Friday, June 23, 2017


I love me some random tables and I love me some Holmes Basic D&D. In honor of Free RPG Day, Zenopus Archives released Holmes Ref 2.0. I highly recommend checking it out, even if you have no real interest in Holmes because it is chuck full of goodness, especially of the random nature.

Ostensibly, it is a reference sheet for taking Holmes beyond its original scope of character levels 1-3 using OD&D as its default point of departure for higher levels (brilliant idea, especially since that is exactly what Holmes himself did). Thus, I find myself desperately wanting to play a Holmes campaign using this stuff.

There are, however, some very cool variations in here that are portable to any Old-School game and, with a little work, to any version of the game.

Firstly, there is a random name table that apes some of the names from Holmes and B1 and reminds me of the name charts found in the alien expansions for Original Traveller (which is always a good thing). The first time I rolled up a name, it produced something truly inspiring: Sho Zo-ton from Afar (more on this below)

Secondly, it provides a Backgrounds table for human characters that players may roll on in lieu of rolling up beginning cash. Each background provides a cool ability, a set of equipment appropriate for that background and a reduced number of dice x10 for starting cash.

So, for Sho Zo-ton from Afar I rolled up a Nomad background which provides an ability to surprise 1-4 on a d6 when outside while wearing leather armor or less and the ability to use archery while riding. In addition to 1d6x10 starting gold (I rolled a ‘4’), the character starts with a Light Horse, Lance, Horse Bow and Leather Armor.

This is where the fun begins. The title “from Afar” suggests that this character comes from a distant land. A fantasy version of Korea immediately suggested itself, because traditionally Koreans have 3 syllable names: the first being the family name and the last two being the given name. Therefore ‘Sho’ is the character’s clan and ‘Zo-ton’ is the given name. Additionally, traditional Korean weapons fall into three broad categories: bows (which are considered to be THE Korean weapon), spears (of which a lance is a variation) and sword.

For flavor, I noted the Korean names of each weapon Sho Zo-ton carries:

  • Gakgung (a bow made from buffalo horn)
  • Gichang (a spear with a flag at the spear end used both by horsemen and footmen)
  • Hwando (a single edged curved short sword, which I used part of the 40gp to purchase)

Traditionally, men of the Joseon period (14th c.-19th c. which is approximate to the suggested fantasy Western culture in most D&D settings) wore their hair in a sangtu top-knot. This signified manhood which came from being married (and they married young). This suggests a reason why Sho Zo-ton came from Afar to adventure in the “West:” his family, specifically his wife, was killed by strange beasts (orcs? gnolls? lizard men?) that he learned originated from the area that the campaign takes place. He is here for honor and vengeance.

All this from a couple of random table rolls!

Finally, Holmes Ref 2.0 organizes all 80 monsters in Holmes into a giant Monster Reference Table which accomplishes two things:

Firstly, it provides a customizable Wandering Monster Table in that the monsters are grouped together by Hit Dice and the reference numbers are organized into groups of twelve allowing the GM to roll up to a d8 in addition to a d12 to get a random monster. The smaller the first die, the lower the likely HD of the monster.

Secondly, it provides a cool way to create new monsters. The Table is organized into AC, DMGxAT, AC, MV, AL, TT, Special Characteristic and Habits. Roll on the table using the aforementioned d8 and d12 to randomly determine each category. With a little imagination, the result is a brand new monster (and one I am guessing that pushes our creativity beyond what we would normally do).

The first time I rolled up a creature, I came up with this:

Living Door

HD: 1d4
Dam: 1d6
AC: 4
MV: 0
AL: Neutral
TT: Nil
Special: Shriek with 1d3 rounds of light within 30’ or movement within 10’; 50% of wandering monster
Habits: Unintelligent

These strange plants were magically grown by the ancients to warn of intruders and discourage interlopers. They appear to be doors made of wood without any handle. Carved in the middle of the door is an abstract face with a open mouth as if screaming. Within 1d3 rounds of there either being light within 30’ or movement within 10’ the living door begins to shriek and shoot thorn-like darts out of its mouth. Any attack against the living door that doesn’t target the face does no damage.

The dart attacks and the shrieking will cease (or never begin if done quickly enough) if the proper type of food (e.g. Carrion Crawler flesh), determined by the ancient who grew the creature, is placed inside the mouth of the Living Door. The mouth will close and the door will open and remain open for 1d6 turns while the food is digested.

Once killed, a Living Door functions as a normal locked door; however, it is rumored that if food is placed inside the mouth of a dead Living Door it can be revived to then accept whatever food is placed in the mouth to revive it.

A very Holmsian monster, if I do say so myself!

BTW if you are interested in seeing some good and inspiring movies that feature Korean archery, I suggest The Fatal Encounter and War of the Arrows.