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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.                    ...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Part 19: "If One Wanted to Use a Red Dragon..."

Part 19 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 22 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along...

At this point the manuscript finishes with material covered by Volume 1 of OD&D and moves onto material covered by Volume 2, "Monsters & Treasure".

1st paragraph


Published: Adds "ADVANCED" before "DUNGEONS & DRAGONS", as in most other instances where Holmes referred to the original. The reference to demons being described in ELDRITCH WIZARDRY is also removed, although they left the reference to the other supplement, GODS, DEMI-GODS and HEROES, which leaves the reader thinking demons are also described in that booklet.

2nd paragraph

The last two sentences of the manuscript were changed in the published versions:

Manuscript: "If the monster's alignment is not obviously evil and chaotic this also is given here. Then there follows a brief description which should include any special powers and attributes of the creatures."

Here, Holmes indicates that he is not going to include an alignment stat for all of the monsters. He refers to "evil and chaotic" monsters here even though the only alignments given to monsters are chaotic, lawful or neutral (3-point system).

Published, 1st print: "If the monster's alignment is given here, there there follows a brief description which should include any special powers and attributes of the creatures."

Obviously, this edit doesn't make sense, so it was later changed to:

Published, later prints: "If the monsters’ alignment is not given, it may be assumed to be an unintelligent beast that will attack anyone who comes near. "Attacks" means the numbers of blows, bites, etc. the creature can deliver in a single melee round. "Damage" gives the effect of these attacks. Then there follows a brief description which includes any special powers and attributes of the creature".

3rd paragraph

The big surprise in this paragraph is that Holmes originally had a red dragon in the example of scaling down a monster for low level parties. The published version changes the red dragon to a chimera. I'm guessing Gygax didn't want anyone nerfing his red dragons. Or perhaps it was just because dragons already have a mechanism for scaling using the Age categories.

Sometimes Holmes Basic is criticized for containing 'difficult' monsters in a Basic Level rulebook. Holmes considered this but felt that including the iconic D&D monsters was more important, as we see by his comments in Dragon #52: "I’m glad to see Moldvay included the dragons just as I did in the first edition. It seems almost silly to describe dragons in a book intended only for player characters up to the third level. On the other hand, think how disappointed you would be if you were an inexperienced player who bought a DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game and found nothing about dragons inside!"

This section in Holmes' manuscript ends after this paragraph. In the published rulebook, Gygax/TSR added two more paragraphs about determining the appropriate amount of treasure for monsters, referencing both the Treasure Type Table and the Monster and Treasure Assortments, which TSR included in the first three printings of the Basic Set.

In the next part we'll start delving into the Monster List entries themselves.

See also:
"Holmes Alignment is Six-Point"
Holmes Manuscript series Part 5, "Lawful, Neutral or Chaotic", covering alignment

Continue on to 
Part 20: "Monster List - Bandit to Zombie" (Bandits, Basilisks)
Or Go Back to Part 18: "Bruno Dies a Horrible Death" (Combat Examples)
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript


  1. Another example of Holmes "nerfing" dragons is his description of a 1st level red dragon player character in his article about Modlvay Basic, with the ability to fly and a 1d6 breath weapon.

  2. I keep coming back to this series! In the last part that was added by Gary, you might note that it concludes with an estimate of expected games vs. level advancement, which I now think is one of the most critical things in the book.