This is the blog. Click here to go to the Zenopus Archives website.

Note: Many older posts on this blog are missing images, but can be viewed at the corresponding page in the Internet Archive


The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave: Index of Posts

An index of posts describing the Forgotten Smugglers' Cave, an adventure for Holmes Basic characters levels 2-4.                    ...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Monster Manual is a Holmes Supplement

Mock cover for a "Basic Set Monster Manual"

This topic just came up again on Dragonsfoot, and reminded of a post I made on OD&D Discussion early last year before I started this blog, which I've just revised: 

The Holmes Basic set was first published in mid-1977. The AD&D Monster Manual first appeared after Xmas in late Dec 1977. The rules for AD&D were still in development at the time, and the Monster Manual refers to a number of rules from OD&D or Holmes that were later changed by the AD&D Player's Handbook (mid '78) or Dungeon Master's Guide ('79).

  • The entry for Orcus in the Monster Manual indicates that his "tail strikes with an 18 dexterity which does 2-8 hit points each time it hits" (pg 17). To me this implies an attack compatible with the Holmes rules for initiative where first strike is determined by dexterity. There is one other monster in the Monster Manual that has a dexterity score in its description: Brownies have "18 dexterity" (pg 11).
  • Yeenoghu can cast "magic missile (3/day, 6/missiles/cast), each doing 2-8 points of damage and having a +2 to hit" (pg 20). In AD&D magic missiles strike unerringly, but Holmes Basic requires a "to hit" role - "Roll the missile fire like a long bow arrow" (pg 15) - so Yeenoghu's bonus to hit with a magic missile refers to this rule. This was discussed in the comments on a Grognardia post. This may indicate that Gary intended the OD&D magic missile to require a "to hit" roll. The original description of Magic Missile in the Greyhawk supplement is entirely unclear as to this, as it just describes the magic missile as "equivalent to a magic arrow". Tim Kask has stated on DF that the OD&D version did require a roll, and was purposefully changed for AD&D.

  • The Monster Manual basically has a five point alignment system like in the Holmes Basic rulebook, which in turn was derived from an article in Strategic Review #6 (Feb 1976). A few monsters in Holmes do not conform: the Displacer Beast is "neutral (evil)", and others have two alignments (e.g. Dopplegangers are "chaotic evil/neutral"). Likewise, the Monster Manual has a few monsters with "neutral (evil)" or "neutral (good)". But neither has the full-fledged nine-point alignment system that later surfaced in the Players Handbook.

  • As described by T. Foster here, no monster in the Monster Manual has an AC 10. I note that new "armorless" monsters like the Gas Spore and Nymph are AC 9, and previously described monsters like the Gelatinous Cube, Gray Ooze, and Ochre Jelly are AC 8, just like in both OD&D and Holmes Basic.

  • T. Foster lists other details compatible with OD&D: "spell-names that were changed in AD&D (e.g. raise dead fully vs. resurrection), the max. levels listed for demi-human leader-types match the level limits in OD&D (AD&D's are usually 1-2 levels higher), and ... casting-level equivalents that match the OD&D rather than AD&D tables". The last is further described by Papers&Paychecks in this thread, where he points to Nagas as a good example of the "casting-level equivalents that match OD&D". For example, the Spirit Naga has "4th level clerical ability" which is "2 - first and 1- second level spells per day" (pg 73). This is consistent with OD&D, as well as the implied progression in Holmes, where 3rd level clerics get two 1st level spells.

My conclusion is that at the time the Monster Manual came out it was most compatible with the Holmes interpretation of the original D&D rules. But what this really shows is that some AD&D specific rules were developed after Gary finished working on the Monster Manual. Let me know if you notice any other instances that align with Holmes or OD&D.

2021 Update: The errata for the Monster Manual indicates that the language regarding the tail of Orcus was different in the first printing. Thanks to jeffb on ODD74, I've learned that the change was just to add the damage for the tail ("...which does 2-8 hit points each time it hits"). Which means that the language regarding the tail's dexterity being 18 was there int he first printing.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Delving Deeper PrePress Demo Game

     I'm taking part in a play-by-post pre-press demo game for the upcoming Delving Deeper RPG (retroclone of OD&D). My character is Mot the Magicien. This is my first pbp, other than some intra-session posts in my regular game.

     If you are interested in following it, you can read the start of the play here on the OD&D Discussion Forums. The DM is waysofearth, editor and co-author for Delving Deeper, and one of the players is Cameron DuBeers, also a co-author. Ways has posted excerpts of the Character Creation rules for DD here.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Arneson's Sketch Map of Blackmoor, Annotated

      Over at the Acaeum, sauromation asked about how Arneson's hand-drawn sketch map of Blackmoor (in which the settlements are not labeled) in the First Fantasy Campaign corresponds to the fine fold-out poster hex map that came with the same product. Above I've taken my best stab at annotating the sketch map using the labels from the poster map. The positions of the waterways and the settlements actually exhibit a great deal of similarity between the two, although there are definite geographical differences. It's tempting to call this an "earlier" map of Blackmoor, but I'm not sure if there's any evidence of this (please let me know if there is). It could be earlier but could also be a  sketch that is contemporary with the fine map.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Where on the Great Kingdom map was "The Weird Enclave of Blackmoor"?

One of my earliest impressions of the Holmes Basic Set, from before I even understood any of the rules, comes from the memorable Foreword by Gary Gygax, which was reprinted from the original Dungeons & Dragons set and begins:

"ONCE UPON A TIME, long, long ago there was a little group known as the Castle and Crusade Society. Their fantasy rules were published, and to this writer's knowledge, brought about much of the current interest in fantasy wargaming. For a time the group grew and prospered, and Dave Arneson decided to begin a medieval fantasy campaign game for his active Twin Cities club. From the map of the "land" of the "Great Kingdom" and environs — the territory of C & C Society — Dave located a nice bog wherein to nest the weird enclave of "Blackmoor," a spot between the "Giant Kingdom" and the fearsome "Egg of Coot."

Dr. Holmes, the editor of the Basic Set, was wise to include this section as it is a marvel of evocative campaign names: Castle & Crusade Society, Great Kingdom, Blackmoor, the Egg of Coot. It made me immediately want to learn more about these locations, see that map of the "land", and of course play a game where I could visit those places.

[Jan 2014 update: The Holmes manuscript doesn't include this Foreword, so its inclusion was most likely added by Gygax/TSR]

Now, many years later, I can finally see the original Great Kingdom map, thanks to Playing at the World by Jon Peterson, a fantastic new book that traces the origins of D&D. This book includes a reprint of the original map, drawn by Gary Gygax and published in an article in Domesday Book #9 (late 1970 or early 1971):

Great Kingdom map by Gary Gygax, Domesday Book #9 (1970/1), reprinted in Playing at the World (2012).

This map bears some striking similarities to the later World of Greyhawk map (1980), particularly the Sea of Dust in the lower left corner, surrounded by mountain ranges and the Dry Steppes directly to the north, and the centrally located Lake of Unknown Depths (Nir Dyv). Unfortunately, the map does not show the location of Greyhawk, Blackmoor or any of the names from the Foreword - these locations were added later by Gygax and Arneson. However, in First Fantasy Campaign (Judges Guild, 1977), Dave Arneson provides an hand-drawn map of Blackmoor that may provide some clues:

In First Fantasy Campaign, Arneson writes, "In starting my campaign, I reserved a small area out of the center of the Great Kingdom map of the IFW's Castle & Crusade Society (a now extinct Medievals group" (pg 11). Assuming that his map of the enclave of Blackmoor is an inset near the center of the Great Kingdom map, we can fit the two together. If the "Great Ocean" of the Blackmoor map is the western edge of the "Great Bay" of the Great Kingdom map, the other details of the Blackmoor map could be placed as follows:

Annotated map showing speculative locations of Blackmoor and Greyhawk

I've also tentatively placed Greyhawk in a position similar to that of the World of Greyhawk map: just south of a peninsula stretching into the Lake (see the picture below). This annotated map might work well for a OD&D campaign set in Greyhawk or Blackmoor. See this OD&D Discussion thread for more ideas for such a campaign.

And finally here's some info on the original Greyhawk Campaign map from Gygax's letter A&E#15 (Oct 76). Note that the map referred to here is not necessarily the Great Kingdom one from 1970/71 printed above; Gygax may have made another version(s) before 1976.

"The game world is a parallel earth, but the continents are somewhat different. Most of our campaign activity takes place on what corresponds to North America, on the eastern half of the continent. The "Blackmoor" lands lie far up on the northeast coast. "Greyhawk" is in the central portion. There are a few other independently run campaigns located on this map. There are also some other dungeons related to the "Greyhawk" campaign located at some distance from the free city of Greyhawk. Players in our campaign may freely play in "Blackmoor", but to get there they must adventure cross country. With one or two other campaigns, we do not allow any cross-campaign play other than this, for these is too great a disparity of DMing. The territory within 500 or so miles of our main dungeon is mapped out at 5 miles to the hex. Territory within 50 miles of Greyhawk city is mapped more closely, and monster locations are indicated. The entire world is mapped out in rough form, with notes regarding typical encounters in given areas as well as particular special places, for hardy souls who wish to go forth to seek their fortunes."

See also these follow-up posts:

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Proofing Deeper, update

I didn't post much here last month; I was on vacation in the Pacific Northwest (Portland, Orcas Island, Seattle, Olympic Peninsula), and my spare time after returning was spent on proofreading Delving Deeper, Volume 3 (which covers monsters and treasure). I posted a few months ago that I was assisting with this. I finished this last week and all of my proofreading notes for the three volumes are now with the editor. So, if you are waiting for this product, I can confirm that progress is being made. 

By the way, the Delving Deeper page has the following updates:

Pre-Order Sales have ended, regular sales will begin after all of the pre-orders have shipped.


Delving Deeper RPG pdfs will be available to everyone who has pre-ordered in a few weeks. The hardcopy boxed sets will start shipping a few weeks after that. Only after all the pre-ordered hard copies have shipped, will the free version of the PDFs will become available to the public for download. Posted 07/06/2012