Thursday, October 2, 2014

Part 38: "Rings Can Be Used By Anyone"

Part 38 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to pages 36-38 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along... (pages 35-37 for the 1st edition)


Holmes has ten rings in his list, seven of which are found in the original list on page 26 of OD&D Vol 2. For the other three, he tweaks Mammal Control to Animal Control, adapts Plant Control from the Potions list, and adds Contrariness from the Greyhawk expanded list of Rings. The published rulebook makes just one change to his list, substituting another Vol 1 ring, Weakness, for Human Control. This increases the number of cursed rings from 10% to 20% of the list.


The introductory paragraph is an abridgement of the material at the start of the descriptions on page 33 of Vol 2. Holmes adds the clarification that a ring "can be carried and put on only when desired". He leaves out the sentence, "Those rings which are not specifically noted below function as would a like spell or potion but on an unlimited basis regarding duration", instead opting to provide a description for each ring.

Unless noted below, the published version keeps the text of the manuscript.

Invisibility: This ring does not have a description in OD&D Vol 2 because it duplicates a spell effect. Holmes gives it a brief description, indicating that the invisibility lasts as long as the ring is worn, unless the wearer is engages in combat, per the spell.

Animal Control: Holmes uses the original description for Mammal Control, but adds a category of medium animals from the Potion of Animal Control. He leaves out the range (6"). The published version adds a clarification at the end of the 2nd sentence: "so long as the wearer concentrates on the control", qualifying the indefinite duration.

Plant Control: Holmes uses the description from the Potion of Plant Control, including the mention of fungi, and again leaves out the range. The published version again adds, "but concentration must be maintained" at the end.

Human Control: As mentioned above, this the only ring in the list that was cut from the published rulebook. Holmes' text is almost verbatim from OD&D Vol 2.

Weakness: This ring replaced Human Control. The description follows OD&D Vol 2, but with a new addition: a 5% chance of making the wearer stronger instead of weaker. AD&D kept this feature, but with a drawback - the strength is paired with berserker tendencies. So the version in Holmes Basic represents an intermediate form. In retrospect, the description for Weakness has the appearance of a Gygax insertion because it is much longer than those for the other rings. 

Protection +1: In OD&D this ring was just "Protection", until Greyhawk added a +3 version, necessitating the name change, which Holmes uses. The original description said, "A ring which serves as +1 armor would, giving this bonus to defensive capabilities and to saving throws". As later rulings make clear, Gygax intended for this to simply mean a +1 to defense and saving throws. However, the way it is written is not clear, and Holmes seems to have misinterpreted it. In the manuscript he writes: "Serves at plate armor +1, and adds +1 to all saving throws". This makes the ring vastly more powerful, giving the wearer AC 2 - a real boon to a magic-user who finds one! This text survived into the published rulebook, but was changed in the 2nd edition to: "adds +1 to armor class, i.e. a magic-user with no armor (armor class 9) would be treated as if he had armor class 8. Also, +1 is added to all saving throws." 

Three Wishes: Holmes closely follows the relatively lengthy description in OD&D Vol 2, including Gygax's reference to "an endless closed time loop". The published rulebook adds a new sentence to the end: "Often absolutely literal fulfillment of the wish wording is sufficient to limit its beneficial effects". 

Regeneration: Holmes follows the OD&D description but adds that the ring works on dismembered as well as dead characters. The B/X Expert Set later changed the ring from 1 hp/turn to 1 hp/round. Mentzer Expert then changed it back. See the recent discussion on Dragonsfoot about whether the B/X version is too powerful.

Water Walking: This ring is missing a description in OD&D Vol 2, even though it does not duplicate a spell or potion effect. Holmes creates a simple one-sentence description of its effect.

Fire Resistance: OD&D has no description for this ring, as it duplicates the effect of a potion. Holmes closely follows the potion description for the ring.

Contrariness: Holmes follows the Greyhawk description closely. The published rulebook makes two changes. First, the "exact opposite of normal" is changed to "exact (or nearly exact) opposite of normal". Second, a new sentence is added at the end: "If, for example, the wearer is told to not kill himself, he will agree - and instead attempt to kill the person suggesting he not kill himself".


Moldvay Basic (B/X) shortened the list of rings to six, but all of these are from the list in Holmes Basic, and with close descriptions with some tweaks and clarifications. Plant Control, Regeneration and Three Wishes are moved to Expert, and Contrariness was dropped completely. AD&D ignored the developments of Basic, keeping Animal Control as Mammal Control and leaving Plant Control as a potion only.

Continue on to Part 39: "The Wand Produces a Fireball Which Will Travel"
Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript


  1. How many rings can a person wear? One for each hand, one for each finger, or one for each finger and thumb?

    1. This goes back to OD&D which said: "only one ring may be worn on each hand if the ring is to be operable by the wearer. (The referee should be carefulto enforce this in order to maintain some balance in the game.)". Holmes just mentions the one ring on each hand. The rings must need some space to operate. : )

    2. When my players asked for a justification, I just came with something like : "A ring only can go to the ring finger to work, duh!"

    3. Best response ever! Wonder why I never thought of it

  2. Doesn't B/X's modification of the regeneration ring's cycle (to each round instead of turn) accurately reflect the older use of turn as variable to the context (1 minute during combat, 10 minutes in the dungeon, and more in the wilderness)?

  3. I'm sure tomes could be written about when a turn in OD&D should be read as a turn and when as a round! :-)

    What I like about the tables is the high risk of getting a cursed item. It also implies that magic item creation was far from a certain thing, rather reminds me of The Misenchanted Sword by Lawrence Watt-Evans.