Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Holmes As a Complete Game (Eight Points)

OK, so we love Holmes Basic and are obsessed with playing it as a complete game.  Why?  Because the rulebook is so perfect on its own, and we'd like to enjoy it as a full game without introducing any outside elements except those added by the DM...

Now, you might be wondering why this publisher is promoting other systems on their blog.  Easy.  Each game offers a unique experience, and there's room for all sorts of fun!  Other publishers are not competitors, and the day we start thinking that way is the day we've abandoned our finest intuitions.

So here's our Eight Points for Holmes as a complete game:

(1) All characters begin with maximum hit points at 1st level and roll randomly (by class) from 2nd level on.

(2) Should a character die in combat, they permanently lose one level and drop to 1d4 hit points, although these can be subsequently healed (obviously, not beyond their new level).  This represents a serious mortal wound that diminishes the character and reduces their future performance, where applicable.

(3) Any 1st level character who dies is slain...

(4) Characters who lose levels might gain them back through the acquisition of new experience, and this represents the slow process of recovery (and probably a cool scar to show off).

(5) Clerics add +1 per level to all turning attempts, and a 3rd level character can turn mummies and up on a roll of 12 without any bonuses except those from magic items. 

(6) Clerics, elves, and magic users acquire spells on the following, noting that in the absence of levels beyond 3rd, elves simply must be better balanced against human spell casters:

(7) Fighters add +1 to all melee attacks...

(8) Thieves add +25% to all thieving attempts, with additional bonuses for dexterity: 13 or better (+5%), 15 or better (+10%), and any score of 18 (+15%).  This helps keep them relevant.

OPTIONAL: Monsters get a four-sided hit die, except for dragons, introducing other, higher-level fare.

More than anything, this preserves the low-level feel of Holmes, which is doubtless a major part of its charm.  Is it complete or flawless?  Certainly not!  But it's a start, and we fully trust that you, our readers, will have ideas of your own, so keep 'em coming and help keep the Holmes flag flying.  Better still, actually play the game and have fun.  This is what our hobby is all about! 


  1. @ OHR:

    Nothing wrong with promoting other systems.

    There's some fairly radical ideas here, which I find pretty interesting. The thief bonuses are beefy, which I like. D4 hit dice for monsters (hill giants that average 20 hit points? Ogres that average 10?) may be going a tad too far for my taste, but I'm does it work in practice?

    One nice side-effect of the elf "nerf:" you make actual, magic-working elves fairly uncommon (since most elves encountered will be of the 1 hit die variety). That's actually feels much more Tolkien to me.

    How exactly does the "death = level loss" thing work? Do characters wake up in a ditch? Do they still have to be tended to recover? I guess I don't really get this procedure.

    1. I think it means that when you hit zero, lose a level and roll D4 HP... this is your current and you can heal to your new level max... if you have time. if you lose that D4 HP... you lose another level and roll D4 HP... etc if you are currently 1st level and you die... you are DEAD.

  2. I absolutely LOVE the death-as-level-drain rule! I'm tempted to copypaste it straight into my current ruleset.

    1. I'm adopting death-as-level drain. It's a great idea for rules-lite games where it isn't a hassle to implement.

  3. Lots of great ideas here! I love these kind of things. The partial nature of Holmes really encourages these kinds of experiments.

    Warlock introduces bonuses to Turning and Healing for Clerics with high Wisdom; these might work well here.

  4. Would love to see an Olde House Rules published version of this. I passed on your "soft death" level loss rule to the Micro RPG Facebook group I am apart of, and many players loved it. Some said it would be especially good for younger players.