Blueholme Journeymanne Rules was a Kickstarter by Michael Thomas. It extends his retro clone of the Holmes Blue Box Basic from 1977, Blueholme Prentice Rules for levels 1-3. The Journeymanne rules extend things to level 20. It is fitting that this was in 2017, the 40th anniversary of the Holmes Blue Box.
I got my start with the Holmes Blue Box way back in 1977, so this is my 40th year of D&D! Like many who backed this Kickstarter, it was for the nostalgia, and to finally get past level 3. Back in the day, we didn’t make the connection to the OD&D books, or we would have gotten them. The Holmes basic text told us we needed AD&D, so anything else was “basic,” and for little kids. How wrong we were. Had we ignored that, we would have gotten the original books and perhaps gone beyond 3rd level before the Player’s Handbook finally came out in 1978.
I backed at the level of the PDF and hardback. The PDF was completed a few months ago, with several weeks allowed for backers to read. I wish I had time before the cutoff to read this, I had too many Kickstarters deliver from November to December, and I ran games at two conventions the first two weeks of November. I found a couple of issues I will report elsewhere. I’m kicking myself for not digging in and reading the PDF.
The printing and shipping was via Lulu, and the quality is what I expect from Lulu. It is a serviceable book, and the cover and text look good.
All the basics are covered, species instead of races, classes, abilities, equipment, spells, monsters, treasure, adventures, encounters, and campaigns. This is 117 pages with table of contents, index, backer list, and OGL taking up 5 pages, and one more for a sample character sheet. With the PDF, it is easy to print out character sheets, or use one of the many basic/OSR character sheets, or do it old school and write it out on notebook paper or index cards.
What I Liked:
- Art – A gorgeous cover and many interior illustrations.
- Classes have all the information for a class in one place:
- XP table
- Spell table
- Other class specific tables, like turning undead, and a paragraph or two on strongholds.
- The Introduction ends by pointing out that there are no “rules,” but rather guidelines.
- Old School
- Initiative is based on DEX. Roll off on a d6 to break ties. (This is how Metamorphosis Alpha does it.) This was also in Holmes.
- Both magic users and clerics have spell books, and the books are so big, they can’t take them adventuring.
- Looser rules on what levels magic items like potions and scrolls can be created, like in Holmes.
- Less fiddly bits on spells.
- Streamlined combat.
- The monster section mentions that the listings are the average or typical of the type. Players can find some much tougher or weaker than what is listed.
- The Class section mentions “non-standard” races, and in fact any “monster” can also be a classed character, although weaker and having to advance in levels.
- Weapons all do d6, but there is a variant rule.
- Many new monsters, or variations on the standard ones.
- A section on Unusual Treasures, whether magical or mundane.
- The section on campaigns is far from comprehensive, but hits key points to keep in mind for designing your own campaign setting.
What I’d Like to See:
I really struggled trying to decide what is truly “missing” or poorly executed here. This is a well executed retro clone of what a “complete” ruleset might look like from Dr. Holmes. This is meant to be a light set of rules for quick play. Characters are easy to generate in a few minutes, and play can commence right away.
Adding to this would have to be done carefully to avoid bloat. It is OSR, so monsters, spells, and magic items are easily available from multiple sources, many of them free.
Whether your interest is the nostalgia for the early days of the hobby, or a simple rule set for quick play, or for the kids to run their own games, this fits the bill.