Well, there's another retro-clone out there I'm waiting on: Blueholme. I'm interested in it partly because I just recently read J. Eric Holmes's novel The Maze of Peril and partly because I'm always on the lookout for a simple "D&D" rules system. While my first iteration of D&D to play was B/X Moldvey, I was vaguely familiar with the Holmes version prior to that. There was a copy or two on the games aisle of our local Kroger's grocery store, one of which was open. I could never convince my parents to buy it for me, but I leafed through as often as I could at the store. So, I remember Stone Mountain and the five alignment system graph, and the art even though I never actually played it. Personally, I was always interested in that Domed City on the 7th level and the older me wonders if it has any connection to The Maze of Peril.
Holmes D&D gets some love from a small but fanatical fanbase; GM Liz of the Save or Die! podcast comes to mind. But there are problems. First, Holmes goes no higher than 3rd level; that's really not conducive to long-term play. Second, there are some oddities that are not really found in earlier or later editions such as the aforementioned FIVE alignment system: LG, CG, LE, CE and N. Or how about the rule that a surprised PC has a chance of dropping whatever's in his hands? Initiative determined by dexterity score EVEN FOR MONSTERS! Third, there's the problem that even B/X suffered from: TSR's marketing changed more rapidly than design and publishing schedules. For example, B/X was supposed to have a Companion book. That volume was scrapped when the decision was made to produce Mentzer's BECMI.
So, why the fascination with Holmes D&D, especially if it's "incomplete?" Well, as a transitional/gateway game, it is not tied to concepts that we now take for granted. It's much more flexible. As for the level limitations, that's what the Blueholme project is supposed to address: taking that minimalist ruleset and expanding it out to 14th level. And part of it is also that the older I get, the less I care about detailed rules, much as I like games such as GURPS, Champions, and even AD&D. Let's roll some characters and sling some dice around--I've got some orcs to kill So, yes, I'm definitely looking forward to this game,
Until Monday, gentle readers!