This is the blog. Click here to go to the Zenopus Archives website.

Note: Many older posts on this blog are missing images, but can be viewed at the corresponding page in the Internet Archive


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, 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


  1. I'm curious to know whether Holmes included a flying movement rate for the chimera? The OD&D illustration didn't have wings, although these were added to the illustration in the Monster Manual...

    1. Yes, Holmes has the same rates ("120 feet/turn, 180 feet flying") as in the published book. He took these from OD&D Vol 2, which has "12/18" for the rates.

  2. Good catch about the Chimera breath redundancy, I never noticed that before. I previously had the impression that the only place "inches" were used was for giants with their throwing rule (taken from catapults in Chainmail). Any other places (excluding p. 9), or is that it?

    1. In the manuscript, Holmes has the description of the Light spell as "a circle 3" in diameter", Continual Light has a "24 inches", and Darkness as a "5 inch radius". The published rulebook keeps the first two but changes Darkness to "50 feet". There's also a note in the manuscript (and published rulebook) after the movement table explaining that distances are often written in inches instead of feet.

    2. Right. Thanks for those notes on the spells, I did miss those. Interestingly in my copy it says Continual Light has "illumination 6" in diameter" (this is a 3rd Ed., 1979 duplicate from the 25th anniversary boxed set).

    3. I wasn't clear above - I just meant about that the published rulebook keeps "inches" rather than using "feet" for Light and CL. The change in number from 24 to 6 for CL is in the 1st print. I wrote more about this in the post on the Book of Second Level Spells

  3. Man, you know that book "Of Dice and Men"? I'd much rather read a book written by you. You're doing the Lord's Work here, ZA. Just had to point that out.

    1. Thank you for the kind words. At the very least I hope to compile this series into a single document for reference when I'm finished.

    2. That is a very, very nice idea.