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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Centaurs and Samurai and Werebears, updated

A werebear by Dave Trampier from the original Monster Manual

     An update to a post I wrote last fall (quoted below), not long after I started the blog:

     I was re-reading Holmes' Adventure of the Giant Chameleon (A&E #14, Aug '76)  and noticed a Beorning character in the first paragraph, "shifting nervously from human form and back again". This tale is a story from Holmes' games with his sons, so this shows he had a player running a werebear PC (presumably lawful) at least once. Thus, all of the exotic classes he mentioned in the Blue Book are now accounted for: centaurs, samurai and werebears.

     If you look closely at the mention of the Green Dragon Inn at the start of the Sample Dungeon, you'll see it described as "human and non-humans from all over the globe meet here". Notably that's "non-humans" rather than demi-humans. In Maze of Peril, Holmes also has a Green Dragon Inn, where a centaur shows up, and at least one serpentman is mentioned in passing.  One of the Boinger and Zereth short stories in Dragon also has a noblewoman with a lizardman guard in the same town. Overall, this gives the Green Dragon Inn, and Holmes' campaign, a "Creature Cantina" feel. Very different from Gygax's preferences elaborated in the 1E DMG.

     Looking below, I didn't mention where a samurai character could be found. Zatushigi the samurai appears in the party with Boinger and Zereth in the Adventure of the Lost City, Part I (A&E #17, Nov '76).

* * * * *
     From 9/20/11, posted as part of Tolkien week:

     In yesterday's Balrog post, I quoted a memorable line from page 7 of the Blue Book:
"Thus, an expedition might include, in addition to the four basic classes and races (human, elven, dwarven, hobbitish), a centaur, a lawful werebear, and a Japanese Samurai fighting man" (pg 7).

      As I noted, the example of a Balrog PC has been changed to a centaur, werebear and Samurai.
The most likely inspiration for "lawful werebear" in this list is Beorn from the Hobbit. Beorn travels with Bilbo and Gandalf twice, once to the edge of Mirkwood, and once on the return trip from the Lonely Mountain, a member of the "party". Thus, even though the reference to the Balrog has been changed the example retains a Tolkien influence. I consider this one of the Tolkien allusions added to the Blue Book by Dr. Holmes (there a few, which I will discuss further in another post).

      I don't know of any references by Dr. Holmes to a werebear in his other writings (campaign descriptions or stories). In the Monster List, werebears have the alignment "neutral/chaotic good", but this is a change from OD&D Vol 2, which has werebears as "Law/Neutral". The use of "lawful" without a good or evil appears to be a residual reference to the 3-point alignment system of OD&D.

     A few years later White Dwarf #17 (Feb 1980) ran an article titled "My Life As a Werebear" that includes rules for werebear character classes & several other monsters. 

     Samurai as a fighter subclass first appeared in DRAGON #3 (Oct 1976), prior to the Holmes Basic set.

     Centaurs are found in OD&D, Vol 2
(pg 4 & 14) but missing from the Monster List in the Blue Book.  Dr. Holmes mentions a centaur PC in his personal campaign in his 1980 Psychology Today article "Confessions of a Dungeon Master", and a centaur also appears as a minor character his novel Maze of Peril (1986). 

     In an article in Dragon in 1981, Dr. Holmes also mentioned that he allowed players any type of character they wished, and in his 1981 book on FRPGs he wrote that: 

Most game systems rather rigidly specify what kinds of characters players may assume, but the majority of referees are lenient. If a player particularly wants to be an unusual or inhuman character, many referees will let him. It's not unusual to encounter player characters that are werewolves, Vulcans, samurai, centaurs or whatever. Fantasy role playing is, after all, an exercise in imagination".

1 comment:

  1. This is an excellent bit of research. I just don't have the Holmes material or the knowledge of OD&D or the Holmes basic set to be able to delve into it myself.

    I will be transcribing that Holmes article from Alarums&Excursions #14 (as well as the comments about it in following issues if I can), though tonight I am working on transcribing an article about Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Castle adventure from GenCon IX.