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A recent thread over at the Dragonsfoot forums got me thinking about Elves in Holmes and how they might be played.

We know, thanks to Zenopus’s study of the Holmes manuscript, that the Elf was written up originally by Holmes as it was in OD&D – where the player chose to be a Fighting Man (FM) or Magic-User (MU) at the start of each game session. This text was removed in the published version of the rules (presumably) in order to steer it more closely to the AD&D multi-class model.

But if we ignore the intent or the history, and just want to play an Elf strictly by-the-book in Holmes, up to level three, how would we do it? Let’s start with the key facts about Elves as written:

  1. They have the advantages of both FM and MUs, referring to armor, weapon and spell use.
  2. They progress as both a FM and a MU, splitting experience equally each game, making them progress more slowly than other classes.
  3. They use d6 hit dice.
  4. In the advancement charts on p. 11, we can see the first table is titled “Fighting Men, Elves, Halflings and Dwarves”, to imply we should be using the FM advancement table for Elves.
  5. Just below the charts, there is the text “Elves progress in two areas – fighting man and magic-user”, to imply we should also be using the MU advancement table for Elves.
  6. Elves encountered as monsters will have a leader of FM level 2-4 and MU level 2-8.

This list raises some more questions, however. When do Elves gain hit dice (HD), and can they wear armor and cast spells at the same time?

I’d argue that as written, Elves can indeed wear armor and cast spells simultaneously, just due to #1, above, and due to the fact that there is no other qualifying language regarding Elvish use of spells and armor in the Holmes rulebook. Reconciling #2 through #5 is a bit harder, but I think the following does it:

Each game, keep track of the total XP earned, but track it at double the cost and ignore the MU HD progression. The effect will be that when you gain a level as a FM, you add a HD (but 1d6 instead of 1d8), and when you gain a level as a MU, you add spells. You can use this combined table for advancement to see how it works.

+-----+------+-----+------+
|Level|XP    |HD   |Spells|
|FM/MU|      |     |L1/L2 |
+-----+------+-----+------+
|1/1  |0     |1d6  |1/0   |
+-----+------+-----+------+
|2/1  |4,000 |2d6  |1/0   |
+-----+------+-----+------+
|2/2  |5,000 |-    |2/0   |
+-----+------+-----+------+
|3/2  |8,000 |3d6  |2/0   |
+-----+------+-----+------+
|3/3  |10,000|-    |2/1   |
+-----+------+-----+------+

This table can be easily extended to higher levels, and I think it’s an elegant way to handle Elves.

Obviously, we’re assuming that Elves don’t progress at matched levels, i.e. they don’t progress from level 1/1 directly to level 2/2, and finally to level 3/3. This is due to #6, above, and due to the fact that you must split the XP evenly between the two classes.