Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mightiest Monsters: Holmes Basic

One of my favorite posts from OD&D blogger Delta is this great analysis of the baddest mofos in the original game, looking at hit dice as the primary indicator of raw power. I've decided to look at other D&D books with a similar eye, just to see what monsters rule the roost in various editions. I'll be starting today with the Holmes version of Basic D&D, the so-called 'Blue Book'. So here are the toughest monsters in my copy of that venerable tome:

Hydra (variable, see below)
Yellow Mold (variable, see below)
Purple Worm (15 HD)
Giants (8-15 HD)
Dragons (5-11 HD)
Black Pudding (10 HD)
Chimera (9 HD)
Vampire (7-9 HD)
Djinni (7+1 HD)
Griffon (7 HD)
Hellhound (3-7 HD)
Troll (6+3 HD)

Under Dr. Holmes's rules Hydra's possess one hit die per head, like most other versions of D&D. However, no range for the number of heads is given. A one-headed hydra is a legit encounter under these rules, as would be a hundred-headed hydra. Now that I think about, that would be awesome. Maybe that bigass hydra doesn't really have a hundred heads, but it has so freakin' many that people call it the Hundred Headed Hydra. It would be the Tarrasque of a Holmesian campaign world. Similarly, Yellow Mold gets 2 hit dice for every 10 square feet of contiguous growth, with no upper limit. By my math if the Humungous Fungus were a yellow mold it would have over 18 million hit dice!

Even setting these weird special cases aside, for a book designed for levels 1 to 3 the upper end of the competition is pretty dang steep. My gut tells me that run as-is a group of Holmes players would spend a lot of time running away from the monsters listed above.


  1. Anonymous5:09 PM

    Did you read his post from Tuesday? Wtf? What is the blue edition that was compatible with AD&D? And I know there is a level 1-3 3.5 intro product, there were two, other than the 'Players Kit'. I bought both. Played both. I'm confused.

  2. dar, I assume you mean this post. The blue book pictured in this very blog post was the original AD&D intro product, written specifically to introduce the non-grognard to the intricacies of Dungeons & Dragons. The '81 Basic/Expert rules were nominally a different game (mainly for arcane legal reasons) but functioned the same way for lots of players. My own group used Basic/Expert as a springboard into Advanced play.

    You can ask Delta yourself, of course, but I think his main gripe with the new sets is that they teach you the mechanics of D&D play without exposing you to the joy of imaginative creation.

  3. Anonymous3:42 PM

    Was just looking through the blue book again, and noticed two strange things. The colors of dragons they decided to represent were black, white, red, and brass. Why brass? Plus, all the dragons had neutral as an alignment option (well, except for red, cuz they are always jerks) Oh yeah, and kobolds were described as dwarf like. Huh. They went from dwarf like, to lizard-dog like, to ugly dog like, to lizardy dragon like.

  4. I don't know why the brass dragon made it into Holmes Basic. Perhaps the Gold Dragon (which replaced it in later Basic versions) was considered too potent and/or friendly. With regards to draconic alignment, in Chainmail (and OD&D, IIRC) all dragons were listed in both the Neutral and Chaotic columns.

    Everyone likes using kobolds because they a pathetic little bastards, but no one can quite agree on what they should look like. Personally, I consider the wee rascals with the square shields found in the original MM and DMG to be definitive. Was that Sutherland art? I'll have to go back and look.