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

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Part 2: "Fearsome Monsters, Fabulous Treasure, and Frightful Perils"

Part 2 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 2 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along...

PREFACE & FOREWORD: These two sections, on pages 2 and 3 of the published rulebook, are not found at all in the manuscript, suggesting they were added by Gygax/TSR.

TABLE OF CONTENTS: The manuscript has three TOC pages. Holmes' entries, including the wording, are followed for the most part, with some deleted or condensed. I won't go into detail right now, but may mention some changes when I get to the appropriate sections.

INTRODUCTION: The numbered pages of the manuscript start with the Introduction. Holmes' text is largely unchanged in the published version. In the first line, Holmes has "Dungeons and Dragons" which was changed to "Dungeons & Dragons" and bolded when published. The remainder of this section is word-for-word identical in the manuscript and the 1st printing of the rulebook, including the use of "hobbits", with the exception of the very last sentence, where Holmes originally had:

The published rulebook shortens this to "...20 sided dice which come with this game". Holmes probably didn't know whether or not TSR was going to include dice in the set; the original D&D set did not include dice. An irony here is that Holmes' original text refers to "numbered chits", a form of which infamously appeared in later editions of the Holmes Basic set during a dice shortage.

HOW TO USE THIS BOOK: Identical, except that where Holmes uses "a random number generator", TSR changes it to "the set of dice".

CREATING CHARACTERS: No changes, other than "three six sided dice" to "three 6-sided dice" and changing underlining to italics, a standard for publishing in the era of typewriters (see Desert Scribe's comment below).

One interesting aspect of this section is the minimum scores of 9 constitution for dwarves and hobbits, and 9 dexterity for halflings. As far as I can tell/remember these minimums are not in the original D&D rules, so it appears that Holmes added these. He may have been influenced by his familiarity with the Warlock supplement, which has more extensive racial minimums for demi-humans.

TABLE OF BONUS AND PENALTIES DUE TO ABILITIES: Identical, other than some minor punctuation/capitalization changes.

This makes it clear that the limited selection of ability score bonuses/penalties, lacking those for Strength or Charisma found in OD&D, comes via Holmes. With the caveat that he may have discussed this material with Gygax prior to writing the manuscript under consideration.

ADJUSTING ABILITY SCORES: No changes here other than capitalization and underlining to italicization. As with the published version, Holmes does not mention elves in this section, leaving it unclear whether they are treated separately as fighters & magic-users, or do not have a prime requisite at all.

That's it for tonight. So far, remarkably few changes between Holmes' manuscript and the published version. The published rulebook uses the vast majority of what Holmes wrote, word-for-word, in these sections. In the next section on the various character classes/races we will see the first significant change.

Continue on to Part 3: "Elves Must Decide"
Or Go Back to Part 1: "D&D for Beginners"
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript


  1. Based on this I may decide to revert to the Holmes Charisma modifiers for BLUEHOLME ...

  2. Thanks for this. Interesting to read about using playing cards for random numbers; this never occurred to me as a kid who didn't have the polyhedrals.

    Regarding changing the underlined text to italics: in the days before word processors, underlining on your typewritten manuscript signaled to the typesetting folks that the text in question should be in italics.

    (Apologies if you already know this; some of our younger readers might not be familiar with pre-PC formatting procedures.)

    1. I had forgotten about that! Thanks for the reminder.