Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holmes for the Holidays

No, not this Holmes...
This one.

I am far from an authority on Dr. John Eric Holmes' blue rulebook, and in the face of such authorities, perhaps I should keep any thoughts about it to myself.  However, I have been re-reading it lately and struck by various thoughts.  Add to that today's mail: a friend and fellow Rambler -- Capecodmonkey, thanks! -- sent me a copy of Holmes' novel, Maze of Peril.  So perhaps foolhardily, I have decided to adopt the reading of Holmes for this Advent and on this basis offer some occasional Holmesian posts in appreciation.  Be on the lookout!

My Orientation
Just as a reminder, I am a Moldvay kid that quickly went on to AD&D.  (Hey, I was always in the A class at school, so clearly I should be playing Advanced!)  Most of the guys I played with were a little older than me and they were introduced to the game by Holmes, even though we never played his rule-set together.  I remember seeing their box with the red dragon on it and its unfamiliar blue rulebook.  I had to account for yet another D&D book that I wasn't familiar with, and I remember looking it over until I figured out to my satisfaction that it was an earlier version of what I had in my red Basic D&D book.  Ever since then, Holmes' book represented an Ur-D&D to me: somewhat similar, somewhat strangely different and unknown.  And so it has remained, attractive to me in a way the little brown booklets have never quite equaled.  Of my game purchases in the past year, the one I count as the greatest steal was finding the copy above, in good condition, at Half-Price Books, and getting it (Third Edition, Dec. 1979) with my educator's discount for under two bucks.

Hey, in Sarum, blue is the color for Advent.  See how I tied all that together?


  1. Ah, Jeremy was my favorite Holmes...

  2. Mine as well -- by far. I have received one complaint that this post was actually not about Brett/Sherlock.

  3. Nice post title! Looking forward to your thoughts on both of those "Blue Books".

    As an aside, the only bit of Holmes/Holmes crossover
    I've found is that Dr. Holmes used the Sherlock Holmesian title format "Adventure of the ..." for several of his Alarums & Excursions campaign stories (featuring early versions of Boinger & Zereth).

  4. Ah, but what of the Giant Rat of Sumatra? (Holmes 1979: 27)

  5. The first printing of the Blue Book does not have the entry for Giant Rats. It wasn't until the second edition (Nov 78), after the Monster Manual was out, that it was added. Further, as Geoffrey pointed out to me, the Greyhawk Supplement at pg 18 refers to "Giant (Sumatran) Rat" in the variable damage table. So it appears Holmes himself did not have much to do with this reference. (I'm not really sure if he was involved in the editorial changes to the second edition or not).

  6. Aw. That's just too bad. Seems my Ur-text is not Ur-enough. Is there some place were all the edition revisions are reliably listed?

  7. *Where

    Like, I don't know, this one by some total unknown?

  8. Yes, I was going to point you there. That was my first study of the Holmes book, originally posted on DF way back in 2006.

    In that original DF thread I posted some images of the deleted artwork and text from the 1st edition, which you might be interested in seeing.

  9. Really, Zenopus, your work (and others') makes it possible for others of us to not be dumb. SA-LUTE.
    I printed those two documents up to keep with my copy.

    Also, I confirmed my 3rd ed is a 3rd printing.