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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


  1. There are still a few pirates in the published manual: Lemunda the Lovely's captors in the sample dungeon.

  2. Interesting to see that Holmes originally included buccaneers - the "no prisoners" line at the end of the berserker description of course refers to the fact that other men types (like buccaneers) do take prisoners, but is often interpreted as a "take no prisoners!" kind of statement.

    Alignment for bugbears and many other monsters (such as orcs) might differ from the monster manual because Holmes probably referred to the grid in the article introducing 5-pronged alignment from The Strategic Review.