Friday, May 20, 2016

One Eyed Cyclops, UK Holmes D&D, and More Holmesian D&D Resources


I've had a very interesting night last night between banging my head against a wall with a sewing machine repair and playing catch up with a fraction of what's out on the net about Holmes D&D. I grew up with a very different set of mysterious creatures in the front of me that I'd stare at for hours in the front of the U.K. Blue Book Holmes D&D rule book. I've seen it many times since on the internet but back in the 70's it was a brief relic of my misspent youth. Well, after zipping around Dragon's foot I came across this wonderful thread on the artwork of Holmes. Check out that splash page with the wizard and two fighters going at it with supposedly some cyclopian orcs. And then a fighter going up against cyclopian orc and his ladies in the belly of a dungeon or sewer later in the rule book.

So what do we know about these monsters of blood and thunder? Zenopus 77 from the same thread reveals their origin which to me has been shrouded in mystery and wonder for a very long time;"
That's an interesting question. The original source for the depiction is the UK Holmes Basic rulebook, published in Dec 1977. It has two pictures with cyclops creatures - see the post on the previous page of this thread. The first is on the title page, and is an analog of the art in the US, so the cyclops seem to be stand-in for orcs. The other picture doesn't have an analog, and shows a larger cyclops that the Citadel mini is based on - perhaps it is meant to be an ogre? There are no cyclops described in the text, which is identical to the US version.

In White Dwarf #5 (Feb/March 1978) there is a column, Monsters Mild and Malign by Don Turnbull that is a precursor of Fiend Factory. In this issue he describes monsters from the US zines, including the The Dungeoneers and Alarums & Excursions. A Cyclops is mentioned (HD 12, AC3, MV 12, Attacks at -2 due to cyclopia, 5d12 damage, treasure type E + 5000 GP), but this is probably unrelated to the artwork since it was created in the US.

The Citadel Miniature of the Cyclops is from 1979 and must be based on Fangorn's artwork since it is so close in details.

Finally, in White Dwarf #21 (Oct/Nov 1980) there is a whole Fiend Factory column based around Cyclops, a mini-wilderness scenario called "One Eye Canyon". This includes a Cyclops write-up by Albie Fiore with artwork by Russ Nicholson that looks just like the second Fangorn cyclops & the mini.

(Thanks to G. Fullerton for helping me locate this one)

Albie Fiore's Cyclops is HD 6, AC 6, MV 12, AL CE, TT M x10 (individuals), D (lair), AT 3 (at -1 due to cyclopia, -2 for missiles), D 1d6 x 2 (claws), 2d6 x 1 (bite), SA hypnotic stare as AD&D spell hypnotic pattern for 6 rounds, range 6", one individual per round, can only affect a character one time, SD +2 on saves vs illusions. Cyclops live groups of 2-20 with any group of 10+ having a leader with 7 HD, +2 to hit, +3 damage. The write-up is almost a whole half-column so there are many more details on their habits etc.

So, to me it seems that Fangorn's artwork led to the Citadel mini, which then led to the full White Dwarf write-up."  This was back when White Dwarf magazine was actually a dungeons and dragons and table top gaming magazine.
Later on we see the same fighter going against a purple worm and it becomes evident that this group is working their way through the rulebook's artwork. And where are the cyclopian humanoids from in popculture? Well while zooming through the interwebs I stumbled upon this little possible origin point for these guys here


The UK version of Holmes D&D had a profound impact on my young psyche and what's more because it was only published for such a short time span many folks pre internet didn't believe me about those cyclopian humanoids. Which brings me to my next observation for today, PC level play in Holmes seems to hit the roof when talking with other D&D players which always reminds me of this scene in Spinal Tap.

I can seriously understand the long term gaming goals of a dungeon master and players and in that effect I can see the reasons why this issue is of the utmost importance to long range campaign planning. The subject first came up the other night over a beer with some friends.

In the meantime, there is a really handy  M-U Spells Level 1-3 Ref Sheet that came up on the Zenopus Archives site. This couldn't come at a better time for me.
But for those PC's ascending to higher levels and getting into the thick of it. I'm going with Expert D&D as my next jump point for Holmes Basic D&D. Heresy you say? Not exactly, there are really some solid reasons as to why this is.

Once again according to the Zenopus Archives;" To aid owners of the original Basic set who did not wish to buy a new set, the Cook/Marsh rulebook contained a section on page X4 titled "Using D&D Expert with an early edition of D&D Basic" which began "If your copy of the D&D Basic rules has a blue cover with a picture of a dragon on it, then this section is for you". This section then provides a summary of the "new material found in the 2nd edition of D&D Basic"." There's a really nice section on bridging the gap between Holmes and Expert D&D. There is a single sheet for using Holmes Basic with OD&D.Covers up to name level for each class, including To Hit, Saving Throws, Character Advancement, Spell #s, Turn Undead and Thieves' Abilities. Monster Combat and Saving Throws are also included. This is available under Bridging Tables on the page.

For taking the PC's past sixth there's a whole section on High level play and its got some great resources and suggestions for going that extra mile.

So until next time my friends keep those dice rolling.

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