Saturday, March 16, 2019

Return to Gary Con: Day One

I drew a Skull Mountain on the back of my badge since half the time it would flip around

So I made it back to Gary Con!

The first time I went, two years ago, I had great fun playing in games run by former TSR employees or associates (Merle Rasmussen, Dave Megarry, Tom Wham, Dave Wesely) and attending events (Horticultural Hall reception, Charity Auction). This time I leveled up to GM, signing up to run two sessions of my Zenopus Dungeon sequel, In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus. 

I arrived one day earlier this time, on Thursday, flying into the Milwaukee airport. MKE is a nice small airport, and the only one I've ever been to with a used bookstore, and a good one at that, with a bunch of shelves of old SF/Fantasy paperbacks, including many Appendix N authors. I didn't have time to stop there on the way in, but I did on the way out (I'll show what I bought later).

After picking up my rental car, I drove west to Lake Geneva, a pleasant trip on the highway once you get out of the area around the airport. Snow was everywhere unlike two years ago when it was held in late March. As I neared the town on a country road I stopped at a random deli, Shavers, for a sandwich. I looked for cheese curds in the fridge but didn't buy them since I wasn't sure when I would be able to get into the room I was sharing (smart move, as it turned out to be after midnight).

Once at the hotel I checked in to Gary Con registration (behind Erol Otus...!) and picked up my GM folder and black GM cup. This year's cup design features a stylized Aboleth, a Lovecraftian monster that first appeared in I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City:


Gary Con XI cups. Source: Gary Con FB group?

My first event was a card game, Jasmine: Battle for the Mid-Realm, run by its creator Darlene, perhaps best known in D&D circles for drawing the legendary World of Greyhawk maps. She did all illustrations for this criminally overlooked game herself, and released it in 1982. I featured one of the cards on my blog last summer. The story elements of the game tie into her comic strip of the same name that ran in Dragon magazine.


Playing Jasmine: Battle for the Mid-Realm 

Darlene is still has original copies of the game for sale, and I picked one up from her last June at at the North Texas RPG Con, but hadn't had a chance to play it, so I
 thought this would be a nice way to learn the game. The game is for 2-4 players and has four factions, and I chose the one for Jasmine:

The Jasmine Faction. Source: BGG, photo by Hawklord

Each turn you can rearrange your faction cards between battlefield and fortress stacks, and they stay there until your next turn. You draw a random card from the deck and then take an action, which can involve playing a card or attacking another player the cards in your battlefield stack. It was quite fun, and our game featured lots of twists and turns. Despite losing Jasmine to death near the beginning of the game, I managed to bring her back and somehow ended up winning the game...!

Also playing in this game was Paleologos who I've corresponded with for years on Dragonsfoot and by email. Astute readers may remember that he designed my go to map for Portown. We also played in each other games and generally had a great time chatting throughout the weekend.


The Harrison Ford lineup. Source: me

After dinner I missed my scheduled evening game due to a time mix-up on my part, but was luckily able to jump into my pal Scott's Savage Worlds game. Scott always comes up with great concepts for his con games, and this one did not disappoint. In "Harrison Ford's Theatre", every player takes on the role of a Harrison Ford character from a different movie. I was Richard Kimble and joined Han Solo, Indiana Jones, Rick Deckard, Jack Ryan and the Air Force One president as we traveled from scene to scene from the movies trying to figure out why were all together (edit: for this game, since we had an extra player he added Alexei Vostrikov, the captain from K-19: The Widowmaker). It was a lot of fun, with a great group of players who got into character (one wore an Indiana Jones fedora). If you are wondering about the cards in the pictures, they are used for initiative in Savage Worlds. 


The Harrison Fords in the Death Star Detention Block! Source: me

Next up --- Day 2: Zenopus, Boot Hill and Discovery of the Unknown!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Gary Con XI Bound!



Later this week I'll be attending Gary Con XI in Lake Geneva, WI. I'm scheduled to run two sessions of In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus (formerly known as Return to the Tower of Zenopus, see teaser below), once on Friday morning at 9, and once Saturday evening at 7. Each session is currently full. I ran this last summer at North Texas RPG Con; this will be its first appearance at Gary Con.

I've also signed up to play a number of RPGs: Call of Cthulhu, En Garde, AD&D, Boot Hill and Empire of the Petal Throne.

The Gary Con XI Event Guide can be downloaded here on the GC site. 124 pages (!).

Among much other info, the Event Guide includes the following Holmesiana:

*The "Pioneers Who Have Passed" section includes J. Eric Holmes (page 5).

*The "Why We Are Here" tribute to Gary Gygax includes a quote from his Preface to the Holmes Basic rulebook, along with a thumbnail of the blue rulebook cover (Lizard Logo printing) (page 7).

*Pat Kilbane ("Bizarro Kramer" on Seinfeld), who is one of the guests of honor and is working on a documentary about Gary Gygax, started with Holmes Basic in 1979 (page 24).

*The 2nd annual Legends Tournament on Friday night is a sequel to B1 In Search of the Unknown written by Mike Carr and Paul Stormberg, 40 years after the original (page 44). I'm signed up to play in one of the teams competing in this!

*There's a full-page advertisement for Tales of Peril on page 52. And the book will be available for purchase at the Black Blade Publishing booth during the con.

*Thursday afternoon from 3-7 PM, Mike Mearls of WOTC is running his own game titled Return to the Tower of Zenopus, with the teaser: "Long ago, a band of adventurers dispatched by the mysterious sage Jeric D’Holmes plunged into the tunnels beneath the ruined tower of Zenopus. The dungeons beneath the tower were long thought empty, but now ghouls, goblins, and worse plague the small city of Portown by night. Could the source of this evil be found in this supposedly abandoned dungeon?" (page 64)

*A Blueholme game, "A Tale of Two Temples" is being run twice, Fri 9-1 PM and Fri 7-11 PM: "Deep under a long abandoned temple of Law, a Temple of Chaos thrives and with it a sanctuary for outlaws and exiles. This knaves’ haven now harbors the most famous thief in the known world, and the King has chosen you and your friends to bring him to justice. We’ll be using Blueholme rules for a 70’s style dungeon crawl, so bring your iron spikes, holy water, and ten foot pole"

*The blurb for my game appears on pages 74 and 105:
"Meet at the Green Dragon Inn and return to the dungeon under the ruined tower of the doomed wizard Zenopus to search for his legendary talking mask, forty years after adventurers first braved the passages. Play as Boinger, Zereth, Murray, or another character from J. Eric Holmes’ stories. This adventure from the Zenopus Archives celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Holmes Basic D&D set"

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Holmes Basic Testimonials



2019 update: Today is the 89th anniversary of J. Eric Holmes birthday! Please feel free to add your own testimonial to the comments below.

If you missed it major new addition to the Zenopus Archives site this past year was the addition of a J. Eric Holmes Photo Gallery.

2018 update: This year we celebrate Holmes' birthday in the middle of the 40th anniversary year of Holmes Basic (July 2017-July 2018). As a tribute, I'll be running two session of Return to the Tower of Zenopus at Gary Con in a few weeks (I had to cancel these).

There will also be a "Ruined Tower of Zenopus - 40 years later" event, by a different author, at the North Texas RPGCon this year in June! (this game was played with Chris Holmes in attendance)

And Beyond the Door to Monster Mountain - a Holmes Basic mini-scenario available here - will be run for the second year in a row at Dundracon this coming Sunday.

If you missed it, last July Chris Holmes was on the 3rd season of the short podcast Tell Me About Your Character, talking about his third favorite D&D character (after Boinger and Zereth) in the games he played with his father in the '70s. (this podcast seems to be no longer available)

And since Holmes' birthday last year we've seen a lot of great releases:

Tales of Peril, a gorgeous hardcover compilation of Holmes' stories of the adventures of Boinger the Halfling and Zereth the Elf, debuted at North Texas last June and shortly thereafter was available for direct order from Black Blade Publishing. I've been slowly blogging my way through the book in a series called the Tales of Peril Book Club, although at the moment it is on hiatus while I prep my con scenario.

The Blueholme Journeymanne rulebook was released by Dreamscape Design, and expands the Blueholme Prentice rules up to 20 levels. It is chock-full of evocative art thanks to all of the Holmes fans out there who funded the Kickstarter for the art.

Jon of Appendix M released two issues of his zine Fantastic! Exciting! Imaginative!, which is inspired by the art found in the Holmes Basic rulebook. The content is by various members of the Holmes Basic groups on G+ and Facebook, including one article in each by myself. Join up if you want to contribute to the next one! These can be found at DTRPG: Vol 1 (free pdf) and Vol 2 ($4 pdf).

On Free RPG day I released Holmes Ref 2.0 an expanded compilation of my reference sheets for Holmes Basic referees. I hope to release a further expansion this year.

Each year I bring this post forward and invite you to add new testimonials. I've moved my posts from previous years to an archive page on the Holmes Basic site, but everyone else's comments from previous years remain below. Feel free to comment again if you've commented before.

See also:
Testimonal Thread at OD&D Discussion
Testimonial Thread at Knights & Knaves Alehouse  
Testimonial Thread at Dragonsfoot
Testimonial Thread at the Acaeum

(DTRPG links include this blog's affiliate # which gives us a 5% credit for each purchase)

Friday, January 11, 2019

Scrum Con Feb 2019



If you'll be in the Washington DC or Baltimore area in mid-February I'll be running a game at Scrum Con, a new gameday/mini-con in College Park, Maryland on Feb 16. My game is the In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus (formerly known as Return to the Tower of Zenopus), the same scenario I ran at North Texas RPG Con last June and will also be running at Gary Con this March. My game is scheduled from 10-2 and there are currently 2 seats left out of 8.

As a reminder, here is the description for my game:
Forty years ago adventurers first braved the dungeon under the ruined tower of the wizard Zenopus. Fearsome monsters were overcome and fabulous treasure was recovered, but eventually the stairway leading down to the dangerous passages was bricked over by order of Lady Lemunda, current ruler of prosperous Portown, and new buildings rose in the area. However, Murray the Magic-user has located a previously unknown means of entry to the old dungeons and has gathered you all in hopes of finding the legendary brazen head of Zenopus, a mask reputed to have the power of speech. Meet at the Green Dragon Inn and adventure as Boinger, Zereth, Murray, or another character from J. Eric Holmes' stories. This adventure from the Zenopus Archives celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Holmes Basic D&D set.

Registration for badges and events is open at Tabletop Events and the cost is only $8 for the day, which includes two game sessions from 10-2 and 3:30-7:30. The available games are an equal mix of RPGs and wargames. Other RPGs with seats still available include Call of Cthulhu, a Star Trek/Dead Space Mashup, and Stonehell. Special Guest Zeb Cook is running a Return to the Isle of Dread session, although the seats for that are full.

More details can be found on the Tabletop Events page for the con.

Update: Unfortunately I had to cancel my attendance at this con due to a family health crisis.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Holmes for the Holidays 2018


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

"Holmes for the Holidays" is back for 2018!  

This year I'm giving away a paperback copy of the first issue of the new Cthulhu RPG zine Bayt El Azif, which as described previously has an article that I wrote about Holmes' role bringing the Cthulhu Mythos into D&D, with a new illustration of a Mythos creature by Chris Holmes.

* * * * *

For the give-away I'm using the same system as before: if you are interested, add a comment in reply to this post within the next two days. The two days are the time limit before moderation starts on posts on this blog. After two days, I'll st
op accepting entries and treat the list of comments as a table and roll randomly for the winner, using dice from a Holmes Basic set.

I'll cover postage (media mail) for any U.S. address. I can ship to other countries but I ask that you cover the difference (any amount over $4) in shipping by PayPal; so if you are overseas please only participate if you have a PayPal account and willing to chip in the extra. I'll estimate the exact shipping and refund the difference if I overcharge. Note t
his is intended for folks who don't yet have a copy of the magazine.

Please note that due to the date I'm starting this that I may not have time to get this in the mail prior to Christmas, and it almost certainly won't be received by then. If you'd like get a copy of this sooner you can try ordering over at DrivethruRPG (link includes my affiliate number). And if you are looking for other gifts try my recent post "Things I've Written Published Elsewhere".

1/7 Update, including the Results:


A happy New Year everyone. My apologies for the delay in announcing these results.

I recruited a dice elf to make the roll for me. There were 36 comments (only 31 of which were entries), so we used Percentile Dice (pink 20-sider for 10s, white 20-sider for 1s), re-rolling any score for non-entries or and any over 36. 

After a few practice rolls, we made the official roll...


...which indicates that number 21 is the winner! That's Tony Rowe, who I will contact via email.

Thanks to all who entered the contest! Hope to have a new Holmes Ref sheet out soon.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Player Map for Zenopus Dungeon

Player Map - click for a larger view and/or download


Above is a Player Map for my Return to the Tower of Zenopus game (now retitled In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus) that I ran this past June at North Texas RPG Con. I took the original manuscript map drawn by J. Eric Holmes and removed the letters and the secret passage. Also note that this map doesn't exactly correspond to the dungeon as published, as the TSR cartography added a few empty rooms and rearranged some corridors. In game, this can reflect the inaccuracy of the mapper who made it.

You can use this for the original dungeon, perhaps with brand new players who have never mapped before or if you have limited session time. Or with any sequel or other dungeon using the same map. In my con game it represents the efforts of earlier adventurers, 40 years prior.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

1973 Preview of Mythical Earth Minifigs


"Middle Earth wizard painted as Saruman in his 'coat of many colours'; a vicious-looking man-orc; a rather stocky elf; axe-wielding dwarf, and of course, a hobbit. Dwarves are sold in strips of two, the second figure armed with a spear, hobbits in strips of three armed with sword, short sword and spear." - original caption

In 1973, Miniature Figurines, perhaps better known as Minifigs, a British-based manufacturer of metal miniatures for wargames, began production on one of the first lines of fantasy miniatures. (Another very early line by Jack Scruby Miniatures is discussed in this recent article at Playing at the World.)

The line of 25 mm minis was called 'Mythical Earth' --- obviously inspired by Tolkien. The preview photo is from Airfix Magazine, August 1973, and shows some of the first figures in the line, including (from left to right) painted versions of ME4 Wizard, ME1 Man-Orc with Sword, ME2 Wood Elf with Bow, ME3 Dwarves (one of two figures) and ME6 Hobbits (one of thee). Chainmail was in existence at this time, but the publication of D&D in January 1974 was still a number of months away. 

In the Playing at the World article linked above, Jon mentions that the "Mythical Earth" was not the original name for this line, but was a rebranding to avoid suit by the Tolkien Estate. This appears to be reflected in this preview as it only uses the name "Middle Earth" and not "Mythical Earth".

It's stunning to realize that when this article was first published, in August 1973, J.R.R. Tolkien was still alive, though not for long as he passed away the following month on September 2nd, 1973.

The preview was part of the "New kits and models" column in Airfix, author unlisted but probably Editor Bruce Quarrie or Editorial Director Darryl Reach:

"In their 25 mm range. Miniature Figurines  have sent us the first samples in a new series of ‘Middle Earth' figures. Wargamers who are also addicted to Professor J. R. R. Tolkien's epic fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings will be delighted with these figures, which currently include a wizard, man-orc, dwarf, elf and hobbit, illustrated here. Future releases will include Riders of Rohan. Dunedain, and Nazgul mounted on pterodactyl-like winged  beasts. Orcs and further examples both of the Free Peoples and Sauron's minions. Readers of Wargamers Newsletter will realise that there is considerable demand for fantasy figures of this type, and Miniature Figurines are to be congratulated on such an imaginative venture. The figures will undoubtedly be especially popular in America, where Tolkien is a great cult figure, and in this context it is worth noting that the firm are soon to be opening a factory in the States."
Thanks to Shining Knight pointing out this article in this thread on the Dragonsfoot.

A pdf of the magazine can be found over on the Internet Archive.

A gallery of the entire Mythical Earth line can be seen on the Lost Minis wiki.

The line eventually grew to 101 figures. Despite the focus on Middle Earth, it had a few oddities, such as ME51 Frog Man (perhaps Gollum? But why avoid using his name when you already using Hobbit, Huorn, Rohan, Dunland and Harad?), ME100 Centaur, and the final figure ME101 Pan.

J. Eric Holmes owned minis from this line. I previously wrote about his Green-Painted ME58 Dragon and also about a ME4 Wizard in the photo from the Tales of Peril dust jacket.

(Article originally drafted in April 2018 but just revised & posted today)