Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Part 29: "They Usually Inhabit Tunnels, Mazes and Labyrinths"

Part 29 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 29 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along... 


Holmes changes a few concepts from the original description in OD&D Vol 2. Originally they were a "human-type monster with the lower body of a snake, a human torso and head, with tresses which are asps", but Holmes leaves out the part about a "lower body of a snake", making them humanoid - which is how they were described later in AD&D and B/X. Holmes also adds "Usually female", which wasn't mentioned in the original. In the Monster Manual and B/X they are described as strictly female. 

Holmes adds a concept from the original myth that was missing from OD&D: "It can be looked at in a mirror without harm" - providing another use for those mirrors in the Equipment List. He leaves out one concept from the original that "It also is subject to the effects of its reflected glance", but the published rulebook adds this  back by appending "...and if it sees its own gaze in a mirror is is turned to stone". 

Greyhawk has the attacks as "1 or 2" and damage as "by weapon type and turn to stone" but the published rulebook gives them 1 attack for 1-6, without specifying exactly what form of attack this is. B/X later clarified that the 1-6 is for snakebite.


In OD&D, Mermen were one of the "categories of men". See page 3, 5 and 7 of Vol 2. Thus, Mermen represent another OD&D "man-type" that Holmes included in the manuscript but that was cut from the published version. The brief description in OD&D also does not indicate whether they have fish tails or are simply humans who live in the water. Holmes clarifies this by adding a paragraph describing them as having the familiar form of a mermaid.


The original description is brief, and Holmes follows it closely, including the joke about bull-headed men debating rules. As with Medusa, he adds a new sentence based on the original myth, specifically that minotaurs usually inhabit tunnels, mazes and labyrinths (this concept was also included as the last sentence of the entry in B/X). There are no changes in the description from the manuscript to the published version. 

Greyhawk gave them three attacks, "1 butt/1 bite/1 weapon" for 2-8, 1-3 and by weapon type, but the published rulebook changes this significantly to "2 horns + 1 bite" for 1-6 each. In the module B2, Gygax merges these by allowing the additional weapon attack when charging, but only two attack forms when not charging. The Monster Manual and B/X each have other variations on these combinations. Lots of options to choose from here!


Holmes follows the description in OD&D closely, with no conceptual changes. The two paragraphs in the manuscript are retained in the published rulebook, which adds an entirely new third paragraph describing the fear induced by a mummy.


Holmes simplifies the seven sentences of the original down to three, dropping a few concepts such as Dispel Magic possibly working against the Charm, and the Nixies not being afraid of flame. There are no changes to the description from the manuscript to published rulebook. Greyhawk allowed them an alternate attack "by weapon type" but as with most other humanoid monsters the rulebook drops this option.

The Nixie entry was included in the first edition of the rulebook (1977) but was later deleted when the monster section was reformatted for the second edition (Nov 1978). If you have a later edition and haven't seen this entry before, here it is:

Continue on to Part 30: "It is, Of Course, Ochre-Colored"
Or Go Back to Part 28: "Thus We Find Weresharks in Polynesia"
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript


  1. Glad you're mixing in some of the Gygaxian B2isms (as with the minotaur). The owl bear is another creature with multiple attacks that's variably addressed.

  2. I view B2 as the 'Gygaxian Supplement' for Holmes Basic. : )