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.

Saturday, July 23, 2016


If you haven't heard, the original PLANET OF THE APES (1968) will be back in certain theatres tomorrow (Sunday the 24th) and Wednesday (the 27th). Check your local listings!

The title of this post references an obscure PLANET OF THE APES-themed RPG from the Holmes Basic-era, 1978's SIMIAN CONQUEST. Read more about it here on Dragonsfoot.

1973 Promotional Poster for a Planet of the Apes movie marathon


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