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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Part 36: "They May Dare a Tiny Sip"

Part 36 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to pages 36-37 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along... (pages 35-36 for the 1st edition)


OD&D Vol 2 has a list of 26 potions, and Greyhawk expands this to 30. Holmes picks 10 of these for the Basic list, using only selections from the original 26. And for the most part these are from the very first part of the original list, specifically 9 of the first 12 potions.

The list of ten potions from the manuscript is unchanged in the published rulebook, although one (Speed) changes name in the 2nd edition. In the manuscript, Holmes uses "Speed" in the list of Potions, which conforms with OD&D, but "Haste" in the description section. This discrepancy made it into the first edition of the rulebook. The 2nd edition corrects this by changing the name in the list to "Haste". This differs from both AD&D and B/X, which both stick with "Speed".

Moldvay shortens the potion list to 8 items, dropping Giant Strength, Speed/Haste, Flying, and Delusion (all relegated to Expert), and adding ESP and Levitation back in from OD&D. So six of Holmes' choices went on to become standards of Basic.


This section is titled "Magical Potions" and begins with an introductory paragraph that expands on the one in OD&D Vol 2, pg 31. Holmes notes that potions can be used by any character, something implied in the original but not clearly spelled out. Greyhawk restricted the use of Giant Strength and Speed to Fighters only, but Holmes leaves this out.

OD&D notes that a "small sample can be taken" to determine a potion's effect. Holmes expands this into "If the characters lack a detect magic spell, they may dare a tiny sip to see what the result may be". The new first part perhaps implies that a Detect Magic spell will not only indicate that a potion is magical, but also tell what type of potion it is. The original Detect Magic reads, "A spell to determine if there has been some enchantment laid on a person, place or thing", which Holmes may have interpreted as including the type of enchantment, like the later Identify spell.

Holmes also clarifies that the variable duration of a potion (6 turns + 1d6 turns) is not known by the imbiber, only the DM.

For the descriptions of the ten potions, Holmes follows the OD&D descriptions closely. The original doesn't have descriptions for Invisibility or Flying, since they mimic spells, so he keeps these very short and close to the relevant spells.

Poison is also missing a description in original, possibly because its effect was considered obvious (save or die!), but is given a typically Gygaxian note in Greyhawk: "Referee will mislead players to the best of his ability in order to either make them believe it is a useful potion or to taste the poison, for even a small sip will suffice to kill" (pg 42). Holmes is more lenient, changing this to: "The Dungeon Master will, on careful questioning, give a hint that the potion is dangerous". He also makes explicit the saving throw. 

For Speed/Haste, Holmes follows the original (double movement) but also adds that the user "can deliver twice the usual number of blows during combat for the duration of the potion effect". This extra effect doesn't appear in the OD&D Speed Potion, or the Haste spell as it originally appears in Chainmail or OD&D. Gygax left this in the published rulebook, and it also appears as a feature of the Speed potion in AD&D and B/X.

In adding this feature, Holmes may have drawn from Empire of the Petal Throne (1975), which he was a fan of. The EPT Haste Spell specifies that "this does permit the "speeded" person to strike two blows (instead of one) per combat round" (pg 24). There is also a Eye of Hastening Destiny that gives triple speed and 3 attacks per round (pg 72).

Or possibly it is an interpretation of the Eldritch Wizardry (1976) alternate initiative rules. These rules are notoriously arcane, but end with a note that "HASTE will double effectiveness while SLOW will decrease it by one-half". However, these rules are only supposed to apply to missile fire and spells, not melee.

Note that since Holmes writes "deliver twice the usual number of blows", he actually means 4 blows per melee round, since his combat rules in the manuscript give ordinary weapons two blows per round.

In the Holmes Basic version of B2, Gygax has skeletons with a Haste spell on them that lets them attack twice per round, "once at the beginning and once at the end" (pg 21). This gives us a clue as to how to integrate the Haste Potion effect with Holmes Dex-based initiative.

In the published rulebook, the introductory paragraph and most of the potion descriptions are unchanged from the manuscript. A minor typo is introduced into the Haste potion, where "duration" is written as "durations".

The only major change is to Giant Strength. Holmes' original follows OD&D closely, "Confers the full advantages of Giant prowess including doing 2 dice of damage when scoring a hit", whereas the published version changes the "Giant" to "stone giant" and "2 dice" to "3-18 points", and adds "and having the same hit probability as a stone giant". This change conforms with the updated damage for stone giants introduced in Greyhawk. 

Continue on to Part 37 (forthcoming)
Or Go Back to Part 35: "A Potent Weapon in the Hands of a Dwarf"
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript

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