Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Beren and Luthien (2017)

Tolkien's "Beren and Luthien" story will be published next year in a stand-alone format edited by Christopher Tolkien and fully illustrated by Alan Lee. This is per a Harper Collins press release, as reported on Too Many Books, a blog by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull, who have written many annotated Tolkien books. 

This format should give the story the attention it deserves; to the general public its currently just another part of the often-overlooked Silmarillion.

Apparently the main portion of this book will be the original form of the story as written by Tolkien in 1917 (and published in the Lost Tales), supplemented by material from later versions. I believe the later source text for the Silmarillion chapter has never been published in full, so this book may include be some unpublished material last prose version has never been published in full so there may be some unpublished material included.

Update: Great post by John Garth discussing the possible content of the book.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Gygaxian Orc Tribes

Fighting Man, Magic-User and Cleric take on dungeon orcs. By David Sutherland III.

Gary Gygax on the orc tribes of Castle Greyhawk, EnworldQ&A 2/2/04:
"The orcs in the dungeon were of two separate tribes, but I have forgotten the names I gave them. As near as I can recollect, one was the Grinning Skull and the other was the Bloody Axe. They were all cut down or made into vassals by Robilar and Terik, with a good deal of assistance from Tenser."

Chronology of Orc Tribes in Gygaxian D&D:

Lord of the Rings: Tolkien is, of course, the original source of orcs and their tribes. Aragorn refers to Saruman's Isengarders as "Orcs of the White Hand" (TT, Bk 1, Ch 2) after seeing shields with a
"small white hand in the centre of a black field" (TT, Bk 1, Ch 1). He notes that orcs "in the service of Barad-dur [Sauron's tower] use the sign of the Red Eye" (TT, Bk 1, Ch 1). Pippin and Merry later see Mordor orcs with "a red eye painted on their shields" (TT, Bk 1, Ch 3). Also called the Evil Eye in at least two instances; for example, "One [orc-helmet] fitted Frodo well enough, a black cap with iron rim, and iron hoops covered with leather upon which the Evil Eye was painted in red above the beaklike nost-guard" (RoTK, Bk 2, Ch 1). There is at least one further group; In Cirith Ungol, Sam notices two liveries, "one marked by the Red Eye, the other by a Moon disfigured with a ghastly face of death" (RotK, Bk 2, Ch 1). The Moon device is that of the Witch-King, ruler of Minas Morgul, formerly the Tower of the Moon.

Chainmail (1971): The names of five tribes are given, all based on Tolkien:

  • Orcs of the Red Eye
  • Orcs of Mordor
  • Orcs of the Mountains
  • Orcs of the White Hand
  • Isengarders
These are from the 2nd print (1972), but are presumably also in the 1st. They were removed from later printings along with other Tolkien references. The list is duplicative because in the Lord of the Rings, the Orcs of the Red Eye are the same as the Orcs of Mordor, and the Orcs of the White Hand are Isengarders. The Orcs of the Red Eye and White Hand also appeared in Patt's earlier Rules for Middle Earth (The Courier, 1970). Falconer pointed out that Arneson used these same five names, as seen in the First Fantasy Campaign (1977, Judges Guild).

Battle of the Brown Hills (pg 8-10 of the Wargamer's Newsletter #116, November 1971):

In this article, Gygax describes a fantasy battle between the forces of Law and Chaos, played using the Chainmail rules. Notably, the forces of Chaos include three tribes: Orcs of the Mountains (wielding sword & shield or bows), Orcs of the Vile Rune (wielding sword & shield) and Orcs of the Longspear (presumably wielding long spears). We can surmise shields would feature each tribe's device.

OD&D Vol 2 (1st print, 1974): "the number of different tribes of Orcs can be as varied as desired, basing the decision on Tolkien or random chance". No tribe names are given. The reference to "Tolkien or random chance" was deleted in later printings.

Scruby Fantasy 30mm minis (1975): Per Gygax on Enworld (10/8/07), "Jack Scruby began casting orcs, so we had real miniatures for them -- the Orcs of the Vile Rune whose symbol was a fist with a raised digit."

Holmes (July 1977): "There are many tribes or nations of orcs".

Monster Manual (Dec 1977): Here we get Gygaxian tribe names, including: 

  • Vile Rune (as seen previously in the Battle for the Brown Hills)
  • Bloody Head (perhaps the actual name for Grinning Skull?)
  • Death Moon (perhaps inspired by the Moon device of Minas Morgul?)
  • Broken Bone
  • Evil Eye (perhaps an update of Red Eye?)
  • Leprous Hand (perhaps an update of White Hand?)
  • Rotting Eye
  • Dripping Blade (perhaps the actual name for Bloody Axe?)
Gone are the names directly from Tolkien, but he sticks to a similar two-word style.

Gygax further notes that a "standard is always present where the tribal chief is" and "Their garments are tribal colors, as are shield devices or trim".

Dungeon Masters Guide (Aug 1979): This introduces a major new facet of humanoid tribes, including orcs, that departs from Tolkien: shamans & witch doctors (pg 40). These became a standard part of humanoid tribes, as shown by the citation from WG4 below.

B2 Keep on the Borderlands (1979): In the Caves of Chaos, there are two rival orc tribes in Caves B & C. This is the only type of humanoid having two different groups. The tribe in Cave B decorates its cave entrance with "cheerful greetings" - heads and skulls placed in niches in a wall - perhaps a reference to the Grinning Skull/Bloody Head/Bloody Skull tribe. And Falconer notes that the leader of Cave C wields a magic hand axe - a possible reference to the Bloody Axe tribe. So the two tribes of the Caves of Chaos are in some ways analogous to the two tribes of the Greyhawk Castle dungeons. 

World of Greyhawk Folio (1980): Includes a series of shield devices for various kingdoms, including a grinning human skull for the "Orcs of the Pomarj" (the dominant humanoid of the Pomarj). This device was retained in the World of Greyhawk boxed set (1983). It's possible that Gygax was remembering this device when he mentioned "Grinning Skull" as the possible name of the Greyhawk Castle tribe.

Orcs of the Pomarj

Developments from Stonefist to South Province (Dragon #57, Jan 1982): "Three major groups vie for control of the whole of the Bone March. The most powerful group, until the Battle of the Loftwood, was the humanoid group under the orcs of the Vile Rune. Now paramount are the orcs of the Death Moon tribe. Both groups have considerable numbers of various sorts of humanoids serving them. Both are also led by half-orcs and assisted by evil humans. The third power group is a force of ogres and gnolls based in the hills at the head of the Teesar Torrent" (pg 15).

The Gods of the Orcs (Dragon #62, June 1982): "The division of orcs into separate tribes (Evil Eye, Death Moon, Broken Bone, etc.) is usually made along cult lines. The tribal symbol is the holy symbol of the orcish god the tribe holds as its patron" (pg 29). "Luthic’s worship is one of the few that allow male and female orcs to become clerics ... Orcs in her tribe (Vile Rune) generally dwell underground, and seem to commit fewer raids against other creatures, though they are especially fierce if their lair is threatened" (pg 32). This is an article by Roger E. Moore detailing the gods of the Orcs other than Gruumsh, who appeared in Deities & Demigods (1980). Gygax later incorporated the article into Unearthed Arcana (1985) with credit to Moore.

WG4 Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (1982): "These are Orcs of the Rotting Eye tribe, belonging to the clan of the Jagged Knife. The standard is a huge, glaive like knife blade with a serrated edge ... colored a rust red and atop a long shaft, beneath it being the circular target depicting a rotting eye colored yellow green and red. This symbol is repeated on the shields of the soldiers, with the jagged-bladed knife seeming to grow out of the rotting eye device. Guards and ranking figures wear dull red clothing. The sub-chief, shaman, and chief also have cloaks of yellowish green, the chief‘s being striped with red, the shaman’s merely bordered with that color" (pg 8). This module is set in the Yatil Mountains of Greyhawk.

Castle Zagyg (2008): The first dungeon level ("Storerooms") has a Bloody Skull orc tribe. Bloody Skull may have been the actual name, or was used to replace Bloody Head as the name was already published in the Monster Manual. Update: I also checked the earlier Yggsburgh hardcover (2005). There are some orc encounters, but no mention of tribes.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Thomas Cole, DM

Inspired by the If Romantic-Era Artists Ran D&D Campaigns post on the Against the Wicked City blog, here's one for Thomas Cole. An early 19th-century American landscape artist, most associated with the Hudson River School, Cole also painted European ruins (while traveling), historical & biblical scenes, allegories and fantastic landscapes.

As DM, Cole would start the first level PCs with a ruined tower over a seaside cliff, the former abode of a strange wizard...
Italian Seacost with Ruined Tower

And then onto a sturdy keep on the border of the wild lands...
Fountain of Vaucluse, thanks to A Wizard in a Bottle

Then deep into a wilderness hexcrawl...
St John in the Wilderness

And into the dungeons beneath the ruins of a castle built by a mad demigod...
Ruins of Kenilworth Castle

In search of stolen artifacts hidden in a mountain with a white plume of smoke...
Mount Aetna

Against the giants...
Titan's Goblet

And finally on to the other planes of existence...

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Monster Face Bookmark

More of my endless monster faces, this time in the form of a bookmark & blue ink. This one is from a year or so ago, but just scanned recently.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Jeff Talanian on Holmes Basic

Jeff Talanian (aka Ghul) is the author of the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea RPG (a 2nd edition of which is on the way). Earlier in his career he was Gary Gygax's wingman on the Castle Zagyg series, co-authoring the Upper Works boxed set. 

Earlier this year Jeff was interviewed on the Dead Games Society podcast, Episode 20, where he talked about Holmes Basic for the better part of an hour.

Here's the DGS blurb for the show:
"The Dead Games Society talks with Jeffrey Talanian, creator of Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers, about his favorite dead edition of Dungeons and Dragons, the legendary Holmes Edition! It’s a great hour of hearing Jeffrey’s memory’s regarding this great out-of-print edition so beloved by the gaming community."

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the show:
17:09: "Well, one of my favorite things about it, sort of harkening back to when I was a kid, was there was a certain mystique to it, a sort of magic to it ... you can have so many sessions of game play with it for three levels, 48 pages..."

17:52: "Magic-users have so much more resources in that they can start creating scrolls at first level ... so if you have the money you don't necessarily have to be limited to throwing that one spell at an early level"

18:25: "...The initiative system is so much easier to grasp than what later came out with AD&D. Basically in Holmes it embraces a system that's ordered by dexterity..."

25:54: "...I think an open-ended game is anything but Basic because ... there's so much that you can do with it ... contrary to having hundreds and hundreds of pages of rules where everything is defined."

At 28:55, Jeff does a great reading of the first two paragraphs of the Background of the Zenopus Sample Dungeon, which he follows with "...if that doesn't grab the imagination of a young person back then ... it did for me anyway"

Q: How do you think the Holmes edition influenced the later D&D editions?
 36:55: "I would say format more than anything. It was much more of a digestable format ... it seemed like a more playable game as opposed to say a reference ... the whole intention of Holmes of being an introductory set for young people, it was perfectly aimed...

41:00" "'s the edition that I introduced my kids to ... I think introducing it to kids is a great thing to do. I introduced my kids to D&D through the Holmes set and we made that transition to the blue Expert set." much more. Listen to it! 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Monster Face Montage

A new drawing begun as a possible cover illustration for Holmes Ref. But I have some other ideas for that I want to try out, so I decided to stop this one before it filled up the page.

I started with the tower in the center (possibly Zenopus' tower) and expanded outward from there. I can draw the faces sort of endlessly (and do so in the margins of papers), and have to remind myself to incorporate other elements. The castle in the center is underwater; note the fish and seaweed around it. There are few hexes in there as well.

For this one I used a new mechanical pencil I picked up recently (nothing fancy, just a Pentel Click 0.7). For others I've gone over pencil with ink, but this time I just scanned the pencil and increased the contrast. It worked well enough, and certainly saved time. 

If you are on G+, I was flattered when The Secret DM asked if he could turn this drawing into a map. To this end he had Christian Kessler of the Popular Enchanting blog color it into zones and asked G+ for help with keying it. See here.

See also Monster Face Dungeon and Monster Face Mountain.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Fantastic Worlds of Grenadier Kickstarter

If you've been watching Stranger Things summer and are interested in learning more about the miniatures company that made "The Demogorgon" mini featured prominently on the show, check out this kickstarter for an expanded edition of the book The Fantastic Worlds of Grenadier.

From the "About" page:
"The Fantastic Worlds of Grenadier is not only a book about a fantastic company that produced fantastic miniatures for fantastic worlds, but is also an insightful journey through many of the gaming and gaming miniatures trends and creations of the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s. A tremendous source of reference, an informative read, and full of ‘eye-candy’, The Fantastic Worlds of Grenadier is a must-have for all fans of Grenadier Models, gamers and gaming miniature collectors alike."

I'm in for a printed copy ($35 plus shipping). 10 days left until the Kickstarter ends.

By the way, "The Demogorgon" from Stranger Things was released in two different packages by Grenadier, first as part of the Fantasy Lords line, set 102 Demons, and then
then re-packaged as Fantasy Classics #321 Demon (1984). A picture of the latter in the original packaging was posted over at the Acaeum by grodog.