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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Part 9: "Zombies Are Poisoned By Salt"

Part 9 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 13 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along...


1st paragraph: In the manuscript, the first sentence in this section is missing the parenthetical level titles. The "substance" for a sleep spell in the manuscript was a "handful" rather than a "pinch" of sand.

Holmes' statement that "a sleep spell requires a handful of sand" certainly sounds like a reference to one of the upcoming "material components" required for spells in AD&D, and sure enough, when the AD&D Players Handbook eventually appeared in 1978, one of the possible material components for Sleep is a "pinch of fine sand". Material components aren't typically required for spells in OD&D, so I don't know where Holmes would have gotten this idea other than from some form of communication with Gygax such as a phone call or letter. So there is a possibility here that this is one of the few instances in the Holmes Manuscript where Holmes himself put in something from the upcoming AD&D rules. 

2nd paragraph: At the end, "noted" changes to "carefully noted" in the published version.

3rd paragraph: No changes, which means that the famous rule for scroll creation was in the manuscript, and were not changed by TSR:

Magic users may make a scroll of a spell they already "know" (i.e., have in their magic book) at a cost of 100 gold pieces and 1 week's work for each spell of the first level, 200 pieces and 2 weeks for a second level spell (if the magic-user is third level), etc.

This rule originates in OD&D Vol 1, pg 6-7, but is limited to "wizards and above". It's not clear whether Holmes intentionally changed the original rule or just missed the "wizard" limitation (perhaps reading "wizard" as generic for any magic-user?). I would not be surprised if TSR simply didn't notice the change either. It was noted by Lee Gold in a 1977 review of the Basic Set in Alarums & Excursions, but appears to have been mostly forgotten until old school D&D began being talked about on the internet. This rule is popular in the OSR because it gives low level magic-users some extra fire-power; a first level magic-user can potentially start with a scroll if they roll sufficiently high for their starting money.

4th and 6th paragraphs: No changes.

5th paragraph: In the 2nd sentence, "one week" changes to "one week of time" in the published version.

Table: This table has no title in the text of the manuscript, but the Table of Contents refers to it as "TABLE Magic-user's Intelligence and Chance to Know a Given Spell". This entry was dropped from the published Table of Contents. This table was taken directly from Greyhawk, pg 8, and there are no changes from Greyhawk in the manuscript or published version.

7th paragraph: The only change here relates to Holmes' name for the magic-user in the example: it's not "Malchor", it's "Flubbit"! I'd always thought Malchor was a Holmes name since he appears in three examples in the published rulebook, but the manuscript shows otherwise. "Flubbit the Wizard" appeared earlier in the description of "Magic Mouth" in Greyhawk, pg 22.


1st paragraph: No changes.

Saving Throw Table:

The table of Contents calls this table "TABLE Character Saving Throws". This entry was also dropped from the published Table of Contents.


Of note, Holmes' table has Thieves on the same line as Fighting Man, a change from Greyhawk, pg 13, where Thieves save as Magic-Users. But this note in Greyhawk is easily overlooked, being hidden in the "Alternative Combat" section, so Holmes may have missed it. And then TSR may have missed Holmes' change.

Holmes' saving throw categories are the same as in OD&D, Vol 1, except that he simplifies "All Wands - Including Polymorph or Paralization" to just "Magic Wands".

Holmes also changes the order of the categories for reasons unknown. The original nicely had the saves in order of increasing difficulty; i.e., 12-13-14-15-16 for a Fighter Level 1-3.

Holmes also adds a row for Dwarves & Hobbits. Per OD&D Vol 1, Dwarves/Hobbits add four levels for saving throws due to their magic resistance (it is unclear whether this applies to all saving throws or just magic). Holmes instead has them equivalent to a F4-6 (a +2 to each compared to F1-3), for all saves except Dragon Breath, which mysteriously only gets a +1.


In the published table, all information from Holmes' version is retained in the published version, but with the addition of a note to use a d20, and more significantly, the addition of a line for "Normal Man, Kobold, Goblin, etc." The concept of "Normal Man" being different from 1st level characters was not present in OD&D, which states that "Normal Men equal 1st level fighters" (Vol 1, pg 19).  

2nd paragraph (after table): At the end of this paragraph, the manuscript's reference to the higher level saving throws in "Dungeons & Dragons" is simply changed to "ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS". 

3rd paragraph: The published version drops two entire sentences from the manuscript:

The dropped sentences are:
"Now the die can be rolled to give any number from 1 to 20" and "Red and black suit playing cards, from Ace to 10 in each color, could be used instead with a card drawn each time a number is generated."

This is at least the third instance so far where Holmes suggests using cards if dice are not available. We take the availability of dice for granted these days, but it wasn't always so!

MONSTER SAVING THROWS: The only change in these two paragraphs is that published rulebook drops Holmes' underlining in "magic-user or fighter column". 

Of note: The material in the first paragraph about a monster using a magic-user or fighter saves, and that monsters use their hit dice for saves, seems to come from the OD&D FAQ, Strategic Review #2, 1975. I believe this is the only material Holmes included from the FAQ.

Update: Holmes may have gotten this idea from the entry for Demons in Eldritch Wizardry rather than the FAQ: "demons gain the most favorable saving throw available to a corresponding level fighting man or magic-user" (page 12).

In the second paragraph, Holmes' manuscript has the aside that "(except zombies who are poisoned by salt)". Notably, this reference survived into the first print of the rulebook but was later excised. Holmes' entry for zombies in the manuscript Monster List does not mention this. Perhaps it is a relic of an earlier draft by Holmes? For more discussion of the effect of salt on zombies in Haitian folklore, see this thread on OD&D Discussion

Continue on to Part 10: "Book of First Level Spells"
Or Go Back to Part 8: "Successively Deeper Strata
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript


  1. Aha - so the ability to create scrolls at low levels originates with Holmes. Quite fitting, since as you say this is one of the distinguishing characteristics of a Holmes-based game, not only for additional firepower, but alternately to create a few scrolls of lesser-used spells.

    My guess is that the dwarven save vs. dragon breath was an error, triggered by the reorganization of the columns.

    Gary adopted the concept of "normal men" being distinct from 1st level characters in the original version of B2. They are effectively level 0 (including men-at-arms), and I took it to mean these guys haven't seen any real action, since as soon as they gain any experience, one would assume they are level 1. (In other words, that first adventure is always the toughest).

    Thank-you so much for doing this - what an incredible job!

  2. "The concept of "Normal Man" being different from 1st level characters was not present in OD&D, which states that "Normal Men equal 1st level fighters" (Vol 1, pg 19)."

    I'll split a hair here -- while normal men use the same combat charts as 1st-level fighters in the "Alternative Combat System", we can see distinctions for normal men in other places. First: Vol-1, p. 17: using the Chainmail-based Fighting Capability, 1st-level fighters get "Man + 1", whereas presumably normal men are just "Man" (no bonus) in those rules. Second: Vol-2, p. 6: Men (such as Bandits and other types) are given "Hit Dice: 1 die/man" (1d6 in those rules) which is different from 1st level fighters who get "1 + 1". This is consistent with the pirates in area M, of course.

    1. Great points. So, in OD&D it's really just for the ACS Attacks that Normal Men equal 1st Level Fighters (and presumably Saving Throws). In Holmes, Gygax made the Normal Human more consistently inferior to 1st Levelers.

  3. Also: paleo's notion of any XP immediately granting level 1 is a notion from Moldvay's B/X rules (see: "Normal Human" entry). In Gygax's Unearthed Arcana, there are two examples of 0-levels needing a few thousand XP to gain 1st.