Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Holmesian Brevity

[written around 3pm or so]

Wow…just having a tough time focusing today. Might as well do some writing.

I’m pretty darn excited about the new game…so much so, that I’d rather be working on getting the thing published than working at my job-type job. Spent my lunch break calling Chessex and seeing what they could do for me as far as custom dice (not a lot as it turns out, unless I want to pay $2 per die). What I REALLY want to do is head down to my printer and start getting price quotes, but they’re not open on weekends, and I don’t have a day off for eleven more days…and I need to go over the project with them in person. Dammit…I want proofs to try shrink-wrapping with Tim’s wonderful new apparatus, and it’ll be three-four weeks or something till they’re in hand!

UGH…patience is not one of the virtues I’ve got in spades. Sometimes I give the illusion of patience, but for the most part what I’ve got is sloth and stubbornness which makes me seem like a patient person. But I’m not. I am NOT a guy who’s into delayed gratification.


Depending on the current cost of paper, I think I’ll be able to get this thing down to $21-22 (including dice, but not shipping and handling). PDFs will be $5-$7 (each booklet), depending on how much I’m willing to allow for gouging by PayPal and on-line distributors. Ugh! But I want this thing in stores…I want to see it on a shelf! I want, I want….



In other news, I’ve spent other parts of my day downloading (and reading) Holmes retro-clones, not to mention refreshing my brain with Meepo’s Holmes Expansion (I tried, but couldn’t find, Professor Thorkhammer’s Holmes Companion)

[EDIT: the good professor was kind enough to email me a copy of his Expansion rules. Thanks!]

…none of which has been tremendously helpful, I’m sorry to say. I mean, they’re all well done, but…well, Holmes Basic itself is really just fine. I think I like the Blueholme Prentice Rules best just because they ARE so true to Holmes. Of course the author, Michael Thomas, is working on his Compleat BlueHolme Rules, which will probably be 200+ pages or something.

[not that I’m knocking the effort…Thomas is obviously laboring on his own D&D Mine project which I encourage EVERYONE to do at some point. I just get the impression form his BLOG that his opus is going to run a LOT longer than Holmes’s own sparse 48 pages…which pretty much takes the piss out of the thing for me]

48 frigging pages. That’s how many pages badass Holmes needed to create his own edition of D&D. I don’t think I actually noted this till I was doing my deconstruction for my own D&D Mine...previously, I’d just assumed Holmes’s volume was 64 pages like Moldvay. 48! And large parts of that are just reprints of Gygax’s prosy intro from OD&D or illustrations or white space. The guy does a lot with a lot less…I mean, he does manage to include most every B/X monster in his book.

5AK is a LOT longer than Holmes. True, it’s dwindled down to A5-size pages, but (not counting the covers) the number of letter-sized pages it uses is 36 (more even than my B/X Companion, which used the equivalent of 32 in its printing). Pull the covers off Holmes and the whole thing amounts to 24 pages…two-thirds the size of my game. Granted, it’s only a basic introduction to dungeon delving…but still, that’s pretty impressive considering there are still plenty of folks playing Holmes as their edition of choice and loving the hell out of it.

I actually don’t want to do a retro-clone of Holmes. What I want to do is something on the same scale as Holmes…both thematically and (more or less) page count-wise. Something that uses different-sided polyhedral dice (5AK only uses D6s, being based on CHAINMAIL). Something much more over-the-top, and yet gritty in a way 5AK is not.

[by the way…readers do realize I’m just typing my thoughts out loud, right?]

I do NOT want it to turn into a huge project of any kind…in fact, I might just cut-n-paste the monsters and spell descriptions from 5AK into it (maybe. 5AK doesn’t include DRUIDS and I have a sneaking suspicion that this new “thang” project will…more on that later). But I really don’t want to waste too much time on it. I mean, other than the writing/design itself (attempting to streamline the train wreck that is OD&D) the most impressive thing about Holmes is the cover artwork. And that’s pretty much how I’d like to keep my game...uber-simple. Hell, I might even do the interior illustrations myself (now that I found a free scanner in the library), just to insure I don’t take the thing too seriously.

Mmmm…okay, more on this later.


  1. I'm pumped about 5AK, but now I'm looking forward to this as well. I'm in for both.

  2. I'm sure you can do it. :)

    The way to keep the size down would be primarily by limiting the number of spells and monsters. Those two are eating up a lot of pages in BLUEHOLME™ Compleat Rules but I bet (not cash, mind you) that I can still get it in below 150 pages. Or make spells variable by level so you only need one description for 5 or 6 spells. Holmes made a smart move with his monsters, leaving out all that mundane stuff like apes and bears and cats and snakes and spiders and concentrating on the iconic stuff instead.

  3. Great !

    "5AK only uses D6s, being based on CHAINMAIL"
    Have you read Epées et Sorcellerie (Nicolas Dessaux's French retroclone which has been translated into english)?
    It's an OD&D (very personalized) clone with only d6 as in Chainmail.

  4. @ Michael:

    Thanks...I appreciate the vote of confidence! Great work on BLUEHOLME by the way (sorry I didn't include the "tm" above), and that's pretty good insight on the Holmes stuff...I haven't really looked all that closely at the monster/spell lists in Holmes (I wasn't trying to deconstruct THAT) and was probably blinded with entries like Mummy and Purple Worm.

    I'm still going to shoot for under 50 myself...we'll see how it goes. Good luck on your Compleat book. Just the Ford artwork...I actually used his stuff from Arabian Nights for MY game.
    : )

  5. @ Nicholas:

    Thanks for the tip...downloading it as I type!
    ; )

  6. The "TM" in BLUEHOLME™ is a bit of an in-joke on B/X, which I use as the format for my rule book writing - once I started doing it I just couldn't stop ...

    That, actually, is also an issue with Holmes - because the book has no sections or chapters, the text doesn't have to be split into separate pages. So, another trick is to have fewer chapters.

    Anyway, I think the key is simply to be succinct and not include stuff unless it's pulling it's weight (that includes the art). There's an old Japanese saying: "The garden is complete when nothing more can be taken away."

  7. Holmes did leave out normal animals, but that stuff is barely in OD&D to begin with. Most animals, including giant animals and dinosaurs, are just covered by "Small Insects or Animals" or "Large Insects or Animals" - two short paragraphs in Vol 2 of OD&D. Even in Greyhawk where we see some attack/damage listed for giant animals we still don't get any other descriptions for these creatures. I think he was following the lead of OD&D in that you don't really need separate descriptions for ordinary beasts, even if giant sized.

  8. It may be short, but it misses a lot of stuff that is in the next Basic iterations. There's no free lunch, I suppose.