Thursday, March 20, 2014

Part 26: "Always Attack Dwarves on Sight"

Part 26 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 27 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along...


Holmes' description is a rewording of the short original in OD&D, Vol 2 (pg 4 and 16). OD&D Vol 1 listed Gnomes along with Dwarves in the column of "Lawful", but Holmes gives them a "Neutral" alignment. In Strategic Review #5 (Feb 1976), Gygax introduced the 5-point alignment system and had placed gnomes in the square for Chaotic Good (near the border for Lawful). Thus it's no surprise that the published rulebook changes the alignment to "chaotic good 75%, neutral 25%". Later editions have them as "Neutral to Lawful Good" (Monster Manual) or "Lawful/Neutral" (B/X).

The published rulebook adds one sentence to the end of the description: "They favor crossbows". This preference doesn't appear in the Monster Manual, where they use short bows, slings and spears as missile weapons, but Tom Moldvay did keep it in B/X.

Gnomes as PCs is usually considered an AD&D-ism, but like many other rules it has roots in OD&D. In the Greyhawk Supplement, the section on Dwarf PCs on page 5 describes Dwarves as being "...of various types (hill, mountain, or burrowers)(such as gnomes)". Being in the character section, the implication is that the player can choose a type for a dwarf character, including a gnome. Holmes used some of the Dwarf descriptive material from Greyhawk in his section on characters, but left out the reference to the sub-types. 

In the Monster Manual gnomes receive an extensive new write-up that gives the first hint of their magical powers: "It is rumored that there exist gnomes with magical abilities up to 4th level, but this has not been proved" (pg 46). Gnomes were finally introduced as a full player character race in the Player's Handbook, where these magical abilities were revealed to be illusionist abilities, but of 5th to 7th level rather than 4th.


Holmes draws on OD&D, Vol 1 (alignment) and Vol 2, pages 3 (stats) and 7 (description). Holmes lists their Alignment as "chaos", unusual because he doesn't usually include alignment if the monster is chaotic. Holmes has their Hit Dice as "1 - 1 point (but always a 1)", a typo corrected in the published rulebook as "1 -1 point (but always at least 1)". Holmes has their Treasure as "1-6 Gold Pieces each" which is from page 3 of Vol 2. The published rulebook changes this to a new Treasure Type, L, which is 2-12 electrum pieces per individual. 

The manuscript description is taken from two paragraphs on page 7 of OD&D, Vol 2, and follows it closely but drops a reference to morale since Basic doesn't include morale rules. Holmes adds a new sentence at the end about the leader-types: "They are large and fearless, fight at full strength under all conditions and take nothing of their hit die, in dark or light". Holmes may be equating these big goblins with Saruman's Uruk-Hai, who had resistance to sunlight. Holmes uses the term "hit die" to refer to the attack roll, something seen occasionally in OD&D. The published rulebook doesn't make any changes to the description.

Goblins are an important part of Holmes' "flavor text" in Holmes Basic: the first combat example is a battle with one, and a group appears in a room in the Sample Dungeon.

Update: Another tibdit. In Greyhawk, Goblins do 1d4 per hit. In the published Holmes Basic rulebook its upgraded to 1d6, the same as would later appear in the Monster Manual.

Illustration from the 1st edition rulebook

Holmes included all of the original OD&D "Clean-Up Crew" in Basic. We've previously seen the Black Pudding and Gelatinous Cube (added in Greyhawk), and next up are two more.

Gray Ooze

The manuscript retains all of the concepts from the original with just the typical minor editing & re-phrasing. The published manuscript changes "two dice of damage" (2d6 in OD&D Vol 2) to "two 8-sided dice of damage" to bring the damage in line with the alternate damage introduced in Greyhawk. Note that both the original and Holmes Basic say it takes a turn to do this damage, which would be ten minutes in OD&D, or 10 combat rounds in Holmes Basic. This may be a place where the original rules used "turn" to mean "round", because B/X clarifies the damage is per round.

Also, Gygax used Grey Oozes in the Shunned Cavern (Area G) in the module B2, which was originally written for Holmes Basic. There he provides some clarification for the Grey Ooze attack: "Each causes 1-8 points of damage on the first round, unless attacking from above, because half of their damage will be taken up in destroying the foot and leg protection of the victim. Thereafter, attacks cause 2-16 points of damage, as do attacks from above".

The 1st edition rulebook includes an illustration of the grey ooze (see above) that was cut from later editions. The art is unsigned but is likely by David C. Sutherland, or possibly Tom Wham. 

Green Slime

Again the manuscript retains all concepts from the original, even the reference to the Cure Disease spell, a third level Cleric spell which is not described the Basic rulebook. Holmes changes the word "non-mobile" to "non-motile, which the published rulebook changes back. I guess Holmes thought "motile" (able to move on its own) was more accurate than "mobile" (which more broadly includes things that can be set in motion). As we've seen repeatedly, the published rulebook adds a new sentence at the end of the description: "It often drops from high places, such as ceilings", perhaps to clarify how it might attack without being able to move. Does it drop from ceilings on its own accord when it senses the heat of an animal?

The Monster Manual clarifies that green slime is a "plant monster", so it could be subject to a Plant Control ring. Perhaps one could keep it from releasing from a ceiling, or even cause it to release itself from flesh. 

Continue on to
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript


  1. Beatific (NG) Dwarves that choose to be magic users are called Gnomes in my campaign ...
    When interacting with their own race, dwarves speak sparingly and follow established protocols. Many dwarves enjoy the life of an adventurer as it allows them to break from stifling societal customs. Dwarves are loyal to their clan or family and will withstand hardships stoically Naturally suspicious, dwarves are slow to form friendships, but have a deep sense of personal duty and honor (LN).

  2. I had noticed in a couple of places that "turn" was used unchanged from the LBBs, but must have clearly been meant to indicate a combat round, as observed in the original version of B2.

    Thanks for your ongoing analysis of the manuscript!

    1. There's a while story about that if you care to follow it, starting with Chainmail's 1-minute turns and the Vol-3 switch to 10-minute turns, which was only partly implemented. Even in 1E there's still some glitches (ESP has a duration in rounds but text requirement of "1 turn" person individual scanned, I found that last night):