Sherlock Holmes as a Traveller Character
This was a featured article in the March/April 2019 issue.
Editor’s Note: In a few cases, most notably The Sign of the Four, the US and UK titles differ slightly. All have been changed to US usage.
Our esteemed editor started a thread over on The Traveller Mailing List (October 14, 2018 and subsequent, “Playing with an idea”) about private investigators, noting that outside of Book 5: Agent there was little in the way of character generation for such staples of detective fiction. (There are any number of police careers in classic Traveller fanzines and elsewhere, but that’s not quite what was desired.) Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sherlock Holmes’ name came up in the discussion and he was generally regarded as impossible to generate under the rules and would be best as an NPC.
Well, I like a challenge, and this happens to touch on another interest of mine. With the possible exception of Isaac Asimov volumes, I probably have more Sherlock Holmes books of one type or another than anything else. All 56 Conan Doyle short stories (not including the ‘special occasion’ stories “The Field Bazaar” and “How Watson Learned the Trick”) and four novels, obviously; but also many of the pastiches published since and several volumes of work about the great detective. Indeed, Sherlock Holmes Detected by Ian McQueen (1974) is a treasure I bought as a young schoolboy and have loved and regularly reread ever since. It’s probably what gave me a love for the ‘meta’ knowledge and information that drove my bibliographic work. I’m also indebted to S. Baring-Gould’s Sherlock Holmes: A Biography which is a tour de force of complete and completely believable biography of an entirely fictional person! (Yes, I know it’s heresy to say this.) His dates for Holmes’ life and chronology of adventures are what I’ve used for the timeline below – although there is much debate amongst connoisseurs about some details. I’ve also been privileged to play Holmes and was delighted as well as being rather surprised to receive notification earlier this year that I’ve been added to the database of such actors (No. 4051, if anyone is keeping track)! I’ve chosen to use the Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition rules, which should be relatively easy to convert to other rule sets.
“You certainly do things thoroughly, Mr Holmes.”
“I should hardly be what I am if I did not.”
(“The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane”)
Let’s start with Holmes’ characteristics. Strength isn’t particularly a notable feature of Holmes although he was noted for his boxing prowess and he does straighten out a poker which a visitor in “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” (future references to the short stories will omit “The Adventure of” or “The Case of”, and only give the key words) bends to threaten him. Of course, we might argue that the metal has been recently heated by the bending and is a bit easier to return to shape but Holmes specifically notes that it is his ‘grip’ which helps him rather than brute strength. I think we can assign that an ‘8’ at the beginning of his career, perhaps declining to a 6 towards the end as aging and the strains of his profession take hold (see for example, “Reigate Squire” where his “iron constitution” has been so affected by a case that he’s taking rest in the country). You could perhaps make a case for starting at 9 and declining to 5 if you wanted to give/take die modifiers for his strength.
As for dexterity, my general feeling is that Holmes would probably get a positive DM on this at least. He’s lithe, known to be adept at fencing and throughout the stories exhibits dexterity. Besides, we’re on surer footing here as Watson has a lovely turn of phrase in A Study in Scarlet when he first describes Homes and says “he was possessed of extraordinary delicacy of touch, as I frequently had occasion to observe when I watched him manipulating his fragile philosophical instruments” (i.e., his chemistry apparatus). In “Beryl Coronet”, Holmes himself notes that “I am exceptionally strong in the fingers” which points more to dexterity than outright strength. The Sign of the Four sees him climbing over difficult roofs. I think we can give him a ‘9’ on this. I don’t think ’10’ is unreasonable but let’s see if we can keep his exceptional qualities somewhat reasonable for the purposes of this exercise!
Endurance I would suggest should be even higher, say a ‘10’ thanks to that ‘iron constitution’ and his ability to devote himself to the task in hand rather single-mindedly. Take for example The Hound of the Baskervilles, when he lives in a Neolithic hut on the moors for some weeks or his ability to go for several days without (much) food in pursuit of a criminal. See for example his three-day absolute fast in “Dying Detective”. His body took some considerable abuse over the years from his cocaine habit particularly, and yet he still managed to maintain considerable fitness despite the lack of “exercise for exercise’s sake” that Watson notes in “Yellow Face” – although he does also note in that passage “few men were capable of greater muscular effort” – but we could read that as short bursts of strength applied by virtue of understanding leverage and so on. Still, it could argue for boosting his strength higher if desired. Holmes and Watson demonstrate both Dexterity and Endurance when in “Charles Augustus Milverton” they scale a six foot wall topped with glass while they’re under pursuit and then run two miles across Hampstead Heath before stopping. Against that, note the description in “Devil’s Foot” which takes place in 1897 where his “iron constitution showed some signs of giving way in the face of constant hard work of a most exacting kind, aggravated, perhaps, by occasional indiscretion of his own”. This necessitated a break in Cornwall. Not that he escaped crime solving there. By the time he’s nearly 50 years old, Watson notes in “Three Garridebs” that “Holmes had spent several days in bed, as was his habit from time to time” which suggests be was beginning to tire; so perhaps reducing to 5 or 6 in latter years.
Intelligence must surely start at ‘12’ and perhaps be allowed to go higher in the character generation process. While his emotional intelligence might not have been high, there’s no doubting that of all the standard Traveller characteristics, this is what Holmes is noted for.
Education is a little more surprising. Mention is made of his going to University (generally regarded as being up at Oxford – see Baring-Gould), but no mention is made of his ever achieving a degree despite a couple of years, at least, there. Traveller5 rates a bachelor’s degree as equalling ‘8’ for education, so technically Holmes would rate a ‘7’ if he never actually graduated. However, it’s very clear that he has considerable self-education and has gone on to publish works on subjects as varied as tobacco, footprints, tattoos, ears (twice!), the dating of documents, the influence of trade upon the form of a hand, and of course the polyphonic motets of Lassus. I think we can safely push him back up to ‘8’ at least on this and higher would be defendable.
For Social Standing I would say a ‘10’ in the latter part of his career – he famously refused a knighthood (“Three Garridebs”) so doesn’t quite qualify as an ‘11’ – but as he started out he really struggled and could perhaps be given a ‘5’ here. So perhaps a candidate for +1 (or even +2) SOC die modifier being on the list of mustering out benefits. (He did accept the French award of the Order of the Legion of Honour (“Golden Pince-Nez”) along with a letter of thanks from the French President as well as an emerald tie-pin from Queen Victoria in “Bruce-Partington Plans”).
So that gives us 89AC85 as he starts out and perhaps 596C8A by the time he’s mustering out to keep bees on the Sussex Downs and struggle with rheumatism. This looks nicely in line with how UPPs change in the process of character generation and feels fairly realistic as life changes go and also looks fairly realistic in terms of ‘randomly’ generated Traveller characters. You could definitely argue for, say, ABBD96 changing to 697D9A by the time he’s 50 or so if you wanted a more heroic version.
Although neither a characteristic nor a skill in standard Traveller, it is worth noting here Watson’s comment about Holmes’ “remarkable powers, carefully cultivated, of seeing in the dark” (“Charles Augustus Milverton”) and “Three Gables” suggests he has pretty good hearing too even in later life. In addition he has a prodigious memory – see his brain attic in A Study in Scarlet.
“I hold a vast store of out-of-the-way knowledge, without scientific system, but very available for the needs of my work. My mind is like a crowded box-room with packets of all sorts stowed away therein – so many that I may well have but a vague perception of what was there.” (“Lion’s Mane”)
For skills I’m going to stick with the Core Rulebook rather than create additional ones, but I think we can get close enough with what’s there. Starting with background skills his education of 7 or 8 would give three skills and I’d pick Drive 0, Language 0 and Science 0. Drive would obviously become Drive (horse drawn vehicle) were it to be developed to level 1 or more. Alternatively, you could choose Animals 0 to eventually become ‘handling’ for this considering that in a couple of adventures Holmes drives a horse drawn dog-cart, or uses Toby the bloodhound for tracking (e.g. The Sign of the Four), or is well acquainted with horses and knows how to make one lame (“Silver Blaze”). For languages you can take your pick of several. He quotes in Latin, French and German at least that I can recall and Baring-Gould has him able to speak six languages. In A Study in Scarlet he buys a book in Latin (De Jure inter Gentes [= International Law], which presumably isn’t just for decoration). Of course, merely quoting doesn’t necessarily equate with mastery of a language but he’s familiar enough with German to know rache means revenge rather than get side tracked into thinking it might be the start of ‘Rachel’ as Lestrade does (A Study in Scarlet). Science represents his facility with chemistry. He and Watson first met over a chemistry experiment at Barts and Watson notes the experiments (and noxious smells) going on in their rooms. If you were to give Homes, say, an education of 9 with its DM of +1, then I might add Carouse as a nod either to the boxing (The Sign of the Four or “Solitary Cyclist”), his Japanese baritsu (“Empty House”), or the detective’s ability to blend in with social settings from working class pubs to upper class dinners. On the other hand, that might reasonably be subsumed into Deception (see below), as Holmes was hardly a noted party goer.
Next, let’s take a look at what skills are possible that we’ve not mentioned above:
We can immediately dismiss Astrogation, Broker, Electronics, Engineer, Explosives, Flyer, Gunner, Heavy Weapons, Mechanic, Pilot and Vacc Suit. We can also dismiss Admin if you consider the chaos of his paperwork (“Musgrave Ritual”); not to mention his keeping tobacco in a Persian slipper and his cigars in a coal scuttle. A case might be made for Diplomat and Holmes was certainly able to speak diplomatically to characters in all works of life if he chose to, but he would as frequently say what he thought regardless of feelings if it didn’t suit his purpose. Certainly he never had a formal role along those lines; that was left to his brother Mycroft. We could debate Medic 0 as he had some “unsystematic” knowledge of anatomy and could probably apply his intelligence to some of the basics, but clearly that’s what Watson was contributing and I think we can pass on that too.
Perhaps rather more debatably we can dismiss Gambler, Seafarer, Steward, Survival and Tactics. Yes, he could probably have at least passed for level 0 in some of these. He might disguise himself for example as a master mariner (The Sign of the Four) which would require some knowledge, or survive on Dartmoor with very little in the way of creature comforts, and display some tactical ability in outsmarting criminals, but these feel rather outside of the scope of his traditional abilities. If you look carefully however at, for example, The Hound of the Baskervilles, you find that he didn’t after all spend nearly three weeks living in the hut on Dartmoor. “My hardships were not so great as you imagined… I stayed for the most part in [nearby] Coombe Tracey and only used the hut upon the moor when it was necessary to be near the scene of action” supported by “Cartwright who, in his disguise as a country boy [provided] food and clean linen.”
Cases could perhaps be made for Animals (see above); Carouse (see above); Leadership (he invariably took charge in a group consisting of, say, clients, Watson, Lestrade, etc.) and in “Solitary Cyclist” it mentions “the strong, masterful personality of Holmes dominated the tragic scene”; Navigation (great knowledge of London but needed maps elsewhere and this could be subsumed into Streetwise); Persuade (he certainly talked Watson into some dubious enterprises—for example, in “Bruce-Partington Plans”, they not only break and enter but Watson is instructed to carry the tools across London: “Bring with you a jemmy, a dark lantern, a chisel and a revolver” – all of which he is able to stow discreetly in his overcoat! Watson expresses reservations about breaking in, but Holmes persuades him); and Profession (he could probably have turned his hand to many things – it’s sometimes commented that he could have been an actor (The Sign of the Four and “Mazarin Stone”), or boxer (also The Sign of the Four), safe cracker (“Charles Augustus Milverton”) etc., however, none of these feel they’re appropriate skills for the man and we can’t give him everything; tempting though it is.
This leaves Art, Athletics, Deception, Drive, Gun Combat, Investigate, Jack of All Trades, Language, Melee, Recon, Science, Stealth and Streetwise.
Fortunately, we get a little help from Watson at this point as he writes about his understanding of Holmes’ skills after a few weeks of living with him (A Study in Scarlet). In full, his list reads:
SHERLOCK HOLMES – his limits
- Knowledge of Literature – Nil.
- Knowledge of Philosophy – Nil.
- Knowledge of Astronomy – Nil.
- Knowledge of Politics – Feeble.
- Knowledge of Botany – Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening.
- Knowledge of Geology – Practical, but limited. Tells at a glance different soils from each other. After walks has shown me splashes upon his trousers, and told me by their colour and consistence in what part of London he had received them.
- Knowledge of Chemistry – Profound.
- Knowledge of Anatomy – Accurate, but unsystematic.
- Knowledge of Sensational Literature – Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century.
- Plays the violin well.
- Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.
- Has a good practical knowledge of British law.
I might have been tempted to put Advocate aside save for that last line, but I think we have to give him Advocate 1 at least as the Core Rulebook (p.62) states, inter alia, it includes a “knowledge of common legal codes”. #11 gives us Melee (blade) 3 and Melee (unarmed) 3 if he’s an ‘expert’ in boxing and fencing. We could revisit these as level 2 skills perhaps if needed, depending on where your definition of expertise lies. #10 gives Art (instrument) 2 perhaps but later, in “The Red-Headed League”, Watson knows more and describes Holmes as a “capable performer” and a “composer of no ordinary merit”, so I think we must give Art (instrument) 3. On the subject of Art we would probably need to add at least Art (writing) 1 for all his publications of articles and monographs – although I’m not aware of any comments on their quality save that his treatise on the Polyphonic Motets of Lassus was the “last word on the subject” (“Bruce-Partington Plans”). Some Traveller rule sets might also allow Art (disguise) and this certainly could be used here but Deception covers it explicitly: “allows a Traveller to… disguise himself… and fool onlookers” (p.63) and Holmes should probably be granted Deception 3, even 4 given that he could fool Watson and others who knew him well. Amongst other things he became a venerable Italian priest (“The Final Problem”), an old opium smoker (“The Man with the Twisted Lip”), an unshaven French ouvrier (“Lady Carfax”), the spy “Altmont of Chicago” at 60, gaunt and with a goatee (“His Last Bow”), and no less than three characters in “The Mazarin Stone”: a workman, a sporting man and an elderly woman.
#9 on Watson’s list we can ignore as a non-standard Traveller skill and items #1-4 give us things we can definitely miss. #5, Botany, is perhaps variable enough that he’d have at most a 0 skill so we don’t need to have the specialism and can include it under other Science skills. Anatomy (#8) we can treat the same way thanks to the “unsystematic” but if we feel we need some level 1 skills, could go as far as 1. Geology at #6 probably qualifies for Science (geology) 1 but we could subsume it as a level 0 skill if we end up with too many skill levels. I can’t help feeling that possibly Watson’s description of Holmes’ chemical knowledge (#7) as ‘profound’ may have said more about his own ignorance on the subject but it’s clear the detective had some facility and I think we can safely say Science (chemistry) 2 at least.
His Background skills really need bumping up. Drive we had as a background skill and I’m more inclined to go with that increasing to Drive (horse drawn vehicle) 2 at the very least – in “The Man With the Twisted Lip” he drove a dog-cart and in “Solitary Cyclist” did so at speed which must take some ability and in “A Scandal in Bohemia” their cabbie drives fast and Holmes comments “I don’t think I ever drove faster” (I could have sworn Holmes at one points drives a London cab at some speed, but I’m unable to find such a reference. It may be an elision of the cases mentioned; or it may be from a television production or pastiche story.). Language is difficult as I’m reluctant to fill skill slots with as many as six languages at level 3 or even 2, but let’s say Language (Latin) 3 and note that that background gives him a facility with Romance and Germanic languages of Western Europe. Science we’ve discussed above.
So, what are left with? Athletics, Gun Combat, Investigate, Jack-of-all-Trades, Recon, Stealth and Streetwise. Investigate is the obvious main skill of Holmes as a Traveller character. Page 56 of the Core Rulebook says “A Traveller with level 4 or 5 is probably both well-respected and well-known in his field”. I don’t think I’ve ever used a level 5 skill in any adventure I’ve played or written, but this is probably the moment for it; at least at the end of Holmes’ career. At the start he’s neither well-known or well-respected (the police particularly give him a hard time). He struggles to make ends meet – hence his needing to share rooms with Watson in the early days. Athletics probably rates at least a 1, perhaps a 2 and at times more. In The Hound of the Baskervilles, probably as someone in his mid-40s at least, he could run. “Never have I seen a man run as Holmes ran that night. I am reckoned fleet of foot, but he outpaced me,” writes Watson. But against that we must remember he abused his body with irregular eating and sleeping habits, his heavy smoking, and of course his drug addiction. (The dating of The Hound of the Baskervilles has long been a problem for chroniclers of the detective and this isn’t the place to revisit that. I accept the (late) date of 1900 of Dakin or McQueen.)
Gun Combat (slug) 1 is probably sufficient for the limited mentions of Holmes’ shooting at anything other the wall of his room to create the Victoria Regina tribute. Although, again in The Hound of the Baskervilles, he does – under considerable pressure not to hit his client who is being attacked – put five revolver rounds in a row into the beast. It was probably at pretty close range though. Usually it was Watson being asked to bring along his “trusty revolver” – although whether that’s as the pair’s main armament or in addition to whatever Holmes might be carrying is usually unclear. Incidentally, Lestrade is specifically asked about being armed for the dénouement of that case and is rather cagey about it. He seems to bring a hip flask rather than a weapon. Had he so reconciled himself to Holmes’ triumphs that he didn’t think it worth bothering anymore?
Recon in the broader non-military sense is probably quite high. I’d say at least 2 but more likely 3 and you could argue for 4 in the way it supports his Investigate. Stealth could of course be used in place of Art (disguise) if preferred, or as well as that skill. It doesn’t particularly feel very Holmesian however, so I’m inclined to either drop it or go with Stealth 1. There is a delightful passage in “Devil’s Foot” where Holmes tells an opponent “I followed you.” The reply from an experienced hunter and explorer is “I saw no one.” Holmes retorts: “That is what you may expect to see when I follow you.” So, Recon or Stealth… take your pick or give him both. Streetwise, well, for London it would be at least 3, anywhere else would tend to be leaving him dependent on his native skills. (As an aside, Holmes also has “at least five small refuges in different parts of London in which he was able to change his personality” (“Black Peter”).) Jack-of-all-Trades – this is always a difficult one – although if anyone summed up the skill, it is Sherlock Holmes. On the other hand, you could argue that his talents are all focussed on the fairly limited goal of solving his cases. It could really be anything, but I think Jack-of-all-Trades 2 seems reasonable. Holmes does fail occasionally (one occasion, for example, is recorded in “Yellow Face”), so we don’t want to make him too all-powerful!
So, what have we got so far?
89AC85 (changing to 599C8A)
Investigate 5, Art (instrument) 3, Deception 3, Language (Latin) 3, Melee (blade) 3 and Melee (unarmed) 3, Recon 3, Streetwise 3, Drive (horse drawn vehicle) 2, Jack-of-all-Trades 2, Science (chemistry) 2, Advocate 1, Art (writing) 1, Athletics (dexterity) 1, Gun Combat (slug) 1, Science (biology) 1?, Science (geology) 1, Stealth 1
This gives us 39 ‘skill levels’ which is well within the maximum of 60 given by (INT + EDU) × 3 (Core Rulebook p.52) and means we could probably add Leadership 1, Navigation 1, Persuade 1 if desired. But let’s see how it might fit into a proposed career.
“An irregular pioneer who goes in front of the regular forces of the country” (“The Missing Three-Quarter”)
Holmes was born in 1854 (-2667 Imperial), in “His Last Bow” he was 60 (in 1914) and according to Baring-Gould’s timeline started a consulting practice in 1877 and according to “Veiled Lodger”, “that was to last for twenty-three years” (17 of them with Watson) but Baring-Gould has him retiring in 1903. No, I can’t reconcile those facts either. But let’s say he’s 18 in 1872 and spends his first Traveller term at university (he takes on his first case, “The Gloria Scott” in 1874 whilst there), which puts us at 1876 at the end of that time. Close enough. We can assume – especially if he left university under less than usual circumstances – that he kicked around for a while before settling on rooms in Montague Street; perhaps he travelled on the continent. Such a timeline would make him an 8 term character at retirement and fits almost perfectly with Term 6 including his three-year disappearance (1891-1894) and ‘mustering out’ being 1904. We can begin to assign his receipt of skills given that a character will automatically get one per term, get another for every term he receives advancement and might get a third if Events warrant them. There’s also the possibility of picking up Gun Combat or Melee skills in the mustering out process.
The snag is, that a quick glance will show that although the number of skills are allowable under the rules for his intelligence and education, they can’t easily be fitted into a standard Traveller career progression. Even if they can, they hardly represent what we see in the canon with Holmes pretty much ‘fully formed’ by A Study in Scarlet – i.e., 3 terms in.
The only way of doing it is to ‘reduce’ Holmes to fit and to reduce some of his non-primary skills to level 0 and allow that to be a significant competence. We can also cheat a little and allow him to graduate giving him a couple of extra skills (and raising EDU to 9). It’s only assumed he didn’t complete his university education due to a lack of reference to a degree, but it may be that he didn’t count it of much value and never mentioned it to Watson. We’ll also assume that the ‘Event’ of each term from 2-7 gives him a skill which is a little generous given standard career tables. Holmes manages to avoid aging effects in terms 4 and 5 but after that gets hit and that reduces his STR and END as suggested above. His SOC we’ll increase as part of the mustering out process along with giving him Gun Combat and Melee (blade) as well. He gets 10 benefit rolls (7 terms as a consulting detective), plus 3 for rank. Events might give him more but we’ve already assigned them to skills so we won’t add more. That might give us something like SOC +2, SOC +2, weapon, weapon skill, blade, blade skill × 3, INT+1 and a Contact (or Scientific Equipment if preferred).
We’ll assign his background skills as above but not progress them any further than level 0. His first term is at university so we’ll give him Advocate 0 and Art 1 progressing to Advocate 1 and Art 2. Let’s assume Holmes is promoted in each of terms 2-5 and then again in terms 7 and 8 and gets Investigate skill in each of the first five of those. Deception seems to be particularly appropriate to term 6 as it’s revealed that amongst other things, Holmes visited Mecca – not a safe journey for an ‘infidel’.
No attempt has been made to list all the cases, but the four novels and three other significant ones have been placed in the timeline. The dates are from Baring-Gould save for The Hound of the Baskervilles from Dakin or McQueen.
You could also reasonably add some additional skills via the training rules (p.52) but that rather goes against the spirit of trying to generate a character by the standard character generation.
|Background: Drive 0, Language 0 and Science 0|
|1||18||1872||Art (instrument) 2
|1874 “The Gloria Scott” (1st case)|
|1881 meets Watson, they share digs
1881 A Study in Scarlet
Aging – none
Aging – none
|1888 The Valley of Fear
1888 The Sign of the Four
(Baring-Gould also places The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1888)
1891 “The Final Problem”
|6||38||1892||Melee (unarmed) 1
Aging – STR -1
|1894 “The Empty House”
Aging – STR -1
|8||46||1900||Art (writing) 1
Aging: STR -1 & END -1
|1900 The Hound of the Baskervilles|
|MO||50||1904||Gun Combat 1
Melee 3 (blade)
This gives final character details at mustering out something along these lines:
Sherlock Holmes 596D9A, Age 50
7 terms Consulting Detective
Characteristics: STR 5 (-1), DEX 9 (+1), END 9 (+1), INT 13 (+2), EDU 9 (+1), SOC 10 (+1)
Skills: Investigate 5, Art (instrument) 3, Deception 3, Melee (blade) 3, Recon 3, Streetwise 3, Advocate 1, Drive 1, Gun Combat 1, Jack of all Trades 1, Melee (unarmed) 1, Stealth 1, Language 0, Science 0
Equipment: Revolver 3D-3 (p.118), Rapier 2D (p.116), Violin (Stradivarius), Drugs (tobacco and cocaine)
Connections: Ally: Watson, Contact: Baker Street Irregulars, Rival: Lestrade, Enemy: Moriarty
Other connections might be added such as the other police inspectors Holmes encountered (e.g. Gregson, Lanner, Martin etc – see box next page) and they might be considered Contacts rather than Rivals particularly given the friendship Holmes and Lestrade seem to have developed in later years. Indeed, latterly, Lestrade might be counted as an Ally. Mrs Hudson would count as an Ally. More obscurely, Shinwell Johnson a reformed criminal becomes Holmes’ agent in the “latter phases” of his career (“Illustrious Client”). Langdale Pike would be a Contact, or as he’s described when Holmes goes to pick his brains “a human book of reference on all matters of social scandal” (“Three Gables”). Irene Adler could be added as a Rival (“A Scandal in Bohemia”) and any number of enemies could be included such as Stapleton (The Hound of the Baskervilles) or Colonel Moran (The Valley of Fear or “Empty House”, for example). And let’s not forget Holmes’ brother Mycroft who would be an Ally – although not altogether dependable as he doesn’t appear until “The Greek Interpreter” (1888) and even then works in his own way (see also “Empty House” and “Bruce-Partington Plans”) with brain power rather than any physical exertion.
For reference, skills that are not included from my initial analysis are Athletics (dexterity) 1 – subsumed into the DM +1 bonus for general DEX, Drive 0 rather than 2 – we’ll say that he had Spectacular Success when driving the dog-cart, Jack-of-all-Trades reduced from 2 to 1 – perhaps no great loss some might argue, Language reduced from 3 to 0 – well, we were never including all that he seems to be able to speak anyway, but this does feel like an omission, Melee (unarmed) is reduced from 3 to 1 although we might argue that he was more reputed as a boxer in his salad days rather than at the end of his career, and the Science specialisms have been much reduced in number which would be the one thing that referees using a Holmes character might want to adjust.
It’s clear that a version of Holmes can be created by the standard rules without making him too all-powerful a character although some might argue that we’ve reduced him too far. Some referees might want to adjust the exact distribution of skills I’ve suggested here although I’ve tried to keep them in balance with what’s known in the canon. Other referees might want to remove three or four skill levels given that in standard tables not all Events provide a skill. Such referees should feel free to substitute other possibilities. It’s left as an exercise for the reader to generate the character generation tables that might produce the above character, but one possibility is presented in the companion article to this one, “The Consulting Detective Career”, p.45 of this issue.
Doyle, Arthur Conan (1986). The Complete Illustrated Sherlock Holmes.
Baring-Gould, William S. (1962). Sherlock Holmes: a biography of the world’s first consulting detective. London: Rupert Hart-Davis.
Dakin, D. Martin (1972). A Sherlock Holmes commentary. Newton Abbott: David & Charles.
McQueen, Ian (1974). Sherlock Holmes detected: the problems of the long stories. Newton Abbot: David & Charles.
Barquin, L. (2018). The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia.