Part of the reason Holmes fans enjoy detailed analysis of his text is that there are inconsistencies in it that reflect his self-defined role as primarily an editor rather than an author. The text must be read as a palimpsest with at least four layers that derive from four different goals for his book.
His first goal for his book was to edit the original 1974 Dungeons & Dragons rules into a clearer, easier-to-learn format. Contrary to about half of what Gary Gygax later said on the subject (even great men are subject to lapses of memory), and contrary to what the final text says and what most readers have concluded, Dr. Holmes began this work before Mr. Gygax began assembling his own edits into the manuscripts that would eventually become Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The blue book was not originally related to AD&D at all. Much of the text in Dr. Holmes's Dungeons & Dragons is word for word the text from Mr. Gygax and Mr. Arneson's Dungeons & Dragons text, as it was intended to be.
His second goal was to address the text to beginners, to create an introduction to the original Dungeons & Dragons that made it easier for new players and DMs to learn the game. He focused on just the lower levels of the game - though he still kept many higher-level monsters - and omitted complicated rules that could be considered add-ons to the core foundation of rules. Likewise he stripped down the advice to DMs, along with the wilderness and siege rules. In some cases, his excision of these supplementary rules is not complete, leaving the fingerprints of his editing in the final manuscript. Although later the project to create the blue book was described as always having been motivated by the second goal alone, there is reason to believe this second goal was arrived at later, that at first he planned a complete re-edit but after discussion with the folks at TSR decide to limit its scope to a beginner's guide.
His third goal - unstated, but evident in the text - was to reflect Gary Gygax's evolving vision for the game. We see this goal with his import of options like the Thief class from Mr. Gygax's Supplement 1: Greyhawk, with his adoption of the five-part alignment system from Mr. Gygax's article "The Meaning of Law and Chaos in Dungeons & Dragons and Their Relationships to Good and Evil" in the February 1976 issue of The Strategic Review magazine, and with borrowings from Mr. Gygax's draft Player's Handbook and Monster Manual manuscripts. These updates were sometimes worked smoothly into Dr. Holmes's emerging text, but they often introduced inconsistencies that betrayed their supplemental nature.
A fourth goal - not his but imposed upon the text by TSR during the production process - was to advertise the forthcoming Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game and to generally try to repurpose the text as an introduction to that game instead of to the original Dungeons & Dragons game. Although TSR and Mr. Gygax originally approved Dr. Holmes's goal of creating a re-edit of and introduction to original Dungeons & Dragons, the further Mr. Gygax proceeded with his Advanced Dungeons & Dragons project the less he liked the idea of having Dr. Holmes's project point new players and DMs toward what Mr. Gygax increasingly began to think of as the past. In 2005 Mr. Gygax wrote on the EN World forums that he was the one who inserted the AD&D material into Dr. Holmes's book. This layer of edits was rushed and created numerous inconsistencies in the final text.
Some will find these claims noncontroversial, but others will find them bold. In the series ahead I hope to examine each of the four layers in details.
At work I am the executive director of the VISTA Expertise Network, a Paideia instructor, and a VISTA hardhat.
At home I am a student of philosophy and morality, a role-playing gamer, an avid hiker, a Rock Band enthusiast, a husband, and an uncle.