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Saturday, November 27, 2021

TSR's 1976 "Lower Prices" Dice Ad (that shares text with Holmes Basic)

Over on Ebay, Jim Ward has been auctioning items accumulated from his career working at TSR, and among them I noted this early advertisement for dice from TSR that I don't recall seeing before. It appears to be from 1976, as the reverse side is an announcement for the new Metamorphosis Alpha RPG. TSR produced a number of these monochrome advertising sheets in the 1970s, some of which were also used as ads in magazines.

The lengthy explanatory text at the bottom of the page especially caught my attention because it's extremely similar to the "USING THE DICE" section found near the end of the Holmes Basic rulebook. Back in the last post of the Holmes Manuscript series, I presumed that this section originated with TSR, as it is not found in Holmes' manuscript.

Image originally posted in the Holmes Basic G+ Community (archived here)

The above image is from a 2nd or 3rd printing of the rulebook, but the "Using the Dice" text is the same in the 1st printing. Below is a transcription in which I've bolded the text that is the same as in the "Low Impact" Ad:

        Players need not be confused by the special dice
called for in DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. By using the
assortment of 4-, 6-, 8-, 12- and 20-sided dice, a wide
range of random possibilities can be easily handled.
        For a linear curve (equal probability of any
number), simply roll the appropriate die for 1-4, 1-6, 1 -
8, 1-10 , or 1-12. If some progression is called for,
determine and use the appropriate die (for instance, 2-
7 would call for a 6-sided die with a one spot addition).
For extensions of the base numbers, roll a second die
with the appropriately numbered die. For example: to
generate 1-20, roll the 20-sided die and 6-sided die,
and if the 6-sided die comes up 1-3 , the number shown
on the 20-sider is 1-10 (1-0), and if the 6-sider comes up
4-6, add 10 to the 20-sided die and its numbers become
11-20 (1-0). This application is used with the 12-sided
die to get 1-24. If 1-30 or 1-36 are desired, read the 6-
sider with the 20- or 12-sided die, with 1 -2 equalling no
addition, 3-4 adding 10, and 5-6 adding 20. This
principle can be used to generate many other linear
        For bell curves (increasing probability of numbers
in the center, decreasing at both ends), just roll the
same die two or more times, roll several of the same
type of dice, or even roll two or more different dice.

The introductory sentence has been replaced with two sentences, and one extra sentence covering modified ranges has been added, but otherwise the text is almost identical. From this we can see how another portion of the text of the Holmes Basic rulebook was constructed from some pre-existing text. I don't know whether this text is original to this ad, or if there is yet another source text from which it was taken. I assume the author here is Gygax based on the lengthier "Dice" section in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide.

A later version of the "Using the Dice" text that is revised to include the chits can be seen in my recent post, Jim Ward on the Why of Chits.

See Also
Dice of the Gods (Creative Publications Dice Packaging)


  1. Ha, I always roll a sixer and 20-sided. But for some reason I got it somewhere that even on the sixer you add 10 to the 20-sided, and odd you do not. My friend Kevin was using the 1-3/4-6 method and I accused him of fudging his dice roll. Whoops!

    1. The even-odd method makes it easier if your d6 has pips, because on the even faces (2, 4, 6) there's no pip in the center of the die, and on the odd faces (1, 3, 5) there is a pip in the center. So I've always treated it as, "if the d6 comes up odd, you read that center pip as +10; if the d6 roll is even, just read the d20 as it lies."

  2. Wonderful. I've noticed recently that the original dice sets themselves are fetching quite high prices.