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

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Part 51: "Indescribable Odds and Ends"

Part 51 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 45 of your 'Blue Book' (page 44 for the 1st edition) and follow along... 

Recently it was noted that I missed the entry for Ghouls when I was going through the Monster List, so I'll cover them now. Timely, because the next room in the Sample Dungeon in Room P, home to ghouls.

Ghouls: Ghouls first appeared in Chainmail, as part of the entry for "WIGHTS (and Ghouls)", where there is no difference between the two. They have the ability paralyze a "normal figure" (i.e. non-fantastic) for one complete turn. In OD&D Vol 2 they are treated separately from Wights with stats on page 3 and a short description on page 9. It references the Chainmail entry for paralysis, adding that Elves are immune. This wasn't an made clear in Chainmail, but normal figures in Chainmail also paralyzed by Wraiths but can be restored by the touch of Elves, Heroes or Wizards. So the immunity has been carried for generally for Elves, but not for Heroes or Wizards, who will have to rely on their saving throws. OD&D also adds that Ghouls are subject to normal combat rule, distinguishing them from the more powerful undead, and that any "man-type" killed by a ghoul becomes a ghoul.

In the manuscript Holmes keeps all of the ghoul stats the same as in OD&D Vol 2. Since there wasn't much of a description in Chainmail or OD&D, Holmes adds such a sentence to start off with: "Ghouls are hideous humanoid creatures of bestial aspect who live on dead bodies". This probably draws on Lovecraft; in particular Pickman's Model, which describes ghouls as canine bipedal beasts that feed on corpses:

"It was a colossal and nameless blasphemy with glaring red eyes, and it held in bony claws a thing that had been a man, gnawing at the head as a child nibbles at a stick of candy. Its position was a kind of crouch, and as one looked one felt that at any moment it might drop its present prey and seek a juicier morsel. But damn it all, it wasn’t even the fiendish subject that made it such an immortal fountain-head of all panic—not that, nor the dog face with its pointed ears, bloodshot eyes, flat nose, and drooling lips. It wasn’t the scaly claws nor the mould-caked body nor the half-hooved feet—none of these, though any one of them might well have driven an excitable man to madness."

Different from how they've come to be viewed in D&D, which is more like Romero's Living Dead (now starring as the Walking Dead), but Holmes' description is generic enough to fit either embodiment. As pointed out recently, the entry doesn't actually mention they are undead, although it is clear from other parts of the book such as the turning that they are.

The manuscript then follows the OD&D entry, but omits the reference to Chainmail. Holmes adds two sentences clarifying that the ghoul must make a hit, which also does damage, and that a character gets to make a saving throw against paralysis. For unknown reasons Holmes omits the last line from OD&D about their victims rising as new ghouls.

The published version keeps the stats from OD&D, but also adds an alignment of "chaotic evil" and gives them the three attacks of Greyhawk, although the damage for their bite is changed from 1d4 to 1d3, so that each of the three attacks does 1d3.

The published version makes two changes to the description: the paralysis of "any normal figure" becomes "any human/humanoid figure", and "does a regular die of damage" becomes "which also does regular damage. The latter change is due to change in attacks and damage.

Moldvay Basic keeps the descriptive language used by Holmes ("hideous", "beast-like") and the stats, and adds a few more clarifications: the paralysis only affects Ogres or smaller; they will attack a different opponent once one is paralyzed; and cure light wounds will remove the paralysis. The last two additions improve PC survivability. The Monster Manual provides its own description and restores the OD&D language about the creation of new ghouls, adding that a bless spell will prevent this. It also ups the bite attack to 1d6.

And now back to the Sample Dungeon...

Room P: The Ghoul Room. Holmes describes the room as 50 by 80 feet with doors in all four walls, and this is rendered accurately in the published map, although the doors are shifted about - in the original they are closer to centered. Holmes' text describes the east door as leading "to a short dirt tunnel which ends blindly under the cemetery". This description fits the irregular tunnel shown in the original map much better than the published one, which only has a single ten-foot square beyond the door.

The reference to "under the cemetery" probably refers back to the introduction to the Sample Dungeon (previously covered in this series), which stated that the Zenopus built his tower "next door to the graveyard" and the "reputed dungeons lie in close proximity to the foundations of the older, pre-human city, to the graveyard, and to the sea" (As noted by Delta, this language is similar to that found in Pickman's Model). So the tunnel beyond Room P gives us another clue to the surface features of Portown. Paleologos has synthesized these clues into a great map of Portown based on a real-world ancient city.

The room contains two ghouls and "some smashed coffins". To me the text implies the ghouls dug dug the coffins up from the cemetery, dragged them back here, and ate the corpses found within, leaving only their other contents behind.

Holmes simply notes that the two ghouls as "can take 2 die of hits" without giving any hit points; the published book changes this to "can take 2 hit dice (11, 9 hit points respectively)". Also note that in the original, the ghouls would only get one attack for 1d6 points of damage, and thus only one chance per ghoul per round to paralyze opponents, whereas in the published rulebook each ghouls gets three attacks per round.

Despite the increased power of the ghouls, Gygax drastically reduces their treasure from the original, as we've seen throughout  Holmes had 5000 silver pieces (500 gp) and 5 gems worth 500 gold pieces (2500 gp total) each in the coffins, for a total value of 3000 gp. He may have used the Treasure Type table to generate this; Type B includes a chance of silver and gems. But as I noted earlier, Gygax added guidance that the Treasure Type tables are only to be used for large numbers of mosters. So the published book changes the ghoul's treasure to 50 platinum pieces (the only place in the Sample Dungeon with platinum pieces), which is equal to 250 gold pieces, half the value of Holmes' coins, and five gems worth only 10 gp each. This gives a total treasure value of 300 gp, one-tenth of Holmes' original.

The closing paragraph of the Sample Dungeon also ties back to this room, asking "What inhuman rites are practiced deep in the ghoul haunted passages beneath the graveyard?" This invites the new DM to add more passages beneath the graveyard, perhaps leading off from the tunnel from Room P. 

DM guidance:
Example of linking a room to the introduction to the adventure.

Hints of further areas for expansion.

Go Back to Part 50: "The Dancing Dagger is Hard to Hit"  

or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript

1 comment: