Monday, May 16, 2016

Part 23.5: "There Are Many Kinds of Dragons"

In this post I cover material I didn't have the first time through:

Part 23.5 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 24 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along...

The Material from the Missing Page

As mentioned here and here, numbered page 67 is missing from all copies of the 138-page final version of the Holmes Manuscript. Which meant that I skipped the material as I went through the manuscript. Later, Billy Galaxy sent me photos of pages 62 and 63 of an earlier draft of the manuscript, which cover the missing material. The earlier draft has art by Chris Holmes drawn directly on the pages, so here we get to see his illustration of a dragon as a bonus. Chris writes, "Notice how I put the dragons’ leg behind the text. That would be clever except I didn’t think that they would reset the text in type. If we hadn’t done the drawings right on the manuscript they probably would have been lost."

Page 62 of an earlier draft of the Holmes Manuscript; art by Chris Holmes

Page 63 of an earlier draft of the Holmes Manuscript

After looking over Holmes' material from this earlier draft and comparing it to the published ruleboook, I think this page was missing from the copy(s) of the manuscript that Holmes sent to TSR. The published rulebook entries in the Monster List differ from Holmes' originals more than most other entries. Generally Gygax edited the manuscript simply by placing a new sentence or two at the end if additions or clarification were needed, but here the entries have been completely re-written.


Page 66 of the final version of the Holmes Manuscript has the title "Dopplegangers" at the bottom of the page; the rest of the entry was on missing page 67. But I presume this let TSR to know that Holmes intended to include Dopplegangers in Basic.
As you can see above, Holmes' write-up is two simple sentences, drawn from the original in the Greyhawk Supplement. Holmes omits the immunity to Sleep/Charm, and gives them a +2 save versus magic rather than a save as a 10th level Fighter. Looking at the Men & Magic Saving Throw Matrix, a 10th level figher should get a +4 over that of a 4th level fighter (which is what a 4 HD monster should save as).
In contrast, the published description for the Doppelganger is seven sentences over two paragraphs, much longer than what Holmes wrote. Some of the sentences are very close to the Greyhawk description, so it looks like the author went back and re-wrote/expanded the original entry. The later Monster Manual entry is of similar length although the specific text has been rewritten again. The published rulebook paragraph gives the correct saving throw values for spells and wands for 10th level fighter.


The beginning of Holmes' manuscript entry follows the format established in OD&D:

OD&D, Vol 2: "There are six varieties of Dragons, each with separate characteristics
in particular and other things in common. The varieties will be dealt with first"

Greyhawk: "These additional varities of Dragons conform to the typical characteristics
of their species except where noted..."

Holmes manuscript: "There are many kinds of dragons described in Dungeons & Dragons and Greyhawk. Only four are covered here."

Published rulebook: Four additional introductory sentences, followed by "Of the dozen different kinds found in ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS only four will be covered here."

The wording here in the published Basic rulebook does echo that of the manuscript, so perhaps TSR/Gygax did read & edit this material, just to a greater degree than in other parts of the Monster List. It's hard to tell for sure.

In each case, these sentences are followed by a short table describing the different types of dragons. OD&D Vol 2 has six types, Greyhawk adds six more (including two unique), and the Holmes Manuscript and published rulebook each cover only four of these, a different set in each. Holmes drops Black and Green Dragons, and moves Red Dragons to the first line, resulting in Red, White, Blue and Gold. He otherwise keeps each of the columns of the Dragon table on page 11 of Vol 2. 

The published rulebook includes Black and Brass instead of Blue and Gold; the Brass dragon being from the Greyhawk Supplement. It also replaces the Chance of Talking and Chance of Sleeping columns with an Alignment column. For three of the dragons, it uses the interesting dual alignment format that appears in some entries in the Holmes rulebook (e.g. "neutral/chaotic good" for the Brass Dragon).

In the manuscript Holmes follows the table with two paragraphs on Breath Weapons which very closely follow the material in OD&D, Vol 2. He then make clear that the breath weapon damage is equal to the dragon's hit points, which was not made so clear in the original material. He condenses the "Age" category table to a simple d6 roll that gives a HD multiplier to determine HP; none of the age categories are named. He ends with a clarification that saving throws reduce damage by half. He omits the material on pages 12 and 13 of OD&D that covers Special Characteristics, Attacking Dragons and Subdual.

The published version also includes the descriptions of Breath Weapons. Some changes are made to the source material. OD&D & the Holmes Manuscript use a 2d6 roll to determine how the dragon attacks (breath on a 7+), whereas the published rulebook replaces this with a 1d6 roll (breath on a 4+). OD&D & the Holmes Manuscript have cone-shaped breath weapons originate with a 5' diameter, whereas the published rulebook uses a 2' diameter.

OD&D mentioned that 20% of dragons were "small" and 20% "very large", which presumably referred to the HD distribution for each dragon type; for example, a Red Dragon has HD 9-11. In the manuscript, Holmes includes the variable HD but leaves out the percentages. The published rulebook alters the chances to 25%, using a d8 roll, and explains that it relates to the sex of the dragon, with a 1-2 small (female), 3-6 medium (equal male or female) and 7-8 large (male). The published rulebook further expands the OD&D age chart from 6 ages to 8 ages, adding new "Young Adult" and "Ancient" categories. This allows the eight ages to track the eight pips on the d8 now used for Hit Dice.

The published rulebook goes on to include several more paragraphs of material that Holmes left out of the manuscript, covering subdual, dragon intelligence, treasure, the special breath weapons of the brass dragon (sleep & fear).

The Monster Manual would later include all twelve dragons from OD&D & Greyhawk, while Moldvay Basic would stick to the original six from OD&D, Vol 2.

Continue on to Part 24: "Winged Beasts of Hideous Aspect"
Or Go Back to Part 23: "Shy and Beautiful Female Tree Sprites"
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript


  1. I cant wait for you to get to kobolds. They go from 'dwarf-like' to 'dog-like'. I am very interested in knowing whether they were meant to be evil gnomes.

  2. That was a great illustration. I do not remember it from the book but I haven't looked at it in almost forty years.

    1. Unfortunately TSR did not use any of Chris' illustrations in the Basic rulebook. He did later have some art published in Dragon with at least two of his father's articles/stories.