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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.                    ...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Part 23: "Shy and Beautiful Female Tree Sprites"

Part 23 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 24* of your 'Blue Book' and follow along...   (* page 23 if you have a 2nd or 3rd edition).

Today we cover the 'D' monsters in the Monster List: 


Following the trend, another 'man-type' (along with Buccaneers and Cavemen) that was cut from the manuscript. The material is sourced from OD&D, Vol 2, pages 6 and 22-23. The original notes that "they fight as Berserkers, never checking morale, with +1 on hit dice, and otherwise as Nomads". The original's "+1 on hit dice" may just mean that they have 1+1 HD as Berserkers, but Holmes interprets it as a +1 to hit. 

Displacer Beast: A Greyhawk Monster, described on pages 6 (alignment), 19 (attacks/damage), 33 (other stats), 38 (description) of that supplement, and referring back to the Displacer Cloak in OD&D, Vol 2, pg 36. In the manuscript, Holmes faithfully transcribes the stats but leaves out the alignment (which as noted earlier implies "obviously chaotic and evil") and leaves out attacks/damages as usual. In the description, Holmes omits a nice bit of description from the original that they have black fur and eyes that "glow a hellish green", and their 'enmity' with Blink Dogs (perhaps because he already mentioned this in that entry.
Holmes also replaces the reference to the Displacer Cloak with its actual effect (-2 to be hit and +2 to saving throws). The original also stated that they have high magic resistance, "equalling that of a 12th level fighter". It's a bit unclear what this means, but presumably that they save as a 12th level fighter versus spells. This would be +4 over what an ordinary 6 HD monster would receive, or +2 more than their regular bonus. Holmes just states twice that they get a +2 on their saving throws, when it probably should be a +2 on most saves, +4 on magic. The published manuscript keeps Holmes text exactly as written, including the double mention of +2 on saving throws. The later Monster Manual and Moldvay Basic also just give them a +2 on all saves, without mention of high magic resistance, so it seems the "12th level" save dropped out with Holmes and was never brought back.

Djinni: This is the first monster found in the published rulebook that is not found in the manuscript. Djinn originally appeared in OD&D, Vol 2, but the text in the published Holmes rulebook appears to be a intermediate between that source and what would later in the Monster Manual. The material is generally the same, but with more detail added as Gygax  did generally for all of the monsters in the MM. Perhaps the entry here was drawn from a draft of the Monster Manual. It's unclear why Gygax added this higher HD (7+1), fairly complicated monster to the Basic rules. Later in B/X Djinni were relegated to the Expert set.

Dopplegangers: Other than the title this entry is on a page missing from the manuscript. As I reported back in Part 1, page 67 is missing from all copies of the final manuscript including the one that I have a scan of (I've requested a copy of the same material from an earlier draft but haven't received it). So there's not much to comment on here other than that Holmes included Dopplegangers (a Greyhawk monster) in the manuscript and they made it into the published rulebook.

Dragons: Unfortunately, the first half of the entry on Dragons is also on page 67. The remainder is on page 68. I'll hold off on commenting on this in hopes I can later see the whole entry from an earlier draft.


Another 'wilderness' creature that, like Centaurs, was included in manuscript but then cut by TSR. The material is sourced from OD&D, Vol 1, page 3 (Neutral alignment) and Vol 2, page 3 (other stats) and page 16 (description). Holmes gives a -1 to the saving throw versus the Charm, but the original had a "+10% chance of succeeding", which would actually be a -2 on a d20. The statement that "If their tree is cut down they die" is an addition by Holmes.

Dwarves: The material is sourced from in OD&D, Vol 1, page 17 (alignment) and Vol 2, pages 3 (most stats) and 16 (description). Holmes keeps the stats the same, except for alignment. The original table had Dwarves listed under Law and Neutrality, but Holmes represents this as "Lawful 25%, Neutral 75%". The published version keeps this but changes "Lawful" to "Lawful Good". 

For the description, Holmes reduces the original from six sentences to two. His first sentence just refers to the section on Characters, and this is retained as published. His second sentence says "For every 40 Dwarves there will be one high order Dwarf, the leader, who may have magic arms or armor". This is a simplification of the second and third sentences of the original. As noted by Desert Scribe, Holmes uses 'order' here again in place of 'level' (see also Parts 5, 7 and 8 of this series), and in this one case this terminology survived into the published manuscript. The published rulebook also put "(or possibly fewer)" after "40 Dwarves", and adds "...and be of level 2-7" at the end. In the original rules Dwarves could only work up to level 6 in Fighter; Greyhawk allows for levels 7 or 8 with high strength (as well as thieves of unlimited level).

Holmes leaves out a few concepts from the original. First, that Dwarves take 1/2 damage from Ogres and Giants. This concept would later reappear in AD&D as a -4 to be hit, but did not re-appear in the subsequent D&D line (Moldvay etc). Perhaps Holmes wasn't sure if this applied to Players or not so left it out. Second, Holmes leaves out that Dwarves may have intelligent beasts such as bear or wolves.

Continue on to
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Part 22: "Fierce Fighters if Cornered"

Part 22 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 23 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along...   

Today we cover the 'C' monsters in the Monster List: 

Carrion Crawler: This is another Greyhawk monster, and the description is an edited version of what is found there. Greyhawk gives them an AC of 3/7, but does not explain this further. Later in the Monster Manual this was explained as the AC of the armored head and less protected body. Holmes simplifies this in the manuscript by giving the monster a simple AC 7, which is retained in the published rulebook (as well as the later Moldvay Basic). Holmes's description omits the possibility of a saving throw versus the paralyzation which was mentioned in the original. 

The published rulebook adds an "Alignment: neutral", which by the second edition implies these creatures have some intelligence; for more on this see my earlier post, ("Holmes Alignment is Six Point"). The published rulebook also adds 8 attacks and 0 damage, which comes from Greyhawk, page 19. Without this information being explicit, one would assume based on the description alone that the 8 tentacles just make a standard single attack for 1d6 damage that also causes paralysis. The published rulebook also changes "they" to "it" in the second sentence.

Cave Men:

Another type of "Man" from OD&D, Vol 2, page 7 that Holmes included in the manuscript and then was cut out by Gygax/TSR. Holmes' write-up gives them 2 HD and AC 9 (no armor) and "Alignment: Neutral" per the source. He extrapolates several other details. Where the source has "armed with weapons equal to Morning Stars", Holmes gives them "clubs, stone-axes or spears", which is more descriptive. In the absence of a morale system in Basic, Holmes also changes "They have -1 morale" to "Their morale is poor, they are more likely to retreat than a better disciplined force, but they can be fierce fighters if cornered". 

Cavemen were included in the Monster Manual along with the other types of "Men", and also later re-appeared in Moldvay Basic as "Neanderthal (Caveman)".


Here is a transcription of the above:


Move: 180 feet/turn
Hit Dice: 4
Armor Class: CM, 5
Treasure Type: A
Alignment: Lawful 33%, Neutral 33%, Chaotic 33%

      These half-human half-horse creatures are intelligent and carry bows (composite type), spears or clubs. They attack as a man and a horse every melee round. Females and young are usually found in hidden glens as is any treasure. Only the males will fight.

This is the first non-human monster that was cut from the manuscript. Centaurs are found in OD&D, Vol 2 at pg 5 (most stats) and 15 (description) and Vol 1, page 9 (alignment). Holmes' stats are the same as the source, although the inclusion of "Chaotic" in the alignment is curious as Centaurs are only listed as being Lawful or Chaotic in Vol 1. In the description, Holmes simplifies the Gygaxian "At worst these creatures are semi-intelligent" to "are intelligent" and simplifies the distribution of weapons to a short list. They retain two attacks per round but in the manuscript rules this would not be different from humans, which also get two attacks per round as we saw earlier in the sections on Combat. It is possible to read "They attack twice as a man and as a horse every melee around" as four attacks per round: twice as a man and twice as a horse. The last two sentence are also a simplification of the last four sentences of the original.

It is not surprising that Holmes included Centaurs in the manuscript. He suggests using them, along with several other non-standard types, as characters on page 7 of the Basic rulebook. This is probably based on an actual play as he later mentioned a centaur PC in Psychology Today ("Confessions of a Dungeon Master", 1980), and included a centaur character in his novel Maze of Peril (1986).

Why did TSR cut the Centaur from the Basic rulebook? Perhaps to focus the game more on dungeon creatures? The 1981 version of Basic/Expert, Centaurs are relegated to the Expert rulebook, which is focused on adding Wilderness Adventures to the game.

Chimera: These were originally described in OD&D, Vol 2 at pg 4 (most stats) and 11 (description) and Vol 1, page 9 (alignment). In the manuscript, Holmes uses the spelling from Greyhawk ("Chimera") rather than OD&D ("Chimerae") and leaves out an alignment (implying "obviously chaotic and evil"), although the original had included them in the columns for Neutral and Chaotic. Holmes' description basically follows that of the original with some rewording. He retains the "5 inch range" for the breath weapon unlike most places in the rulebook where he changes "inches" to 10s of feet. He adds a clarifying sentence not found in the original that: "Like a regular dragon, the dragon head will only breathe fire 50% of the time, the other 50% of the time it will bite". He may have based this on the note in Greyhawk that the dragon head only does damage if not using its breath weapon. His description is not clear as to whether all three heads attack each round.

The published rulebook retains all of the text of the manuscript, including Holmes clarification about how often the dragon head breathes. To the stats, it adds "Alignment: chaotic evil" and clarifying (per Greyhawk) that the monster gets 5 attacks/round for each head and claw. And following the general trend of adding clarifying sentences to the end of paragraphs in the manuscript, it also adds "If the dragon head breathes fire (3 times/day maximum), the breath has a range of 50 feet and does 3-24 points of damage". It retains the earlier "5 inch range" and "3 dice of damage", even though this could have been deleted once the clarifying text was added.

Cockatrice: These were originally described in OD&D, Vol 2 at pg 4 (most stats) and 10 (description); no alignment was provided. The original describes them as a "less powerful but more mobile Basilisk"; Holmes is more descriptive, following the standard mythological rooster/serpent hybrid. The rest of the manuscript follows the short original description. The published manuscript adds a "Alignment: neutral" (which by the second printing would appear to contradict the description of "not intelligent") and a single attack for 1d6 damage as per the Greyhawk "varying damage" table. Note that neither OD&D or Holmes Basic clarifies that a saving throw is allowed for turn the opponents to stone, although the existence of a separate saving throw for this category of attack strongly implies that one is allowed.

Continue on to
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Part 21: "Always Hungry and Always Dangerous"

Part 21 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 23 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along...  

Berserkers - The stats and description in the manuscript follow the original entry in OD&D, Vol 2, page 7, plus the note on page 23 that they do not have treasure or prisoners. The description is very similar to the original, although in the absence of morale rules in Basic, Holmes changes "They never check morale" to "They never retreat or surrender, will always fight to the death". The published version makes a few changes. As with "Bandits", the title is changed from plural to singular. The Treasure Type is changed from "None" to "J", which according to the Table is 3-24 cp per individual. This is a new Treasure Type that Gygax added to the Basic Set; OD&D stopped at Type I. Holmes' entry also ended with a brief sentence: "Carry no gold or silver" (per page 23 of OD&D Vol 2) and this was dropped.  

As with the previous entries, the published version also adds an attack and damage (1-8). This is damage is more than the standard damage for Holmes (d6). Most the "Damage" stats in the published rulebook comes from optional "varying damage" system presented in the Greyhawk Supplement at pg 16-19. However, Berserkers (as well as Bandit etc) fall under the category "Men" which have damage of "According to Weapon Type". So the "Damage" entry here seems to be a bit of the damage by weapon type creeping into the Holmes rules. Alternately, one could assume that the Berserker's ferocity in attacks also extends to damage.

Finally, the manuscript has "When fighting normal men they add +2..." (per OD&D Vol 2 page 7) to which the published rulebook adds kobolds, goblins and orcs. It's not clear whether "normal men" here include leveled characters or not; generally in OD&D, they are not the same thing. The AD&D Monster Manual changes this so that Berserkers can either attack twice per round, or once at +2 versus any type of opponent.

Update: Berserkers are the first monster on the first level of the original Monsters & Treasure Assortment Set One: Levels One-Three, which also came out in 1977, and was included in the first three printings of the Basic Set. The Special Attack listed there clarifies that normal men are not first level characters: "SA: +2 on attack vs normal (level 0) men, kobolds, goblins, orcs". Some thoughts on this: (1) Since their bonus is against normal men and humanoids, this bonus is not going to come into play very often (perhaps against normal men or humanoid followers of PCs). They almost seem more suited as a PC race. This is perhaps why Gygax dropped this rule in the Monster Manual. (2) Is this the earliest reference to the term "level 0" in a published D&D product? 

Black Pudding - The manuscript follows OD&D Vol 2, page 4 for the stats, and page 9 for the description. Holmes' first sentence about their size and disposition ("always hungry and always dangerous") does not appear there so he may have extrapolated that himself. The remainder follows the original but with some rewording. The published version makes a few changes. In the stats, it adds the damage from the text ("3 dice") as "3-24", a range which first appeared in optional the "Varying Damage" section of Greyhawk. Prior to Greyhawk, "3 dice" meant 3-18 (3d6), and that's presumably what Holmes intended in the manuscript. The Treasure Type is changed from "None" to "Nil", a term later used by Gygax throughout the AD&D Monster Manual. In the description the size is changed from 10 to 30 feet to 5 to 30 feet. And a new clause is added to the end of the last sentence: "...thus a magical flaming sword does normal damage to this monster".

Blink Dogs - This is the first monster that appears in the Monster List in the Basic Set that debuted in the Greyhawk supplement. The manuscript follows this source closely, although it drops some guidance on dice rolling for random teleportation. The published version makes no changes to the description, and in the stats just changes the alignment from Lawful to Lawful Good, and adds an attack/damage that is the same as in Greyhawk.

Buccaneers - Here we see the first monster included by Holmes that was later cut by TSR:

The material here is all sourced from OD&D Vol 2, pages 7 and 23, including the note about Pirates being Chaotic. OD&D doesn't have very many low hit dice 'monsters' in OD&D, and has a lot of text covering the various types of 'Men', so  it makes sense that Holmes would include the 1 HD Buccaneers in the Basic rulebook. Perhaps Gygax dropped Buccaneers in an effort to focus on dungeon & the monsters that live there. Buccaneers were included in the AD&D Monster Manual, which came out later in the same year (1977) as the Basic Set.

Bugbear - Another Greyhawk monster included in the manuscript by Holmes. Here the manuscript uses the singular ("Bugbear") where as the source had it plural ("Bugbears"). The source material is brief and this is reflected in the manuscript description. Holmes gives no alignment for these creatures, which per his note at the beginning of the section means that they are "obviously evil and chaotic". Note, however that Greyhawk page 6 actually lists Bugbears as aligned with Neutrality or Chaos. The published manuscript adds an alignment stat ("chaotic evil"), the attacks/damage from Greyhawk (1 x 2-8), and a new sentence at the end:  "They surprise a party on a roll of 1-3 on a 6-sided die due to their stealth". This information was actually included in the Greyhawk entry as an awkward "thus increasing their chance of surprising by 16 2/3%"; the awkwardness of this is perhaps why Holmes left it out of the mansucript before TSR put it back in but expressed much more clearly.

Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Part 20: "Monster List - Bandit to Zombie"

After a brief hiatus I return to the analysis of the Holmes Manuscript, and on a fitting day - today (Feb 16th) marks the 84th anniversary of J. Eric Holmes birth. He passed away in 2010 at the age of 80. Please turn to page 22 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along...


This is the longest section in the rulebook. The title is the same in the manuscript, meaning that the first and last monsters in the manuscript are the same as in the published rulebook.
But as we will see, the selection of monsters in between is not identical.

One omission from the manuscript and the first printing of the rulebook is a clear indication of what dice is used for monster hit dice. The Greyhawk Supplement presented an "Alternate Hit Dice and Hit Point Accumulation" (pg 10), which included changing monster hit dice from d6 to d8. Later printing of the Holmes Basic rulebook add a line in italics after the title, and before the entry for Bandit, that states "Monsters' hit dice are 8-sided". Later in the monster list we will find some clues that Holmes meant for the monsters to instead use d6 for hit dice.

The headings for the monster list entries generally follow the order of the manuscript, listing Move, Hit Dice, Armor Class, Treasure and Alignment. As an example, here are the headings for the first entry in the manuscript and the published rulebook:

Manuscript version

Published version, 2nd printing

Armor Class - It's not present in this example, but Holmes generally specifies the armor type (i.e., "CM + S, 4"). I won't list all of these changes.

Alignment - In the manuscript many monsters are missing an alignment. As noted in Part 19, Holmes wrote earlier in the manuscript that, "If the monster's alignment is not obviously evil and chaotic this is also given here". TSR changed this for a number of monsters, but not all, adding alignments where Holmes had none.

Attacks, Damage: Note that there are no "Attack" or "Damage" entries in the manuscript as Holmes earlier indicated (see Part 13) that monsters generally do 1d6 damage. TSR added these entries at the end of the headings to indicate variable multiple attacks and variable damage.

Bandits - As can be seen above, the published rulebook changes the title from plural to singular and adds a note to the armor class ("(typically AC 6)") as well as changing the alignment and adding attacks/damage.

The lengthy entry for Bandits is almost entirely unchanged from the manuscript to the published rulebook. The material is a condensation of the lengthy entry on Bandits in OD&D, Vol 2. The only change I note from the manuscript to the published rulebook is in the last line where the treasure is changed from 2-20 silver pieces per bandit to 3-18. 

Basilisk - Holmes doesn't include an alignment for this monster, TSR adds "neutral". Holmes' entry has only three sentences that draw from the original in OD&D Vol 2; TSR adds the bit that "If it sees its own eyes in a mirror it must make a saving throw or be turned to to stone!".

I'm stopping there for tonight to get this post out and get this series back on track. Thanks for bearing with me. 

Continue on to Part 21: "Always Hungry and Always Dangerous" (Berserkers to Bugbears)
Or Go Back to Part 19: "If One Wanted to Use a Red Dragon" (Intro to Monsters)
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ascending AC in Holmes Basic

from B1 In Search of the Unknown, pg 25
from B1, pg 8

TSR produced two official modules for Holmes Basic: the original versions of B1 In Search of the Unknown (1978) and B2 Keep on the Borderlands (1979). Each was included in the Basic Set at various times, and each was later revised for the next Basic Set. The original versions are essentially rules supplements for Holmes Basic, each providing clarifications and additions to the rules. 

The original 'monochrome' cover version of B1 from 1978. Source: Acaeum

One oft-overlooked idea provided by the original B1 is an early version of "ascending" armor class. In the monster entries, the AC stat lists both the standard armor class (e.g. AC 7 = leather armor) and the number required for a 1st-3rd level fighter to hit such AC (e.g. a to-hit roll of 12). Obviously this idea was not taken up by TSR for use in other products and was almost completely forgotten. However, this format ("AC 7/12") is similar to how the modern OD&D retroclone Swords & Wizardry now records its armor classes, and are the same armor classes used in that game - the total of two numbers always equals 19.

from the Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox Rules (3rd Print, 2010)

from the Swords & Wizardry Core Rules (4th Printing, 2011), pg 72

Thursday, February 6, 2014

RIP Arthur Rankin Jr

Scene from The Hobbit (1977)

I just read that Arthur Rankin Jr passed away recently at the age of 89. His company, Rankin-Bass Productions (formed with Jules Bass), is best remembered for its numerous stop-motion specials like Rudolph, but it also produced animated features like The Hobbit (1977), The Return of the King (1980), The Last Unicorn (1982) and even the Thundercats series. The Hobbit was first shown on TV near Thanksgiving later in the same year (1977) as both Holmes Basic and Tolkien's Silmarillion were first published. Watching a re-run of The Hobbit was perhaps my first encounter with the fantasy genre, and I still love it.