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Blueholme and Holmes Basic D&D

Galadrin

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So I am quite excited about the Blueholme RPG Kickstarter (obligatory link):

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dreamscapedesign/blueholmetm-journeymanne-rules

And I would like YOU, dear reader, to tell me how the first Basic D&D set was different, what it was like, and what was cool about that version's approach to D&D. I've read recently that the 1978 Monster Manual was designed with Holmes Basic D&D in mind, as AD&D hadn't been finalized yet. I've also heard that it was essentially a revision of OD&D, which tried to stick closely to the White Box, instead of intentionally being a different game (like later editions of Basic D&D). What other interesting nuggets of history are there?

Also, what kind of game or campaign would you use Blueholme for?
 

AbdulAlhazred

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Yeah, it was basically intended to be a sort of 'clean up' of the White Box + Supplements rules. It is kind of intermediate between those and the 'Red Box'. A LOT of the rules are pretty unclear though, it seems that Holmes wrote a clarified set of rules and then those were edited hastily, or at least poorly, and a number of issues exist. So you really had to still extrapolate and 'patch' to make a playable game (for example, Daggers get multiple attacks per round, but all weapons have the same damage, making the dagger basically 2x better than any other weapon!).

It was never a complete game, it only went to 3rd level, just like other later editions of Basic. No follow-on books were ever written, the Red Box was eventually released instead. As for the MM being written 'for Holmes Basic', it wasn't, but presumably the AD&D 1e rules weren't written when the MM was produced, so it follows, mostly, the most current rules, which is sort of Holmes, but with definite AD&D-isms. There is for instance 9 point alignment in the MM, but not in Holmes. I believe Holmes also requires you to know a creature's DEX, but MM doesn't provide that information.

On the whole Holmes clearly reorganized D&D in a way that was followed by the later Basic/BX/BECMI editions, but its much less clear and has a lot of rules problems. It does manage to distill out the essence of D&D's rules systems as of 1976 (sans any but the Big 4 classes). I'm sure other people that have looked at it in detail more recently can elaborate. I haven't seen my copy in several years, and its not a text you can find online anywhere (there are AFAIK no PDFs, official or otherwise). So there are probably a lot of subtle little points that have escaped me, since I really haven't run a game with it in almost 40 years.
 

AbdulAlhazred

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As for the sort of game you'd use it for...

Well, Holmes itself was purely designed with Dungeon Delving in mind. It lacks any sort of rules for overland wilderness sorts of play that I can recall. My copy came packaged with Dungeon Geomorphs, and a Monster and Treasure Assortment. Some later copies came with B1, a fairly simple dungeon crawl. I think at the end they packaged it with B2, which I got somewhere and we often used as an adventure.

Again, since it is only a 3 level rule set, you are pretty much restricted to running something like the original module, or another simple low-level dungeon. You could use the characters in regular D&D, as they were pretty much compatible games. Most people fairly soon started picking up the AD&D books and just merging/extrapolating their rules and/or the white box rules with it.

It was more of a starter set than anything else TBH.
 

Galadrin

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Yeah, it was basically intended to be a sort of 'clean up' of the White Box + Supplements rules. It is kind of intermediate between those and the 'Red Box'.
Ah interesting. That's a little different from what I've read and heard elsewhere. Apparently, Gygax initially didn't want there to be many different versions of D&D; rather Holmes was designed as a simple introduction to OD&D. Once players hit 4th level, they were supposed to either buy OD&D (the only other D&D that existed at the time) or wait around for AD&D to come out. The experience charts and other rules are supposedly identical, so you can move right into OD&D when you were ready. Perhaps most interesting then is Gygax's earliest assumption that AD&D was also going to be fully compatible with OD&D (which of course turned out not to be the case, as the AD&D project branched in a new direction and really became it's own game). It sounds like Holmes was designed very much to be "looking backwards" to OD&D, rather than "looking forwards" to later editions. Holmes was not allowed to change any rules, although Gygax tossed in a few ideas that he was brainstorming for AD&D after Holmes submitted his manuscript (many of which never actually made it into AD&D later on... that's how inchoate Gygax's thinking on AD&D was at the time).

As for the MM being written 'for Holmes Basic', it wasn't, but presumably the AD&D 1e rules weren't written when the MM was produced, so it follows, mostly, the most current rules, which is sort of Holmes, but with definite AD&D-isms. There is for instance 9 point alignment in the MM, but not in Holmes. I believe Holmes also requires you to know a creature's DEX, but MM doesn't provide that information.
Are you positive? My copy of the Monster Manual (first or second printing, I believe) doesn't have a 9 point alignment system. It in fact seems to have a Holmes 5-point system. Plus my copy's entry for some creatures gives their attack initiative in terms of Dexterity (Orcus has Dex 18 on his tail, for instance).
 

Particle_Man

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Yup; interestingly, Holmes has 5 alignments.
Yeah and that DNA can still be found even in later editions of D&D and their Monster Manuals - the "iconic" 10 dragons tend to be the extreme alignments, and while you have tons and tons and tons of devils and demons, not so many daemons (similarly, CN and LN outsiders are a bit sparse). Similarly 3rd edition has the Paladin and later there were Paladin variants of the 4 extreme alignments. There was a Dragon magazine article that had paladins for all 8 other alignments than LG for 1st ed, though.
 

rakehell

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Yeah and that DNA can still be found even in later editions of D&D and their Monster Manuals - the "iconic" 10 dragons tend to be the extreme alignments, and while you have tons and tons and tons of devils and demons, not so many daemons (similarly, CN and LN outsiders are a bit sparse). Similarly 3rd edition has the Paladin and later there were Paladin variants of the 4 extreme alignments. There was a Dragon magazine article that had paladins for all 8 other alignments than LG for 1st ed, though.
Thinking it over, what do I lose in terms of creatures by discarding the "neutral something/something neutral" alignments?

The "dispassionate law enforcer" LN types like inevitables (and the Living Tribunal) can all be Neutral arbiters.

Slaadi are crazy frog demons that lay eggs inside you, so I don't think calling them Chaotic Evil really changes them that much.

I can't even remember which kind of wacky angel Neutral Good is supposed to give you, so that alignment is obviously super-important.

Neutral Evil might be useful because the indiscriminate slaughter types over at CE and the evil landlord types over at LE don't cover every supernatural evil creature I might want to use, but I guess I could stretch the "selfish" variant of Neutral to cover that.

So, yeah, it seems like Holmes alignments do everything I need alignments to do. I do like the "9-panel alignment chart" meme, particularly the one where every panel is Batman. :p
 

Alban

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Are you positive? My copy of the Monster Manual (first or second printing, I believe) doesn't have a 9 point alignment system. It in fact seems to have a Holmes 5-point system. Plus my copy's entry for some creatures gives their attack initiative in terms of Dexterity (Orcus has Dex 18 on his tail, for instance).
In the copy I read, all devils were lawful evil, just like 1 or 2 kind of chromatic dragons.
Similarly, there were chaotic good metallic dragons.

https://axegrinder227.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/asmodeus1stedition.jpg
 

junglefowl26

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Thinking it over, what do I lose in terms of creatures by discarding the "neutral something/something neutral" alignments?

The "dispassionate law enforcer" LN types like inevitables (and the Living Tribunal) can all be Neutral arbiters.

Slaadi are crazy frog demons that lay eggs inside you, so I don't think calling them Chaotic Evil really changes them that much.

I can't even remember which kind of wacky angel Neutral Good is supposed to give you, so that alignment is obviously super-important.

Neutral Evil might be useful because the indiscriminate slaughter types over at CE and the evil landlord types over at LE don't cover every supernatural evil creature I might want to use, but I guess I could stretch the "selfish" variant of Neutral to cover that.

So, yeah, it seems like Holmes alignments do everything I need alignments to do. I do like the "9-panel alignment chart" meme, particularly the one where every panel is Batman. :p
Maybe not iconic monsters, but I certainly felt that in 4e, which had a similar 5-alignment system am making all neutrals one, there were some gods and organizations that all got lumped together under the label of unaligned despite having some very different philosophies.
 
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