Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holmes for the Holidays IV

The Maze of Peril (image recycled from last year)

Welcome to the fourth annual 'Holmes for the Holidays' where I send a present to a randomly selected reader. This year I am again giving away a brand new copy of Holmes' 1986 D&D novel The Maze of Peril.

Same system as before: if you are interested, add a comment in reply to this post within the next two days. The two days are the time limit before moderation starts on posts on the blog. After two days, I'll stop accepting entries and treat the list of comments as a table and roll randomly for the winner, using dice from a Holmes Basic set.

I'll cover postage (media mail) for any U.S. address. I can ship to other countries but I ask that you cover the difference (any amount over $4) in shipping by PayPal; so if you are overseas please only participate if you have a PayPal account and willing to chip in the extra. I'll estimate the exact shipping and refund the difference if I overcharge at all.

This is intended for folks who don't have a copy of the novel, so please don't post if you already have a copy. Last year we had about 45 entrants.


We have 40 comments, so I rolled a Holmes "d10" (a white d20 numbered 0-9 twice), with a d4 as a control dice. With this the d10 determines the "ones", and the d4 determines the "tens" (i.e., a 1 on the d4 = 1-10, a 2 on the d4 = 11-20, etc). My trusty dice elf took a few practices rolls and then I called for a winning roll:

The winner is comment #6...Kean Stuart! I have contacted him for his mailing address.

Thanks to everyone who entered, and thanks for the many kind comments about my blog.
In the next few weeks I hope to finish the Holmes Manuscript analysis, and eventually put the whole thing together into one document.

Happy Holidays & New Year!

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Holmes Manuscript Auction

One of the auction photos, showing a map by Holmes
Over on Ebay, Billy Galaxy is auctioning one of the original copies of the final version of the  Holmes Manuscript. This is the same version that I have been analyzing here at the Archives, and in fact Billy is the one who last year kindly provided me with a scan of the document for review. So if you take a look at the auction photos (twelve in total) you can get a closer look at some of the actual pages. This is one of five copies of this version that Billy has, 3 of which he will be selling, per this post on the Acaeum. The auction ends on Sat Dec 20th. I have no financial interest in the auction.

For posterity, here is the auction text:
"A rare opportunity to own a genuine late stage manuscript of "Dungeons and Dragons for Beginners" which was to become what was known to most as the basic D&D game. This is one of approximately 10 copies that were made of the original typescript manuscript that were produced by Holmes for reference and use by TSR. Consists of 132 single sided pages. Please note that ALL copies of this version of the manuscript are MISSING page 67. These copies were produced at the University where Dr. Holmes worked at the time and were bound in covers that his widow described as "whatever the cheapest thing that we could find at the time" [I note a 49 cent price tag inside the back cover - Z]. The metal binding components have begun to rust, other than that this copy is in excellent overall condition. The last page (132) is bound a bit higher than the other pages as can be seen in the photos. Please feel free to contact our retail location directly with any inquiries regarding this item and do yourself a favor and check out the wonderful and expansive review of this item on the Zenopus Archives blog."

Friday, December 12, 2014

Part 43: "Zap! You're Dead!"

Part 43 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... 

Below the map of the "Sample Floor, Part of First Level" the manuscript text continues without a new title, so it's actually a continuation of the "Dungeon Mastering as a Fine Art" section rather than a new section (Holmes' Index has no other title for this section). Holmes continues with his coverage of material from OD&D, Vol 3, "The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures". Since this material is both greatly condensed from the source and supplemented with new ideas I'll go through each line. The manuscript text is in bold, my commentary is below each line, including changes to the published version.

"Each new room or area is given a code number and a record made on a separate page of what it contains, treasure, monsters, hidden items, etc."

This is not stated explicitly in OD&D Vol 3, but is obvious from the Vol 3 Sample Level and Key (pg 4-5). Also, OD&D Vol 1, page 5, says "the referee must ... people them with monsters of various horrid aspect, distribute treasures accordingly, and note the location of the latter two on keys, each corresponding to the appropriate level."

"Place a few special items first, then randomly assign treasure and monsters to the other rooms using the appropriate tables."

Vol 3, page 6, section "Distribution of Monsters and Treasure", says "It is a good idea to thoughtfully place several of the most important treasures, with or without monstrous guardians, and then switch to random determination for the balance of the level".

The published rulebook changes the end of the sentence to "using the selection provided in the game or the appropriate tables", indicating that use of the tables is not required.

"Many rooms should be empty. Roll a 6-sided die for each room. A roll of 1 or 2 indicates that some monster is there. Ochre jellies, green slime, black puddings, etc. are randomly distributed, without treasure, usually in corridors and passageways."

This comes from the top of page 7 in Vol 3, where a monster is only present in a room 33% of the time (1-2 in 6), and the same advice is given about the "clean-up crew" (as they are dubbed in Vol 2).

The second sentence was changed in the published rulebook to end "...usually without treasure, most often in corridors and passageways", seemingly to indicate that jellies and slimes could occasionally have treasure.

"Wandering monsters are usually determined randomly as the game progresses."

This is from Vol 3, page 10. Holmes put the rest of the material covering Wandering Monsters earlier in the manuscript, in the section he called "Traps, Closed Doors, Hidden Doors, Surprises, Wandering Monsters". Moldvay later moved this material, including the Wandering Monster tables, back to this section of the Basic rulebook.

"Traps should not be of the "Zap! You're dead!" variety but those which a character might avoid or overcome with some quick thinking and a little luck."

This is extrapolated from page 6 of Vol 3, section "Tricks and Traps", which mentions a "reasonable chance for survival" and examples of pits that are undesirable because they are too deadly.

"Falling into a relatively shallow pit would do damage only on a roll of 5 or 6 (1 die at most) but will delay the party while they get the trapped character out."

From the OD&D Sample Level, room 8 on page 5 of Vol 3, "Falling into the pit would typically cause damage if a 1 or a 2 were rolled. Otherwise, it would only mean about one turn of time to clamber out, providing the character had spikes or associates to pull him out, and providing the pit wasn't one with a snap-shut door and the victim was alone". The 1-2 in 6 for springing traps is also mentioned again, and applied more generally, on page 9 of Vol 3, "Traps are usually sprung by a roll of a 1 or 2 when any character passes over or by them. Pits will open in the same manner". Holmes also mentioned this in his earlier "Traps..." section referred to above.

In the published version, the parenthetical "(1 die at most)" is changed to "(1-6 hit points at most)", clarifying which die is meant.

"Hidden rooms, movable walls, teleportation devices, illusion rooms, dead ends, etc., make interesting variations."

In Vol 3, these features are either part of the Sample Level (pg 4) or mentioned in the list of "Tricks and Traps" (page 6). In particular the list includes the last three: "teleportation areas", "illusion rooms," and "sections which dead-end".

"Since the game (and the Dungeons) are limited only by the imagination of the Dungeon Master and the players, there is no end to the variations possible.

This is the start of the second paragraph in this section, and echoes OD&D Vol 1, page 4, "[The rules] provide a framework around which you will build a game of simplicity or tremendous complexity - your time and imagination are about the only limiting factors..."

In the published version the word "Dungeons" is changed to the lowercase, "dungeons", and the word "variations" is made singular.

"Try to keep the dangers appropriate to the levels of the characters and the skill of your players. The possibility of "death" must be very real, but the players must be able to win through with luck and courage, or they will lose interest in the game and not come back."

See page 6 of Vol 3, section "Tricks and Traps": "The fear of "death", its risk each time, is one of the most stimulating parts of the game. It therefore behooves the campaign referee to include as many mystifying and dangerous areas as is consistent with a reasonable chance for survival (remembering that the monster population already threatens this survival".

I've been busy this week, so I'll pause there for now.

Continue on to Part 44: "Knights Talk in Flowery Phrases"
Or Go Back to Part 42: "Sample Floor Plan, Part of First Level"
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript  

Friday, December 5, 2014

Maze of Peril is Most Popular

Screenshot of NK's Most Popular list on 12/5/14

The Maze of Peril is currently on the 'Most Popular' list over at Noble Knight. I have no idea how they calculate this list, but by my count at least 20 copies sold in the last two weeks, and they re-stocked it (37 copies currently). Not bad for a book published nearly 30 years ago. Thanks to everyone who purchased a copy. (I have no financial interest in this book or Noble Knight). Noble Knight's Fall sale ends tonight, I believe, so after that the price will revert to $9.95 + shipping. For more info see my previous post.