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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.                    ...

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Part 13: "Melee is the Most Exciting Part of the Game"

Part 13 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 18 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along...


pg 18
1st paragraph: No changes. This is a very clear description of D&D combat, not present in OD&D, and now known to be written by Holmes. Significantly, the aside "(The more complex system used for advanced play allows for varying amounts of damage by different weapons and by various sorts of monsters)" was written by Holmes and not added by Gygax/TSR. Once we get to the Monster List in the manuscript we'll see that for the most part monster damage is not variable, so this aside makes sense in this context.

2nd paragraph: The manuscript has, "Full tables are given in DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, and GREYHAWK"; the published version adds "ADVANCED" to former, and removes the latter. Immediately following this is a sentence in the manuscript that was deleted: "Many gaming groups have their own variations, with additional special rules for weaponry, calculations of "critical hits" etc." The deletion of this sentence is similar to a deletion noted in Part 8 of this series, where TSR removed another reference to variations in the rules between gaming groups. Note that TSR did leave in Holmes' last sentence that "Once the sysetm is mastered, however, players can add whatever modifications they wish".

3rd paragraph: No changes.


Here is Holmes' original version of the attack table for characters:

This table is drawn from the one on page 19 of OD&D Vol 1, there called "ATTACK MATRIX 1.: MEN ATTACKING". Holmes drops all information for characters over level 3, in line with Basic covering only levels 1-3, although some information for higher levels would be useful for NPCs. Gygax mediates this in the module B2, pg 3, with a note that a +1 to hit is given to Fighters 4th & up, Clerics 5th & up, and M-Us 6th & up, though OD&D actually gives a +2 to hit at these levels.

Holmes also flips the axes, putting the armor classes and descriptions across the top rather than along the side. He may have done this to save vertical space he was dropping a number of columns from the original.

Two changes to Holmes' version in the published rulebook:
(1) Gygax changes the "Die Roll" row to "1st-3rd Level Character", and inserts a new "Normal Man" row above this, where all scores to hit are one number higher. This is in line with his addition of "Normal Man" to the Saving Throw table, covered in Part 9 of this series.
(2) In the last line the word "ADVANCED" is added to "DUNGEONS & DRAGONS".

pg 19
1st paragraph: This paragraph is the same in the published version, except the last sentence from the manuscript has been deleted, which reads:

"If a 20-sided die is not available you can use numbered chits drawn from a container o [sic] two sets of playing cards (red and black), Ace to 10"

This is the fourth location in the manuscript where Holmes suggests using cards if dice are not available. See also Part 2, Part 4 and Part 9 of this series. Chits were also mentioned in the first of these locations.

2nd paragraph: The published version is the same as the manuscript, except the end of the first sentence adds an aside: "(or possibly their skin/hide!)", clarifying that humanoid monster AC is not strictly dependent on armor worn. Of note, in this section Holmes provides an example of a vampire bat having AC3, and further suggests that DMs can likewise assign ACs to monsters that they make up themselves.


This table in the manuscript is derived from the one on page 20 of OD&D Vol 1, there called "ATTACK MATRIS II.: MONSTERS ATTACKING". As with the character table, the axes are flipped, but here Holmes includes all eight columns of the original (as rows), thus covering all hit dice of monsters - which fits with a Monster List including some high hit dice monsters. The original table is a bit confusing as several hit dice are listed in two different columns. Holmes tries to clarify this by changing the hit dice ranges as such:

Dice Up to 1 → up to 1+1
1+1 → 1+1 to 2
2-3 → 2 to 3
3-4 → 3+ to 4
4-6 → 4+ to 6+
6-8 → 7 to 8+
9-10 → 9 to 10+
11 & 1 (typo in original) → 11 up

There are no changes in this table between the manuscript and the published rulebook.

3rd paragraph: No changes. Holmes states here, "The number of damage points scored by a monster's hit is variable and is given in the monster section. In general, humanoid creatures and first level monsters do one six-sided die's worth of damage per "hit" - whether the hit is a sword blow, a bite, a horn gore, a clawing or whatever". This seems to contradict his earlier statement that variable damage for monsters would not be covered (see above). Did Holmes originally intend to include variable damage for monsters, but then left it out only to have TSR add it back in? Regardless, TSR didn't change either of Holmes' statements.

That's it for today. Combat continues...

Continue on to Part 14: "A Curare Tipped Blowgun Dart"
Or Go Back to Part 12: "Clerical Spells"
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript


  1. Given that Holmes uses "one dice"/1-6 points of damage regardless of which weapon a character uses, it makes sense that variable damage was not originally included for the monsters. However, since this was included in the published rulebook, I've always used variable weapon damage when running a Holmes game.

    Strange that he didn't catch the repetition in the monster attack table, though...

    1. That "2-3" and "3-4" thing is weird in that it is present in even the earliest pre-publication charts where the to-hit numbers are listed as percentages. There must have been some significance to it initially.

  2. Any sign of Part 13 yet, Zach? I can't stand the antici ...

    .... pation! ;-)