Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Part 30: "It Is, Of Course, Ochre-Colored"

Part 30 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 30 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along... 


Yet another Man-type from OD&D Vol 2 that Holmes included in the manuscript but TSR cut from the rulebook. The introductory sentence is directly from the source, and the leader composition is taken from the OD&D entry for Bandits, which the original only makes reference to. The composition of forces is from the original's "Nomads of the Desert" column; Holmes omits similar info for "Nomads of the Steppes", as well as a sentence about the additional guards at Nomad encampments. Much of the manuscript Nomad entry is repetitive with the entry for Bandits, so in terms of saving space it makes sense that TSR cut it.

Ochre Jelly

Holmes leaves out the first sentence describing them as part of the "clean-up crew", and adds a line explaining they are ochre-colored. This didn't really help me as a kid since I didn't know what color ochre was. The rest of the entry follows the original closely, including that they do 1 die per round damage to exposed skin. The published version changes this to 2 dice per round, which fits with the 2-12 points of damage they were given in Greyhawk and which is used for the "Damage" stat in the rulebook.


This is the only monster where Holmes includes a "Damage" stat. Labeled a "Damage Bonus", the amount (1 die + 2 points, or 1d6+2) is from the original entry in OD&D Vol 2. Greyhawk changes this to 1d10, which the published Holmes Basic rulebook uses for the "Damage" stat. The rulebook also changes "and do additional damage when they score a hit" to "and are of various disgusting colors". The published rulebook also adds " their giant-like sacks" to the end of the last sentence, referring to the sacks in the Giant entry.

In the original version of B2, written by Gygax for Holmes Basic, Gygax further ups the Ogre's strength to 1d10+2; see page 17. It's not just that the Ogre in Cave E is exceptionally strong, because the Bugbear chieftain on page 17 is described as being equal to an Ogre and also does the same amount of damage. This could be an editorial oversight. In B/X and the Monster Manual, Ogres do the standard 1-10, although the Monster Manual does allow for leader types doing more damage, 2d6 or 2d6+2.

The B2 Ogre also has AC 4 by wearing a bearskin - one of several humanoids in B2 with improved AC due to armor upgrades. So Gygax didn't feel that humanoids were stuck with the AC they were given in the rulebook. B/X and the Monster Manual each have them at AC 5.


Orcs have a lengthy entry by OD&D standards, almost half a page. Much is the composition of Orc tribes/lairs, which Holmes greatly reduces in the manuscript.

In the original printing of the OD&D rules, the first sentence of the Orc description refers to Tolkien: "The number of different tribes of Orcs can be varied as desired, basing the decision on Tolkien or random chance". This was changed in the fall of 1977, after Holmes Basic was out, so we know Holmes worked from an earlier print. Naturally the Holmes manuscript includes the Tolkien Orc reference in edited form: "There are several tribes or nations of orcs as described in Tolkien. Assignment can be made to one of these on a random basis". The published rulebook drops the "as described in Tolkien" and the second sentence entirely. As far as I can remember, this is the only Tolkien reference in the manuscript that was changed before publication of the first printing. In the second and third printing various references to "hobbits" were changed to "halflings", but other Tolkien references (balrogs, Nazgul) were left unchanged. So it's not clear why this one Tolkien reference was omitted. For more on the Tolkien references in the Holmes Basic rulebook, see this page: Tolkien & the Blue Book.

The published rulebook makes two other changes to the manuscript. Drawing on the original entry, Holmes gives a group of 100 orcs a 10% chance of being accompanied by a dragon. The published rulebook deletes this line, leaving only a chance of Ogres or Trolls. The rulebook also adds a stray sentence at the end about Orcs having a -1 to hit in sunlight.This was in the original entry, so Holmes seems to have overlooked it, perhaps because it is made by reference to Goblins ("Orcs do not like full daylight, reacting as do Goblins").

Owl Bear 

This beast was added in the Greyhawk Supplement. In the manuscript, Holmes draws from the Greyhawk description, and adding a clarification that they are "huge bears with the heads of owls". There are no changes to the published version other than the usual addition of Attacks and Damage stats (3, for 1-8 each). Since Holmes original description is unchanged, the implication is that these three attacks are for "beak, claw and bear-hug". However, in the module B2 it clarifies that the three attacks are for 2 claws and 1 beak, with no mention of the bear-hug. For the description of the hug, we have to go back to Greyhawk, which gives them "2 claws/1 bite" for "1-6/claw****, 1-12/bite", where the asterisks indicate "hug on score of 18 or better causes 2-16 points of additional damage". 

Continue on to Part 31: "This Inoffensive Looking Little Creature"
Or Go Back to Part 29: "They Usually Inhabit Tunnels, Mazes and Labyrinths"
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript


  1. I was unaware that "balrog" dates from Tolkein and not antiquity.

    1. I'm not sure I understand you, but the two references to Balrogs in the Holmes Basic rulebook refer to the OD&D Balrog, which was clearly a version of Tolkien's Balrog.

    2. I think he means that Tolkien was the first to come up with balrogs, at least linguistically. While the concept of a fire demon or a fire djinn certainly predates Tolkien, his name for them is derived from his own fabricated languages. On the other hand, with orcs, while he certainly established them as a fantasy race, the name was borrowed from antiquity.

  2. As always, I'm enjoying this delve into Holmes minutia. Thanks again for your scholarship.

    FYI, I've added links to the list of unpublished monsters on the ODD boards