Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Blue Book, Cover to Cover (Part IV)

"Time and Movement in the Dungeons" contains some interesting deviations from OD&D. In both the LBBs and Holmes, a turn is 10 minutes long. In both games, all armored characters, regardless of whether they wear leather armor or plate, move at the same rate, which is 120 feet per turn (though, to be fair, the LBBs are clearer on this point, because they provide encumbrance values for each armor type).

However, Holmes states that, in combat, "there are ten melee rounds per turn, each round lasting ten seconds." In OD&D, a round is 1 minute long. Holmes has muddied the waters somewhat but making the term "turn" equivocal, sometimes referring to what I guess we can call a "movement turn" and sometimes referring to what we might call a "combat turn," each having a different temporal value. It's a bit frustrating and its presence probably explains why, to this day, I instinctively think of a "round" as being 10 seconds long, which it is not in AD&D (though it is in Moldvay, interestingly). Holmes follows OD&D in assuming that one (move) turn each hour must be spent in rest.

Holmes notes that "DUNGEONS & DRAGONS was originally written for wargamers" in order to explain why distances are frequently written in inches. However, nearly every (all?) examples where distances are noted, such as in spell descriptions or monster movement rates, he uses standard measurements rather than inches, a practice continued in Moldvay but not in AD&D.

Encumbrance rules are present, but they are extremely vague. No weight values are assigned to equipment, so each referee would need to decide for himself the weight of each item. The LBBs include such information, however. Despite this omission, Holmes nevertheless suggests that players keep a careful record of all the equipment their characters are carrying, including where on their person they're keeping it. A sample character, Malchor the Magic-User, is used as an example of how to do this and I find it noteworthy that the text says he wears "boots, loin cloth, robe, girdle, and pointy hat."

I've already covered most of what needs to be said about light in the dungeon here. I'll add only that Holmes explains that dwarves and elves "lose their ability to see 60 feet [in the dark] if there is light within 30 feet of them."

Traps function identically to OD&D (triggering on a 1-2 on 1D6). Doors also follow OD&D, being usually closed and forced open on a roll of 1-2 on 1D6, though Holmes includes no suggestion that "lighter characters" open doors only on a roll of 1. Doors automatically close unless spiked/wedged, but always open for monsters unless specifically prevented from doing so. Holmes does not include rules for spikes slipping free, as OD&D does. Listening at doors follows the LBBs (roll of 1 on 1D6 for humans and 1-2 for demihumans), with undead making no sound.

Surprise is handled identically in both (1-2 on 1D6), although Holmes lessens the possibility that a surprised character may drop whatever he is holding.

Wandering monsters are rarer in Holmes, as the referee only checks for them once every three turns as opposed to once every turn. Again, this is a Holmes-ism that I instinctively follow and have had to work hard to correct in my mind. Holmes also provides a clearer, almost formulaic approach to determining how many wandering monsters are "appropriate" for a given dungeon and party level than is found in OD&D, although he's not really deviating from the LBBs. However, his wandering monsters can appear farther away (20-120 feet) than in OD&D (20-80 feet).

Fascinatingly, Holmes includes an expanded "Hostile/Friendly Reaction Table" for dealing with monsters compared to OD&D. It's still a 2D6 roll but it offers finer grained results than that in Volume 3 of OD&D (and Moldvay's own table is almost wholly identically with that in Holmes). There's, again, a suggestion that the table results can be modified at the referee's discretion, taking into account Charisma, bribes, etc. There are also simple rules for evading pursuit by monsters that are similar to those in the LBBs but somewhat simplified mechanically.

10 comments:

  1. "Wandering monsters are rarer in Holmes, as the referee only checks for them once every three turns as opposed to once every turn."

    I think I prefer this. Once every ten minutes always struck me as a bit too often.

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  2. I must admit that I initially refused to read your series of "Blue Book, Cover to Cover" because I find your unwavering admiration of the books to be a little over the top.

    But this morning I read your posts, and I am completely fascinated with it all.

    Thanks for the fantastic retrospectives.

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  3. Just wanted to say I'm really enjoying this blue book series, which has encouraged me to reread my own copy. I love cherrypicking from various editions to round out my houserules. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  4. I prefer the original method of checking for wandering monsters once per turn. It gives an average of one encounter per hour, as opposed to once per three hours in Holmes. The latter seems a bit sparse to me.

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  5. Ah, the combat turn vs. the movement turn. That confused me to no end back when I was 10 and first starting out.

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  6. I'm really enjoying the series, but quirks like this are really turning me back toward the LBBs rather than continuing on with modding Holmes. I couldn't imagine my own style of refereeing without the twin die rolls. I always roll two six-siders and glance at my notes each turn; one is a passive hearing roll for the party, the other is a wandering monster check.

    The wandering monsters shouldn't be out of control as long as you consider each entry on your chart to be a concrete encounter - if the party kills the gnolls that were 5 on the WM chart, another 5 means no encounter. (Of course, if they ran away, another 5 means the gnolls followed them...)

    Word verification: Nol'zomar, clearly a Chaotic Thaumaturge.

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  7. "In both games, all armored characters, regardless of whether they wear leather armor or plate, move at the same rate, which is 120 feet per turn..."

    Disagree with this. The phrase "Armored" here indicates the heaviest category on a "Light/ Heavy/ Armored" scale -- see Chainmail p. 14, OD&D Vol-1 p. 15, etc. More specifically: "Thus it takes ten minutes to move about two moves — 120 feet for a fully armored character." [OD&D Vol-3 p. 8]. The "fully armored" clearly indicates the heaviest category, and is consistent with a calculation of 6" x 10 feet x 2 moves = 120 feet.


    "Holmes has muddied the waters somewhat but making the term 'turn' equivocal, sometimes referring to what I guess we can call a 'movement turn' and sometimes referring to what we might call a 'combat turn,' each having a different temporal value."

    This confusion predates Holmes. See my analysis of "turns", as related to spells in the LBBs and Sup-I, here. (As a side note, I really much prefer Holmes' 10-second rounds.)


    "Fascinatingly, Holmes includes an expanded 'Hostile/Friendly Reaction Table' for dealing with monsters compared to OD&D. It's still a 2D6 roll but it offers finer grained results than that in Volume 3 of OD&D..."

    The Holmes table is identical to that found on OD&D Vol-1, p. 12, for monster/NPC reactions.

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  8. I must admit that I initially refused to read your series of "Blue Book, Cover to Cover" because I find your unwavering admiration of the books to be a little over the top.

    But this morning I read your posts, and I am completely fascinated with it all.

    Thanks for the fantastic retrospectives.


    Uh ... thanks! :)

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  9. Delta,

    I say again: thanks for the corrections. They're much appreciated. I owe you ... something ... for all the insights you've shared over the last few years anyway.

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  10. James -- In all honesty, I think that you maintaining a site where this stuff gets shared and keeps people excited about it (including me) is all the thanks any of us need.

    ReplyDelete

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