Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mas Day in New Hope

Mas Day in New Hope by Jim Ward

     Mas Day in New Hope is a mini-scenario for the 2nd edition of Gamma World, published in Polyhedron #15 (Nov 1983, pg 22-23). Polyhedron was bi-monthly at the time, so this was the holiday issue. The scenario was written by the creator of the game, Jim Ward, and thus could be held as official GW content. Around this time Ward had a series of Gamma World articles in Polyhedron; most of these remain obscure due to the low profile and lack of CD archive for Polyhedron as compared to Dragon magazine.

     The scenario begins with the PCs in the town of New Hope near Quests Mountain, a location also featured in the 1983 Endless Quest book by Ward, Light on Quests Mountain. New Hope celebrates an annual Mas Day holiday descended from Christmas:

     "Mas Day arrives and all of the children and cubs of the village are up early and outside playing around the Tree of Life. Your parents and friends are just climbing out of abed when the village is shaken by sonic blasts from an unseen force ... Your vision is drawn to a point just beyond the edge of the village; there to your surprise is a huge man with a white beard, dressed in strange red clothing - flying a large metal chair of the Ancients pulled by eight giant, flying brown creatures".

     The villagers naturally feel threatened and attack the visitor to little effect. See the artwork above by Jim Holloway illustrating this scene. The man is an X.M.A.S. unit, a deadly Santa robot (long before the one on Futurama), "originally designed to serve in department stores around the world". They are manufactured by a recently awakened robot factory on the glacier-covered mountain, but because Gamma World is so deadly the units keep getting destroyed, and the computer system in charge has heavily modified them to increase offensive and defensive capabilities: "it was made radiation-proof, was designed with battle armor, and was given three different internal weapons systems and two auxiliary laser weapon systems. The brown servos [i.e., reindeer] were all enlarged and given mini-missile launchers in their antennae and flame throwers in their tails" and the sleigh (grav sled) was given force fields to protect from everything but large nuclear blasts.

     Despite the weaponry, unless the assault continues it will "be friendly to all the people of New Hope and give out toys and the like to the kids. It will talk to everyone and ask them what they want and promise to bring it the next year (a promise that cannot be kept)".

     If you are a fan of Jim Ward's postapocalyptic material, check out his material available for first edition Metamorphosis Alpha available on, including a nice pdf of the original  Metamorphosis Alpha rulebook from 1976 with some bonus material included.

     And if you missed it, the Greyhawkery blog interviewed Ward about two weeks ago.

     Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Making Your Move ... Role Playing Games

Games Merchandising magazine, June 1982
     Over at the Acaeum, Gnat the Beggar posted some images from the June 1982 issue of Game Merchandising magazine, including this charming cover.

     Game Merchandising was a short-lived industry magazine for retailers/industry folks (see the "Not for Resale" on the cover) that existed from around 1981-1983, and earlier was a section of Model Retailer magazine. This time period that saw a boom in "gaming magazines", for example Ares (1980-1982, twelve issues), Adventure Gaming (edited by Tim Kask, 13 issues from 1981-1982) and Gameplay (edited by Jake Jaquet, another former Dragon magazine editor, 14 issues 1983-1984). The appearance of these were probably driven by the big sales of D&D during this time period. Another page from this same issue of GM puts the total units of D&D sold through 1982 at 2 million, and total units of AD&D sold at 1.5 million. The figure for D&D undoubtedly includes not only OD&D but also all of the Basic (Holmes and Moldvay) and Expert sets sold through mid-82.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

D&D Holiday Special

     No, it's not TSR's answer to the Star Wars Holiday Special. It's part of a "Mapping the Dungeons" column from Strategic Review #5, December 1975, page 7, no author listed (possibly Tim Kask). Here TSR was trying to move some surplus parts. $4 got you an entire OD&D boxed set, minus Vol III. It's unclear how popular this was (probably not very, since the offer is buried in a column part way through the magazine), but no copy of the Holiday Special has been definitively identified (I originally asked about it at the Acaeum in '05). They would be hard to identify since the booklets printings are the same as complete sets and might have Vol III added. Probably would require an owner who remembered ordering this.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In Memory Of

     Today (Dec 20th) would have been my father's 70th birthday. He passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack at age 53. Dad, thanks (among many other things) for owning Lord of the Rings and the surprise DMG from the Exchange. I still have both.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Pathfinder Beginner Box homage to TSR Basic Sets

     Homage: "a show or demonstration of respect or dedication to someone or something, sometimes by simple declaration but often by some more oblique reference, artistic or poetic"

     I previously placed the new Pathfinder RPG Beginner Box as the latest in 35 years of D&D Basic Sets. Paizo appears to have the same view based on the dedication in the Table of Contents in the Hero's Handbook in the set, which goes out to the editors of the first three D&D Basic Sets:

     "This game is dedicated to J. Eric Holmes, Frank Mentzer, and Tom Moldvay" 

     Thanks to jeffb and Azafuse on the OD&D Discussion forums for (respectively) bringing this to my attention and providing the quote. See the thread for further discussion  including a link from kesher to a discussion on the Paizo message boards about using the BB with kids.

     Also, The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope blog has a generally positive review of the set where he writes that "My immediate impression was that of the old Holmes’ basic set".

     I noticed that the cover art of the BB by Wayne Reynolds features two adventurers, a spellcaster and a warrior, facing off against a dragon sitting on its hoard of gold, including a treasure chest, in a dungeon of cut stone: many of the same elements as the original Basic Set cover art by David Sutherland. The Pathfinder spellcaster's raised fiery hand even mimics the original wizard's raised hand with torch. Click here for a large image provided the BB cover provided by Paizo for use as computer wallpaper.

     So the BB pays homage to the Holmes Basic Set by both simple declaration (the dedication) and by oblique artistic reference (the cover).

      In some ways the Beginner Box resembles yet a different TSR Basic Set: the 1991 New, Easy to Master D&D Game designed by Timothy B. Brown and Troy Denning, known colloquially as the Black Box. This fourth version of the Basic Set essentially served as an intro for the contemporary Rules Cyclopedia (1991) developed by Aaron Allston. Like the Beginner Box, the Black Box came in a big rectangular box, included a large set of paper minis, and covered character levels 1-5. 

     If anyone finds any other allusions to previous Basic Sets in the Beginner Box, please post them here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sacnoth's B1

     I've previously mentioned Sacnoth's Scriptorium, the blog by John Rateliff, former TSR/WOTC employee who authored The Return to the Keep on the Borderlands, as well as independently writing the mighty History of the Hobbit. In a recent blog post he describes returning to AD&D 1st edition for the first time in some years, running B1 In Search of the Unknown with his own additions, such as a Decapus from B3:

"--a dining room, to which the unseen servants delivered the wh apparently had a decapus in it who attacked as soon as they entered. Here I did a switch. In its original appearance (in B3), PCs enter a room and see a group of men around a table attacking a woman with knives with apparent cannibalistic intent. But this is just an illusion, covering up the actual menace: a ten-tentacled monster who tries to gobble up the intruders. I decided to reverse that: in my dungeon, they saw the decapus, which here itself was an illusion hiding a room full of eight zombies. A secondary motive, besides creating a tough fight, was to throw off anyone who'd figured out which module we were playing (given that one of the players, Steve Winter, was already working for TSR about the time the adventure I was using was published back in '81), which was after all a classic. By throwing in an iconic monster from a different adventure, I thought it might muddy the waters -- and for those who hadn't played the old adventures it work just fine as a stand-on-its-own encounter"

See his entire post here:

And here's an interview with Rateliff (by Monte Cook) where he discusses his gaming history:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

35 years ago this month (Dec 76)

     In December 1976, in the lower right quarter of a page otherwise devoted to Tekumel miniatures, Dragon #4 squeezed in an early version of what would become Gygax's Appendix N in the Dungeon Masters Guide three years later. Perhaps this list was intended to provide material for the Christmas lists of readers? All of the authors in this version made it into the DMG list, save Algernon Blackwood, an early 20th-century writer of ghost/weird stories. Specific mention of Lord of Light by Zelazny was also dropped in the DMG. Otherwise, the 1976 list is shorter than the DMG list, missing Bellairs (Face in the Frost was reviewed by Gygax in Dragon #22 in Feb '79), Brown, de Camp solo, Derleth, Dunsany, Norton, Offutt, Pratt solo and Williamson.

     Around this time Gygax was actively writing to a number of these authors. Tim Kask recently wrote on Dragonsfoot, in response to a question from myself about he came publish Fox's stories, that "Gary corresponded with several authors, including Gar Fox, Fritz Leiber, L Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter, to name just a few. As publisher, he gave me an intro and the rest fell into place. My biggest thrill from that was reprinting Fritz's story [Sea Magic, Dragon #11], closely followed by the original Niall stuff [Gardner Fox, 10 stories between 1976-1981] and a De Camp story [a reprint of the Harold Shea tale The Green Magician, Dragon #15-16]. Here I was, a nobody at a new weird game company, actually publishing writers whose works I had been reading for years. Heady times". Leiber and Fox were also both guests at Gen Con '77.

     During this time period Gygax was also corresponding with Dr. Holmes, which led to his work editing the Basic Set. The exact chronology is murky but presumably work on the Basic Set was well in progress by late 1976 as it was published during the middle of the following year. Dr. Holmes was a fan of many of the same authors as Gygax, which I can only assume facilitated their collaboration. 1976 saw the publication of Holmes' first novel, The Mahars of Pellucidar, an authorized sequel to Burroughs' inner earth series. On page 41 of the Blue Book, Holmes included a proto-Appendix N, writing "The imaginary universe of Dungeons & Dragons obviously lies not too far from the Middle Earth of J.R.R. Tolkien's great Lord of the Rings trilogy. The D & D universe also impinges on the fantasy worlds of Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard, Gardner F. Fox, classical mythology and any other source of inspiration the Dungeon Master wants to use".

Monday, December 12, 2011

Holmes for the Holidays (the winner is...)

See Update #3 below.

Anybody want this Holmes Basic Set for Christmas?

A few months ago I bought this set on Ebay solely to get an obscure TSR catalog that was included (more on TSR catalogs in the future). I don't need the rest of the set so I thought I'd give it away to a reader of this blog. 

It's fairly worn but is complete (except for dice) and usable/readable. The box is sturdy but there's one split in the top edge. When I got the set the rulebook (2nd edition, 3rd printing - no prices on the back cover) had the upper right corner of the cover torn off, and the first page was also torn. I repaired these with packing tape. The interior pages have yellowed with age, except for a few in the middle which are mysteriously still bright white. The B1 has a missing upper left corner and some gouges near the spine.  As a warning, the box had some loose lead miniatures (not included here) in it when I bought it but I wiped it clean.

If you are interested, just post a comment here. I'll randomly pick (dice roll) one commenter to receive the set. I'll cover postage (media mail) for any U.S. address. 

Update: Since there's interest - shipping to other countries/overseas is fine, too, but I just ask that you cover the difference in shipping by PayPal.

I need to give credit to Theodric the Obscure at Mythopoeic Rambling - I appropriated the title of one of his posts for this one.

Update #2:The responses to this have slowed down. 33 right now (2 comments are mine). I'm going to cap the number at 36, and roll a 1-36 according to the method in the back of the Blue Book (d6 + d12):

d6 1-2 = 0 + d12 = 1-12
d6 3-4 = 12 + d12 = 13-24
d6 5-6 = 24 + d12 = 25-36 

Update #3:

We inched up to 36 entries today, so we rolled for the winner tonight. Following a few practice rolls, I called the official roll and my assistant rolled the dice: a 6 & 11. This translates as 35, so the winner is Tigerbunny. (Tigerbunny, I'm going to send you an email through the address on your blog)

Thanks to all for participating & Merry Christmas. I have some other extras around here so I hope to give away some more stuff during the year next year. Stay tuned.

Discover all the Fantastic Possibilities of D&D (updated)

     The Collector's Trove is running another set of auctions of items owned by Gary Gygax. The current auctions include a number of TSR promotional posters, intended for display by retailers, including this one for the Holmes Basic Set (16" x 23"). I didn't have a picture of this in my records, so if I've seen it before it was years ago and I'd forgotten about it. The auctions note that all of the posters are double hole punched (once at the top, once 3/4 of the way down), presumably for ease of hanging.

    An awesome feature of the Basic Set poster is that is shows more of David Sutherland's cover art unobscured. The edges are slightly cropped compared to what can be seen on the sides of the Basic Set, so it's not the full painting, but we see more of the cover without text or bending over the sides. Unfortunately the auction photo is low resolution (the above picture is the full-size of the auction photo). Last year, the Xeveninti blog created an excellent mock-up of Sutherland's original art by scanning the box at high resolution and filling in missing parts. But I'd love to get a larger photo/scan of this poster for the Zenopus Archives site (hint to the winner of the auction or anyone else who might have one of these posters).

     The auction states the poster is from 1977, and that is the latest copyright date shown, but I think the poster was produced later than that because it has the TSR Wizard Logo, which was started being used in mid-1978. The third printing of the Blue Book from May 1978 still has the Lizard Logo, and first with the Wizard Logo is the 2nd edition, Nov 1978. Also, some of the posters of the same size are for games that came out later, like Top Secret (dated 1980). It's possible they were all produced at different times from 1978-1980 or all at once as late as 1980.

     There are fourteen other fantastic posters from the same time period being auctioned, including ones for the AD&D hardcovers and contemporary TSR boxed games, such as Gamma World:

     The auctions all end in about a day and half (on Sunday the 11th). The Basic Set poster is currently up to $117.50, far beyond what I would pay, but these auctions have a history of going very high due the celebrity factor.

     Badmike posted some wise words about these auctions on the Acaeum last Wed:

"I don't want to put the kibosh on the auction, but I would be willing to bet other posters of this will be offered at some time. Note the wording Paul has on the auction, the fact he doesn't tout this as the only one in the collection, and the fact Paul has already offered multiple copies of several items. Still, I bet it would look nice framed on the wall....but there could be more copies to come.

If I may also say a few words, if you are buying these you should be buying them for the unique collectibility, not for the possibility of making a mint on resale. So far, items I have seen reselling from Paul's auctions have gone for a fraction of the original price. Being auctioned under the Collector's Trove banner seems to attract larger bids than such items would normally get, especially for more common items. But it doesn't seem to affect what the item will sell for later. "

Update: The auctions are over and this poster sold for 1,527.97....! :o

I believe the winner was ScketreWhisp® on the Acaeum. See here. He runs the NTRPGCon and says this poster and others he won (for ~$7700 total) will be framed and on display at the next con. So they are going somewhere useful.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Darrell K. Sweet (1934-2011)

Darrell K. Sweet's cover for Castle Roogna (1979) by Piers Anthony
     I just read on Dragonsfoot that Darrell Sweet passed away earlier this week. Only in the last few years did I really become aware of just how many fantasy paperbacks he illustrated from the 70s-present. Some of the earlier ones I read with his covers were the Xanth series and the Hobbit/LOTR. In the 90s when I finally read the Silmarillion for the first time, it was the also the paperback with his painting of the Fall of Numenor:

The Fall of Numenor by Darrell K. Sweet, used as the cover of the 1982 Silmarillion paperback
     A few years ago I picked up a used copy of the Misenchanted Sword by Lawrence Watt-Evans based on my memories of seeing the cover back in the 80s. I enjoyed it and ending up reading the entire series. Sweet illustrated the first five or so. Watt-Evans recently tweeted: "Darrell Sweet has died. In the early years of my career I was a "Darrell Sweet author," and his covers surely sold thousands of my books."

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Enormous Spider

"This is the best room in my inn"
illustration by Gustave Dore in La Legende de Croquemitaine by Ernest L'Epine (1870)

    In October I wrote up several monster entries based on "lost" monsters found in the module B2, including Warrior Zombie, Giant Rat King, and Phantom Cat. Other "lost" monsters for Holmes Basic can be found right in the Sample Dungeon by Dr. Holmes himself, including a giant snake, giant octopus and an ape, none of which appear in the Monster List in the Blue Book.

     One that is particularly obscure is the original version of the spider in Room J. This spider lurking under the ruins of the tower of the wizard Zenopus was possibly inspired by the Conan tale The Tower of the Elephant (Robert E. Howard, 1933). In that story a giant spider drops on Conan from the ceiling of a room in the tower of a sorcerer.

      If you have the 2nd or 3rd edition of the Blue Book, the spider in Room J is named a "giant spider" and essentially matches the entry in the Monster List at page 32: HD 4+4 (21 hp)  with a poisonous bite (2-8 points damage). However, it also has an AC 3, which is off by one from the standard AC 4. This is a residual reference to the original version found in the first edition of the Blue Book, which was more ferocious: in addition to the lower AC, it has HD 6 (31 hp) with a poisonous bite (1-8 points damage) that saves at -1 "because it is so strong". Furthermore, the spider was originally referred to as an "enormous spider" rather than a "giant spider". This reflects that the first print of the Blue Book (~mid-'77) did not have a Monster List entry for spider. The entry for "Spider" (including huge, large and giant types) was added to the 2nd edition (Nov '78), and was adapted from the Monster Manual entry (published in Dec '77). OD&D doesn't have a codified entry for Spiders of unusual size. There are Giant Spiders mentioned in the variable damage and wandering monster tables in Greyhawk, but no full entry apart from "Large Insects or Animals" in Monsters & Treasure, which can have HD  2-20, AC 2-8, and damage 2-4 dice. Holmes may have simply picked a set of stats from these loose OD&D guidelines to generate his enormous spider.

     Here's an adaptation of Holmes' original spider foe for Holmes Basic or OD&D:

Enormous Spider

Move: 20 feet/turn; 100 in web
Hit Dice: 6
Armor Class: 3
Treasure Type: D
Alignment: neutral
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1-8

     Wicked old giant spiders that have grown to enormous proportions. Their bite is occasionally less damaging than that of a giant spider, but their poison is worse (-1 on the saving throw dice). Less swift than younger spiders, they favor a silent sneak attack. The spider, concealed in a darkened ceiling area, drops onto an unsuspecting victim. A successful hit roll indicates the victim is knocked down and surprised; the next round the spider has first attack while the victim fights at -2 as they stand up. A missed hit roll indicates the spider lands on ground next to the victim and the fight proceeds normally.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Caves of Chaos revealed

Annotated scan of the cover image of B2 The Keep on the Borderlands. Art by Jim Roslof.
     I've looked at the cover of B2 countless times. It was the first module I owned. But I don't recall ever noticing until yesterday that you can see at least two of the Caves of Chaos in the background of the cover painting (circles marked B and C). My eyes have always focused on the combat in the foreground, which (without thinking about it too much) I assumed was a random wilderness encounter with hobgoblins (the Monster Manual describes them as having bright red-orange faces and blue noses). I never really noticed those dark spots in the background. But now they look to me like they must be cave openings in the distance, and thus the combat is taking place right in the valley of the Caves of Chaos, which completely makes sense as an artistic choice for Jim Roslof's composition.

     So which caves are they? The cave on the left is higher than the other as if they are on different contour lines as shown on the map. But since the hill overall seems to be sloping down to the left I would assume we are facing south. If so, the high hills in the distance would be south across the river (perhaps the peaks where the bandit camp is located). Caves J and K would roughly fit the pattern except the map shows them hidden in the trees. Caves D and E are to the left of Cave F (the hobgoblin cave), but are lower. So they are not easily placed.

Edit: I revised the annotated scan to show the cave locations suggested by paleologos. 
A is the Kobold Lair (partially obscured), B and C are the two Orc Lairs, and G is the Shunned Cavern, hidden behind a stand of trees.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Silver Anniversary Holmes Set

Front cover of the SA reprint of the Blue Book; scan from the Acaeum

     A fellow player in my group recently lent me copies of the Blue Book and B2 from the Silver Anniversary set put out by WOTC in 1999 (Thanks, Matt!). I'd never seen these in person before. Including both means the SA set essentially includes a "Holmes Basic Set",  (excepting a fatal flaw in the B2, which I describe below), which is why I placed it in my chronology of D&D Basic Sets a few weeks ago. In a sense this also is the last paper version of "Basic D&D" published by TSR/WOTC - a line that started with the Holmes set.

     As I'd gathered previously from discussion with machfront on Dragonsfoot, the Silver Anniversary Blue Book is a fascimile reprint of a 2nd edition Blue Book, specifically a printing without prices included in the product list on the back cover (which I've placed as the sixth overall printing of the rulebook). The SA reprint is identical except for the SA logo on the front cover and title page, and is currently the tenth known printing of the rulebook:

1st edition, 1st print: code F116-R, Lizard Logo
1st edition, 2nd print: code 2001, Lizard Logo, January 1978
1st edition, 3rd print: code 2001, Lizard Logo, May 1978 

2nd edition, 1st print: code 2001, Wizard Logo, November 1978, back cover B1 price $4.49
2nd edition, 2nd print: code 2001, Wizard Logo, November 1978, back cover B1 price $5.49
2nd edition, 3rd print: code 2001, Wizard Logo, November 1978, back cover no prices
3rd edition, 1st print: code 2001, Wizard Logo, December 1979, no ISBN pg 1
3rd edition, 2nd print: code 2001, Wizard Logo, December 1979, ISBN pg 1, "USING THE DICE OR CHITS" pg 46
3rd edition, 3rd print: code 2001, Wizard Logo, December 1979, ISBN pg 1, "USING THE DICE" pg 46
Silver Anniversary reprint, identical to 2nd edition, 3rd print except for SA logo on front cover

     Note this scheme refers solely to the rulebook, not the entire set itself (The Acaeum only tracks the entire set, but different boxes can have the same rulebook, or vice versa). I don't know why TSR/WOTC chose to reprint a 2nd edition version in the SA set instead of a later printing such as the last 3rd edition version. There's not many differences between the two; the most significant being on page 19, which (1) deletes a paragraph about d20s that are numbered 0-9 twice, and (2) has some corrections in the Monster Attack table. Technically, this version is the most "revised" and might have made more sense for the reprint. However, I don't think they put a lot of thought into the printings based on the B2 that was included:

Front cover of the SA reprint of the Blue Book; scan from the Acaeum

     At first glance the SA copy of B2 appears to be a reprint of the 1st print (Holmes-compatible) because the front cover has a Wizard Logo and a sentence about using the module with AD&D. However, as ken-do-im reported on Dragonsfoot, the interior of the module, except for the title page and reference sheet, is a reprint of the Moldvay-compatible revision of the module! The back cover is also an exact copy of the Moldvay version back cover (down to the ISBN number) rather than a Holmes back cover. It's not the end of the world since all of the D&D line is essentially compatible, but why did TSR/WOTC create such a Frankenstein? The weirdest part is the Holmes reference sheet inserted in the middle of the otherwise Moldvay-module. A half-hearted attempt to make the module compatible with the Blue Book in the SA set?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Arduin Adventure vs. Holmes Basic

Logo from the cover of The Arduin Adventure rulebook
     The original Arduin trilogy of booklets ("Grimoires", 1977-78) were written by Dave Hargrave as supplements to the original D&D game. The Arduin Adventure, published in 1980 by Grimoire Games, was the first product to present Arduin as a stand-alone game, in an introductory format seemingly inspired by the Holmes Basic Set. According to Gygax, the Holmes Basic Set was selling 12,000 copies a month by mid-1980, so it was natural that other game designers would follow suit. Thus, The Arduin Adventure box set ($9.95) included a 64-page rulebook with all of the necessary rules, three character sheets, two sheets of magic item cards, and two 20-sided dice. The rulebook was also available separately ($7.95), with cover art by Greg Espinoza.

Photo of the contents of The Arduin Adventure box set from a current Ebay auction

     Much like Basic D&D distilled the original D&D rules, The Arduin Adventure simplifies the Arduin trilogy to six races (elf, dwarf, hobbitt, human, amazon and half orc), five classes (warrior, thief, priest, mage and forester), twelve statistics (dexterity, agility, strength, intelligence, ego, wisdom, charisma, hit points, armor class, mana and experience level), combat rules, four levels of spells for priests and mages, a short list of magic items, and about 30 monsters.

The Forgotten Tower as depicted on the back cover of The Arduin Adventure.
Artwork by Brad Schenck (Morno)

     The rulebook also contains a nine-page introductory scenario, The Forgotten Tower, set in a lost wizard's tower (rather than beneath a destroyed one as in the Holmes Sample Dungeon). It has 45 rooms including eight in the dungeon that are to be keyed by the DM (ala B1 In Search of the Unknown). A picture of the Forgotten Tower was included on the back cover of the rulebook, with art by Brad Schenck (Morno), known for his work on Wee Warriors products, such as the cover and maps for the first D&D module, Palace of Vampire Queen.

     The Arduin combat rules use Dexterity scores for initiative. This goes back to the first Arduin Grimoire and predates the use in the Holmes Basic Set. In The Arduin Adventure, the "Monster" section gives typical Dex scores for each creature, and a few monsters in The Forgotten Tower also have Dex scores listed.

Skorpadillo by Erol Otus, from The Howling Tower.
Scan grabbed from Jeff's Gameblog.

     One "Basic" level dungeon module was also published for Arduin: The Howling Tower (Arduin Dungeon #2, 1979), for character levels 1-4. All of the monsters in The Howling Tower are provided with Dex scores (example: Skorpadillo, "dext. 16"). Erol Otus (also a Holmes Basic artist for B2) provided the interior artwork for The Howling Tower (two quarter page illustrations, including the one above). 

See also:
Detailed review at RPGnet

Discussion thread at Original D&D Discussion

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Obscure TSR art related to B1-B3, pt IV

Advertisement in Strategic Review for the first issue of The Dragon

     My original Holmes set was one of the last printings, which is not surprising because it was a birthday present in early '82. This set included the second printing of B2, which I still have though it is missing a few pages. This printing has an excellent illustration of a wingless dragon on page 6 by David C Sutherland III (DCS III). Later, when I got B1 (Moldvay version), I noticed this same dragon on page 6 of that module. So I've been familiar with this picture for a long time, and previously wondered why it was used despite neither adventure having a dragon. Later via the Acaeum I learned it was used in each case as filler to replace deleted text (described in more detail below), which explained the random usage. What I didn't know about was the original appearance of this art in the last issue of Strategic Review, as noted today on DF by paleologos (who also pointed out the previous artwork I have featured under this topic). He further postulates it is a fire lizard from the Blackmoor Supplement, which are described as "of identical appearance to dragons, without wings", and suggests placing it in the Cave of the Unknown in B2!

Here's a summary of the wanderings of this "dragon":

-Strategic Review #7, Apr '76 (last issue), page 11. Advertisement pictured above, for the first issue of The Dragon, which first appeared in Jun '76.

-Second printing of B2, 1980, page 6. The first and second printings of B2 are for the Holmes rules. The 1st printing is distinguished by a sentence on the cover indicating that the module can be used with AD&D, and pages 5-6 have a small section on "Using this module with AD&D", the text of which I posted here a while back. The second printing deletes the references to AD&D and fills in the space with two illustrations, one of intertwining snakes (by an unknown artist) and one of the DCS dragon.

-Fourth printing of B1, 1981, page 6. The first three printings of B1 are for the Holmes rules and have a monochrome yellow cover. The third printing is revised version for the Moldvay rules, with a brown color cover. The DCS dragon was inserted on page 6 to fill in a deleted section, also titled "Using this module with AD&D".

Previous entries in this series: pt I, pt II, pt III 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dr. Holmes and the Cthulhu Mythos, part III

Excerpt from Dr. Holmes' letter to Rob Kuntz, 10/22/77

Further notes on the manuscript/letters for the "Lovecraftian Mythos in D&D" (Dragon #12):

Letter from Dr. Holmes to Rob Kuntz, dated 10/20/77, 1 page
On Dr. Holmes' letterhead from USC School of Medicine. Mailed to Kuntz at TSR address.
Quote: "Here are "Lovecraftian Gods" as promised at GenCon. A little late but use it if you can."

Letter from Kuntz to Holmes, undated, 1 page
Quote: "Of course [printing this in Dragon] does not exclude it from seeing print in the next addition of GDH along with due credit to the creator, yourself. Everyone from TSR says hello!"

Letter from Holmes to Kuntz, dated 11/22/77, 1 page
On Dr. Holmes' letterhead; mailed to Kuntz at personal address in Lake Geneva.
Quote: "I'm glad you added to it - I was tempted to keep going, especially with the Derleth and C.A. Smith Gods, but decided I had to stop somewhere."

1 page: Kuntz's intro paragraph, titled "The Lovecraftian Mythos in Dungeons & Dragon".
7 pages: Holmes' "The Lovecraftian Gods, the Great Old Ones".
1 page: Kuntz's descriptions for Cthuga, Ithaqua and Yig.
Each of the above is typed, with hand-written corrections/annotations, presumably by Kuntz.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dr. Holmes and the Cthulhu Mythos, part II

Excerpt from Dr. Holmes' typed manuscript

     I previously wrote about Dr. Holmes' role in co-authoring (with Rob Kuntz) the article "The Lovecraftian Mythos in D&D" in Dragon #12, which was later revised by Jim Ward to become the Cthulhu Mythos in the Deities & Demigods rulebook. I concluded that Holmes was the primary author of the original article, though it remained unclear exactly what was written by Holmes and what was by Kuntz. 

     In 2004, a copy of the original typed manuscript for this article, as well as correspondence between Holmes and Kuntz, was auctioned at GenCon. Here are Frank Mentzer's pre-auction notes he posted in the forums:

      At GenCon 1977, [Holmes] met briefly with Rob Kuntz ... to talk about ideas for a revision of the old "Gods Demigods & Heroes" D&D supplement [and] agreed to do a brief summary of the gods presented in the works of H.P. Lovecraft, for use in the upcoming book "Deities & Demigods".
     We have a new entry in our database for a copy of the "Original DDG Cthulhu Manuscript" (from someone's    obscure archives), including:
     a. Letter from Holmes to Kuntz, 10/20/77
     b. Reply from Kuntz to Holmes (undated but presumably early Nov. 1977)
     c. Reply from Holmes to Kuntz, 11/22/77
     d. Typed manuscript of the "Lovecraftian Mythos in D&D" with many hand-written editorial notes and changes

     As it turns out, a fellow Acaeum member won this auction, and was kind enough to let me look at the documents. From the manuscript it's clear that Holmes wrote the bulk of the article, including the main intro and entries for Azathoth, Cthulhu, Hastur, Nyarlathotep, Shub-Niggurath, The Necronomicon, The Elder Sign, Yog-Sothoth, Byakhee, The Deep Ones, The Great Race, The Old Ones (aka Primoridal Ones), The Mi-Go and The Shaggoths [sic]. Kuntz added another introductory paragraph (the one in italics) and entries for Cthuga, Ithaqua and Yig, and made a few minor edits to Holmes' entries - just a few word changes and two added sentences.
     Rob was once asked about the authorship of the article on the Pied Piper Publishing Forum and replied: "Originally J. Eric Holmes (And I added Hastur and a few others)". This matches what is shown by the manuscript and letters, except that he must have mis-remembered when he said he added Hastur. The conception of Hastur in the article is primarily a Derleth creation as are Cthuga and Ithaqua, so perhaps he switched these in his memory.

     One of the minor revisions that Kuntz made was in the entry for The Deep Ones, where he changed "Every large group will have at least one evil high priest, level 3-10" to "at least one evil clerical type, level 3-10", presumably because in OD&D the title EHP should only refer to evil clerics levels 7 and up. In the entry for the Necronomicon, he changed "chaotic" to "chaotic evil". The remaining word changes just correct grammar.

      Kuntz added one sentence (in parenthesis) concerning a saving throw to the entry for Nyarlathotep, and one sentence to end of the entry for Byakhee concerning damage inflicted.

     For the most part, Holmes' original text, including some typos, is printed verbatim in the Dragon article.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Blog Roundup of Holmes-Related Posts

I've had this list on the ZA site (here) for a while but hadn't posted it on the blog. I revised it a few days ago to add some new blogs and posts.

The blogs are ordered chronologically starting with the blog with the oldest post at top, and then for each blog the posts are ordered by date to the right. The subject matter includes anything related to Holmes Basic (including the Zenopus Dungeon, Skull Mountain, B1, B2, etc) or the other writings of Dr. Holmes.

An asterisk by the name of the blog indicates that the blogger started playing D&D with Holmes Basic. This is based on whether the blogger indicated this somewhere on their blog. 

Feel free to update me with any posts/blogs that I've missed, or let me know if you started with Holmes Basic.

Ten Foot Pole: Skull Mountain

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Gargoyle Etchings

John Taylor Arms was a printmaker with a Gothic Revivalist bent working in the first half of the 20th century. Starting in the 1920s he made a series of incredibly detailed etchings - some almost photorealist - of real-world gargoyles, a few of which are shown below:

The Gargoyle and His Quarry (1920)

Guardians of the Spire (1921)

The Thinker of Notre Dame Chapel (1923)

Friday, November 11, 2011

OSR Wizard Logo

I like the design of Strange Magic's OSR logo, but it's based on the mid-80s TSR logo, and I prefer earlier TSR logos (Lizard, Wizard, Face). So last weekend I scribbled a bit until I came up with one (within my limited drawing abilities). It's sort of the TSR Wizard after he's fired his wand.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

OSR Search Engine

This is cool...a spot for "OSReSearch". It's a Google based search engine for OSR-related material; a list of indexed sites is here. Searching "Holmes Basic" brings up various blogs (including this one) and forums (Dragonsfoot, OD&D Discussion, Acaeum). Nice place to search all of these at once.

It also has a brief intro to the OSR, so I've put a link to the engine in my little OSR logo to the right.

The creater, untimately, also has his own blog - - and is a member at OD&D Discussion.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rappan Athuk: inspired by Skull Mountain

Bill Webb (tsathogga) of Frog God Games recently announced that his company will release an expanded version of his Rappan Athuk megadungeon "next summer as a hardbound, library-stitched book in both Pathfinder and Swords and Wizardry formats".

He further shared some of the inspiration for the origins of this megadungeon:
"The background of the big announcement goes all the way back to 1978, when I read a small book by Gary Gygax detailing the use of outdoor and wilderness adventures in D&D. This book, along with what has affectionately been termed the “Skull Dungeon” of John [Eric] Holmes fame, formed the basis of my thinking when I began to write my own vast dungeon that I called Rappan Athuk". The "small book" is Vol 3 of OD&D (The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures), and the "Skull Dungeon" is the "Sample Cross Section of Levels" from page 39 of the Blue Book:

Saturday, November 5, 2011

35 years of D&D Basic Sets

1996 - The Classic D&D Game (different cover)

1999 - Holmes Basic rulebook and B2 reprints included in Silver Anniversary Box

1999 - D&D Adventure Game (2nd edition AD&D)

2000 - D&D Adventure Game (3rd edition AD&D)

2004 - D&D Basic Game (3rd)

2006 - D&D Basic Game (revised; 3rd)

2008 - D&D Roleplaying Game Starter Set (4th edition AD&D)

2011 -  Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Beginner Box

(with thanks to the Acaeum, as always).

We still await a beginner's set for the OSR, either for an existing retroclone or a "community starter" as discussed at the OD&D Discussion Forums. (Let me know if I have forgotten something; I refer here to a physical boxed set, not just a pdf of starter rules, etc).  

Addendum: Yesterday, James on the Underdark Gazette posted An Introduction to Game-Mastering an Old School FRPG, a revision of a piece previously intended for either a Brave Halfling intro set (which changed to a different project) or the OD&D community starter linked above (which petered out).