"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Monday, July 20, 2009

My Holmes Expansion

This is an expansion and supplement for the Dungeons & Dragons rules published by TSR in 1978 and edited by Eric Holmes. The goal of this was to expand the “Holmes Rulebook” into its own complete game. Note that the "power level” of this expanded game is different than for other versions of Dungeons & Dragons and no effort was made to approximate other versions. Other sources that were referenced for this were the Original Dungeons & Dragons (1974) rules and Meepo's excellent Holmes Supplement.

As you will see I did things a little differently with this. I would never expect anyone to play with this but when my kids are a little older I may subject them to it. It was a fun mental exercise.


  1. Waiting for my Holmes box (with original dice still in the unopened bag!) to arrive.
    --Then your new goodies will be even more appreciated. :D

  2. As I think I've said before, you are a great inspiration to me.

    (I am NOT saying that so you take it easy on my character!)
    : )

    Unfortunately, I got no point of comparison as I've never owned the Holmes version (what do you call that...D&D 1.5? or 1.8? I guess your expansion would be 1.85!).

  3. @JB,

    Later printings of Holmes served as a primer for AD&D, and has references to the PHB & DMG, if I am not mistaken.

    Earlier printings (original), were merely intended to prep folks for what we refer to as OD&D.

    So, Holmes is in a unique position.

  4. You've never owned Holmes?!?!?!
    Do yourself a favour and pick one up.

  5. @Timeshadows

    Holmes was an edit of the 3LB+Greyhawk, Gygax added the 1e references right from the first print, knowing that the Holmes rules weren't compatible with the then unfinished AD&D.

  6. @David,

    Thanks. Dragonsfoot is usually pretty sound on the history, but I think whichever posts I've read on the subject were a bit off, then. :)

  7. From Mr. Gygax's Sorcerer's Scroll column in the March 1980 Dragon magazine (#35):

    "Most of the personnel at TSR took part in design and development in years past. As we realized that “Original” D&D (the first three booklets and the supplements) wasn’t anywhere near adequate for the needs of the readership it was attracting, it was decided that a simplified,clarified, introductory piece was needed. Shortly after this was decided, as if by divine inspiration, J. Eric Holmes got in touch with us and actually volunteered his services for just such an undertaking. All of you know the result, of course.

    All of you also know why something had to be done. The “Original” work had been aimed at a small audience, one (wrongly) assumed to be highly conversant with military miniatures and basically non-critical. The booklets were hastily put together in late-night and spare-time hours, by and large, with little or no editing. Each supplement further-more reflected development and evolution of the game, so there was contradiction, duplication, and vast areas of ambiguity and non-direction.

    I saw this as a second problem, one well known to you also. D&D was too flexible and unlimited, in my opinion. The game was actually unrecognizable as played from group to group in the same locale, let alone different regions of the country! As plans of reorganizing and rewriting D&D were developed, I began my own work on Advanced D&D, and this kept me busy for some three years, more or less. By the time the final manuscript from Eric was in our hands, the rough of the Monster Manual was also finished, rough outlines of Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide were typed up, and several portions of both works were likewise in manuscript form. We had two choices to consider with the new Basic Set: As it took players only through three experience levels, they could thereafter be directed to the “original” works, or we could refer them to AD&D. This put us on the horns of a real dilemma. Sending them into the morass of “Original” D&D put us back on square one, with all the attendant problems of rules questions, misinterpretations, and wildly divergent play. Yet there was no time to undertake a revision of the remainder of the “Original” works immediately—that was a project to take place sometime in the distant, dimly perceived future, when TSR could actually afford the luxury of a staff of designers!

    On the other hand, Advanced D&D, even then obviously a different game system, could be offered as a stop-gap measure. Its classes, races, characters, monsters, magic, spells, and so forth were similar to, but certainly not the same as, those of D&D. Was it better to send enthusiasts into the welter of the “Original” material and let them founder around there? Or would it be better to direct them to AD&D, even if it meant throwing out what they had begun with the Basic Set and making them start a fresh?* Faced with a choice between chaos and a clean slate, we opted for the latter. (Although there are occasional letters from irate D&Ders who refuse to move into the new system, that is far preferable to what would have happened had we directed readers to the “Original” volumes!) After we selected what was actually the lesser of two evils*, things went into high gear.

    Pieces and parts of the various components of AD&D were grafted into the Basic Set rules manuscript so that D&D would be more compatible with the Advanced game. Readers were directed to AD&D throughout the Basic Set, with muttered prayers accompanying these directions, I am sure, as our production people had no idea then just how well it would all work out in the end, because much of the AD&D system was still on rough notes or in my head at the time. It turned out to be relatively acceptable as an interim measure, too."

  8. I have never owned the Holmes edition either, now I am going to have to find one.

  9. Heh. Just one note: Aren't the thieves level titles supposed to be different? Right now they look like copy&paste from the fighting men.

  10. @P_Armstrong: Thanks for clearing that up. As usual, it was more of a split-the-difference between my rumour-milling and David's. :D

    "Ask two gamers, and you'll get three opinions." to paraphrase. ;)

  11. @Timeshadows - my comment was a simple summary of the above quote - which I posted a few days ago on the 0e Discussion forum - not rumour at all. But always nice to see the truth clarified. ;)

    @Patrick - I like what you've done, very similar to the Meepo Holmes Companion. I'm looking forward to seeing the final edit. Thanks.

  12. Alex,
    You are correct. I will need to clean that up.

  13. Part of my goal was to see how much higher level stuff could be extrapolated just from the Holmes text. For example, just extending the thieves table, using the passage about Fighting-Men improving their ability to get hits to enemies but continuing to use the same "to-hit" table, introducing no new spells, etc.

  14. I have some found memories of using the 1E PHB for classes, races, spells, weapon damage, etc but using Holmes for the guts of the rules. I should do that again some time.

    If you read Holmes for the first time, you will notice that it is a unique blend. The bulk of it is from the 3 Little Brown Books + some Greyhawk Supplement but it is interesting which stuff Dr. Holmes took from those books, what he excluded, and which of his own rules he inserted.

  15. I have a nice mint copy of Holmes with the Keep on the Borderlands still in the box set (sadly with no dice!!) which I found at a garage sale. Couldn't believe it.

  16. If you read Holmes for the first time, you will notice that it is a unique blend. The bulk of it is from the 3 Little Brown Books + some Greyhawk Supplement but it is interesting which stuff Dr. Holmes took from those books, what he excluded, and which of his own rules he inserted.

    Holmes is unique in being the only D&D ruleset written by a non-employee of the company. It's very interesting to read his fantasy fiction (such as the Boinger stories) to see further glimpses of his own campaign as a DM, hints of which are sprinkled throughout the rulebook.

  17. My boxed Holmes and 2nd Ed. B1 (pastel, but no write-in blanks), _with old-school dice_, arrived today. That, the Thai (and later BBQ), and a fun second adventure run by my SO, have made this a pretty cool day, indeed.


    I must have misunderstood your post, brother. My sincere apologies. No slight intended.

  18. Very cool! Thanks for sharing. :)

    Have you seen Meepo's 'Holmes Companion'? Similar idea.

  19. Whoops! I obviously overlooked your reference to Meepo's Companion in your original post. Sorry.