holy water in Basic D&D

In Basic D&D, Holy water is actually a much worse deal than flaming oil. I don’t know why I ever got it.

1983 Basic equipment list.

1983 Basic equipment list.

Holy water does 1d8 damage to undead creatures. Not too bad: in Basic, only a fighter could reliably do more than 1d6 damage with an attack, and only if you were using the variable weapon damage optional rules. Holy water is still potentially a good choice for a rogue or a magic-user faced with undead.

Flaming oil, on the other hand, did 1d8 the first round and 1d8 the second – twice the damage. Furthermore, it hurt nearly every creature, including undead.

Not only was holy water half the damage and more situational, it also cost 25 gp per vial, compared to oil’s 2 gp.

If I were to play Basic again, I think I’d at least double holy water’s damage.

Tags: ,

4 Responses to “holy water in Basic D&D”

  1. Dyson Logos says:

    Flaming oil needs to be lit to work. So one action to throw the oil, another to strike the target with a torch.

    Also, a lot of DMs have stopped allowing flaming oil, on the basis that lamp oil in medieval times wasn’t really flammable.

    That said, yeah, as written, Holy Water was a bad investment unless you planned on carpet-bombing your own party (which I’ve also seen).

  2. Pierce says:

    One thing you’re forgetting is that Holy Water had special applications that were (and maybe still could not be in 4e) replaced. Holy water could consecrate a grave, preventing a vampire from reforming, and dousing evil altars with it might purify them of their profane nature. It was more flexible then a chart, and I like the idea of treating more flexibly in 4e, too.

    Which is not to say that you’re overall point about 4e alchemy being too costly isn’t still true.

  3. Williams says:

    First off I just want to say that I read this blog often and want to thank you guys for putting together such a an interesting group of articles.
    Now about the flaming oil and the holy water. Like Pierce said it has other applications and I would also point out that some forms of undead are immune to fire making holy water worthwhile in that regard for those situations.

  4. David Lawson says:

    Also, unlike oil, holy water doesn’t result in an undead creature that is attacking you while it is on fire.

Leave a Reply