Sunday, January 25, 2015

Part 45: "Roll the Number and See What Happens!"

Part 45 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 41 of your 'Blue Book' (page 40 for the 1st edition) and follow along... 

After the Example of Play, Holmes' advice for DMs continues:

This example could be played with maps and pencil and paper. If miniature figures are used, they can be arranged in battle order on the table top and the movement through passages and rooms imagined, the pieces rearranged for combat or other changes of formation. Figures are available for all the character types of Dungeons & Dragons as well as for most of the monsters. TSR Hobbies and many of the manufacturing companies will mail catalogues of unpainted lead figures, usually for a $2.00 fee.

This is the extent to which Holmes covers marching order and rank in combat. In the Introduction he wrote, "The game is more exciting and spectacular using the lead miniature figures mentioned above, which can be painted to each player's individual taste, but paper markers or chessman can be used effectively" (pg 5). Holmes also mentions minis a few other places in the rulebook, including in How to Use this Book (both pg 5), Numbers of Characters (pg 8), and Time and Movement in the Dungeons (pg 9). 

Holmes regularly used minis in his D&D games, and accumulated a large collection over the years. You can see a 1979 picture of him with part of his collection of minis here, and he dedicated a chapter of 1981 book on FRPGs to minis.

In the published rulebook, the last sentence of this paragraph is deleted. TSR's catalogue was $2 at the time, as listed in a 1977 catalog and in the product listing at the back of the Holmes Basic rulebook. However the product listing also says, "For a complete listing of D&D miniature figures, send two first class stamps". So TSR moved this info to the product listing and corrected the price for a list of minis for sale, as well as removing any mention of competitors also having catalogs.

Obviously, the success of an expedition depends on the Dungeon Master and his creation, the dungeon. Many gamesters start with a trip across country to get to the entrance to the dungeon — a trip apt to be punctuated by attacks by brigands or wandering monsters or marked by strange and unusual encounters. 

A significant portion of OD&D Vol 3, The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures (as expected from the title) is given over to wilderness travel and encounters, in particular pages 14-20. In Basic, Holmes focuses on the dungeon, with just the sentence here mentioning the possibility of wilderness travel to get to the dungeon.

OD&D included a brief entry Brigands in Vol 2, following the entry for Bandits: "Same as Bandits except +1 morale and Chaos alignment". Holmes left these out of the Basic Monster List, not even mentioning them in the entry for Bandit, even though he included most of the other 'man-types' from OD&D and mentions them here.

No changes to these lines in the published rulebook.

The party then enters the underworld, tries to capture the maximum treasure with the minimal risk and escape alive. The Dungeon Master should have all this completely mapped out, hit points and attack die rolls calculated and recorded, so that the game will proceed most rapidly at the exciting moments when the enemy is encountered. Do not hesitate to have lawful or helpful characters chance by at times, your adventurers may need a little help!

This is only place in the Basic Manuscript where Holmes actually uses the term "underworld", despite the frequent use of the term in the D&D source material. He did later use "The Underworld" prominently in The Maze of Peril; see here for his description there.

The use of "Lawful" alone here refers to the original D&D alignment system, which Holmes used throughout the manuscript. In this case it was left unchanged in the published rulebook.

The imaginary universe of Dungeons and Dragons obviously lies somewhere close to the Middle Earth of J.R.R. Tolkien's great Lord of the Rings trilogy. The D & D universe also impinges on the fantasy worlds of Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, classical mythology and any other source of inspiration the Dungeon Master wants to use.

This is the closest that Holmes comes to an "Appendix N" or recommended reading list. 
Holmes later wrote, in Dragon #52 in a review of the then-new Moldvay Basic Set, that it has "a page-long list of “inspirational source material” which is more complete than the one given in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide. I didn’t have such a list in the first edition; this is someone else’s inspired idea. I wish I’d thought of it. Do you know there may be people out there playing a D&D game who have never read The Lord of the Rings?"

As published the "somewhere close" in the first sentence is changed to "somewhere not too far", adding a bit of distance, but even so this remains one of the strongest associations between D&D and Tolkien made in a published rulebook. The first edition of the published rulebook still refer to "hobbits" rather than "halflings", but this would be changed soon after starting with the second printing in Jan 1978.

Also as published, the list of authors is changed a bit, with Fritz Leiber added, and Michael Moorcock changed to Gardner F. Fox. Holmes' reference to Moorcock surprises me, as I can't recall Holmes mentioning him anywhere else. His FRPG book talks about literary references on page 46 and mentions Leiber and Howard among others, but not Moorcock.

Gardner Fox was concurrently writing short stories for Dragon magazine (the 'Niall of Far Travels' series), and designed a boardgame for TSR, Warlocks & Warriors, also published in 1977, so this may have been a bit of cross-promotion. Warlocks & Warriors is even listed in the product listing in the Holmes Basic rulebook, although it fails to mention that Fox is the creator of Warrior & Warlocks. Fox had also recently written the Kother and Kyrik series of Conanesque novels, so may have been in Gygax's mind as a worthy successor to Howard. 
Ad from 1977 TSR Catalog for Warlocks & Warriors by Gardner Fox

A final word to the Dungeon Master from the authors. These rules are intended as guidelines. No two Dungeon Masters run their dungeons the same way, as anyone who has learned the game with one group and then transferred to another can easily attest. You are sure to encounter situations not covered by these rules. Improvise. Agree on a probability that an event will occur and convert it into a die roll — roll the number and see what happens! The game is intended to be fun and the rules modified if the players desire. Do not hesitate to invent, create and experiment with new ideas. Imagination is the key to a good game. Enjoy!

A great paragraph by Holmes, one of the best in the book. It echoes the Afterward of Vol 3 of OD&D in emphasizing guidelines (OD&D: "space requires we put in only essentials only, and the trimming will oftimes have to be added by the referee and his players") and the ability of the dungeon master to improvise (OD&D: "the best way is to decide how you would like it to be, and then make it just that way!).

The published version changes "the same way" in the second sentence to "quite the same way". No other changes.

That's the end of the direct DM guidance provided by Holmes, although there is still plenty to be had in the remaining section of the rulebook, the Sample Dungeon.

Go to Part 46: "Zenopus Built a Tower"

Go Back to Part 44: "Knights Talk in Flowery Phrases"
or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Third Level Spell Sheet

Click for a larger view. Follow the link to download

Above is a screenshot of a new single-page reference sheet for use with Holmes Basic, providing descriptions for the third level spells. Download the 1-page pdf here. There's also a link on my Holmes Ref page, where you can find other reference sheets.

Use these spells for NPCs, scrolls, or to take your Magic-User up to sixth level. See my Holmes/OD&D Bridge Sheet for M-U spell progression beyond third level. In fact, with this information you have most of what you need for 4th-6th level. (Perhaps for a "E6" game?)

The Holmes Basic rulebook listed first, second and third level magic-user spells, but only provided descriptions for the first and second level spells. From the Holmes Manuscript we know that this was the Holmes' decision, perhaps to whet our appetite for the full game.

I've provided the missing descriptions by following in the footsteps of Holmes in preparing Basic. I went through the same books that he used - mostly OD&D Vol 1, Greyhawk and Swords & Spells (for some Area of Effects) - I rewrote the descriptions for the third level spells for clarity and brevity, as he did for the lower level spells.
I tried to keep the tone similar to Holmes Basic. For fun, I also illustrated Monster Summoning I, showing a M-U summoning a Gelatinous Cube off the Level 1 table to deal with an ogre.

One note: the detail about when a Hasted character attacks each round comes from the first edition of B2 (for Holmes Basic), page 21, where Gygax clarifies this.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Part 44: "Knights Talk in Flowery Phrases"

Part 44 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... 

Continuing with Holmes' advice to new DMs, line by line:

"Once the game begins, try to keep the action moving at a dramatic pace. If the going gets rough, the characters have the option of turning around and going back to the surface. If time runs out the characters can always be left at some appropriate spot within the dismal depths, time suspended, and the action taken up again another day."

This is the start of the third paragraph, and here Holmes moves to advice without a direct antecedent in the OD&D rules. Holmes sounds like he is speaking from his own experiences as a DM, trying to fill in areas not specifically addressed in the original rules. As far as I can tell, the original rules don't specifically address dungeon delves that last more than one session, although the section on "Time" (pg 35-36 of Vol 3), suggests that "Actual time would not be counted off for players "out" on a Wilderness adventure".

"Dramatize the adventure as much as possible, describe the scenery, if any. Non-player characters should have appropriate speech, orcs are gruff and ungrammatical, knights talk in flowery phrases and always say "thou" rather than "you." When characters swear they call on the wrath of their appropriate deities, be it Zeus, Crom, Cthulhu or whatever. The dramatic talents of the Dungeon Master should be used to their fullest extent. It adds to the fun."

Here Holmes provides some simple advice on role-playing NPCs and monsters. This is also the extent to which he covers material from the Gods, Demigods & Heroes supplement from 1976, which included both Zeus (pg 13) and Crom (pg 45), but not Cthulhu, who Holmes would later write up himself for an article in Dragon #12. This is one of the first mentions of Cthulhu in a D&D rulebook, although there is at least one earlier in the Greyhawk supplement.

"One player should map the dungeon from the Dungeon Master's descriptions as the game progresses. This is easiest done if the Dungeon Master provides him with a piece of graph paper already North, East, South, West with the entrance to the dungeon drawn in".

Vol 1 of OD&D mentions maps created by the referee, but doesn't mention anything about the players creating their own versions of these, although it is a natural inference. In Vol 3, however, there are multiple references to mapping by players (pgs 5-6 and 8). Holmes' advice is more direct: the players should be mapping. Holmes also mentioned this back in the Introduction: "[The players] create their own map as they explore".

In the published Basic book, the second sentence is changed significantly to, "This is easiest done if he uses a piece of graph paper marked North, East, South, West with the entrance to the dungeon level drawn in near the center". The original seems to be advice that Holmes developed himself, and I can imagine Gygax thinking that it was going too easy on the players by giving them a start to the map. : )

"One of the players should keep a "Chronicle" of the monsters killed, treasure obtained, etc. Another should act as "caller" and announce to the Dungeon Master what action the group is taking. If the adventurers have a leader, the caller would logically be that player."

The "Chronicle" is an addition by Holmes, but the "Caller" is included in the Example of play in OD&D Vol 3, pg 12-13. In Dragon #52, Holmes wrote (in a review of the new Moldvay Basic set): "Organizing a Party, The Caller: I think this rule should have been thrown out. I put it into the first Basic Set because it was in the original invention. I have never seen a successful game where one of the players was elected caller and actually did all the talking to the DM. Usually everybody talks at once. The resulting confusion is much more lifelike; one can hear the characters dithering at the cross corridor as the monsters approach. “Run this way!” “Charge them!” “Get out of the way, I’m throwing a spell!” “Here goes the magic crossbow bolt!” “Not from the rear of the party!” “I’m climbing the wall!”"

"Both mapper and caller must be in the front rank of the party."

This sentence is not in the manuscript, so was added by Gygax, and introduces a new limitation on the party rank. Holmes doesn't use the term "rank" himself, but does mention "order" for movement and combat in the Example of Play and the paragraph immediately afterward.


As mentioned above, OD&D Vol 3 has an example of play, titled "Example of the Referee Moderating a Dungeon Expedition". Rather than including this directly, Holmes instead uses it as a model for an entirely new example of a party exploring a room, fighting orcs and being cornered by a gelatinous cube. He would later include examples of play in his 1980 article, "Confessions of a Dungeon Master" and also his 1981 book, Fantasy Role-playing Games, which starts with play examples of D&D and Traveller. 

The Example in the Manuscript is almost identical to the published version, confirming it as a delightful sample of Holmes' own voice in the Basic rulebook. There are just a few changes to the published version:

In the first line by the DM, the height of the corrider is changed from "ten feet high" to "fifteen feet high", for unknown reasons. In the Sample Dungeon, Holmes also has corridors with a height of ten feet, but this was left unchanged.

In the third line by the DM, there is a minor change from "there is nothing to hear" to "there is nothing they can hear".

When the DM describes the party entering the room, the original has "From the door it runs due east for 40 feet and then the other leg of the L runs north". In the published version this was changed to "due east 30 or so feet and then the other leg of the L runs north (They must enter and carefully examine to map a room)". Later on the original says "Other half of the room is the same dimensions as the first one", which is changed to "Other half of the room is the same dimensions as the first one, 40 feet". These changes seems to be teaching the DM to not give precise room measurements until a room is carefully mapped. 

When the Caller says the elf and dwarf will search for secret doors, the original has the DM "(Rolls a secret die) The elf finds a secret door in the northernmost wall of the L" whereas the published version expands this to "(After determining which part of the room is being searched he rolls a secret die) The elf finds a secret door in the northernmost 10 foot wall section in the eastern half of the L".

Go to Part 45: "Roll the Number and See What Happens!"
Go Back to Part 43: "Zap! You're Dead!"
or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript