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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Holmes in the New Basic

The new D&D Basic Rules are out, available as a free pdf download from the Wizards website. They are longer than expected for a free pdf, 110 pages with no art (except for the last page which shows the art from the Starter Set) and this only covers material from the Player's Handbook. Later releases will include monsters from the Monster Manual, to make it a complete game.

Holmes is nicely included in the credits on the first page, being the first name listed for "further development" of the "original game", and followed by his Basic Set successors in order.

The new rules use Dexterity for initiative, though rather than directly comparing Dexterity scores as in Holmes Basic, Dexterity checks are compared (d20 roll + plus Dex modifier). 


DMDavid notes a reference to the Bugbear Lair (Cave H) from the Caves of Chaos in B2, which Gygax wrote for Holmes Basic, in the humorous disclaimer on the first page:

Disclaimer: Wizards of the Coast is not responsible for the consequences of splitting up the party, sticking appendages in the mouth of a leering green devil face, accepting a dinner invitation from bugbears, storming the feast hall of a hill giant steading, angering a dragon of any variety, or saying yes when the DM asks, “Are you really sure?”

Rob Conley at Bat in the Attic references Holmes Basic when reviewing the new rules:

"Like the Basic DnD Holmes Blue Book there are references to the larger rule set embodied by the 5e PHB, DMG, and MM. I am fine with that as obviously one purpose of this FREE PDF is to be a very large brochure to sell the core rulebooks."


  1. That's fundamentally the same initiative rule since 3E, right?

    1. Looks like it. I've never played 3E or 4E!

    2. Ugh, my reply disappeared after I hit "publish". Dunno why Blogger's been doing that lately

      Basically, I suggested that, if you ever decide to give the newer editions a whirl, 3.0's your best option (you may even want to ignore some of the errata). It retains a good deal of compatibility with older editions and the focus on character optimization isn't quite as bad

      I also recommended a couple simple mods for more of an old-school feel: use the gestalt variant as a basis for multi-classing and track XP for each class separately (I prefer this if sticking to single-digit levels, new school multi-classing's better for double-digits); you can add XP for gold by using the level-independent awards variant and reducing monster awards by 90% (it's been awhile, so I may be misremembering that)

      Don't ever bother with 3.5 or 4E. They're absolute garbage

    3. Oh, and Knowledge skills should be restricted to NPCs. Players should either use their brains or seek out a sage, not roll dice to see if they know something

    4. Thanks for the advice, Professor. I'll keep it mind if I ever have a chance to play 3E.

    5. +ProfessorOtis, I understand your complaint. I refereed GURPS and other skill based system a long time, knowledge are useful for roleplaying if used in the proper way. The general gist is you describe what the character is doing specifically and if the outcome is uncertain make a knowledge skill roll. For example when trying to find a piece of paper in a vast library a Research Roll is is order. If you want to identify a unknown plant that the character his holding in his hand then a herbalism roll is needed.

      But definitely not, I roll to investigate to discover the Black Overlord's evil plans.

      Like physical skills, knowledge rolls are to determinate the results of specific action whose outcome is in doubt.

    6. Thanks, Rob! Your method's definitely how I'd approach simulating a character's knowledge (not sure you could use knowledge to investigate someone's plans anyway, but I get your point); I've just given up on dealing with the headaches I'd given myself over that concept after placing more emphasis on player skill (I tend to overthink things, but for me that's part of the fun in RPGs). Nowadays, I'd rather have characters act as more of a physical avatar of sorts—you don't actually play someone more (or less) intelligent or wise than yourself, though they may be stronger, healthier, more attractive, etc. That outlook helps me stay more rules lite and I like the kind of play it encourages, so I'd say it works pretty well for me. Plus, I love sages :D