to "in feet" in the published version. This is simply a correction of a typo, because Holmes' table shows the ranges in feet, not inches. Perhaps in an earlier draft Holmes had the ranges in inches like in OD&D.

Table: As in the published version, this table in the manuscript has no title, although the manuscript Table of Contents refers to it as "TABLE Range of Missile Weapons".

The original table is basically the same as the published one, but with a few differences. First I will discuss the sources of the material for this table.

The original source for the bow/crossbow ranges is Chainmail, pg 41, "Individual Fires with Missiles". Gygax then reprinted these ranges in Greyhawk, pg 14. These sources simply note the max range, and a convention of thirds: short range is the first third, medium the second third, and long the remaining third. Holmes uses the same ranges but writes them out in the table, which makes it easier for beginners to see.

Holmes also adds entries for "sling stone", "javelin" and "handhurled axe, spear or dagger" (despite slings and javelins not being listed in the Equipment Table). I'm not sure where he sourced this material, possibly Chainmail and/or Swords & Spells, although the numbers are not exactly the same. Chainmail has a somewhat hidden note on page 10 that "throwing axes and spears" have a range of 3" (30 feet), and the Missile Fire table in Swords & Spells, pg 9, follows this with a long range of 3" for "spear, axe, hammer". No short or medium ranges are listed in Swords & Spells. Holmes uses the 3" max range but then follows the 1/3 convention: short 0-10, medium 10-20, long 20-30. Swords & Spells has javelin as 1"/4"/8"; Holmes changes this using the thirds rule to 0-30/30-60/60-90. Sling Stone seems to differ the most. S&S has 4"/8"/12" for sling stones and 5"/10"/16" for sling bullets, but Holmes put slings stones at an even greater 0-60/60-120/120-180.

In the published rulebook, Gygax changes the range for axe/spear/dagger to short range "0-10 feet", long range "10-30 feet" - dropping medium range completely for unknown reasons. In AD&D, however, Gygax stuck with the 10/20/30 for each of these weapons; see pg 38 of the Players Handbook. Gygax also changed the javelin range slightly to 0-20/20-40/40-80, which is closer to the Swords & Spells ranges. In AD&D the javelin's long range is further lessened to 20/40/60. The other ranges in the published rulebook remain the same. A note is added under Horse Bow indicating that it is a "(Short Composite Bow). This is another item not found in the Equipment List.

2nd paragraph: In this paragraph Holmes provides the adjustments "to hit" at different ranges, and illustrates their use by way of an example with an archer firing at a giant rat. The manuscript version is basically the same as the published version, but with different modifiers: 0 for long range, +1 for medium range, and +2 for short range. These match the modifiers given in Men & Magic, page 20, so here Holmes was following the source material and Gygax changed it to -1 for long, 0 for medium, and +1 for short. The numbers are in the example are also changed to match the altered modifiers. The AD&D Players Handbook would further alter these modifiers to -5 for long, -2 for medium and 0 for short.

3rd paragraph: This paragraph, which adds some clarifications about missile fire, is absent in the manuscript, so was added by Gygax. This is the only place in the Basic rulebook that mentions "Outdoors read feet as yards".


This paragraph is identical in the manuscript and published rulebook. Here Holmes provides adjustments for partial cover (-2 to hit) and full cover (-4 to hit). I'm not sure about the source for this info. I don't believe it's covered in the original D&D books, though I may be overlooking it. Chainmail has a short section on cover, and Swords & Spells provides a list of "Missile Fire Adjustments" on page 23, which includes several types of partial/full coverage, though with much greater subtractions (listed in percentages) than here.


Another paragraph without change between the manuscript and published version. Here Holmes follows the OD&D convention of having magic armor and shields subtract from the attacker's die roll rather than improve armor class. Gygax would modify this is the module for Holmes Basic B2, which has armor classes below 2.

* * * * *

In the next installment I'll finally cover the section with the infamous 'broken' rule allowing daggers two attacks per round. Stay tuned!

Continue on to Part 16: "An Exchange of Blows With Two Ordinary Weapons"
Or Go Back to Part 14: "A Curare Tipped Blowgun Dart"
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript


  1. There's mention of a 30 foot throwing range for war hammers, axes, and spears in the magic items/miscellaneous weapons section of the original rules - perhaps Holmes used this range for all hand-hurled weapons?

  2. In Monsters & Treasures (Book 2 of 0E), magic axes are given a range of 3" and told to treat all ranges as "medium" (no short or long); the info for hammers and spears was basically "as axes."

    I'd guess that Gygax was still refining the model for thrown weapons, whereas Holmes was simply being consistent (taking the 3" range and dividing it into three equal parts). By the time the PHB comes out, EGG had changed it again.