Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Holmes Basic D&D Rulebook Part 7 - Book of Erotic Web-Slinging

PART 7 OF 12

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Before I continue, I wanted to make a correction of sorts regarding Part 4. When I read the following passage...

"A character surprised by a monster may drop whatever he is holding [...]"

...I took the word "may" to mean "can optionally choose to." Looking around the OSR blogosphere, I think I was meant to take the word "may" to mean "must (if a 6 is rolled)." Don't you just love the ambiguity of the English language? Anyway, that makes a lot more sense than what I thought it meant. I added a note to Part 4 linking to this correction.

Picking up where I left off, let's look at the spells included in Holmes Basic. The book lists spell names for three levels of Magic-User spells, but only describes the first two levels and notes of the third-level spells "They are listed above to give some idea of the range of magical possibilities." The book lists two levels of Cleric spells, including spell descriptions, but notes that the second-level Cleric spells are only listed for scrolls and NPCs, since a Cleric has to reach fourth level to cast them normally.

Since it's such a short list, I'm just going to go over each spell description individually.

First Level Magic-User
Charm Person - Instead of giving a Hit Dice limit, the description says the spell only affects "two legged, generally mammalian humanoids of approximately man size" and give some examples. I noticed that ogres are not a listed example, but I don't think the list is meant to be exhaustive, so I'd probably allow it to work on ogres. (I mention that because I remember reading a really good B/X actual play report that involved charmed ogres, so the possibility appeals to me.) It also notes that undead monsters are immune, and that monsters get additional saving throws over time based on their intelligence. There's a chart explaining which intelligence scores give which saving throw intervals, but the monster stats don't include intelligence scores. Presumably the DM could determine such scores through rolling (like with dexterity) or through fiat (just picking something that seems to make sense). What the spell actually does is handled by one sentence: "If the spell is successful it will cause the charmed entity to come completely under the influence of the magic-user." I guess you can boss it around as much as you want without refusal, even getting it to kill itself if desired. Powerful stuff. Who says first-level spells suck? (Of course, that's my interpretation of the wording, though.)

Dancing Lights - This creates floating lights similar to the lanterns carried by adventures, which the Magic-User can command. It seems to basically be useful for distraction. Strangely, it doesn't give a diameter of the spell's illumination like the Light spell does.

Detect Magic - Exactly what it says. Want to know if a door has Wizard Lock cast on it, or if that sword is more than a piece of rusty crap? Here you go.

Enlargement - This seems to be the kind of thing the DM needs to adjudicate on a case-by-case basis, since making things bigger doesn't seem to have any explicit, direct mechanical effects in most cases. I suppose you could also cast it on a monster to make it too big to follow the party through a small door or something.

Hold Portal - Kind of like a temporary Wizard Lock. Insert Game of Thrones spoilers here.

Light - Helps the thrifty Magic-User save a torch or two.

Magic Missile - Famously, the Holmes version of the spell is the only one in any official edition of D&D to require a to-hit roll. It also does decent damage in this version: d6+1.

Protection from Evil - Both Magic-Users and Clerics can cast this one, but it lasts 6 turns for the former and 12 for the latter. This is what one would call a "buff" spell in the modern gaming parlance: +1 to saving throws and -1 to enemy to-hit rolls when fighting "enchanted monsters such as elementals, invisible stalkers, demons, etc." The description notes that this spell stacks with other forms of magical protection, to use another gaming term that probably wasn't used when this came out.
Hold on, let me flip through the book again...Nope. No elementals, invisible stalkers, or demons in this book. My assumption is that the spell would apply to any creature of evil alignment, though, so it still seems quite useful.

Read Languages - Magic-Users can only cast this on themselves. I think that's typical of this spell throughout different editions of D&D, but I'm note sure. Anyway, this is another one with a function that's pretty obvious just from the name, besides the fact that Read Magic is sometimes needed instead (see below).

Read Magic - "The means by which incantations on an item or scroll are read." So wait, if your Magic-User wasn't fortunate enough to start with this spell (or maybe get it when leveling up), you just straight-up can't use scrolls? I hate to be so negative again, but that really sucks. I hope I'm misunderstanding something here. This is why all Magic-Users and Elves in the current Lamentations of the Flame Princess rules always start with Read Magic, even though their other spells are determined randomly.
Well, on the bright side, "once a scroll is looked at under a Read Magic spell, the magic-user can read it again without such aid."

Shield - Gives the caster AC 2 against missiles and AC 4 against other attacks. Probably another useful buff, although it's a shame it can't be cast on others.

Sleep - This one is based on HD, and no save is allowed. The stats at the beginning say "Duration: 4-16 turns" but the first line of the description under that says "Puts all kinds of creatures to sleep for 2-8 turns." Could that be an editing error? Also, I haven't been able to find an explanation in the book regarding what happens when someone attacks a sleeping monster. Normal damage (but without the need for a to-hit roll)? Full damage? Instant kill? It can vary a lot between versions of the game, from my understanding. I loved Sleep in Pool of Radiance because it meant auto-kills upon hitting the monsters, and I think that game was based on either 1E or 2E AD&D. In LotFP, I think that hitting a sleeping monster generally just does your weapon's full damage.
Anyway, this seems like a powerful and fun spell, as usual.

Tenser's Floating Disc - "The wizard, Tenser, always greedy for more treasure, devised this spell." I think it's kind of strange when setting details leak into D&D rulebooks that otherwise seem to want to remain fairly setting-neutral. Of course, you could just rename it "Tantalus' Floating Disc" or something in your campaign.
This spell is for carrying your excess stuff - up to 5,000 gp in weight. It stays six feet behind the caster at all times. I wonder if the Magic-User could spin around in a circle and knock monsters down with it.

Ventriloquism - Make the kobolds think their pet rat is talking to them.

Second Level Magic-User
Audible Glamer - (Yes, that's how the book spells it.) Basically the advanced version of Ventriloquism. It lets you make different sounds instead of just your own voice, lets you control the volume, etc. Like many others, this spell's power scales with the caster's level; the book gives a (frankly kind of unhelpful) guide for this involving a lion and a giant snake.

Continual Light - Light, but better. In fact, it lasts infinitely until dispelled. Wow.

Darkness - Stops normal vision and infravision in a 50' radius. Seems useful.

Detect Evil - "A spell to detect evil thought or evil intent in any creature or evilly enchanted object." Is this just a fancy way of saying that it detects whether or not a creature is of an evil alignment, or can I use this spell to find out if little Timmy, normally a good boy, is considering some mischief? If it's the latter, that opens up a whole new can of worms regarding what the DM considers evil vs. what the player considers evil.
Also, this bit amuses me: "Poison, however, is neither good nor evil." Oh yeah? Then why does AD&D consider the use of poison such a wicked act, and why does this very book recommend that the DM "not allow players to make use of poisoned weapons in all but extreme situations," hmm?

Detect Invisible - The emphasis seems to be on finding invisible treasure, with invisible monsters being an afterthought. Interesting.

ESP - Seems to be about the same as the LotFP version of the spell, which was relevant last Saturday when someone had it mixed with the Permanancy spell in preparation for Death Frost Doom. Which is funny, because as Dr. Holmes put it, "The undead do not think."

Invisibility - The duration is infinite, at least until something happens that would break the spell. Wow! You can cast it on objects or other people, too.

Knock - Open sesame, basically.

Levitate - You can only use this to travel vertically (unless you crawl on the ceiling or something, of course). Still seems handy.

Locate Object - Find your car keys. Assuming all you need is the direction and they're within a limited range, of course.

Magic Mouth - Inflict Big Mouth Billy Bass on your enemies.

Mirror Image - Confuse idiots for fun and profit.

Phantasmal Forces - The silent, visual equivalent of Audible Glamer...except better in every way. It lasts as long as the caster concentrates on it or until touched (which makes it not as good of a fire-and-forget distraction, but otherwise seems like an improvement), it can be "nearly anything the user envisions," and best of all, it can do real damage "if the illusion is believed to be real." Holy crap! How does the DM determine how convincing an illusion is? I mean, couldn't the Magic-User conjure up an illusory dragon and just have it breathe fire on any monsters dumb enough to think a noiseless dragon that popped out of thin air is real? Or just summon an illusory Lightning Bolt or Fireball? Depending on how permissive the DM is, getting this spell could be like winning the Murderhobo Lottery.

Pyrotechnics - Makes a preexisting fire do fancy tricks. I'm not sure why this isn't a first-level spell.

Ray of Enfeeblement - Makes a monster temporarily lose 4 points of strength, which in turn makes the monster's physical attacks do 25% less damage. This is particularly interesting because low strength seems to have no such effect on PCs. Even more interesting, the ray is described as "a thin beam of coruscating graying light." That's a delightfully weird way to describe light.

Strength - Increases a character's strength by an amount based on their class. Unless DM fiat is used, this seems almost useless, since Strength has no explicit mechanical effects other than affecting the XP gained by Fighters. I guess it wouldn't hurt to help the Fighter gain slightly more XP for 48 turns.

Web - It does the usual thing, which is a useful thing, but I just want to point out the accompanying illustration by Dave Trampier (picture borrowed from this post from the always awesome Zenopus Archives).
This is a genuinely cool picture. This is also the kind of fantasy art I find sublimely hilarious. What did the bald, naked dude do to that wizard to make him so grumpy? Is the wizard not a fan of baldness and/or bare, muscular bodies? Is the wizard repressing his true feelings, as symbolized by the sticky fluid he shot all over the nude dude? Doth the wizard protest too much? Look at the force of that splatter on the guy's left hand! Was the guy with the sword truly threatening him, or just flashing him while simultaneously showing off his cool new sword? Will we have to excuse the wizard, because this sort of thing doesn't usually happen, or at least not so quickly? What is that multi-pronged device the wizard is wielding? Does it indicate he come prepared for some action? Is that a halo behind the wizard's head, signifying the majesty which the prone figure now beholds? Is this some kind of elaborate role play? Should we give these two some privacy? Dungeons and Dragons indeed.

Wizard Lock - Prevents a door from being opened. (That link is NSFW.)

My nominations for the coolest Magic-User spells: Charm Person, Magic Missile, Sleep, Continual Light, Darkness, Detect Invisible, ESP, Invisibility, Knock, Levitate, Mirror Image, Phantasmal Forces, Ray of Enfeeblement, Web, and Wizard Lock.

A quick note: like in most versions of old-school D&D (to the best of my knowledge), Clerics gain access to their whole list of spells, although they still have to memorize specific spells each day they go adventuring.

First Level Cleric
Cure Light Wounds - The usual. Heals d6+1 HP. The Cleric must touch the target. Strangely, the book specifies that the spell works on elves, dwarves, and "hobbits." Was there any reason to think it wouldn't work on them?

Detect Evil - The same as the Magic-User version, except the range and duration are greater.

Detect Magic - Exactly the same as the Magic-User version.

Remove Fear - Counters a "fear wand attack." Unless it also fixed failed morale checks in hirelings or something, it seems like this spell would be of very limited usefulness. I don't see why most Clerics would even bother to memorize it unless they know for a fact that some upcoming villain has fear-based magic.

Resist Cold - Reduced cold-based damage by 1, gives a +2 bonus to saving throws against cold-based spells and abilities, and most likely makes cold weather and such more bearable, at the DM's discretion. Probably most useful when the party knows a white dragon is in the dungeon.

Light - The same as the Magic-User version, except the Cleric version last a flat 12 turns while the Magic-User version lasts 6 + the caster's level in turns.

Protection from Evil - The same as the Magic-User version, but longer lasting.

Purify Food and Water - Makes enough spoiled or poisoned food edible for up to 12 people. Reminds me of da Vinci's painting of The Last Supper.

Second Level Cleric
Bless - A buff that boosts morale and to-hit rolls by 1. Perhaps the most classic and iconic of all buffs.

Find Traps - Does what it says. Could be a lifesaver.

Hold Person - What that wizard secretly wants to do to that naked guy. Basically paralyzes enemies. The book compares it to Charm Person, but I think it's really closer to Sleep.

Know Alignment - Not only does it tell the caster if you're good or bad, it also tells the caster how good or bad. Oh boy. Let's hope the DM's moral compass is well-calibrated.

Resist Fire - Basically Resist Cold, but for fire. The duration is 6 turns, but the target can apparently only deal with direct exposure to fire for 2 rounds before the damage begins. Reminds me of this.

Silence: 15' Radius - Does what it says. Good stuff.

Snake Charm - It's like Charm Person, but for a much more limited duration. Oh, and it only works on snakes. Is this some kind of obscure religious reference?

Speak with Animals - Become Doctor Dolittle. Useful in all kinds of situations.

EVIL CLERIC SPELLS - Evil Clerics have some spells that follow Opposite Day rules all the time: Cause Light Wounds, Detect Good, Darkness (is this the same as the Magic-User spell?), Contaminate Food and Water, Cause Fear, and Curse. The way these work is probably pretty obvious, but I would have personally appreciated some extra guidance. How much damage does contaminated food do? Does Cause Fear work anything like the Turn Undead ability? Why no Protection from Good? Etc.

Coolest Cleric spells: Cure/Cause Light Wounds, Cause Fear, Resist Cold, Light/Darkness, Protection from Evil, Purify/Contaminate Food and Water, Bless/Curse, Find Traps, Hold Person, Resist Fire, Silence: 15' Radius, and Speak with Animals. Huh...that's most of them. I guess I'm one of those weirdos who likes Clerics, at least in this edition.

I like that the Magic-User spell list has more variety than the Cleric one. If you're going by the classic D&D archetypes, someone who dedicates their life's training to magic usually should have more options and more potential for magical power than someone who splits their training between martial and magical matters. I do think the Magic-User could use a little beefing up, though. I'm sure I'm not the first person to think that.

Despite some quibbles and confusion, I really like this spell list. There's a lot here that makes me want to play a Magic-User or Cleric. My only major points of contention are 1) the dependence of Magic-Users on Read Magic when actually getting that spell seem to be a crapshoot, 2) my usual problems with alignment, and 3) a very large reliance on DM fiat for the basic workings of many spells. That last point isn't necessarily a problem, and often it can be a strength, but it can be a major problem if the expectations of the DM and the players don't line up as well as everyone thought they would. Too much explanation and codification can kill creativity, but too little can lead to a lot of arguments or a greater possibility of inconsistency or unfairness on the part of the DM. It's hard to strike a balance. For a lot of people, I'm sure this rulebook strikes that balance well. For my tastes in particular, I'm not entirely sure. Still, the spells in this book seem fun, evocative, and most importantly, magical. They make me want to round some people up and play.

Next time: What is best in life?

PS This isn't directly related, but I just read this blog post from Basic Red, and it's very smart and very beautiful.


  1. Poison is not evil. There are plenty of poisonous substances found in nature, but does that make them evil?

    However, once I sprinkle a little of those substances on your food, I'm clearly evil (unless you're evil first, and/or ready to slip back into an Alignment discussion *eye roll*). Get your Purify Food and Water ready...

    1. Oh boy, am I ever ready to slip back into an alignment discussion. :D

      Sure, in this universe, poison is not inherently evil. But in a universe with provable, codified, agreed-upon morality enforced by magic and/or living gods, if it can be used for absolutely nothing good (as early D&D seems to depict it), shouldn't it be inherently evil, or at least declared to be so by the gods, and thus be the kind of thing that should set off a Detect Evil spell? Shouldn't swords also detect as evil? Unless it is permissible to kill certain beings in certain situations (like when those beings are evil and you're good and you really want their stuff)? In which case, why is death by sword more righteous than death by poison? Is it the sneaky element? Then ambushes or attacking from surprise or backstabbing should be immoral. Is it the painfulness of the method? I'm pretty sure that being burned alive by a Fireball or even slashed to ribbons by a sword would also be agonizing.

      If the "heroes" of the stories that primarily inspired D&D were largely a bunch of criminals, outlaws, and utter bastards like Cugel, Conan, Fafhrd, the Gray Mouser, and Elric, character who often fought dirty, and if the game was emphatically NOT necessarily about playing heroic characters, why the emphasis on alignment in early D&D? Why the apparent squeamishness and/or judgemental attitude about the use of poison? I just find it a little odd.

      Here's a good blog post on the subject over at Dreams in the Lich House:

    2. I didn't really mean to open that can or worms. Not that I mind if you don't mind; it can be fun to hash around. But what I maybe should have spelled out more is there's what the game might categorize for ease of reference as "a poison" might simply be a bit of some flower or whatever. Not "all poisons are made by poisoners" (which would also be included). And FWIW, when you're talking about flowers, you might be talking about the gods creating poisons...

      Was Cugel a criminal and/or bastard? I just read him as a fool stumbling around, but it's been awhile... Similarly for Fafhrd and Mouser; I don't see them as criminals at all. But I haven't read all of that strand, either.

    3. Oh no, I enjoy these sorts of discussions. I'm glad you opened that can of worms. Worms are fun.

      I see your point. I just think that the alignment system is prone to causing confusion without adding enough of value to the game to be worth that confusion. It can be a lot of fun to talk about that confusion, though.

      I like the idea that even the so-called "Good" gods might be in on this whole poison business. That could be a good way to sneak in some horrifying revelations about a major religion in your campaign or something...

      I will admit I haven't read any Vance or Leiber yet, unfortunately. But based on some quick research (Wikipedia) and everything I've read about the protagonists of these stories on OSR blogs and the like, I would have to say that Cugel sounds like a complete monsters. Here's a quote from the Wikipedia page on The Eyes of the Overworld: "Cugel is a classic Vance anti-hero; though he fancies himself an aesthete and a superior being to those around him, in his actions he is a liar, a cheat, an inveterate thief, a guiltless coward, a charlatan, a rapist, selfish, greedy, vicious, and so on." Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser aren't so bad overall, but I believe they ARE thieves and mercenaries, so they probably aren't squeaky clean, either.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Also, I forgot to say: You've heard of "Don't hassle the Hoff", yes?

    Neither should one Triffle with the Trampier....

    1. Hah!

      Oh man, Trampier is awesome. I mean no offense to his fans. I just think the Web illustration is a little...suggestive, from a certain point of view. Kind of like a lot of Erol Otus's work.

  4. Read Magic sucks. That's why no one ever used it, and it got removed from later editions.

    Pool of Radiance was 1st edition. (1988, I believe, and 2E came out in 1989, although they later released it and Curse of Azure Bonds as 2E modules.)

    Early D&D wasn't *really* setting neutral. I believe that all 1E and Basic modules can be located somewhere on the Greyhawk map. Basic (or B/X or BECMI or whatever you want to call it) in particular was a fully fleshed out world. 1E AD&D, though, usually didn't include much of the setting. (Though they did occasionally list where it would have happened. Living Greyhawk enthusiasts have placed pretty much every non-campaign-setting-specific 1E and 2E module somewhere in the Greyhawk world.) The only thing that usually came over in AD&D were the spell names and special item names directly from Gygax's personal campaign world. (I have an official supplement somewhere that attributes all of the famous Greyhawk personalities to their players.)

    Mmm.... Continual Light. No good dungeon delver went anywhere without a wide selection of geometric shapes with Continual Light cast on them. Round ones to roll down sloping passageways. Square ones that wouldn't roll or bounce. Rubber ones that could be bounced around. Oil-less lanterns. Etc.

    Oh noes! Not the alignment discussion! /me ducks and runs In all seriousness, Monte Cook had a helpful list of the characteristics of different alignments in one of his Malhavoc Press supplements. However, in his Arcana Evolved alternate rules and campaign setting, he completely does away with alignment, and all Detect Evil/Good effects. You'd love this approach. He uses a lot of the same justifications about it that you use.

    (Also, lots of poisonous substances have perfectly legitimate uses that have nothing to do with killing people. Killing rodents, for instance. In a world where you have ROUS's running around, you're gonna need some damn strong poisons. Hell, at one point, no one knew that arsenic was poisonous, so they used it to make of the fanciest and most expensive clothes, because it was such a lovely green dye that never lost it's brilliant color. "Why do I keep getting this rash..." And don't forget about mercury. Essential for making felt for fancy hats. Was quite a long time before peopel realized that there was a good reason that all hatmakers were insane. None of these substances were, in and of themselves, evil. You could always house rule exceptions for substances that were specifically created and/or used with evil intent.)

    Phantasmal Force - LotFP has several different illusion spells that do the same thing, but better. They even work if the target disbelieves. Only thing is, they suck for our campaign. Fights don't last long enough to make them worthwhile.

    Cleric spells: We always played that clerics got full access to the entire spell list.

    Back when I was playing this version of the D&D (I think I was about 9) we ignored any rules we didn't like, and kept as close to the rest as we could. There wasn't a lot of creativity toward rulesets on our part, or much thought toward long campaigns. Mostly just pick-up games for some dungeon delving. That described our approach to RPGs all the way up until I graduated high school, a couple years before 2E came out. That was when gaming for me really matured. Moving out into the world exposed me to a lot of new gamers, and new play styles. (Remember, this was before the Intertubes was invented...) At this point, I'm pretty much into grabbing pieces of inspiration from everywhere, and mostly home brewing everything.

  5. I agree about Read Magic. Interestingly, I think it's been removed from LotFP in the 0.1 Playtest Document rules.

    Pool of Radiance and the other old Gold Box games are among the main reasons I got interested in older editions of D&D in the first place. I enjoyed D&D 3.5 a lot, but then I would play old D&D video games (and other old RPGs like the Wizardry series, the Ultima series, and the Bard's Tale series), and even though I usually didn't get very far in those games I would end up thinking that there was something appealing about old-school D&D that might be worth checking out. It didn't hurt that I got into these games before I got into D&D itself, so some old-school ideas weren't entirely foreign to me even though I started with 3E. Anyway, the Gold Box games have one of the best combat systems I've seen in a video game RPG, so I'd definitely like to play AD&D 1E someday.

    You're right about the lack of TRUE setting neutrality. From my reading, most OD&D stuff seems to be written for Greyhawk or Blackmoor, most Basic D&D stuff is connected to Mystara, and most AD&D stuff seems to be meant for Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms. There were some really unique and amazing settings early on, like Empire of the Petal Throne, but the big explosion of official campaign settings that diverged wildly from each other seemed to happen during 2E. This is all what I've read or heard, though. Like I said, I started with 3E unless you count video games. It's funny, though: even the old D&D rules are clearly written to encourage DMs to come up with their own campaign settings as desired, but then they put in a bunch of references to Greyhawk or whatever that go unexplained unless you end up buying the other relevant books. It's like they couldn't decide how system-neutral they wanted to be sometimes.

    Your creativity with Continual Light makes me remember how much I love the freedom and creativity of tabletop RPGs. You can't do so many different things with the same spell/item/ability/rule in the vast majority of other types of games.

    Monte Cook seems like a cool guy.

    You and Jon Wilson in his comments above are pretty much right about poison, but I can't just pass up an opportunity to take a shot at D&D alignment, now can I? :D I was pretty much just talking about poisons that have no use outside of killing people, but I didn't make that clear. I still think it's weird and funny that poison is treated as such a taboo in early D&D. I mean, Cloudkill isn't subject to the same taboo, right?

    Phantasmal Force actually reminds me of some summoning spells in The Bard's Tale. Both you and your enemies can summon phantom monsters as allies, and they do real damage, but there's also a spell that lets you "disbelieve" in them to kill them instantly.

    I actually like LotFP's spell list a lot in general, but in our over-the-top, action-heavy, gonzo campaign, I would have probably been better off using a different magic system. Like you said, a lot of LotFP spells don't get a chance to shine in the kind of situations are groups tends to wind up dealing with. Oh well. You live, you learn.

    I remember how you observed once that the LotFP Magic-User is really more like the AD&D Illusionist than the standard AD&D Magic-User. I think that was a really good point.

    I think it's standard for Clerics to have access to their whole spell list in most versions of D&D, isn't it? I think it's partly a trade-off for having a smaller spell list overall than the Magic-User, although I don't know if that's true in most editions or not.

    The whole "ignore what you don't like" thing is pretty much my M.O. when it comes to RPGs. I appreciate and share your attitude. Just grab inspiration from wherever you want!

  6. The nice thing about the older versions of D&D are that they were just simpler. Later versions started pushing a LOT of stuff at you. TSR was well known for bombarding you with source books. Toward the mid 90's, especially, it got ridiculous. Want to be a dwarven fighter? Well, then you probably want to start with the Fighter Player's Pack and the Player's Handbook. And the Complete Fighter's Handbook, the Arms and Equipment Guide, the Combat & Tactics book, the Skills & Powers book, and the Complete Book of Dwarves, too. Oh, you'd rather be an elven wizard instead? Well, in that case you'll want the Player's Handbook, the Wizard Player's Pack, the Skills & Powers book, the Spells & Magic book, Complete Wizard's Handbook, the Tome of Magic, the Complete Book of Elves, and all four volumes of the Wizard's Spell Compendium.

    Is it any wonder TSR was bankrupt and nearly out of business toward the end of the 90s? They were producing endless reams of crap, in two essentially indistinguishable versions of the ruleset: 2E AD&D and BECMI. The market could only absorb so much.

    Third edition started as a nice refresh of the rules. It added a good set of character options, and new opportunities and paths. I think that it's major failing was that if you used everything, (and what player wouldn't!), it was getting too complex to run your character. The profusion of races, classes, skills, feats, prestige classes... All in the core rules. A micromanager's dream. Add on to it that almost all of the material was produced for specific campaign settings, such as the Forgotten Realms, or whatever the hell Eberron was (some kind of magical steampunk thing?), and there was a lot of pressure to buy more and more. There were so many rulebooks in 3E and 3.5E that they had to summarize all of them in a 160 page Rules Compendium!

    Wanting to go back to 1E, or even basic, is completely understandable. It's a desire to get rid of all the complexity of managing a character sheet, and get on with just playing. Several companies producing material for 3E/d20 made it a point that the material they were making played like classic D&D. Necromancer Games tagline was "Third edition rules, first edition feel!"

    1E, and 2E before the rulesplosion, only required you to have the three core books: Player's Handbook, DMG, and Monster Manual, and a module. If your DM was creative, you didn't even need to adventure module.

    As to poison, it all depends on your campaign/world. All the options were defined in the rulebooks, but that didn't mean that every character had to use it, and trying to include rules for every interaction would have been crazy. Poison was, so far as I know, rarely used by PCs. It's just not an honorable thing to do, and there was always the risk of botching and getting yourself with it. A lot of the moral right/wrong stuff is mostly ignored by players, outside of outright murder/theft. DMs were encouraged by the rules, though, to track characters' actions to make sure they complied with their alignment. I think Gygax advocated the DM keeping a tally sheet for each character.

    Clerics have always been treated as having access to everything. They have never used books. They could just memorize any cleric spell. 5E has changed it a bit, so that you no longer memorize specific spells. You instead have a prepared list equal to your level plus your stat bonus. (Int/Wis/Cha based on your class.) You can cast those spells at will by expending a spell slot. If you have five first level slots, you can cast five Magic Missiles, or three Magic Missiles and two Burning Hands, etc. Cantrips are free, so you can cast Acid Splash all day long!

    If you'd really like to play a 1E game, I'd be happy to put something together. I know that the wife is willing to try something out. She's never played before.

  7. Also, I don't think Blackmoor was ever an official campaign setting. It was one of the lands in Greyhawk. Two of the original D&D expansions were called "Greyhawk" (Written by Gygax) and "Blackmoor" (written by Arneson), but the content had absolutely nothing to do with any campaign setting or world descriptions! They were simple rules expansions that might as easily have been called "More Rules" and "Even More Rules". If you know of any specific books detailing Blackmoor as a campaign setting, I'd love to learn about them.

    1. IIRC, Arneson basically held onto Blackmoor -- so it never became a full-blown AD&D setting beyond his control. But there were releases of Blackmoor campaign setting books within the 3.x era.

    2. Plus Mystara is technically the same setting as Blackmoor, but in a different time period (the far future of Blackmoor, I think, but don't quote me on that), so technically it was an official campaign setting by proxy, I guess. There's a lot of information here (which I haven't all read):

    3. Ahh... he released it through another company. I've never heard of that one. Thanks! I always wondered what Blackmoor was like. I knew that Mystara was a future version of it, but that doesn't really mean anything. TSR did release the DA series of four modules that was a time-travel back to Blackmoor-era Mystara. I don't know much about them, other than the first module, DA1, has the same Temple of the Frog adventure that was published in the original Blackmoor expansion written by Arneson. It was some blend of magic and technology, is all I know. Sounded pretty cool.

    4. Now I want to get a copy of DA1 and run it with Holmes' rules...

    5. That sounds fun! There are so many old modules I still need to check out.