Thursday, November 20, 2014

Part 42: "Sample Floor Plan, Part of First Level"

Part 42 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 40 of your 'Blue Book' (page 39 for the 1st edition) and follow along... 


In the published Holmes Basic rulebook, the Sample Cross-Section of Levels ('Skull Mountain') is at the bottom right of page 38 (1st edition) or 39 (2nd or 3rd edition). At the top left of the next page is the header "Sample Floor Plan, Part of First Level". This is followed by several paragraphs of DM advice:

This header never made sense to me because this guidance has no reference to a "part of first level". I thought it might possibly refer to the Sample Dungeon, but that begins near the end of the next page and has a complete first level map. Now, via the Holmes Manuscript, this header is made clear: it refers to an extra sample map that Holmes included in the manuscript right after the Sample Cross-Section. 

The bottom of page 109 of the Manuscript has Holmes' Sample Cross-Section, which was shown in the previous post. The top of the next page has the following map:

Click for a larger view

The map is then followed by the same text as in the published rulebook shown above. So TSR cut out Holmes map, but left unchanged the header that referred to it. TSR added a differently phrased entry in the table of contents: "Sample Floor Plan Outline" (Holmes had no entry for this page); perhaps they meant to change it here as well. 

Why did Holmes include this map? In the manuscript, the last sentence on the previous page reads: "There should be several levels and each level should have access above and below and be made up of interlocking passages, stairs, closed rooms, secret doors, traps and surprises for the unwary". The first part of this sentence, describing the levels, is illustrated by way of the cross-section. The second map is meant to illustrate the second part, and shows each of the mentioned features: interlocking passages, stairs, closed rooms, secret doors, traps ("Pit") and surprises ("Green Slime"). The header and location suggest that it is part of the first level of the cross-section, although to my eye the location of the staircases don't match up. TSR may have cut this map because the Sample Dungeon maps shows many of the same features, though it lacks any traps indicated on the map.

So this gives us another addition to the handful of maps by Holmes. The style is similar to his other maps, particularly the labeling of the rooms by letter rather than number, which is also done on the map for the Zenopus Sample Dungeon.

The Green Slime shown directly on the map fits with the advice given further down the page: "Ochre Jellies, Green Slime, Black Puddings, etc. are randomly distributed, without treasure, usually in corridors and passageways." This sentence is from OD&D, Vol 3, page 7, so Holmes is here following the original's advice. Holmes also mentions pits as a type of trap in the text below. Holmes had several pits in the dungeon in his novel Maze of Peril, which is based on his D&D games with his sons, including a large one that leads from the surface down through the first level to a lower cavern.

Untitled Map from Fantasy Role-Playing Game by J. Eric Holmes, 1981
This is another sample map by Holmes, from his 1981 book, with these same two features:  a large circular pit in the middle of a corridor (this one with green slime in it - yikes!), and a corridor with a different member of the clean-up crew - a gelatinous cube - drawn directly on the map. This map is also similar in that it shows part of a first level, with corridors leading off the page. The map is untitled, and there's no other references to it in the text, but it's been dubbed "Halls of the Lizard King". The scan is by austrodavicus on OD&D Discussion, where there's a thread for it here.

There's a scan of the other map by Holmes from the same book here on Grognardia. This one goes with the Sample Dungeon in the book, The Eye of Arzaz, which is accompanied by a brief introductory RPG. It also has a large oval pit in one room, and the rooms are again lettered.

Continue on to Part 43: "Zap! You're Dead!"
Or Go Back to Part 41: "Dungeon Mastering As a Fine Art"
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript


  1. Amazing that we have a floor plan for the first level of a Holmes dungeon!

    These provide many useful design pearls for one's own megadungeon...

    1. Yes. And unlike the Zenopus Sample Dungeon, this one has a stairway leading down to a lower level.