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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.                    ...

Friday, October 31, 2014

Fearsome Monsters

Text from some ads for OD&D and Holmes Basic in the mid-1970s

"The Dungeons are filled with fearsome monsters, fabulous treasures and frightful perils" - J. Eric Holmes, from the Introduction to the Holmes Basic rulebook.

For Halloween, a 'new' creature for OD&D and Holmes Basic... 

Fearsome Monster

Hit Dice AC Attacks Damage Move
1 9 1 1d6 60
2 8 1 1d6 60
3 7 1 1d6 60
4 6 1 2d6 90
5 5 1 2d6 90
6 4 1 2d6 90
7 3 1 2d6 90
8 2 1 3d6 120
9 1 1 3d6 120
10 0 1 3d6 120

The forgotten builders of the vast Underworld imbued it with the ability to create its own strange defenders. The earth and stone was imbued with the essence of chaos and attuned to interact with the subconscious mind. Thus, the fearsome monsters are unwittingly shaped by the very delvers who dare to enter the prehistoric corridors. And the deeper the dungeons, the more deadly the created beasts.

For each surface dweller entering the dungeon, one monster will be created at a time. The process takes 1d4 days, and brief periods of leaving the dungeon, such as overnight, will not halt it, and the monster will have hit dice correspond to the lowest dungeon level reached during this time period. The monsters, once finished, will attack any intruders, although they will preferential pursue their own creator. Adventurers may encounter monsters created by earlier trespassers, although these may be in the process of decaying, as the monsters slowly return to their original substance once their creator leaves the dungeon. If a monster is destroyed, another will begin forming after 1d4 days.

The monsters vary in form (roll on the table below), but all generate an unnatural aura of fear. When first encountered, each character must save vs Spells or flee in terror, dropping all items held in hand. The monster's pursuit will be slow but relentless. A character who fails a save must roll again the next time the monster is encountered.

Form (roll 1d10):
1. Tentacled Humanoid
2. Hopping Monopod
3. Flapping Thing
4. Cyclopean Construct
5. Crawling Fungoid
6. Cackling Primate
7. Floating Monolith
8. Oozing Insectoid
9. Mouldering Heap
10. Roll Twice, using the first adjective and second noun.
If the monster is defeated, it will rapidly decay back into to the substance of its creation, leaving a pile dirt, rocks and gems. There will be 1d6 gems per HD of the creature. Roll for value randomly on the Gems table. 

(The idea of the environment creating monsters from the mind is inspired by the mythagos of Mythago Wood by the late Robert Holdstock).

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Part 39: "The Wand Produces a Fire Ball Which Will Travel"

Part 39 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to pages 36-38 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along... (pages 35-37 for the 1st edition)

Wands and Staves

Holmes has ten wands and staves in his list, all of which are found in the original list on page of 25 of OD&D Vol 2. Nine of these make it into the published rulebook, with only the Staff of Power being swapped out for the Rod of Cancellation from Greyhawk.


The introductory paragraph is adapted from the similar one at page 34 of OD&D Vol 2. One thing that I never noticed before is that OD&D specifically excludes Detection wands and certain Staves from having charges, and Holmes keeps with this by stating that "[w]ands that have projectiles or rays are considered to do six 6-sided damage and to have 100 charges or projectiles". Since the Detection wands do not have projectiles, they do not have charges.

Wand of Magic Detection: OD&D has the wand "reveal the operation of any form of magic", whereas Holmes limits it to magic items, and has these "glow or otherwise signal its presence". No changes as published.

Wand of Secret Doors and Trap Detection: OD&D has that the wand "when held will give warning of either thing when it is brought within 2" of it" [2" is scale for 20 feet] which Holmes renders as "gives warning or points to any hidden door, panel, trap etc." Since Holmes left out the range, the published version adds, "within 20 feet" to the end of the sentence.

Wand of Fear: Holmes closely follows the original description. The published version adds a new clause at the end of the second sentence: "dropping everything they are holding and running away at top speed for 1-3 turns". The effect of dropping held weapons is similar to how surprise is treated in OD&D (25% chance) and Holmes (on a roll of 6 on a d6).

Wand of Cold: Another which follows the OD&D description closely. No changes as published.

Wand of Paralyzation: In OD&D Vol 2 and Greyhawk this is spelled "Paralization"; Holmes corrects the spelling in the manuscript. The original nonsensically says "creatures take half damage if their saving throw is made". This seems to be a direct copy from the entry for Wand of Cold, and is clearly an error in view of Vol 1 stating that making a saving throw versus "paralization" means "no effect" (pg 20). This was not corrected in Greyhawk. Holmes corrects it by having a failed save result in paralysis for 6 turns (perhaps drawing on the duration of Hold Person being 6 + level of caster?). This is left unchanged as published, and is in fact incorporated into Moldvay Basic. The duration of paralysis was generally left unstated in OD&D and Holmes, fore example no duration is given for the paralysis caused by a Carrion Crawler, Gelatinous Cube, Ghoul or a Mummy. Most likely it was just assumed to last as long as the encounter did.

Wand of Fire Balls: The original just indicates that the Wand produces "a Fire Ball exactly like the spell of the same name". Since Holmes didn't include third level spell descriptions in Basic, including this wand means he needs to add the description here. He does this by adapting the text from the spell in OD&D Vol 1. Some text he includes directly, like Fire Balls "generally conform to the shape of the space", and other he rewrites while keeping the same concepts, "On activation, the wand produces a fire ball which will travel any distance up to 240 feet desired by the user and then then explode with a burst radius of 20 feet".
The published version keeps all of the text of the manuscript, but adds a brief "(so watch out!)" at the end after the sentence about the fire ball filling the area.

Staff of Healing: The original says that it acts as Cure Light Wounds, healing 2-7 points of damage. Holmes omits the mention of the spell, and instead says that it requires a touch, per the spell. No changes as published.

Snake Staff: Holmes follows the original, but adds a new sentence at the end that it can be commanded "by the owner to release its victim". He may have inferred this from the rest of the description as well as the spell "Sticks to Snakes", which produces snakes that will "perform as he orders" (OD&D Vol 1). No changes as published version, which retains "1 die + 1 points of damage", which of course means 1d6 + 1 damage.

Staff of Striking: Holmes uses the text from OD&D, Vol 2, but also adds that only a magic-user can use it. This is actually in contradiction to Greyhawk, which indicated that it could be used by a magic-user or a cleric (pg 43). Holmes leaves out the clarification from Greyhawk, pg 48, that each use of this Staff requires a charge. The published version changes "two dice of damage" to "2-12 hit points of damage"

Staff of Power (Limited): Holmes' original text for this:

The original version in OD&D Vol 2 does not refer to the staff as "(Limited)", as Holmes does. I believe he uses this because his version is missing two of the powers of the original: Lightning Bolts and Telekinesis. I imagine he left these out because these powers are not described elsewhere in the rules, unlike the other powers, which duplicate other wands, staves or spells. The 8 dice damage and 200 charges come from notes on staves from the introductory text in OD&D Vol 2, page 34. 

Rod of Cancellation: Gygax/TSR used this in place of the Staff of Power, making it the only Rod in Basic (although the section is still just called "Wands and Staves"). It was described in Greyhawk, but there are two additions here: the length of four feet, and the +2 to hit that it gives. Neither of these bits made it into AD&D or B/X. 


Moldvay Basic (B/X) shortened the list to six, with five from the list in Holmes Basic. The addition is Enemy Detection, reintroduced from OD&D Vol 2. The others are all relegated to the Expert Set, with the Wand of Secret Door and Trap Detection being split into two separate Wands.A radical change in B/X is to charges - each wand, staff or rod contains 1d10 charges in Basic when found. Expert ups this to 2d10 for Wands, 3d10 for Staves, still far short of the 100 charges for Wands in OD&D and Holmes Basic, and 200 for Staves in OD&D. Expert also includes the Staff of Power, with all six original powers rather than the "limited" version of Holmes.

The Wand of Fire Balls is the only Wand appearing in the original version of B2 Keep on the Borderlands, by Gary Gygax. In the revised version for B/X this was changed to a Wand of Paralyzation, since the Fire Ball Wand was moved to Expert.

Holmes later made extensive use of a Wand of Fire Balls in his Boinger & Zereth novel, The Maze of Peril, which he was working on as early as 1979 and was published in 1986.

Continue on to Part 39: Part 40: "Acts Like a Cannon Blast on Walls"
Or Go Back to Part 38: "Rings Can Be Used by Anyone"
Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Part 38: "Rings Can Be Used By Anyone"

Part 38 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to pages 36-38 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along... (pages 35-37 for the 1st edition)


Holmes has ten rings in his list, seven of which are found in the original list on page 26 of OD&D Vol 2. For the other three, he tweaks Mammal Control to Animal Control, adapts Plant Control from the Potions list, and adds Contrariness from the Greyhawk expanded list of Rings. The published rulebook makes just one change to his list, substituting another Vol 1 ring, Weakness, for Human Control. This increases the number of cursed rings from 10% to 20% of the list.


The introductory paragraph is an abridgement of the material at the start of the descriptions on page 33 of Vol 2. Holmes adds the clarification that a ring "can be carried and put on only when desired". He leaves out the sentence, "Those rings which are not specifically noted below function as would a like spell or potion but on an unlimited basis regarding duration", instead opting to provide a description for each ring.

Unless noted below, the published version keeps the text of the manuscript.

Invisibility: This ring does not have a description in OD&D Vol 2 because it duplicates a spell effect. Holmes gives it a brief description, indicating that the invisibility lasts as long as the ring is worn, unless the wearer is engages in combat, per the spell.

Animal Control: Holmes uses the original description for Mammal Control, but adds a category of medium animals from the Potion of Animal Control. He leaves out the range (6"). The published version adds a clarification at the end of the 2nd sentence: "so long as the wearer concentrates on the control", qualifying the indefinite duration.

Plant Control: Holmes uses the description from the Potion of Plant Control, including the mention of fungi, and again leaves out the range. The published version again adds, "but concentration must be maintained" at the end.

Human Control: As mentioned above, this the only ring in the list that was cut from the published rulebook. Holmes' text is almost verbatim from OD&D Vol 2.

Weakness: This ring replaced Human Control. The description follows OD&D Vol 2, but with a new addition: a 5% chance of making the wearer stronger instead of weaker. AD&D kept this feature, but with a drawback - the strength is paired with berserker tendencies. So the version in Holmes Basic represents an intermediate form. In retrospect, the description for Weakness has the appearance of a Gygax insertion because it is much longer than those for the other rings. 

Protection +1: In OD&D this ring was just "Protection", until Greyhawk added a +3 version, necessitating the name change, which Holmes uses. The original description said, "A ring which serves as +1 armor would, giving this bonus to defensive capabilities and to saving throws". As later rulings make clear, Gygax intended for this to simply mean a +1 to defense and saving throws. However, the way it is written is not clear, and Holmes seems to have misinterpreted it. In the manuscript he writes: "Serves at plate armor +1, and adds +1 to all saving throws". This makes the ring vastly more powerful, giving the wearer AC 2 - a real boon to a magic-user who finds one! This text survived into the published rulebook, but was changed in the 2nd edition to: "adds +1 to armor class, i.e. a magic-user with no armor (armor class 9) would be treated as if he had armor class 8. Also, +1 is added to all saving throws." 

Three Wishes: Holmes closely follows the relatively lengthy description in OD&D Vol 2, including Gygax's reference to "an endless closed time loop". The published rulebook adds a new sentence to the end: "Often absolutely literal fulfillment of the wish wording is sufficient to limit its beneficial effects". 

Regeneration: Holmes follows the OD&D description but adds that the ring works on dismembered as well as dead characters. The B/X Expert Set later changed the ring from 1 hp/turn to 1 hp/round. Mentzer Expert then changed it back. See the recent discussion on Dragonsfoot about whether the B/X version is too powerful.

Water Walking: This ring is missing a description in OD&D Vol 2, even though it does not duplicate a spell or potion effect. Holmes creates a simple one-sentence description of its effect.

Fire Resistance: OD&D has no description for this ring, as it duplicates the effect of a potion. Holmes closely follows the potion description for the ring.

Contrariness: Holmes follows the Greyhawk description closely. The published rulebook makes two changes. First, the "exact opposite of normal" is changed to "exact (or nearly exact) opposite of normal". Second, a new sentence is added at the end: "If, for example, the wearer is told to not kill himself, he will agree - and instead attempt to kill the person suggesting he not kill himself".


Moldvay Basic (B/X) shortened the list of rings to six, but all of these are from the list in Holmes Basic, and with close descriptions with some tweaks and clarifications. Plant Control, Regeneration and Three Wishes are moved to Expert, and Contrariness was dropped completely. AD&D ignored the developments of Basic, keeping Animal Control as Mammal Control and leaving Plant Control as a potion only.

Continue on to Part 39: "The Wand Produces a Fireball Which Will Travel"
Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript