Sunday, April 6, 2014

Part 27: "Mules Can Often Be Taken Into Dungeons"

Part 27 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 28 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along... 


The original entry for Griffons is on page 18 of OD&D, Vol 2, but lacks any description of what they look like, presumably because the traditional monster is a familiar form. So for the manuscript, Holmes adds a description, "The griffon is a fierce, swift, and loyal steed with the wings, heads and forelimbs of a giant eagle and the hindquarters of a lion". The next two sentences in the manuscript are concepts from the original entry. The only changes to the published rulebook are additions to the stats: a neutral alignment (Holmes didn't include one) and attacks/damage per Greyhawk.


This monster was added to D&D in the Greyhawk Supplement. The manuscript text includes all of the concepts from this source, just with Holmes' typical rephrasing. As with the Griffon, the published rulebook adds an alignment & attacks/damage. In this case, the variable attacks/damage, "1-4/attack" for "2 claws + 1 weapon", are a simplified version of those in  Greyhawk, "1-3/claw, 1-6/weapon". Strangely (or not?), the Monster Manual reverts to the OD&D numbers, and B/X combines the two: "1-4/1-4/1-6". There are two other minor changes in the published version: (1) The word Charms was underlined in the manuscript, and the published rulebook removes this formatting, and (2) the published rulebook adds an exclamation point to the end of the last sentence, adding the drama required by "...or be drawn irresistably to his doom!" 

Hell Hound 

Another Greyhawk beast. In the original source, their breath weapon damage "corresponds to the number of hit dice they have". In the manuscript, Holmes interprets this as a small amount of damage: "causing 3-7 points of damage (equal to the hounds' hit dice)". In the published rulebook, Gygax clarifies that the damage is similar to a fireball:  "causing 3-7 6-sided dice of damage (equal in number to the hounds' hit dice)". The rest of the manuscript is the same as the published rulebook, which as usual just adds an alignment and attack/damage per Greyhawk. 


The original entry in OD&D Vol 2 states "Although the name would imply a cross between the horse and the Griffon, the Hippogriff is another kind of beast entirely" and that they are fierce fighters that attack with hooves and sharp beaks, but gives no further description. As with the Griffon, Holmes adds more of a description: "The foreparts of a winged Griffon, the hindquarters of a horse, the Hippogriff is a fierce fighter, attacking with beak and hooves". The published rulebook accepts this sentence with two changes: the first part is changed to "Having the foreparts of a great eagle..."; and the end is changed to "attacking with claws and beak". The OD&D entry attack forms suggested the Hippogriff had hooves instead of claws; the revised attacks bring it in line with the tranditional conception as well as the varying attacks indicated in Greyhawk (claws + bite). Holmes also adds that they can be used as steeds, which was missing from the original description in OD&D Vol 2, but was referenced in a number of places in OD&D Vol 3. The published rulebook retains this. No other changes to the published rulebook. 


Holmes makes a mistake in the manuscript, giving them HD 1, but the published rulebook corrects this to HD 1+1 . Following the original entry, Holmes' description has two sentences, but leaves out the reference to morale as there are no morale rules in his Basic. Holmes changes the number of bodyguards from 2-4 in the original to 1-4; this is retained in the published rulebook. The published rulebook changes Holmes' second sentence from "Hobgoblins are big powerful Goblins whom they resemble" to  "Hobgoblins are big, poweful goblinoids, and their morale (such as a saving throw against fear) is always a +1". This introduces one of the few references to morale in the Holmes Basic rulebook.

Greyhawk had most of the humanoids listed with two possible damages; for example, for Goblins/Kobolds, "1-4 or by weapon type" or for Hobgoblins, "1-8 or by weapon type". Holmes of course didn't include any of the variable damage. When Gygax added this back in, he left out the "by weapon type" for the humanoids, presumably because the Basic rules don't include variable damage. B/X went back to including the "or by weapon" option for humanoids". 


Most of the info in Holmes' entry (e.g., movement, HD) comes from the table of stats on page 4 of OD&D, Vol 2. The description of Horses in OD&D, pg 21, lists the carrying capacity for all horses, but Holmes only includes the amount for mules (3500 gp) while mentioning that "Horses can usually carry more", perhaps because he thought that only the mules' carrying capacity was needed for the Basic rules, which focus on dungeon delving. For armor class, Holmes writes, "7, unless wearing barding (horse armor)". Barding is listed in the Equipment List but explained nowhere else in Holmes Basic, or OD&D for that matter. 

There are no significant changes from the manuscript to the 1st edition of the published rules. A later editor at TSR must have realized that the fighting capacity of horses was missing, so the 2nd edition of the rullebook adds an Attack/Damage stat, giving a single routine for all horses: 2 hooves for 1-6, 1 bite for 1-4. This is similar, but not identical, to the Medium Horse in Greyhawk, which has 2 hooves for 1-6, 1 bite for 1-3.
Continue on to Part 28: "Thus We Find Weresharks in Polynesia"
Or Go Back to Part 26: "Always Attack Dwarves on Sight"
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript


  1. Holmes interprets this [hell hound breath] as a small amount of damage: "causing 3-7 points of damage (equal to the hounds' hit dice)". In the published rulebook, Gygax clarifies that the damage is similar to a fireball: "causing 3-7 6-sided dice of damage (equal in number to the hounds' hit dice)".

    And yet in Gygax's AD&D Monster Manual, he switches back to the minimal damage: "1 hit point of damage for each hit die they possess, unless the opponent is able to save versus dragon breath, in which case only one-half damage is inflicted, i.e., a 7 hit dice hell hound breathes for 7 or 4 hit points of damage/attack.".... which I find to absurdly low, especially in the context of high-level PCs storming a fire giant stronghold, for example.

    1. Thanks for pointing that out. I didn't check the Monster Manual when I was writing this. Interesting how the Holmes Manuscript prefigures the Monster Manual version.

    2. Indeed! Clearly some cross-pollination went on with Gygax's interaction on Holmes' manuscript (which your series is enormously helpful in clarifying).