Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Blue Book, Cover to Cover (Part V)

Holmes grants XP on the basis of "treasure obtained or monsters killed or subdued," just like OD&D. The XP value of monsters is determined using a chart that's almost identical to that in Supplement I. Interestingly, Holmes makes the following allowance:
If, for some reason, one character gets more of the loot, such as a thief stealing gems from the saddle bags on the way home, then he should get the additional experience points.
Again, this passage rings a lot of bells for me, since it's how I used to play back in the day. It seems to be unique to Holmes, or at least it doesn't seem to derive from anything in the LBBs, but someone can correct me if I'm wrong on this score. That said, Holmes also allows for the referee to lower the number of XP awarded to duplicitous characters, such as one who "sneaks out of the dungeon with all the treasure while the rest of the party is being eaten." Holmes reiterates OD&D's prohibition against gaining more than one level at a time, regardless of how much XP is earned in an adventure. He also clarifies how hit points are determined, thereby denying that the approach taken in Empire of the Petal Throne is in fact normative. Further thoughts on Holmes and XP can be read here.

The XP charts for character classes in Holmes are interesting. The required XP per level for each of the four classes is the same as in OD&D and hit dice are as per Greyhawk. Level titles are present but not explained (and a 3rd-level cleric is now merely a "priest," as opposed to "village priest."). Magic-user spell progression has changed slightly at 3rd level, with such characters now getting only two 1st-level spells and one 2nd-level spell rather than three 1st-level spells and one 2nd-level one. Thief abilities are identical to those in Supplement I (i.e. no find traps ability) and at the same percentages. Thieves of 3rd level and above are noted as being able to "read magic scrolls and books," in addition to "80% of languages," which is a bit confusing compared to Greyhawk. One could make the case that Holmes was allowing 3rd-level thieves to cast spells from scrolls, but I rather suspect what he wrote is the result of an imprecision in his text rather than changing the circumstances under which thieves can cast spells. Thieves are explicitly given exactly one chance per level to open a specific lock. If they fail, they cannot try again until their chance to succeed increases.

Most fascinating of all is that elves are listed as sharing the same experience table as fighting men, halflings, and dwarves, but are not also listed under the table for magic-users. This is particularly strange given that he notes in a paragraph below the tables that elves "progress in two areas" and "use a six-sided die for hits." Halflings, meanwhile, though fighting men, use only a D6 per level for hit points.

Clerical turning works identically to OD&D, using the exact same chart. It also retains OD&D's 2d6 roll to determine the number of undead turned rather than the number of hit dice turned, as in Moldvay (which, in this case, is the outlier, as AD&D more or less follows OD&D on this point).

The many meanings of "level" are discussed at some length, but without anything that won't be repeated again and again over the years. Holmes lays down the classical form of this discussion.

19 comments:

  1. Re: XP for treasure. In the OD&D campaigns I've been running there have been a couple of occasions in which NPC hirelings have leveled up when their patrons have decided to give out generous tips.

    On a more meta-game level, in a recent session of the game we had a situation in which we retreated from the dungeon complex and were afforded an opportunity to level-up. When we discovered that we had all earned enough XP to level except for the magic user, we quickly redistributed our haul of loot so that the magic user received 90% of it and, thus, enough XP to level.

    We really needed that extra sleep spell.

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  2. After 18 years of gaming I can't name one time where individual or special xp rewards has gone over well (at best it is patiently tolerated) - this includes not only when it has involved selfish actions by a certain player but also when a player gets a personal reward for doing something cool or through solo play. The other players either get aggrivated that they aren't part of the current action because they have little to do and also because the "selfish" player is going to get a reward for hogging the DM's time. I've even had players I would consider generous and excellent roleplayers become bitter after someone else gets a special xp reward for any reason.

    On the flipside, since adopting a rule where each time I would award special xp for ingeneous or entertaining ideas, solo play, or roleplaying I give everyone the award, I've found that this creates real comraderie and patience when certain players need some solo time.

    I'd also like to note that when players do solo play I try to pool the others to play monsters or NPCs and I award the players xp when anyone of these npc spots are really good.

    All of this creates a much better game atmosphere even if it absolutely has no bearing on xp as a measure of CHARACTER education/experience. The logic behind it is that no matter what is happening now, each of the players and their characters contributed by action or patience to allow for any given roleplaying opportunity.

    I don't want these "special opportunities" to be in any way agrivating to anyone at the table - if the thief sneaks off and tries make a score, I want the other players to be cheering him on.

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  3. This is Gary's response to a question (presumably) about the origins of D&D:


    Right, and the Learned Grognards here know their stuff pretty well, so the answers to your questins about D&D - AD&D were answered correctly. D&D was originally published in January 1974. When I was immersed in writing AD&D in 1976, J. Eric Holmes approached us about doing a revision of the D&D set of three booklets and supplements. I was delighted to have him do that, and when he turned in his initial drafy, that became the Basic Set for D&D, I was far enough along with AD&D rules to add a good bit from the latter to the D&D game so as to keep them as compatible as possible in mechanics. The MONSTER MANUAL was the first AD&D book published, that in 1977.

    ...

    Cheers,
    Gary "


    from:
    http://www.enworld.org/forum/archive-threads/57832-gary-gygax-q-part-iv-7.html


    So some of Holmes is actually Gygax. I guess the parts that are from or sort of fit into AD&D.

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  4. Reading this post, I realized I have a book on my shelf that you might be interested in tracking down. This might be common knowledge to everyone but me, but Holmes wrote a book in 1981 called Fantasy Role Playing Games. I stumbled across it in my library but never heard anyone talk about it. It's kind of an introduction to the concept of role-playing games, and covers D&D, EPT, Traveller, and a few others.

    Like I said, I might just be ignorant, but I had never heard of this book before.

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  6. When I was immersed in writing AD&D in 1976, J. Eric Holmes approached us about doing a revision of the D&D set of three booklets and supplements. I was delighted to have him do that, and when he turned in his initial drafy, that became the Basic Set for D&D, I was far enough along with AD&D rules to add a good bit from the latter to the D&D game so as to keep them as compatible as possible in mechanics.

    So some of Holmes is actually Gygax. I guess the parts that are from or sort of fit into AD&D.


    It's really hard to know what is true. Holmes said elsewhere that he approached Gary back in 1974, in another place I read 1975. Gary is notorious foggy about the early days sometimes and it appears Holmes may have been too. Certainly at the time Gary said the MM was pretty well done, but the PHB and DMG were mostly in his head when Holmes was published.

    And while Gary may have personally added bits to Holmes, there's some evidence to think he probably didn't, but rather had others at TSR do the editing, such as when Holmes complained that "someone at TSR" changed his wandering monster tables.

    When you really examine Holmes closely, there is actually bugger all in it that can be said to have been definitely derived from AD&D, and given the dodgy memories of those two great men, it's probably the only thing we can go by.

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  7. HAPPY BASTILLE DAY


    I use a system for level advancement that requires
    No calculating XP and
    No rewarding of ridiculous amounts of treasure or magic
    just to help characters reach the next level.

    In general, players spend 1 game session for each CURRENT level of adequate play; thereby, producing an uniformly ascending requirement for level advancement , i.e.,

    3 sessions if current level is three,
    4 sessions if current level is four,
    5 sessions if current level is five,
    and so on.

    Hence, in the absence of extraordinary circumstances,
    PC advancement is rapid early on,
    Slowing down as characters reach higher levels

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  9. The only time that individual XP awards ever went over well with my group was when we were playing World of Darkness, and we would award a 'Best Roleplay' XP bonus per session. It would be nominated and voted on by the group. Since everyone took part, and had an equal chance of achieving it, there was some fierce competition for it. This reminds me, I might just add that to my new campaign...Hmmm...food for thought.

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  10. These "cover-to-cover" essays are great. But makes one wonder, why didn't some editor at TSR read Holmes's manuscript "cover-to-cover" as carefully? It was still an improvement in terms of clarity over the LBBs, but still, you've already found lots of stuff that could have been made a lot more clear...

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  12. Actually I think Dr. Holmes did a remarkable job of digesting the disparate threads of OD&D and creating a concise, fairly coherent whole.

    I'm not so sure how many AD&D tweaks were inserted into the Blue Book. My reading is quite the opposite. AD&D wasn't yet written except for the MM. Holmes appears to have dropped alot of the extraneous stuff from OD&D and it's wargames heritage. In writing AD&D Gygax actually put alot of the that stuff back in.

    I prefer the simpler is better design philosophy apparent in Holmes to the more is better approach seen in AD&D. Holmes basic has the virtue of being relatively simple and imagination provoking at the same time.

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  13. Actually I think Dr. Holmes did a remarkable job of digesting the disparate threads of OD&D and creating a concise, fairly coherent whole.

    I do too. Most of the confusion in the book comes from poorly inserted references to AD&D, which, as others have noted, wasn't even complete at the time of this set's publication.

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  14. Just out of curiousity, do you allow magic-users to cast spells "while engaged in combat?" If the M-U declares the spell before hand and wins initiative, does it matter whether he's in melee range? Labyrinth Lord at least doesn't appear to be explicit about this (though of course I could be wrong). How about anyone else out there?

    If a MU is attacked and hit before he casts his spell that round, his concentration is broken and he cannot attempt to cast it again till next round.

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  15. I have never really seen "material components" as "Vancian," but rather a game balance thing added because magic-users had too much power at higher levels (I have an old Gygax article somewhere in which he expresses this sentiment). Is Holmes the first mention or material components? Or was there something in those earlier LBB supplements?

    There are, I believe, occasional off-handed references to spell components in OD&D Supplements (others can correct me if I'm wrong) but they're not presented systematically nor as anything other than "color." My guess is that Gygax used them in his home campaign as a balancing factor and they were imported into Holmes (and more clearly into AD&D) for the same reason.

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  16. I feel more ashamed than I should to realize how easy I am on MUs (and Clerics) as a GM. I allow re-memorization in any setting, provided that there is uninterrupted study for half an hour per spell level. I do make regular wandering monster checks during that time, and spike or no spike, an unexpected guest at the door is going to break your concentration so you have to start all over again. I guess it's a little something to make life easier for low-level characters. Or at least more interesting.

    If it makes you feel any better, I've known plenty of referees who'd allow spellcasters to regain spells while in the dungeon. Spells like Leomund's Tiny Hut suggest that the restrictions Holmes put on re-memorization were far from universal.

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  17. Reading this post, I realized I have a book on my shelf that you might be interested in tracking down. This might be common knowledge to everyone but me, but Holmes wrote a book in 1981 called Fantasy Role Playing Games. I stumbled across it in my library but never heard anyone talk about it. It's kind of an introduction to the concept of role-playing games, and covers D&D, EPT, Traveller, and a few others.

    Yes, I know of this book but have never seen or read it. It's one of the few things written by Holmes on the subject of RPGs that I haven't looked at.

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  18. When you really examine Holmes closely, there is actually bugger all in it that can be said to have been definitely derived from AD&D, and given the dodgy memories of those two great men, it's probably the only thing we can go by.

    Aren't there spells and monsters in it that had never appeared before and were part of AD&D-in-progress? I'm thinking of stuff like Tenser's Floating Disc and dancing lights, which aren't in the LBBs or Supplements.

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  19. Geoffrey McKinney posted a nice piece of research on the 0e Discussion forum, a thread you yourself have participated in James, in which he shows the origins of things in Holmes (races, classes, spells, monsters, treasure). It would be interesting to see the same done for the rest of the rules, but I think the results would be similar - "Holmes is about 98% derived from the 1974 D&D boxed set and from Supplement I: GREYHAWK".

    http://odd74.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=holmes&action=display&thread=2237

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