Saturday, November 17, 2018

Elmore's take on the Sutherland Dragon

Click for a larger view

This illustration by Larry Elmore is from a fairly obscure product, the manual for the 1982 adaptation of TSR's boardgame DUNGEON! for the Apple II+. It's on the last page, and is the only illustration in the manual other than the cover, which shows a B&W version of the box cover art by Jeff Easley. It may have appeared in another TSR product, but a Google Image search didn't turn anything up.

While much smaller --- perhaps a Sub-adult? --- Easley's dragon clearly shares many details with David Sutherland's Red Dragon on the cover of the Holmes Basic Set (July 1977), particularly the head - triangular, heavy brow, cheek "whiskers". Also note the V-shaped scales down the ventral portion of the neck, the slightly curved spikes down the back, even the shapes of the scales. 



Sutherland drew a similar B&W version of this same Red Dragon for the monster entry in the AD&D Monster Manual (Dec 1977) ---




Which was redone in color by Jim Roslof for the AD&D Monster Cards (1981) ---




A Red Dragon does appear as one of the monsters in Dungeon!, so Elmore may have been using one of these as a guide in order keep the look consistent between TSR products.

If you'd like to see the entire game manual, it can be found here at the Museum of Computer Adventure Game History.


You can also watch a 10-minute play-through of the game here --- Dungeon! for the Apple II

It had graphics like this screenshot, showing a Superhero versus a jolly Purple Worm ---




Update: As pointed out by John L in the comments, here is Bill Willingham's take on a similarly styled dragon, from the Moldvay Basic Set rulebook (1981). 



Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Things I've Written Published Elsewhere

Most of my RPG-related writing can be found here on the blog or on the sporadically updated Zenopus Archives site. But I do have a few articles that have been published in print or pdf. In view of my recently published zine article, I thought it was time to write up a list of these, which will have a permanent home here on the site.

Listed in reverse chronological order, these are ---


"Clerical Cosmic Horror: The Brief Era of the Cthulhu Mythos as Dungeons & Dragons Pantheon" iBayt al Azif #1, October 2018. 
With an illustration by Chris HolmesCurrently available in pdf or print (softcover or hardcover). See also this post.

"Holmes and the Lost City" in The Lost City Campaign Sourcebook, March 2018. With an illustration of Zargon by myself. 
This is a fan compilation of supplementary material for the module B4; see this DF threadCurrently available as a free pdf

"Axel the Dwarf" (NPC) in FANTASTIC! EXCITING! IMAGINATIVE! #2, Nov 2017, Inner Ham. 
With an illustration by Jon Wilson. Currently available in pdf from DrivethruRPG or in print directly from the publisher.

"Green Grabber" and "Old One" (new monsters) in BLUEHOLME Journeymanne Rules, Fall 2017, Dreamscape Design. Old One illustrated by Bradley K. McDevitt. Currently available in pdf from DrivethruRPG, or in hardcover or in softcover from Lulu. See also the original posts here and here.


"The Writings of J. Eric Holmes" and "Annotated Bibliography for J. Eric Holmes" in Tales of Peril, the Complete Boinger and Zereth Stories of J. Eric Holmes, Summer 2017, Black Blade Publisher. Currently available in print directly from the publisher. See also this post.


"Regal Lizard Man" (new monster) and "Harpy Axe" (new magic item) in FANTASTIC! EXCITING! IMAGINATIVE! #1, March 2017, Inner Ham. Currently available as a free pdf from DrivethruRPG 
or in print directly from the publisherSee also this post.

"Lesser Magic Items" (20 new magic items) in Dungeon Crawl #3, Summer 2013. With three illustrations
by John Blaszczyk. Currently available in pdf from DrivethruRPG or in print from Lulu. See also this post.

I also contributed to proofreading the original release of the 
OD&D retroclone Delving Deeper2012, Immersive Ink, currently available in pdf or free on the web.  

(All DrivethruRPG links include my affiliate number)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Article in a New Cthulhu Zine

The cover of Bayt al Azif issue #1. Art by Maria Nguyen. Click on picture for a larger view.

FYI, I have an article in the first issue of Bayt al Azif, a new magazine "for Cthulhu Mythos Roleplaying Games" (as stated on the cover), edited by Jared Smith. As Jared explains, "Al Azif" is one title Lovecraft used for the Necronomicon, perhaps referring to the howling of demons, and thus the full title of the new magazine can be interpreted as referring to the "House of the Necronomicon". It's available in both pdf and print versions, and can be previewed or purchased here at DrivethruRPG ---


(link includes my DrivethruRPG affiliate number)

The magazine is 80 pages long and includes a variety of articles of interest, including three scenarios for Call of Cthulhu. See the DrivethruRPG page for more details. Here's a screenshot of the Table of Contents ---




My article is "Clerical Cosmic Horror: The Brief Era of the Cthulhu Mythos as Dungeons & Dragons Pantheon", which is a rewrite and expansion of a topic I discussed on this blog a number of years ago. Essentially on Holmes roll in bringing the Cthulhu Mythos into Dungeons & Dragons where it served as part of the line-up of pantheons for a few years.

The best part is that the article is accompanied by a fantastic new piece of art by Chris Holmes! It's a Mythos creature, but I will keep which one a surprise (hint: it's not Cthulhu).

Happy Cthulhuween!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Locations for the Tomb of Horrors on the Great Kingdom Map

Promo image of the deluxe Art & Arcana from Amazon

"THE TOMB OF HORRORS"


Possible locations:

The highest hill in the Egg of Coot
An island lying 100 miles east of Blackmoor
In the great desert west of the Wild Coast
On the border between the Paynim Kingdom and Perrunland
At the Eastern edge of the Duchy of Geoff
In a swamp somewhere in the Wild Coast

These suggested locations for the Tomb of Horrors come from the original version of the adventur not the 1978 monochrome-colored module  but an even earlier iteration that was produced in 1975 for running as a tournament at Origins I in Baltimore, Maryland. This version is finally available as an extra included with the "special edition" of the new D&D art book Art & Arcana. You can see its cover in the promo image above; it's the small beige booklet featuring the original artwork by Tracy Lesch of the infamous Green Devil Face, which was later memorably rendered in color on the back of the 1981 reprint. Given its early date, it's a purely OD&D version of the tomb and is a great addition to the meager assortment of "TSR" adventures for OD&D.

These original suggested locations fit well with the "Great Kingdom" (early World of Greyhawk) map that I've discussed in previous posts such as Megarry's copy of the Great Kingdom Map, and suggest that Gygax may have been using this map for Greyhawk at the time. For reference, here is the map image 





On this map, the Egg of Coot lies in the center north, with hills in the northern region of the realm to possibly house "the highest hill". Blackmoor is to the south on the coast of the Great Bay, with plenty of space for an island "lying 100 miles east" in the bay, or depending on the scale, past the island kingdoms of the "Sea". To the west and southwest of Blackmoor, the Paynim Kingdom borders on Perrunland. Much further to the south lies the Duchy of Geoff, the eastern edge of which borders on the Kingdom of Faraz (not mentioned in the Tomb). Only the twice-mentioned Wild Coast is missing from this map, but the "great desert west of the Wild Coast" may be the Sea of Dust, suggesting the Wild Coast is to the south where the coast past of Keoland.

In the published version of Tomb of Horrors, the suggested locations were changed to:


The highest hill on the Plains of luz
An island (unmapped) In the Nyr Dyv
In the Bright Desert
At the western border of the Duchy of Geoff
Somewhere in the Vast Swamp south of Sundi
On an island beyond the realm of the Sea Barons

These revised locations correspond more closely to the published World of Greyhawk, although note that they were suggested in 1978, which was still several years before the World of Greyhawk Folio was first published in 1980.

The Egg of Coot was changed to "the Plain of Iuz"; Iuz occupies a somewhat similar north-central location in published Greyhawk and has "the Howling Hills" to the north.

The second entry, the island, was relocated to an unmapped island in Nyr Dyv, and second island was added "beyond the realms of the Sea Barons", which is closer in spirit to the island to the east of Blackmoor, particularly if the islands shown on the Great Kingdom map were an early version of the Sea Barons.

The desert was changed to "the Bright Desert", which on the published Greyhawk map is to to the east, rather than west, of the Wild Coast across the Woolly Bay. The "great" bit is dropped, presumably because the Bright Desert is much smaller than the Sea of Dust.

The eastern border of Geoff was changed to the western, presumably because that borders the great Crystalmist mountain range.

The swamp location was changed to "south of the Sundi", which means the Vast Swamp south of the County of Sunndi (member of the Iron League) on the Darlene map.

Finally, the suggestion of the border of Paynim/Perrenland was completely removed. In the Darlene map, the Plains of the Paynims no longer directly borders Perrenland; there are several new kingdoms between — Tusmit, Ket.

When the World of Greyhawk folio was finally published in 1980, the true location of the Tomb was finally revealed as being in the Vast Swamp:

There are many tales and legends concerning this area, but the most likely is that of the TOMB OF HORRORS (ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAONGS MODULE S1), the lost burial place of a lich who once ruled the morass and beyond into the cockscomb of Tilvanot. (a peninsula in the shape of a rooster's comb).

And then the expanded 1983 Word of Greyhawk boxed set further fixed the location as "probably" in "the heart of the Vast Swamp, in hex K2-97".

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Greg Stafford's story about getting OD&D

As you've probably heard, game designer Greg Stafford passed away last week at the age of 70. While I haven't played any of the systems he is best known for (Runequest, Pendragon, Ghostbusters), I have in recent years played and ran Call of Cthulhu, the best known game produced by the company he started, Chaosium.

From 2006-2015, Greg participated in a Q&A thread over on the Acaeum, 107 posts total. There are lots of great posts worth reading there, but given the focus of my blog, I'd like to highlight the first one, a fun story about how he may have received the first ever sold copy of OD&D --- 

"I'm mainly a Chaosium guy, of course, but I'd like to share one tale about D&D to start, from WAY back when. 

I used to work for Bergamot Brass Works, a belt buckle company out of Lake Geneva, WI after high school. Real hippy job. I'd take buckles, hitch hike around and sell them to shops, etc. After a while, though, I moved to California. My friend of the time remained there, selling buckles (we were called Buckle-itis). 

Through various circumstances I'd decided to publish my first boardgame, White Bear & Red Moon, on my own. As I was finishing up work on it, I got a package in the mail from my old partner Jeff. His cover letter swaid, "I was picking up my catalogues from the printer the other day and there was this guy waiting for his stuff. I asked what it was, and he said it was a fantasy game. I said, 'Hey, my buddy in California is doing one too! Can I buy one from ya?'" 

Of course the guy was happy to, and so Jeff sent me this strange little booklet called Dungeons & Dragons. 

Later on I thought, "Heck, I wonder if that was the first one ever sold?" Well, I asked Gary Gygax if he remembered this incident and he did, and confirmed that it was the first one ever sold. 

MAN, do I ever now wish that I'd not lent it to my DM and never gotten it back!!"

Thursday, October 11, 2018

GAMMA WORLD IS HERE...

1978 promotional poster for Gamma World

FYI, just about forty years after they were originally released, the original Gamma World rules, now known as the first edition or 1E, are now available on Drive Thru RPG in both PDF ($10), Print-On-Demand ($20), or both ($22) ---

Gamma World 1E on Drive Thru RPG 
(link includes affiliate number)

Gamma World, by James Ward and Gary Jaquet, was first published in 1978 and was developed from Ward's earlier Metamorphosis Alpha RPG (1976). As the co-authors wrote in Dragon #18, "The creation of the boxed game of Gamma World was brought about when the need for a planet based version of Metamorphosis Alpha presented itself. The distances and possibilities presenting themselves on a planet were far more vast than those of a star ship. Also, through the course of playing MA, many new concepts were created and old ideas evolved into things far different from what was given" (from "GAMMA WORLD: First Report; Setting Up The Campaign" in the column From the Sorceror's Scroll in Dragon #18, Sep 1978).

The PDF is of the third printing from 1981, with a TSR Face Logo. Earlier printings had the Lizard Logo or the Wizard Logo (August 1978). I've checked the 2nd and 3rd printing against each other and didn't note any rules differences, just some slight differences to the logos, copyright info and product listings. I don't have access to a 1st printing, so I don't know whether any corrections were made from 1st to 2nd.

A Gamma World "Sneak Preview" appeared in Dragon #8, July 1977, the same month that Holmes Basic was first available at Origins 77. It was titled "Introduction to: Gamma World", and was an early draft of the Introduction that later appeared in the rulebook. It was attributed as an "Excerpt from "The Black Years" --- Hald Servin, 2562", with no further explanation. However, based on a further article "More Excerpts from the Journals
of Hald Sevrin" by Gary Jaquet in Dragon #19, it appears that he is "Hald Sevrin". 

In Dragon #15 (June 1978), an advertisement on page 18 announces two new TSR releases for Origins 78, Gamma World and the AD&D Players Handbook. This was repeated in Dragon #16 (July 1978), and the next two issues have, "This is Gamma World" advertisements that use the same artwork as the poster shown above, and specifically mention the poster as being available.

The back of the original Gamma World boxed set stated that "The GAMMA WORLD™ rules are also suitable for use with the ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS rules." This compatibility can be seen by looking at a stat block from the "Monster & Treasure Listings" in the back of the Gamma World 1E rulebook ---

07. Yexil (2) HP: 42, 35; AC: 6, Move: 4/15; AT: bite does 3d6 damage, laser eye beam does 5d6 damage (25m range); MU: totally resistant to cold attacks.

They left HD out of these listings (similar to the OD&D M&TA listings, although those have a "To Hit AC9" score), but it can be found elsewhere in the write-up (10 in this case). It'd be trivial to just throw this at a (A)D&D party as an encounter. 

In 1979, the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide included a section, "Mutants & Magic" (pg 113-114), on conducting cross-over campaigns between the two rulesets in either direction.

It took a few years, but the original rules were eventually supported by several products, including the sandbox module GW1 Legion of Gold (1981) by Gary Gygax, Luke Gygax and Paul Reiche III, the module GW2 Famine in Far-go (1982) by Michael Price, and a Referee's Screen with a mini-module, The Albuquerque Starport, also by Reiche. None of these are available on Drive Thru RPG yet, but hopefully will eventually appear. There was also a module in Dragon #52 (August 1981, Cavern of the Sub-Train, by the original co-author, Gary Jaquet.

I must note that they still haven't released Holmes Basic in PDF or POD....!!!

Update: I saw some pics on FB of the POD product. Since the file format puts the box cover on top, it results in a booklet with a color cover - a nice touch. The original booklet cover is the first page on the inside. The blue map from the box is also included in the interior, across two pages.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

J. Eric Holmes Yearbook Entry


Click on the picture for a larger view

This is John Eric Holmes' yearbook entry from his senior year of high school, from the 1947 issue of The Oahuan, a publication of the Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii --- the same school President Obama would graduate from several decades later, in 1979.

The bio is neat as it attests to his long interest in the pulps and writing --- "Eric keeps busy trying to crash the pulp market" and is "planning to make writing a career". It also suggests he will study chemistry in college, although he ended graduating from Stanford in 1951 with a degree in psychology.

Posted with permission of Chris and Tristan Holmes.

I've added this to the J. Eric Holmes Photo Gallery