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Friday, May 10, 2013

Holmes' Harryhausen Tribute

The Giant Crab by Ray Harryhausen from Mysterious Island (1961)

Ray Harryhausen's special effects for the 1961 movie adaptation of Jules Verne's novel Mysterious Island include a spectacular battle with a stop-motion giant crab, which can be
watched in its entirety here on TCM. Now compare this with two other giant crabs appearing in the writings of J. Eric Holmes:

Room L in the Sample Dungeon in the Basic Set rulebook (1977):
"L — Another cave with the river running through it. There is phosphorescent fungus growing on the rocks, so anyone can see without lights. There are east and west entrances on both sides of the river to the sandy beach. The river is only 3-4 feet deep at the center of the channel and can be forded.

There is a giant crab concealed under the sand on the south beach. It will attack anything that moves on either beach. It runs 60 feet in 1 turn, in armor class 3 (plate mail), and takes 2 hit dice (8 hit points). It strikes with its giant claws one at a time as fast as a man" (pg 43)

Excerpt from "Dark Water", Chapter 2 of Maze of Peril (1986):
"The beach heaved and crumbled under Boinger's feet. The sand spilled away as a broad, blue carapace rose up on six armored legs. Boinger staggered backward as as great claw passed over his head. The great beast crashed over the startled little adventurer and up the beach, where the two mercenaries and the dwarf swung futilely as it went by. The claw scattered like an oversized nut cracker, swooped at Zereth who dropped flat on the sand, and backed Murray against the wall.

"Ooop!" cried the magician, swatting the crustacean across the eye-stalks with his staff.

The others rushed to attack the monster's rear, only to find that the tough armor turned their blows with ease. 

"The joints," called Bardan, "go for the joints of his legs!"

Boinger swung two handed at a leg as the crab began to turn, had the satisfaction of feeling his blade bite deep into the limb, heard the exoskeleton crack as he twisted his sword loose. The creature stumbled as the adventurers attacked its other limbs. Finally, after several tries, the dwarf got a jab with his spear past the guarding claw and into the softer mouth parts just under the carapace. The brute collapsed, was rolled over, and the legs hacked off to keep it from righting itself.

"Thank you for the help, I guess," Murray mumbled as he got to his feet and brushed the wet sand from his robe. "I wish you could have been a little less forceful."

"Didn't have time to," the elf replied, and turned to walk down to the new boat.

"You know," said the halfling, poking the still twitching stumps of the giant crab with his sword, "this stuff would be really tasty steamed or roasted. Why don't we build a small fire and cook up a few legs?"

"Fire, you idiot?" cried the mage. "Do you want to bring every monsters in the place down upon us? We can't go around building fires all over the beach. You're not having a little picnic outing back home, you know. We're in the middle of enemy territory!"

"Well, I guess you're right," Boinger agreed reluctantly. "We haven't any melted butter, anway..." (pg 17)

The giant crab had appeared previously in OD&D, Vol 3, as part of the "Special Suggestions for Monsters for Naval Adventures" (pg 34-35). However, Holmes specifically references two key details from the Harryhausen sequence: hiding the sand, and eating the crab.

And for my tribute to Harryhausen, here's a full entry for the giant crab for Holmes Basic:

Giant Crab

Move: 60 feet/turn
Hit Dice: 2
Armor Class: 2
Treasure Type: nil
Alignment: nil
Attacks: 2
Damage: 2-12 each

Rumored to be originally created by the mad sorcerer Nemo, these enormous bright orange crustaceans now lurk everywhere near bodies of water in the underworld. They conceal their garish shells with sand, bursting forth to attack anything of smaller size that moves (surprise on 1-4 in 6). They attack twice per round, once with each of their black-tipped claws. They do not keep treasure but their tough shell can be fashioned into orange armor equivalent to plate mail +1 (AC 2) by an armorer of the highest skill for 1,000 gp. Reported to be delicious if cooked.


  1. I wonder if Gygax's giant crab in The Black Reservoir was also inspired by this scene.

  2. Maybe add some rules on how you can flip it over. That seems to be the preferred method of dispatching one.

  3. Zenopus,

    How goes the Holmes Ref project?

    Looking forward to it!

    Also, how goes your Level 2 of the Zenopus dungeon?

  4. Not to be a killjoy, but doesn't 2HD seem a bit low for so large a creature?

    1. It's not as tough as it looks. In the movie it was defeated by a group of unarmored 0-level humans armed only with spears! : )