Doctor Holmes

Doctor Holmes

Eric Holmes 1981 book

Yesterday's marked the 91st anniversary of the birth of J. Eric Holmes in 1930.

The book Of Dice and Men by David M. Ewalt introduces Eric Holmes with:

John Eric Holmes, MD, was a neurologist, a writer, and a fan of Dungeons & Dragons. When he contacted TSR with a proposal to clean up the legendary confusing D&D rule books, Gygax was already at work on his own revision. But where Gygax had planned to rationalize the game by adding more structure and complexity, Holmes proposed the opposite: taking everything that had been published about the game (...) and editing it down to a single, simplified rule set.

Gygax decided the two men would work on separate but complementary versions of Dungeons & Dragons. Holmes' mission was to simplify and rewrite the rules until they were accessible to inexperienced players, particulary kids; Gygax worked toward a bigger and better game, meant for existing players and hard-core grognards.

Holmes' game was finished first and released in July 1977. (...) The Basic Set, widely referred to as "the Blue Box", brought much-needed clarity to Dungeons & Dragons. (...) Holmes used plain English and assumed his audience had no war-gaming experience.

I haven't yet started reading Doctor Holmes' 1981 book, but I picked it from the shelf and here are some lines out of it:

An even more interesting question about fantasy gaming psychology, I think, is, "What makes it such a success?" On a superficial level, I think the games are popular because they are even better than reading a story.

In a fantasy story one can imagine being the hero or the heroine, but you must accept the pattern of behavior the author has laid down for you. A good author can do this and make the reader feel a part of the aventure. The role playing game makes this fantasy explicit.

The "reader" is indeed the hero, and must make the decisions, perform the actions, take the risks, that a fictional hero might.

In a good game the sense of personal involvement is immediate and the player says, "I jump to the top of the rock," "I draw my sword," "I prepare my most powerful spell." The situation is about as real as it can possibly be without being real at all.


I'm sure it is the charm and nostalgia of "Let's pretend" that draw most of us to the game. (...) We talk about our imaginary selves as if they did have a separate existence—a separate existence much more glamorous and exciting than our own.