Wednesday 10 July 2024

Solo Blueholme session #0 (chargen etc.)

A number of weeks ago I posted regarding my intention to run Stygian Library solo. There's a link right here but for some reason they aren't showing up as such, so please scroll to the end to read the comprehensive list of pages linked in this post. I've since already run a party of adventurers through a delve in the Stygian library, and had some thoughts about what the survivors (spoiler alert! some of them survive!) do next. However, before writing that up I wanted to go into a little more detail about how I'm using BLUEHOLME as the "operating system" (OS, Really) for Stygian.

The 1977 Dungeons and Dragons "basic set" by Eric Holmes, aka. the Holmes Basic can be thought of as the "missing link" between OD&D and B/X (or perhaps even B/X and AD&D 1e), and it is not without its fans (particularly popular blog The Zenopus Archives). Blueholme is a retroclone of that ruleset by Michael Thomas, and seems to have emerged following conversations on the Dragonsfoot forum.

For this solo game I'm using the free "prentice" rules which cleave most closely to the Holmes Basic set, though Michael Thomas did successfully Kickstart the Journeymanne rules which extrapolate the player facing rules to allow character progression up to level 20. I'm not especially interested in that right now, and I'll be using an illegally obtained PDF of the Holmes basic I'm seeking further clarity over rules.

Given the lightweight nature of both Blueholme and the Holmes basic I'm keeping my trusty Rules Cyclopedia on hand for ease of reference. I realise this is going to cause a lot of headshaking from die-hard Holmes fans but hear me out: it's a really useful tool for random things like animal stats, sailing ship speeds and how much a seneschal charges per month in GP. I suppose the authentic experience would involve either the 1e DMG or the LBB themselves (and I have PDFs of all of those) but since they're to back up finer points rather than forming the core rules I feel justified in my decision.

Bluholme: player facing rules

  • Rules-as-written ordinary text
  • optional rules in italics
  • My own houserules in bold italics
  • Bold unitalicised refers to items mentioned further down in the list

Ability Scores

  • 3d6 down the line
  • No strength modifiers, provides XP bonus to fighters only
  • Intelligence determines number of languages known (one language for each point over 10)
  • No wisdom modifiers, provides XP bonus to clerics only
  • Constitution provides a -1 penalty to HP at 3-6, +1 at 15-16 , +2 at 17 and +3 at 18
  • Dex modifies ranged attacks (but not AC): 13 or higher gains +1, 8 or lower -1
  • Charisma determines the maximum number of followers achievable (no bonus to reactions)
I rolled up seven characters: The 3 "best" to act as the party core, the remainder to be hirelings & followers.

Homemade character sheet:

  • Not going to include dwarves or elves in this campaign
  • Elves as written (can be fighters, mages or fighter-mages)
  • Mage rules for spellbooks and scrolls are great and I'm using as written
  • Allowing the optional "scrolls as temporary spell books" when adventuiring for long periods
  • Fighters use the same to-hit tables as "monsters": a 3rd level fighter attacks as a 3HD monster
  • I'm going to follow the rules for "combination classes" with regard to elven fighter-mages, but won't be generating any multiclass human characters at this stage


  • Alignment in Blueholme follows both a good/evil axis and a chaotic/lawful axis, but there is only one neutral alignment (i.e. no chaotic/lawful neutral or neutral evil/good options)
  • ...however, I will alllow only 3 alignment languages: chaotic, neutral and lawful... alignment languages are described as "spoken" and I'm keeping that, though enabling characters to learn the languages of other alignments
  • Equipment as written. Considered running "silver standard" but reconsidered.    


  • I'm envisioning a low fantasy setting so I'm not interested in a proliferation of humanoid languages
  • The two principal languages are "western" and "eastern", as well as a widely spoken "classical" language 
  • Additionally, there are "infernal" and "celestial" languages relating to the quasi-abrahamic implied religion and its attached pantheons of saints, archons and daemons
  • Elven characters speak elven. Not fully decided on what elves actually are at the moment, possibly fey changeling children or alien-human hybrids. Or both...


  • As written but also...
  • Part of the purpose of the PCs venturing into the Stygian Library is to find new spells: I'm including the spells described in Kevin Crawford's Worlds Without Number in special grimoires, each one corresponding to the complete set of spells for each level
  • Spell duration varies according to whether cast in or out of combat (due to turn length, see below) 

Adventuring: Time

  • "Normal" (exploration) turn lasts ten minutes of in-game time
  • "Combat" turn is ten rounds or 100 seconds (!)
  • Combat rounds last ten seconds

Adventuring: Movement

  • Movement rules as written, with rests required every sixth turn
  • Encumbrance optional rules: movement is impeded when loaded (i.e. exceeding normal carrying capacity) or armoured (wearing metal mail or plate armour), and further impeded if encumbered (i.e. armoured and loaded)
  • Rules for light, doors and secret doors are standard for early editions of D&D

NPC Retainers, hirelings and followers

  • Blueholme is uncharacteristically vague (at least in the Prentice rules) as to how NPC followers are acquired, though it is stated they require fair share of treasure and XP
  • NPC followers are limited in the following ways:
        • Number- tied to PC charisma, which sets the ceiling 
        • Level- followers must lower in level than the PC   
  • PCs only begin with one NPC follower, and can only gain one follower a time between delves/excursions/adventures etc. At least one follower is an apprentice/squire/novice (depending on class) 
  • Hirelings of equal level can be recruited with an 100 GP per level  payment up front and a negotiable share of the treasure

Reaction rolls & morale

  • As written, fairly standard 2d6 table: will add bonuses and penalties to negotiation rerolls as appropriate:
2d6 NPC or Creature Reaction
2 Extremely hostile, attacks at once.
3-5 Unfriendly but uncertain, ready to attack.
6-8 Neutral, re-roll after further negotiation.
9-11 Positive, willing to listen to offers.
12 Welcoming, happy to help if possible.
  • Since there's no morale mentioned at all in Blueholme, I'll be following the guidelines laid out in the Rules Cyclopedia:
Morale Scores Table
Type of Personality                            Morale Score Range
Abjectly cowardly                                  2
Always frightened or very cautious       3-5
Unmotivated                                           6
Disinterested                                           7
Normal                                                    8   
Brave, determined, or stubborn              9-11
Suicidally brave or berserk                     12

As a rule, morale tests are employed when instructions and or desires come into conflict with common sense or acting in the combatants best interest 


  • "XP for creatures" is slightly more complex than B/X or BECMI in that there's a coefficient applied to the XP value based on the creature's HD vs that of their slayer. I'll use it at first
  • Right now I'm also following XP for gold, initially the plan was to reward this once the loot was brought back to "civilisation", but I had some further ideas, partly inspired by Luke Gearing's carousing rules


  • Combat in Blueholme uses both dex based initiative and "phases" 
  • Distinct actions belong to specific phases in the round, with those possessing highest dexterity acting first.
  • Phases are as follows:
    1. Surprise attacks, or backstabbing thieves.
    2. Spells, and spell-like effects.
    3. Missiles, including breath weapons.
    4. Melee, and other actions (e.g. picking up weapons or readying spells).
    5. Movement.

  • I can write down a dexterity/initiative order for my party as a list to make things easy, but most creatures won't have a dex score so it'll be determined on the fly
  • AC is DESCENDING! Not a problem because I've drawn up attack matrices on my character sheet..
  • I've already mentioned that I'm giving fighters improved attack rolls from L2 onwards
  • Like the loon that I am, I'm using the variable weapon speed and damage rules: 

"Under this system, light weapons may attack twice per round (once at the character’s normal initiative and again after everyone else has acted); medium weapons attack as normal, and heavy weapons can only strike every other round. 

To offset this, light weapons do only 1d4 damage, medium weapons do 1d6, and heavy weapons do 1d10 points. All missile weapons are considered medium weapons under this system."

  • 0 HP = death, HP represents meat points. Damage heals at a rate of 1d3 per day of full bed rest
  • Missile weapons are subject to ranged hit modifiers
  • Parrying: "instead of attacking, a combatant may choose to use a weapon to parry an opponent’s incoming blow; this intention must be declared before the attacker rolls to hit. Parrying imposes a –2 penalty on the attacker’s roll to hit. The parrying character loses all attacks that round. If the attack roll exactly equals the number needed to hit, the weapon used to parry with will break and damage is dealt as normal." 

The next Blueholme/Stygian Library post will be an update on how the first delve went. There may (however) be some other material going up before then relating to last month's psychedelic Dawn ramblings.


Stygian Library solo

Zenopus archives

Blueholme Prentice Rules (PWYW, affiliate link)

Blueholme Journeymanne Rules (affiliate link)

That Gearing fella's carousing malarkey:

No comments:

Post a Comment