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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.                    ...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Part 5: "Lawful, Neutral or Chaotic"

Part 5 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 8 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along...


Holmes wrote this section from scratch, as it doesn't appear in OD&D. However, he may have used the the terms "hopeless" and "below average" here because the sample character in OD&D Vol 1, Xylarthen, is "below average in charisma, but not hopelessly so". The next version of the Basic rulebook, edited by Tom Moldvay, keeps this section, including the title in quotes, so this is an instance where material added by Holmes was retained going forward with the D&D line. Moldvay expands the notion of the "hopeless character" from all-below-average stats to having more than one stat that is in the 3-6 range. Moldvay also drops Holmes' musing that sometimes these characters will survive and propser despite their stats.

Despite Holmes writing this section, it somewhat reflected actual play practices in Lake Geneva, who per reports would roll multiple characters until they got what they wanted. This seems to have become character generation in Method IV of the AD&D DMG, where one set of stats is picked from 12 sets of six 3d6 rolls.

NUMBER OF CHARACTERS: The first sentence in Holmes' draft reads: "Most Dungeon Masters allow a player only one, two or three characters at a time". In the rulebook the end of this was changed to "...only one (or perhaps two characters) at a time. Holmes was perhaps a bit more generous with the number of characters he allowed each player to run than Gygax/TSR, who IIRC generally advised allowing only a single character per player. 

In the second paragraph, Holmes' reference to a "seventh order cleric" is changed to "seventh level cleric" in the rulebook. There is at least one other place in the manuscript where Holmes uses "order" instead of "level". This may be a carryover from an earlier draft where he used "order" for character level, perhaps in an attempt to reduce the number of different meanings of "level".

The rest of this section is unchanged. The part about designating a relative for inheriting treasure and retiring comes from Men & Magic, page 13, "Relatives", though Holmes reworded the original a bit and added the second paragraph about death and possible means of revival.

NON-PLAYER CHARACTERS: No changes in the first paragraph. The second paragraph adds a few clarifications in the published rulebook. The first sentence adds "i.e. first level" to clarify "lowest level of character types". After "...the referee must determine expenditures" an aside is added: "(rolling a 6-sided die for 100's of gold pieces is suggested)". The third paragraph adds "sometimes" in the first sentence to "Monsters can [sometimes] be lured..." The rest of this section is unchanged.

The text of the first three paragraphs of this section in Holmes' draft are mostly word-for-word the same as the section "Non-Player Characters" in Men & Magic, page 12, and the fourth paragraph comes from "Capture of Non-Player Monsters", page 13.

ALIGNMENT: Here we see another big difference between the manuscript and the published rulebook. As might be guessed, Holmes follows the 3-point alignment scheme of OD&D: Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic, rather than the 5-point alignment scheme that Holmes Basic is known for. Here is the draft paragraph in full:

There were less changes than might be expected made to this section to convert it from 3-point to 5-point. The first sentence was changed to "...lawful (good or evil), neutral or chaotic (good or evil). The second sentence was revised to end with "...code of behavior whether for good or evil". In the third sentence chaotic characters go from being "usually" to "often" evil. The "code of lawful characters" becomes the "code of lawful good characters". Magic items that "can be used only by lawful characters" becomes "can be used only by one alignment of characters". In the last sentence, "lawful" is changed to "good". 

The manuscript does not contain the alignment figure found at the bottom of page 8 of the published rulebook. The first version of this figure included several monsters not found in the Monster List, so it is as expected that this figure does not appear in the draft.

I should note that despite using only the 3-point alignment in this section, back in the section on character classes Holmes indicated that "Magic-users, of course, may be either good or evil, lawful or chaotic" and "the cleric may be good or evil, lawful or chaotic", and "thieves are not truly good and are usually referred to as neutral or evil". So Holmes pretty much described the 5-point system in the characters section, it just wasn't quantified to labels such as "lawful good".

The 5-point system by Gygax was first set forth in the Strategic Review #6, Feburary 1976. I don't know whether Holmes had seen this or not when he was working on the manuscript. The 5-point system was used in the published Holmes rulebook (July 1977) and the Monster Manual (Dec 1977) and the full 9-point system first appeared in the Player's Handbook in mid-1978. 

Update: Vile reminded me of Holmes' comments on Alignment in Dragon #52, when he was reviewing the new Moldvay Basic Set. They seem relevant to this post, so I'll quote them here:

"Character alignment: This is the most difficult of the D&D concepts to get across. The new rules spend more space on alignments and do a much better job of explaining them, using practical examples. Alignment is Law, Chaos and Neutral. Good and Evil are not discussed as separate alignments at all, which I think makes better sense. The first Basic Set had one of those diagrams which said that blink dogs were lawful good and brass dragons were chaotic good. I never felt that this was particularly helpful. I am sure Gary Gygax has an idea in his mind of what chaotic good (or other “obscure” alignments, etc.) may be, but it certainly isn’t clear to me. Without meaning to be irreverent, I am also sure that Buddha knew what he meant by nirvana, but that doesn’t clarify it in my mind either. I think the new rules simplify the issue appropriately."

Update (6/11/15): I missed a few bits going through this before. In the second sentence, Holmes has lawful characters acting according to a "highly chivalrous code of behavior". In the published version, "chivalrous" is changed to "regulated", presumably to account for the "lawful evil" alignment. In the third sentence, Holmes had chaotic characters as "totally unreliable", which was changed to "quite unpredictable".

The rest of Holmes' article can be read at Sword & Shield

See also: Holmes Alignment is Six-Point
Holmes Manuscript series Part 19, section on alignment

Continue on to Part 6: "Fully Armored and Heavily Loaded" 
Or Go Back to Part 4: "...And a Half-Human/Half-Serpent Naga"
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript


  1. Really interesting. The five-prong alignment is such a defining characteristic of Holmes Basic. Looking more and more like the manuscript originally represented a straight OD&D edit.

    However, you will recall that the first printing of module B1 made reference to all five alignments (with the pool that causes characters of different alignments to glow different colours), and of course the Monster Manual uses the five-prong system almost exclusively.

    Fascinating stuff - keep it coming!

  2. Very much appreciate seeing that Holmes was really a proponent of the 3-prong alignment, thanks for that!

    Maybe this goes without saying, but OD&D Sup-III by Gygax & Blume has new monster alignments with asterisked footnotes modifying the normal alignment (e.g., mind flayers: "highly evil but otherwise lawful", p. 2). So Holmes might have been writing text in that vein with seeing or supporting a formal systematization of the idea.

  3. "The first Basic Set had one of those diagrams which said that blink dogs were lawful good and brass dragons were chaotic good. I never felt that this was particularly helpful"

    Man that's disheartening to hear. In my eyes, that graph was the single most useful implement ever devised in the Alignment Wars.

  4. This series is great, and this post is my favorite in it so far!