Sunday, May 9, 2010

Words of Wisdom from Dr. Holmes

A final word to the Dungeon Master from the authors. These rules are intended as guidelines. No two Dungeon Masters run their dungeons quite the same way, as anyone who has learned the game with one group and then transferred to another can easily attest. You are sure to encounter situations not covered by these rules. Improvise. Agree on a probability that an event will occur and convert it into a die roll – roll the number and see what happens! The game is intended to be fun and the rules modified if the players desire. Do not hesitate to invent, create and experiment with new ideas. Imagination is the key to a good game. Enjoy!

--J. Eric Holmes, Basic Dungeons & Dragons (1977)


  1. As so many have stated before, I also was introduced to DnD by the blue book of JE Holmes. It wasn't til much latter in life that I realized that we were both neurologists.

    Here is how I handle decisions not covered by the rules:

    The lone d6 rolled behind the screen is a convenient and rapid way for the GM to determine success or failure at a task not specifically outlined in the rules. This is accomplished by mentally accessing the LIKELYHOOD of success, then if the d6 result falls in the range listed (lower is better), the character achieves the desired goal.

    ALWAYS (6 or less)
    USUALLY (5 or less)
    OFTEN (4 or less)
    FREQUENTLY (3 or less)
    SOMETIMES (2 or less)
    UNLIKELY (1 or less)
    RARELY (0 or less)
    PREPOSTEROUS (-1 or less)
    IMPOSSIBLE (-2 or less)

    Re roll all ‘1s’ if character is a novice (1st level or less)
    Re roll all ‘6s’ if character is accomplished adventurer
    (6th level or higher)

    Typical Modifiers to Difficulty Class

    -1…..Low applicable Ability Score (< 10)
    +1……Exceptional applicable Ability Score (17+)

    -1…..Character is rushed, hurried or careless
    -1…..Character is encumbered
    +1……Racial or class proclivity

    -1…..Player utters these words, “I am an elf”
    +1……Player gives detailed explanation or
    +2…..Player’s explanation makes GM laugh

    all modifiers are cumulative

    Acknowledgements to Jeff Reint’s Blog Post
    “The Hardest Working Die in Show Business”

  2. Showing once again that Basic, not Advanced, should have been the real "game for grownups."

  3. That's an eye-opening point you make, Roger the GS. In this viewpoint the exponentiation of rules in AD&D look almost like training wheels, or a crutch, the result of numerous playground arguments over who did or didn't "get shot."

    This is an epiphany (for me) on the order of learning that AD&D 1e was simply a codification of Gary's house rules.

    I am enormously nostalgic for Basic (I rarely had more fun playing D&D than when we used B/X)Little did I realize that my brain may have been trying to tell me something.

  4. Showing once again that Basic, not Advanced, should have been the real "game for grownups."

    In fact virtually the same sage advice appears in the AD&D DMG, perhaps a testament to Holmes, or else an indication of an agreement of procedure between designers and developers of the game lines. Whatever the case, this is a favourite passage of mine.

  5. That is the quote of quotes I remember from when I started DMing 30 years ago - I still live by it today!

  6. I've only just learned that Holmes has passed on. It's no secret I like my rules lite and my games quick and fun, and I often go back to my Holmes edition when it's time to throw in random flavour to my game.

    It seems to be lately that the random monsters and encounters have been replaced with precision-tuned fair and balanced encounters and treasure bundles. While that may work just fine for most, I prefer the "DIY Chaos" of the older game.