Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Part 33: "Spectral Armored Warriors"

Part 33 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 33 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along... (page 32 for a 1st edition rulebook)


Holmes follows the original in OD&D, Vol 2, with a few changes. Holmes strangely has them listed with an alignment of Neutral, although they appear with the forces of Law in OD&D, Vol 1. The published rulebook corrects their alignment to lawful good.

The published rulebook adds a new third sentence, "They typically avoid humans" and clarifies that Dimension Door can be used "once per day", which are two bits in OD&D that Holmes left out.

Holmes translates their ability to resist magic as an 11th level M-U as an "8 or better", per the Saving Throw Matrix in OD&D, Vol 1. This was necessary as the Basic rulebook does not include higher level saving throws (although it really should for monsters with HD over 3). The published rulebook clarifies this by adding that the roll is "on a 20-sided die".


These are the most powerful undead in OD&D, Vol 2, and get a relatively long entry. Greyhawk adds a few clarifications, which Holmes inserts in the appropriate place in the text. Holmes further adds that they "cast no reflection"; the original only mentioned that a mirror causes them to withdrawn. Holmes drops a sentence about their coffins from OD&D, and the mention of vampires from the Middle East in Greyhawk. Holmes also drops "bats" from the "10 to 100 rats or bats".

The published rulebook adds a lawful evil alignment, the same as all of the other higher undead (skeletons/zombies are neutral, and ghouls are chaotic evil, but the rest are all lawful evil). This implies a "lawful" hierarchy of the higher undead. The Monster Manual keeps this for all but the Vampire, who changes to chaotic evil, messing up this hierarchy.

The description in the published rulebook makes one addition to the manuscript text, adding "(or similar holy symbol)" after cross in the list of items that vampires withdrawn from. This is the only place that the Holmes rulebook refers to a "holy symbol"; the Equipment table only has a silver and wooden cross. One year the Players Handbook came out and only referred to holy symbols.

Were-Wolf, etc. - see Lycanthrope

Holmes has this cross-reference in the manuscript, and it made it into the 1st edition. It was deleted from the 2nd edition (Nov 1978) of the rulebook, when the Monster List entries were reformatted.


The reference to "Barrow wight (as per Tolkien)" is straight from OD&D, Vol 2 before the Tolkien references were excised. I don't have a copy of this, but a compiled list of changes to the OD&D books can be seen here at Tome of Treasures. Wights actually go back to Chainmail, where they are grouped with Ghouls and paralyze their opponents for 1 turn.

Holmes follows the original with a few changes. He changes "nasty critters" to "nasty immaterial critters"; the published rulebook changes this futher to "nasty nearly immaterial creatures". Holmes adds a new second sentence: "Their appearance is as spectral armored warriors", perhaps based on his impression of Tolkien's wights in Lord of the Rings. However, this must not have been Gygax's vision, as the published rulebook deletes this entire sentence. The Monster Manual doesn't have much more of a description, but the Trampier picture shows a relatively solid, unarmored member of the walking dead. Moldvay takes a different tack, describing them as a corpse inhabited by an undead spirit.

The published rulebook makes one other change to the manuscript text, adding "under the control of the draining creature" to the end of the first paragraph. This type of relationship sort of fits in with the "lawful evil hierarchy" of undead I mentioned above. One could easily extend this to allow Vampires to control Wights, etc.


In OD&D, Wraiths have a brief entry that just describes them basically as higher-powered Wights. Holmes keeps his entry similarly short, and there are no changes to the published rulebook.

Yellow Mold

In OD&D Yellow Mold doesn't really have any stats on page 4 of Vol 2. The first four columns are blank, and the last two (for % in Lair and Treasure Type) are "Nil". Holmes basically follows this in the manuscript, but with one big change: instead of no HD, he gives it 2 HD per 10 square feet of mold. Since their is no upper limit indicated, this means that Yellow Mold can be the highest HD monster in the rules (a 80' square patch would have 16 HD, more than a Storm Giant or Purple Worm). The published rulebook keeps this HD. Moldvay keeps the 2 HD, but limits the size to 10'. The Monster Manual goes back to the OD&D concept of no HD.

The description on page 19 of OD&D, Vol 2 covers how it damages by touch and asphyxiates via spores. Holmes follows this closely and their are no changes to the description in the published rulebook. The only change the rulebook makes is to the change the Move from "Non-motile" to "Non-mobile".


As I mentioned previously, the only thing distinguishing Skeletons & Zombies in OD&D, Vol 2 is their different HD and AC (1/2 HD, AC 7 for skeletons, 1 HD, AC 8 for zombies). 
Thus, Holmes entry in the manuscript is pretty similar to the one for skeletons. In fact, he keeps it so similar that he includes the same HD (1/2) by mistake. 

Holmes also writes "Armor Class Shield, 7"; Shield alone should be AC 8. Since he correctly separated another dual entry (Goblins/Kobolds), I think this is just an oversight on his part rather than misunderstanding of the notation.

The published rulebook keeps the manuscript text the same, except for adding one new sentence at the end: "By nature they are slow, getting only one attack every other melee round". I assume this change was to keep them in line with the Night of the Living Dead. The rulebook also changes their stats, restoring AC7 but changing the HD not to 1, but to 2. I assume this upgrade is to compensate for their every other round of attacking.

In B2, Gygax provides some twists on the Holmes Basic zombie, including amulets of protection from good that have them turned as ghouls, and Warrior Zombies.

Update: Skeleton/Zombie Hit Dice actually varied over the early printings of OD&D; see this ODD74 thread for details. It appears that Holmes had an early printing where the HD was listed as "1/2". This may have been meant to give skeletons 1 HD & zombies 2 HD, but Holmes interpreted each of them having 1/2 HD.

The first time through I also missed that in the manuscript Holmes gives Zombies a move of 120 feet/turn, which is a change from OD&D where Skeletons & Zombies each have a move of 60 feet/turn. Gygax didn't correct this in the published rulebook, and combined with the new sentence leads to the paradoxical situation that the slow Zombies who get only one attack every other round move at a rate of 120 feet/turn while Skeletons who attack normally only move at 60 feet/turn. See this K&KA thread for further discussion.

The Monster Manual fixes this by switching the speeds - Skeletons at 120, Zombies at 60, and keeping Zombies as slow attackers via a different rule - always striking last rather than every other round.

* * * * *

That's it for the Monster List. Onward to Treasure!

Continue on to Part 34: "Many Monsters Carry Treasure"
Or Go Back to Pt 32: "Commonly Found Near Graveyards, Dungeons or Deserted Places"
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript


  1. The zombie hit dice boost (if done by Gygax) is in line with all the undead save ghouls getting a HD boost in AD&D. Skeletons 1/2 -> 1 HD, zombies 1 -> 2, wights 3->4, and so on.

    One thing I'd point out about Night of the Living Dead is that within that first movie they actually refer to the creatures as "ghouls" (the zombie term being used only later), and the D&D ghoul really is a better match (eating dead, making victims sick, spawning more ghouls, etc.)

  2. Thanks, Zen, great work, as usual!

    It's interesting that Holmes dropped the part about vampires' coffins. In "Chapel of Silence" the vampire doesn't have a coffin - I spontaneously created a hidden passage which led to one when I ran the adventure a few years back. There's only mention of a bed the vampire uses.

  3. It is funny how draining "life energy levels" is mentioned for the Spectre and Vampire before the mechanic is actually explained with an example in the entry for Wight.

    I wonder if there was an early conversation about whether or not to include monsters from OD&D that were clearly beyond a 3rd level party's capacity (as a bridge / marketing for AD&D).

    In addition, what's with the wight's listed damage? "Damage: 0"

    1. Great observation, I hadn't noticed that. It's a function of alphabetizing the monsters. In OD&D, the undead are listed in ascending order of power, so Wights are described before Specters and Vampires.

      The wight's damage of 0 is from the Greyhawk "Attacks and Damage by Monster Type", which for Wights is listed as "energy drain only". So on a hit they drain a level but do no other damage. Looking at B/X and AD&D, B/X is the same but AD&D gives them 1d4 damage.