Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Save or Die Interview



The latest episode of the Save or Die! podcast, Episode 124, features an interview with yours truly. Here's the teaser:

"The Dmigoes welcome to Save or Die….the Mad Wizard Zenopus from the Holmes Basic set! Ok, not the wizard himself, but Zenopus from the esteemed blog Zenopus Archives. We talk about J. Eric Holmes, Purple Worms, and why so many dungeons have rivers flowing through them at one point or another?"

It was great fun recording the show & I'd like to thank Jim, Liz and Mike for having me on!

The Episode 124 page has several links for topics we discussed. Here are a few more:

Dungeon made with Lego Heroica

Gygax's Castle Greyhawk Dungeon Level One handout from Origins II

Holmes Manuscript series - index of posts 

Monday, July 4, 2016

NTRPG 2016 Con Report

It's been about a month since I attended NTRPG Con 2016, my first ever multi-day con. 
I had a fantastic time, and here's my brief report.

On Saturday morning I participated in the Holmes Reading/Discussion with Chris Holmes and Allan Grohe (aka grodog, co-publisher of Black Blade Publishing). At 9 AM, it was an early slot with only 8 registered attendees, but more showed up (15-20?). A comfortable number for the small room. There were some technical difficulties: Allan had a set of slides and the Con provided a projector but there was no connecting cord, and there was a live feed but afterwards I noticed the camera was pointing the wrong direction. 

However, Allan recorded the audio on his phone (starting a few minutes late, after Chris Holmes had introduced himself), and it's now available on his website now (think of it as a podcast), along with the slides and handouts we provided:

John Eric Holmes Reading and Panel Discussion

In addition, I played in five great games: two Friday, two Saturday and one Sunday.

(1) The Misty Isles of the Eld - written/run by Chris Kutalik

The teaser from the convention program: "Come bring the fight to those fiendish space elves, the Eld. Players will explore a point crawl of a weird fantasy, extra planar island searching for a flying monument and fragments of a shattered god".

This game was drawn from Chris' new publication, Misty Isles of the Eld. Chris Holmes was also playing in this game, and I met him in person for the first time at the table. Since he was playing, Chris K. prepared some special pre-gens. Thus, I came to be playing a Wereshark thief by the name of "The Son of Ondrj", who met a brutal end, impaled by 5 or 6 Eld simultaneously. Then I picked up another pre-gen: Zereth the Elf!

I like getting copies of adventures that I've played through, so after the game I bought one of the brand new copies of Misty Isles, which Chris signed, "Killed Before Your Time".

(2) grodog's Castle Greyhawk - Enchanted Orchards of the Arimol, written/run by Allan Grohe (grodog).

The teaser: "Play test grodog's next Castle Greyhawk dungeon level, GC-02 Enchanted Orchards of the Arimol ... an extra planar sub-level accessible from GC-01 Iounic Caverns"

Here our group tested out this adventure with higher level AD&D characters than Allan had run previously. The star of the evening was the Druid, who ferried us around on a Chariot of Sustarre and took out the BBG with a Feeblemind spell and a failed saving throw of 1!

(3) Death on the Mssuma River - written/run by Victor Raymond

The teaser: "An item of great antiquity has been stolen from a noble clanhouse in the city of Jakalla, rumor has it that the burglar is proceeding north on the Mssuma River, headed for Bey Su "the Beauteous" he capital of Tsolyanu, the Empire of the Petal Throne. You have been hired to retrieve the precious item and return it to its rightful owner, preferably without bloodshed, but by force if necessary! This is an event for newcomers to the World of Tekumel, as originally published by TSR in 1975!"

This was a "Death on the Nile" style murder-mystery. We had a large group (10?) but it worked beautifully for the investigative mission. Also, we were in one of the private "boardrooms", which were great for immersion; while you lose a bit of the con atmosphere it's more like playing a game at someone's house.

Chris Holmes also played in this, and we were the only two non-humans in the party, who were all members of the same clan. I was a Shen warrior hired by the clan, and he played a Pe Choi. During the climactic battle my Shen experienced the temporal stasis produced by an "Excellent Ruby Eye". Victor was a long-time player in M.A.R. Barker's games and knows Tekumel as if he had lived there - because he did.

(4) AdLiD ("Ad-Lib Dungeon") - improvised by Frank Mentzer on the spot.

The teaser: "You decide what monsters and treasures will be found... and Frank creates an adventure on the spot. Anything can happen!".

Frank runs this game periodically. He give out notecards before the game and each player writes down something to be encountered during the game. If I thought about this more beforehand I would've written "Bargle". On the spot all I could muster was "H.P. Lovecraft". Thus our group encountering H.P. himself, complete with bat wings and tentacles, as the BBG. One of the other players in this game was a grandson of Bob Bledsaw, founder of Judges Guild, and I chatted with him during the break.

(5) Professor Monkey vs the Friends of Entropy written/run by Steve Winter

The teaser: "Professor Monkey's radium-powered lab represent everything the Friends of Entropy despise: science, machinery, and being alive. To no one's surprise, a volcano of trouble erupts when the..." 

From what I gather, Steve runs a Professor Monkey Gamma World game every year. The PCs all work for the Professor, who outfits them with gear. We spent the first hour creating characters. I ended up with a 5-meter-long (!) mutant fox. We zipped about a hex map, investigating different points of interest and trying to root out the Friends of Entropy, one of the original GW Cryptic Alliances.

Steve has a previous Professor Monkey adventure available as a free pdf on his blog.

After the game I asked Steve about the original Holmes Basic Set art, which he had reported was found in a crate by WOTC a few years ago. He said he believes it is now hanging in a safe location in the WOTC offices.

* * * * *

I was also able to chat with former TSR artists Diesel (aka DSL aka David S. Laforce) and Jeff Dee. I had them both sign a copy of the module A1 that I bought from Diesel. They were the original artists for the cover (Dee) and title page (Diesel) of A1.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Free RPG Day: Holmes Ref 1.0

Before NTRPG Con, I put together a 10-page pdf of Holmes Ref sheets which I thought might be handy for a pick-up game. While I didn't get a chance to use it there, I thought I would make the compilation available today for Free RPG Day.

Holmes Ref 1.0 includes:

1. Character Generation Worksheet
2. Blank Character Sheet (new!)
3. Advancement Reference Sheet (formerly "Holmes + OD&D Bridge Table")
4. Holmesian Random Names
5. Backgrounds for Human Characters (optional)
6. Cleric Spell Reference Sheet Levels 1-6
7. Magic-User Spell Reference Sheet Levels 1-3
8. Monster Reference Sheet
9. Magic Item Reference Sheet
10. Pre-Generated 1st Level Party

The new blank character sheet matches the format of the character generation sheet for ease in transferring information.

Click here to view or download Holmes Ref 1.0

I'll use the comments section below to record any typos noted for future correction.

The individual sheets remain available via the Holmes Ref page

What's next?
A glaring deficiency is the M-U spells Levels 4-6, so I'm working on a sheet for those.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Reminder: Holmes Panel at NTRPG Con this Saturday


A reminder: if you are at the NTRPG Con this weekend, there will be a J. Eric Holmes appreciation event on Saturday morning at 9 AM CDT (GMT -05:00), at the Centreport Meeting Room - Table 2. The panel will consist of Chris Holmes (son of Eric), Allan Grohe of Black Blade, publisher of the forthcoming Tales of Peril compilation of Holmes' D&D fiction, and myself. 

Before the event, you may wish to listen to Chris Holmes' recent interview on the Save or Die podcast.

There are still plenty of open seats left for the seminar, and if you are at the Con you don't need to be registered for this session to attend. 

Also, if you are not attending the Con, I believe the event will be livestreamed (and hopefully recorded, as well). I'll update date this post with info once I find out more.

I'll be at con this weekend from Fri morning to Sun evening, and besides the seminar I will be playing in a variety of games. Hope to see you there!

Update:
The NTRPG Con Live Streams are up for today. I believe Camera 1 is in the Centreport Room where the Holmes Panel will be on Sat.

Per Doug Rhea on Facebook:
"Streams are up. Info below.
Camera 1 URL: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ntrpgcon - Special Events
Camera 2 URL: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ntrpgcon2 - Special Guest Games
Camera 3 URL: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ntrpgcon3 - Random Games
Camera 4 URL: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ntrpgcon-camera4 - Doug’s Random Stream
Camera 5 URL: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ntrpgcon5 - Con Overview
Please SHARE these links on your favorite forums so as many people know where to catch a glimpse of one of the most awesome Old School RPG cons out there!!!"


Here is a schedule to go with the links: http://ntrpgcon.com/NTRPGCon-2016-Games.html

Monday, May 30, 2016

Cleric Spells Reference Sheet


I recently shared a MU Spell Reference Sheet (Levels 1-3) & now I've made a similar one for Clerics. With far less spells, I was able to fit an entire six levels onto a single sheet (!). The first two levels are from Holmes Basic, and the next four are from OD&D Vol 1 and the Greyhawk Supplement. However, since I had room I followed the lead of Gygax and added two new spells from AD&D to each of levels 3-6: Animate Dead (because OD&D/Holmes implies that both M-U and clerics can make skeletons/zombies), Glyph of Warding, Divination, Exorcise, Flame Strike, True Seeing, Heal and Stone Tell.

I didn't list out the details for the Reverse spells because OD&D and Holmes don't; generally they just do the opposite.

My decorative cartoon at the top of the sheet represents a cleric holding a "holy symbol", casting a spell. I made this symbol cross/ankh-like because OD&D and Holmes had wooden and silver crosses in the Equipment List.

The direct link for download is below, or you can find it on the Holmes Ref page.

Click here to download the Cleric Spell Reference Sheet Levels 1-6

Any typos I spot after this post will be noted in the comments below for eventual correction.

Now that I've finished sheets for Character Creation & Progression, Spells, Monsters & Treasure, the Ref Sheet series includes most of the details necessary to run a Holmes-esque game up to level 6. I do plan to do another sheet for M-U Spells levels 4-6.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Part 55: Summary of Changes

Now that I've finished my series going through the Holmes Manuscript, I've put together a summary of the major changes from the manuscript to the published Holmes Basic rulebook. Use this list if you want to play Holmes Basic as Holmes originally wrote it. I call this the "Zeroeth Edition" or "Holmes Zero". I haven't listed every change here, just the more notable ones. I'll update the list if I've missed anything of note.

Title: "D&D for Beginners" rather than Basic D&D. 

References to Higher Levels: All references are to the original Dungeons & Dragons booklets or the Greyhawk Supplement, rather than AD&D.

Dice: If dice are unavailable Holmes suggest using playing cards (4 locations in the manuscript), chits (twice) or even "certain pocket-sized calculators".

Elves are the "Alternating Elf" from OD&D. Per Holmes: "Elves must decide before an adventure begins, however, whether they are going to act as fighting men, in which case they can wear armor but can not throw spells, or assume the role of magic-user, gaining the use of spells but forfeiting weapons other than the dagger. For each adventure the elf can change his role but once the adventure stars he must not change". This is an interpretation of the original elf from OD&D.

Dwarves get a special powerful magic item; "the only ones who can wield the +3 Magic War Hammer (described later)". This sentence remained in the 1st print rulebook even though the magic item was removed from the lists. This sentence was edited out of the 2nd edition.

Hobbits rather than halflings. This remained in the 1st printing, but most instances were changed for the 2nd printing.

Additional Character Classes: No Witch class, and more examples of player-chosen classes: "Thus, an expedition might include, in addition to the seven basic classes, an African witch doctor/magic-user, a centaur, an Amerindian medicine man/cleric, a lawful werebear, a Japanese Samurai fighting man and a half-human, half-serpent Naga".
Number of Characters: Holmes says most DMs allow one to three characters per player. 

Alignment is the three-point system from OD&D: "Characters may be lawful, neutral or chaotic". 

Languages: Only humans (not demi-humans) are noted as knowing Common.

Movement: Only use the first column of the table, as standard movement.

Encumbrance: Remove this section and only use the categories from the Movement table.

Wandering Monster Tables are the 1st to 3rd level tables from the Greyhawk Supplement, which can be seen here. Do not use the Level Beneath the Surface Table.

Numbers of Wandering Monsters: Adjust to party size, with 1 monster for a party of 1-3; 2 for a party of 4-6 and so forth, but "Orcs and similar creatures tend to travel in groups".

Experience Points for Monsters: Use the numbers from Greyhawk up to 9 HD, but ignore the lines for partial hit dices (1+1, 2+1 etc).

Level Limits: None, example refers to 20th level characters rather than 14/15th.

Saving Throws: Delete line for Normal Man from Table. In the section on Monsters, include note that "(except zombies who are poisoned by salt)". This aside made it into the 1st printing but was later deleted.

Magic-User Spells:
Remove Dancing Lights, Enlargement, Tenser's Floating Disc (1st level), Audible Glamer and Ray of Enfeeblement (2nd level). Change Continual Light to 24 inch (240') diameter.

Clerical Spells:
Remove Remove Fear, Resist Cold (1st level), Know Alignment and Resist Fire (2nd level). 
Also remove the list of Evil Cleric Spells; Holmes has a vague reference to these in the section on Clerics, but did not include the list itself.

To Hit Table: Remove the line for "Normal Man".

Fire: In first paragraph, change the 5 feet pool of flaming oil to 20 feet, and the damage should be 2d6. Remove the all remaining paragraphs relating to burning oil.

Missile Weapons: Some changes to ranges in Table (follow link for details). Modifiers for range are 0 for long distance, +1 for medium, +2 for short range.

Combat: One-handed weapons get two attacks per round, two-handed weapons get one attack per round, heavy crossbows can only be used once every other round.
 
Monster List

Hit Dice: Use d6
Attacks/Damage: In general, monsters get a single attack for d6 damage.

Add the following entries from OD&D: Buccaneer, Cave Men, Centaur, Dervishes, Dragon - Blue, Dragon - Gold, Dryad, Ents, Giant Animals and Insects, Mermen, Nomads, Pirate. Also Nixies if you have a 2nd or 3rd edition rulebook.

Remove the following:
Djinni, Dragon - Black, Dragon - Brass, Lycanthrope - Were-Boar, Lycanthrope - Were-Tiger (if using the 1st edition rulebook), plus Fire Beetle, Giant Ant, Giant Centipede, Giant Rat, Gnoll, Shrieker, Spiders, Troglodyte (if using the 2nd or 3rd edition).

Adjust the following:
Berserkers get their +2 to hit only when fighting normal men.
Carrion Crawlers get a single attack for 1d6 damage plus chance of paralysis
Dragons include a Chance of Sleeping and a Chance of Talking for each type.
Giants use only the damage listed under Special Characteristics.
Hell Hounds do damage in hit points equal to their hit dice (i.e., a 3 hp damage for 3 HD).
Ochre Jellies do 1 die (1d6) per round to exposed skin.
Ogres do 1d6 + 2 points of damage per hit.
Orcs: if 100 are found, 10% chance of a dragon being with them.
Zombies have 1/2 HD and attack every round rather than every other round.

Coins are only Gold and Silver Pieces, with 10 SP to 1 GP. Omit Copper, Electrum and Platinum Pieces.

Gems & Jewelry are simply worth 50-500 GP; omit the Value of Gems table.

Treasure Table is the one from OD&D Vol 2, but omit the column for Copper Pieces. Thus no Treasure Types J-T.

Magic Items
Swords: Flaming Sword change to only +2 against Undead
Sword +1, +3 against Dragons change to Sword +2 against Dragons
Sword +1, +2 against M-Us change to Sword +1, Charm Person Ability
Sword +3 change to Sword of Cold +1, +2 against Fire Creatures
Sword -2 Cursed change to Vorpal Blade +2 
 
Armor and Weapons
Dagger +1 against Man-Sized change to add +2 against Orcs
Dagger +2 against Man-Sized change to War Hammer +3, and add that it "is a potent weapon in the hands of dwarf, for then it does 2 die of damage per hit, can be thrown 60 feet and will return to the dwarf's hand after each throw. In the hands of any other character it has normal range and damage and no return capability, merely conferring +3 on the ability to hit".

Potions: For Giant Strength, change the damage from 3-18 to "2 dice of damage" (2d6). 

Rings: Replace Weakness with Human Control.
Change Protection +1 to be equivalent to "plate armor +1" (AC 2) and a +1 on saves.

Wands and Staves: Replace Rod of Cancellation with Staff of Power (Limited).

Miscellaneous Magic Items:
Replace Helm of Good/Evil, Rope of Climbing, Gauntlets of Ogre Power with Girdle of Giant Strength, Horn of Blasting and Mirror of Life Trapping.

Sample Cross-Section of Levels: Replace Skull Mountain with Holmes' three-level dungeon cross-section.

Sample Floor Plan, Part of First Level: Add Holmes' sample partial map.

Dungeon Mastering As a Fine Art: Add back advice that "the Dungeon Master provides [the Mapper] with a piece of graph paper already North, East, South, West with the entrance to the dungeon drawn in".

Influences: Replace Gardner Fox with Michael Moorcock.

Sample Dungeon: In general, reduce monster numbers/difficulty, and increase the value of treasure.

Evil Magic-User: Change his level title from thaumaturgist to theurgist.

Pirates: Change from normal men (1d6 hp) to 1st level (1 hit die, still 1d6).

Go Back to Part 54: "An Ape in an Iron Cage" 
Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript