Friday, May 6, 2016

Part 54: "An Ape in an Iron Cage"

Part 54 of a comparison of the Holmes manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 45 of your 'Blue Book' (page 44 for the 1st edition) and follow along...

Room S2

The final area of the Sample Dungeon, this is the second floor of the thaumaturgist's tower, home to "the wizard's study". As with S1, this area is above Room S in the dungeon, and so is not shown directly on the map.

In size and shape, the room is similar to the one below. Access is from a trap door in the floor from the room below. There is a third spiral staircase around the way to the ceiling, in this case leading to a a trap door to the roof. There's no further description of the roof area, but this implies the roof is flat. Perhaps the M-U studies the stars at night...

The study is furnished as we might expect for a wizard's study: tables, lamps, chemicals, skulls, loose pages of parchment, mystic designs on the floor and, importantly, "two giant volumes of magic spells". Presumably his books of First and Second Level Spells, they should at a minimum have the spells he has memorized in his description in Room F. While the Basic rulebook doesn't explicitly state that each level is in a separate book, this is implied by the names "Book of First Level Spells" and "Book of Second Level Spells" on page 15, as well the references to "magic books" (plural) on page 13. The description of "giant volumes" here explains Holmes' rule that M-Us "can not bring their magic books into the dungeon with them" (pg 13); it's because the books are too heavy to lug about.

Carnivorous Ape by Dave Trampier, from the Monster Manual (1977)

S2 also has at least one occupant, described in the next paragraph, an ape locked in a iron cage. There is no explanation for why the ape is here, just that it hates the cage and "has been waiting to get even". Ironically, the ape doesn't realize that "the key is in the lock of the cage door". If released, the ape may attack the wizard or someone else and then escapes out a window and "off through the city streets" of Portown. In the Portown Rumors I wrote up recently I had the ape be the captured pet of a merchant in town, who is willing to pay a reward for his return.

As I wrote previously, "Kveldulf suggested in this DF thread that the ape in the wizard's tower is reminiscent of the ape kept by the Red Priest Nabonidius in the Conan story Rogues in the House (1934). Also, in the Conan story the Tower of the Elephant a sorcerer keeps a captive creature (not an ape) in the upper room of a tower. Going back further, in Edgar Allen Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841) a sailor keeps an orangutang captive in Paris. A common theme throughout these, including the Holmes scenario, is the hatred of the captive primate for its master."

Also, the Planet of the Apes film series was a big presence in the popular culture in the earlier half of the 1970s. And a remake of King Kong came out in Dec of 1976, just around when Holmes was working on the Basic rulebook.

As with most of the non-standard monsters in the Sample Dungeon, the Ape gets a minimum of stats: 2 HD and AC7. But this is more than apes were given in the OD&D rules. "Apes" appear as one of 12 animal types on the "Basic Animals" table in the Wilderness Wandering Monster tables on pages 18-19 of Vol 3 of OD&D. "White Apes" also appear in that section in the "Optional Arid Planes" table (all Barsoomian encounters); the Level 4 dungeon table (pg 10); and as castle guards for Evil High Priests (pg 15). But as with most other animals, no specific stats are provided.

In Greyhawk, the 4th level apes are now "Carnivorous Apes". In Eldritch Wizardry, "Apes" again appear, in the "Jungle-Like" table. Again, no stats provided.

The first product which provides any stats for "Apes" is the first Monster & Treasure Assortment (1977), included in the first three printings of the Holmes Basic Set as well as being sold separately. In the Assortment, "Carnivorous Apes" appear as entry 19 on the 1st level table, and entry 45 of the 3rd level table. Apes would finally get a full description in the Monster Manual as "Ape (Gorilla)" and "Ape, Carnivorous", and in Moldvay Basic as the "Ape, White". Each of these versions has at least twice as many HD as our Sample Dungeon Ape, and a better AC.

The room has two major magic items hidden in it, described in the third paragraph, a wand of petrification and a hidden scroll that can reverse it. 

The wand is a non-standard magic item, appearing neither in the Holmes rulebook or in the previous OD&D books. However, it's a fairly natural extension of the various other D&D monsters, spells and magic items that can turn characters to stone.

Holmes writes that the wand "turns flesh to stone if he makes a hit with it", which indicates that using it requires a to-hit roll. As I wrote previously, "The thaumaturgist's wand of petrifaction is similar to the wand wielded by the White Witch in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe of the Chronicles of Narnia. It requires a to-hit roll, which may imply it is a touch-based attack similar to the wand of the White Witch (thanks to Lemunda's Brother for pointing this out in this Knights & Knaves Alehouse thread). On the other hand, the Holmes rules require a "to hit" roll for Magic Missile so the wand could also be interpreted as having a ray-based attack".

In the manuscript, Holmes names it a "wand of petrification". As published, this is changed to "petrifaction".  From what I have read, the term "petrifaction" was more common used prior to D&D, now "petrification" is more common. Prior to this rulebook, Gygax used "Petrification" in Greyhawk ("Eyes of Petrification"), and again later in the DMG. Interestingly, the Medusa entry in the Monster Manual also uses "petrifaction".

The wand is hidden in a secret compartment in the table. Here we have a change to this room as published. The rulebook adds a parenthetical chance for finding the wand's compartment: "(only 5% chance of locating this compartment)".

The scroll is hidden among parchments on the table, and is simply described as "a scroll which reverses this spell, but only for 1 person and only once." As published, "this spell" is changed to "the wand effect".  The spell on the scroll is not further described, but is presumably the sixth level OD&D spell, Stone to Flesh. 

Finally, there's a brief mention that the M-U will be found here if not in Room F. This ties back to his actions in Room F where it states, "If he can get out the door he will put a wizard lock on it and run up the stairs to his tower ... He will use the wand on anybody entering his hideway".


Following Room S2 there is a single paragraph coda to the adventure:

"By the time the adventurers have worked their way through this, the Dungeon Master will probably have lots of ideas of his or her own to try out. Design your own dungeon or dig new passages and levels in this one. What lies in the (undiscovered) deeper levels where Zenopus met his doom? Do the pirates have other treasure troves hidden in the sea caves? What inhuman rites are practiced deep in the ghoul haunted passages beneath the graveyard? What are the townspeople going to do when they discover that our friends are tampering with Things Better Left Alone?"

There are no changes to this paragraph as published. It's a flavorful wrap-up to the adventure that gives many of suggestions to new DMs for expanding the adventure.  
There's a clue that Zenopus met his doom on a lower level. Chris Holmes & Eric (who played Murray) have no specific memories of any lower levels that Holmes designed.

There might be other sea caves with pirate treasure. The tunnel from Room P might be expanded to passages beneath the graveyard with ghouls and "inhuman rites" (cultists?). Finally, the people of Portown might not like what the adventurers discover.

And that's the end of the manuscript! All remaining material in the rulebook, including sections on "Using the Dice", "About the Editor" (starting in the second print), the product catalog and the reference sheets were all added by TSR.

I'll have a few more posts in this series, however. The Manuscript is missing one page (mostly covering dragons), which I skipped at the time. Billy Galaxy later sent me a scan of the missing material from an earlier draft, so next I will go back and cover that.

Go Back to Part 53: "The Room Contains a Giant Snake" 
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript


  1. I have really loved this series and I've referenced its various passages a ton over the last year (as I've worked with my copy of Holmes on various "projects"). I really appreciate the time you've taken to document the differences and changes between the original concepts and the final text.

    I'm glad there's still a couple more posts to come.
    : )

    1. Thanks for the kind words & glad you've found it useful. I hope to eventually compile it in to a single document, although it's probably easiest to read in chunks on the blog.

  2. Thank you so much for your hard work on this series. Blue book got me into D&D, and I've enjoyed your nostalgia trip. I'm looking forward to reading the original MS for dragons.

    P.S. What else are you going to post about?

    1. You're welcome! And thank you for the years of support - you posted the first comment on my blog back in 2012. Other than the post on dragons, I'll post at least a summary of major changes to what Holmes wrote, plus a few other surprises.

  3. Glad to hear we're not done yet!

    I have enjoyed every post in this series, immensely. I don't know if I'm petrified or petrifacted that it'll be over soon, but I just may console myself by starting reading the series over again...

  4. Wonderful, comprehensive, brilliant analysis!

    I still have my old boxed set (chits and Keep on the Borderlands), and reading your blog encouraged me to purchase an earlier version with dice and In Search of the Unknown. And then I picked up BlueHolme, LL, S&W, S&W WB, ... ha ha!

    But Holmes is still my favorite! I love everything about it (except for equal weapon damage).

    Thank you for giving me hours of reading enjoyment and feeding my Holmes fix. While not the Magna Carta, the rulebook is a great document and deserves this sort of treatment.

    - Jeff

  5. A great journey, filled with information to which I shall return. A worthy addition to the Holmesian reference library you have built for us!