Friday, September 27, 2013

The Town of Drada


The Town of Drada. Click for a larger view.

"Kevin Owens built a miniature village based on the book The Hobbit for his Eagle Service Project. Now he shows the model town to school children to help them to use the power of their imagination."

An article from Boy's Life, November 1983, pgs 70-71.

Thanks to Tony for tracking this down.

Click for a larger view

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Manual of Aurania (1977)


The Manual of Aurania, 2nd Edition, Source: Tome of Treasures

The Manual of Aurania is a 1977 independent publication presenting new character classes and monsters for the original version of Dungeons & Dragons (OD&D). The main contributor of content, D. Daniel Wagner, is an active poster on the Paizo message boards and kindly allowed me to post his Beorning class from the Manual here, which I did yesterday. He has also started a fascinating Q&A thread on OD&D Discussion for anyone interested. 

There are two editions of the Manual. The content is the same but the second has typos corrected. According to Daniel, they printed 200 copies of the original and 1,000 of the 2nd.

From the Introduction of The Manual:
"While playing many games of Dungeons and Dragons at Aero Hobbies and environs [in LA], we came up with many types of new monsters, characters and treasures ... A prime selection of the collection is here, provided for your use and (hopefully) reading pleasure".

"Aurania is a universe of around ten or so dungeons, (of which only three are commonly used) and even more players. Aurania by-the-by means place of gold, a reference to the large piles of the stuff collected by the player characters in our early campaigns"


Full Credits:
Hugh K. Singh - Editor in chief and cover
D. Daniel Wagner - Main contributor
Larry E. Stehle - Typing and contributions
Troy L. Huhes - Illustrations of Cleric of Thor, Leprechaun, 4-Armed Horror, Trolls, Dragon, Imp and Demon, Nuckleavee
Aimee Karklyn - Illustrations of Dragons, Apparations

Acknowledgements: Gary Switzer [owner of Aero Hobbies], Dale Doane [co-DM of Aurania], Aimee Karklyn

New classes include Beorning, Sidhe, Samurai, Basadae, Leprechaun, Shape-Shifter,
Cleric of Mitra, Cleric of Asgard (Thor or Odin), Lawful and Neutral Reincarnation charts.
 

New monsters include:
Giants: Uruk-Hai, Trollheimer, Indigon, 4-Armed Horror, Black Giant, Grue, Mara 
Trolls: Wood, Hill, Mountain, River, Grendel 
Undead: Apparition, Nightmare, Phantom, Revenant, Banshee, Fetch, Crypt Keeper, Spriggen, Ghost
Dragons: Mottled, Purple, Peryton, Crimson, 3-Headed Terror, Dragon Worm, Ice Worm, Rak
Demons: Imp, Salamander, Class C, Class B, Class A, Named
Weird Trips & Rip-Offs: Argopelter, Flitterbrick, Jub-Jub Bird, Runner, Snark, Nasty, North-Hound, Tavashtri, Ravaging Fiend, Boojum, Catoblepas, Fachen, Gyraphont, Caecus, Sphinx, Firetree, Jabberwock, Lindorm, Nucelavee, Toadstool, Floater, Bandersnatch

J. Eric Holmes mentions a Beorning character in the Adventure of the Giant Chameleon (Alarums & Excursion #16, Aug '76). I thought this was an example of the "lawful werebear"  in the Basic rulebook. And it still might be. However, via Playing at the World (pg 558) I learned that the Manual of Aurania has a Beorning class, which led me to track down a copy. Holmes was active in the same area (Los Angeles / Aero Hobbies) as the folks behind the Manual so he or one of his players may have been using their class. 

Noble Knight Games has several copies (7 2 0 currently) of the 2nd edition of The Manual in stock for $19.95 29.95 sold out for anyone that might be interested.

Update:
See also transcriptions of the Beorning class, Sidhe class and Grue monster from the Manual of Aurania, posted with permission of D. Daniel Wagner.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Beornings [Aurania]

By D. Daniel Wagner
A new class for Dungeons & Dragons
Transcribed from the Manual of Aurania (1977) with permission from the author

Beornings                                                                                                      LAW-NEUTRAL
Level Experience Points Hit Dice Dice Damage Adds to Reaction Supernormal Hirelings Armor Class Load
1 0 2 1 0 0 5 3,000
2 2,000 3 1 1 0 5 3,000
3 4,000 4 1 1 0 4 3,000
4 8,000 5 1+1 1 1 4 3,500
5 16,000 6 1+1 2 1 3 3,500
6 32,000 7+1 1+2 2 2 3 4,000
7 64,000 8+2 2 3 3 2 6,000
8 100,000 10 2 4 5 2 8,000
9 200,000 11+2 2+1 4 7 2+1 10,000
10 300,000 13 2+2 5 10 2+2 12,000
11 400,000 14+2 3 5 12 2+3 14,000

A Beorning isn't a true were-bear, but is more of a shape-changer and thus may be hit with any weapon unlike a were-bear which can be hit only with a silver or magical weapon.

The add to reaction chart is used when rolling for the reaction of lawful intelligent animals or monsters. No hostile reaction possible, but a low reaction doesn't leave any opening for any more offers.

In his human form, a Beorning may use such normal weapons as maces, swords, axes, etc. He may use such magical weapons as follows: maces, axes, bows, spears and swords (non-flaming and of low intelligence/ego). May wear only leather armor as anything else will encumber his shape-changing.

A Beorning may hire such numbers of men and/or normal animals as his charisma permits. However, a "Supernormal" hireling is other Beornings, were-bears, Pegasi, Hippogriffs, etc. and he may only hire as many as the chart indicates at that level.

He may speak to mammals & birds at 3rd level, to all animals from 4th level on and plants from 8th level on. He may also cure up to one die (no adds) of animal wounds per day.

As for human hirelings, a Beorning may hire only fighting-men, clerics and some specialists. He may hire other Beornings (see "Supernormal" hirelings). He may not hire men-at-arms. He may hire clerics only up to second level as anything else requires a place of worship.

[A few minor typos corrected from the original]

Update: "defers" in paragraph 2 changed to "offers" after consultation with Daniel.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Endless Caverns of Tu

The Endless Caverns remain unseen so here is the Glittering Caves by Ted Nasmith

Here is an idea I had a few years ago for a D&D campaign set in the east of Middle-earth:

The party would start out in Lake Town, Dale or Dorwinion down the river on the inland sea where wine is made, and could travel between these towns. The time would be after the Battle of the Five Armies, when Dale has been rebuilt, and wood elves and dwarves from might be welcome in the human towns. Tooks from the Shire might turn up occasionally. And perhaps even a lawful werebear. The party could explore the surrounding locations - Withered Heath, Mirkwood, Lonely Mountain. They might search for the remains of the Master and his stolen dragon gold. 

Eventually they would find rumors or a map of The Endless Caverns of Tu far to the East. Anything might be put between since Tolkien left it mostly undescribed. They might travel through the Last Desert to the East of East, avoiding wild Were-worms.

What I am calling The Endless Caverns of Tu is described in the first volume of Tolkien's Book of Lost Tales, his earliest writings. A section called Gilfanon's Tale describes the Awakening of Elves and Men in the East. It's fragmentary but full of fascinating details, and was never re-written, so could be considered to stand in later writings. In this there is a brief mention of Tu the wizard and his dwelling:

"Now the tale tells of a certain fay and names him Tu the wizard, for he was more skilled in magics than any that have ever yet dwelt beyond the land of Valinor; and wondering about the world he found the elves and he drew them to him and taught them many deep things, and he became as a mighty king among, and their tales name him the Lord of Gloaming and all the fairies of his land Hisildi or twilight people. Now the places about Koivie-neni the Waters of Awakening are rugged and full of mighty rocks, and the stream that feeds that water falls therein down a deep cleft ... a pale and slender thread, but the issue of the dark lake was beneath the earth into many endless caverns falling very more deeply into the bosom of the world. There was the dwelling of Tu the wizard, and fathomless hollow are those places, but their doors have long been sealed and none know now the entry."
 

The "many endless caverns falling very more deeply into the bosom of the world" brings to mind the many-leveled Underworld of D&D.

A later outline states that:

"Men grew in stature, and gathered knowledge from the Dark Elves, but Tu faded before the Sun and hid in the bottomless caverns. Men dwelt in the centre of the world and spread thence in all directions; an a very great age passed".

So Tu and his caverns might still exist deep in the earth at the time of the Hobbit.


Tu could be a lich, Maia (mad demigod?), or an ancient non-human archmage hiding deep in The Underworld. In the places where Balrogs hide and the Watcher in the Water came from...

"Something has crept or been driven out of the dark water under the mountains. There are older and fouler things than orcs in the deep places of the world" (Gandalf in LOTR).

(adapted from my posts in this OD&D thread a few years ago)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Tolkien Lives at Waldenbooks


Screenshot from the Rockford Files. Source.

Today for Tolkien Week I have some Tolkienana for you from 1977, the same year that the Holmes Basic Set debuted.

A few years back I was in the habit of watching an episode of the Rockford Files every evening at ten on Retro TV. This lasted about six months until Rockford was dropped from the schedule. 

In one episode an ad jumped out from the background: "Tolkien Lives at Waldenbooks". An clever play on the Frodo Lives slogan from the 60s, it probably coincided with the release of the Silmarillion in September. At the time I looked around but couldn't find any record of this advertising campaign, but more recently I found the screenshot above.

This shot is from the episode the "Mayor Committee from Deer Lick Falls", from Season 4, which aired on Friday, November 25th, 1977 on NBC. Two days later, Sunday the 27th, the Rankin-Bass Hobbit film was broadcast for the first time on the same network.

Waldenbooks was a bookstore chain started in 1961, which by the early '80s was the first to have stores in every state in the U.S. It eventually became part of Borders. I bought a lot of my early D&D books at the Waldenbooks or B. Dalton in our local mall.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hobbit Day 2013

Gandalf at Bag End, Maurice Sendak, 1967

"In the 1960's and 70's another phenomenon occurred which was to change the face of wargaming forever. J.R.R. Tolkien's wonderful book The Lord of the Rings was published in paperback and was discovered by an immense audience of young people. This epic adult fairy tale, without doubt the greatest work of fiction produced this century, inflamed the imagination of an entire generation. The story, as most readers now, involves the clash of great armies of men, elves, dwarves, goblins and magical creatures. The prelude to the epic, a children's classic, The Hobbit, is the tale of a quest to steal a dragon's hoard of gold. It wasn't long before wargamers were introducing armies of orcs and dwarves into their medieval battle plans"

-J. Eric Holmes, Fantasy Role-Playing Games, 1981, pg 63

See more Holmes on Tolkien.

I hope you are having a fine Hobbit Day 2013, which is also the first day of Fall this year.

Friday, September 20, 2013

TSR Ads in Boy's Life 1977-1982


TSR ad in the March 1977 issue of Boy's Life

This post chronicles TSR's advertising in Boy's Life, the monthly Boy Scout magazine, in the late '70s and early '80s. It had a wide circulation because a subscription was included as part of annual Boy Scout dues. I was an avid reader after joining the Scouts in the early '80s. The website for the magazine contains a neat searchable archive ("Wayback Machine") of back issues. It appears to be powered by Google Books, and the same issues can be searched there. Using these tools, here's what I found:

The earliest ad (shown above) that I found is from March 1977, a few months prior to Holmes Basic. It's small and buried in the classifieds on page 65, has TSR's early Lizard Logo, and doesn't even mention D&D by name.

The December 1978 issue briefly mentions D&D in an article about new games and toys, as "a fantasy game where player battles his way through a monster-filled castle" (pg 36).

The next ad doesn't appear until September 1979, more than two years later. This is a full-page ad titled "Not Just A Game" for the 2nd edition of the Holmes Basic Set. The format is similar to others from the same time period, each with the same photo but a different line at the top of the page. TSR has switched to the Wizard Logo by this point.


Click on this ad or any of the ones below for a larger view

The November issue has another version, "Be a Hero!":



This same issue also has "War Games" by Jon C. Halter, an article including a section on Roleplaying that briefly describes D&D and Runequest. TSR's boardgames Dungeon! and Snit's Revenge are also mentioned elsewhere.

April 1980 brings an ad with new photography titled "Enter the Gateway to Adventure". The title ties in with the Gateway to Adventure catalogs that are sometimes found with Basic Sets. The module B1 is still shown but now we've got chits instead of the the rainbow dice. Elsewhere I've also seen a later version of this ad that is in color and has module B2 instead of B1. See here.



In May 1980, TSR switches to advertising a different RPG, Gamma World. The awesome Trampier art in the middle comes from the rulebook - I always dig his silhouettes. This ad mentions the vaporware "Metamorphosis Alpha to Omega" - a planned revision of the original Metamorphosis Alpha RPG to tie in with 1st edition GW.



The next month TSR switches to a boardgame, The Awful Green Things From Outer Space. I'm not sure that I've seen this ad before. Color appears here for the first time in a TSR ad in Boy's Life. A neat detail: the TSR wizard is standing on a planetoid at the bottom of the page. This same ad runs again in October.


"Nik Blp Bleep Bleep Whirrr Wooosh!"


In November, a full color TSR ad appears for the first time, "Who Needs to Hang Around?". The Holmes Basic set is still being advertised despite the imminent arrival of B/X. The kid in overalls is holding the Basic rulebook, and the ones in the background are running the module B2 Keep on the Borderlands.



Strangely, this ad runs in a less colorful version the next month, perhaps to save money? It's also changed, with the kids posed differently. This ad runs again in January 1981.



The December issue also has Pedro suggesting the Basic Set with B2 as a holiday gift. The photo is the same one shown in the ad linked to above.




February 1981 advertises the new revision of the Dungeon! boardgame. TSR's new Face Logo replaces the Wizard Logo. This ad runs again in March, April, May, July and October




The run of Dungeon! ads is interrupted briefly in June when an ad for the new Escape from New York boardgame appears:



In August an ad for Dungeons & Dragons finally reappears. It's the first one touting the new Basic Set, although it's hard to tell because it's just a small detail in the comic. This comic is the first in a series of four, one of several series that ran in other publications such as comic books around this time, but this is the only one that ran in Boy's Life.




Strangely, in September we see a brief reappearance of the Who Needs to Hang Around kid (version 2) with the Holmes Basic Set, despite the new Moldvay Basic Set being released 9 months earlier. This ad differs a little in having the TSR Face logo. This may be the only magazine ad I've seen for Holmes Basic with the Face logo.



In November and December, the ad for Dungeon! reappears in glorious full color for the holiday season:



The December issue also features Dungeon! as one of the recommended gift items:




January 1982 sees a new ad for Dungeon! featuring the irksome Morley the Wizard. And the family has been replaced. Or they just older? This ad runs again in March and April.




In February, TSR's first wave of minigames appears:



Later that year, in August, there's an ad for the second minigame series. IIRC these didn't sell very well so TSR didn't produce any more.




Finally, in May 1982, there's the first full color ad for the new Basic and Expert sets (B/X). I like the artwork but have no idea who the artist is. The kids also featured in a TV commercial from this time and include the actors Jamie Gertz & Alan Ruck. This ad runs again in June and July, but also turns out to be the last D&D ad in Boy's LIfe.



In September and October, TSR instead advertises the Star Frontiers RPG:



A different Star Frontiers ad from November:



And in a big change from the previous two years, there's no TSR ad at all in December, though I did spot one for Traveller from GDW:




And then the TSR ads disappear for the entirety of 1983. One finally reappears in mid-1984 for the Endless Quest books with a newer TSR logo. There are a few Indiana Jones RPG ads around Xmas in 1984. A Buck Rogers ad in 1988. But no more advertisements for D&D after mid-1982. I wonder if this was a marketing decision by TSR, or if there was a policy change at Boy's Life due to the backlash against D&D in the '80s

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Talk Like a Corsair

"The Corsairs of Tallibar were one of the most feared bands of pirates that ever sailed the Nydar Sea.  Nearly 75 years have passed since any captain has quailed at the sight of that dreaded band at his bow.  Were they defeated in some unknown battle or swallowed up by the sea?"

Ahoy! If ye are in the mood to talk pirates today, let's remember Corsairs of Tallibar, an oft overlooked pirate-themed D&D module written by Mike Wilson and published by Judges Guild in 1982. I have to thank a 2012 review by Gnat the Beggar on the Acaeum for bringing it to my attention. Corsairs, and Trial by Fire from 1981 by the same author, seem to be a belated attempt by JG to produce introductory modules. They may be forgotten because they come late in the history of the original Judges Guild and use the "Universal Fantasy Supplement" system employed by JG after they lost the D&D license. They do have higher production values than earlier JG modules, closer to TSR products of the time.

Mike Wilson may have been influenced by Holmes Basic in creating these introductory level modules. Trial by Fire is for 1st level characters, and "is clearly trying to be the B1 of AD&D" according to a review by Ken on goodreads, who elaborates: "even the map looks somewhat similar. It has the same theme of exploring an abandoned fortress with all kinds of interesting rooms". I also noted a room with a door-opening mechanism similar to that of Room D of the Sample Dungeon.

Corsairs of Tallibar is for the same levels as the Basic Set (1-3), and has pirates, a giant octopus, and a sea cave - sort of as if Room M in the Sample Dungeon were used as the inspiration for an entire adventure. 

Bonus Pirate Content: Lemunda = Tiger Lily?

A pirate-themed post from earlier this year, if you missed it previously.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Zenopus Archives - Year Two

 
Candlelit Treasure, by Tom Wham from M&TA Set Two, 1977

Another year has passed here at the Archives!

Some notable events from the second year of the blog:

Thanks to Playing at the World, we now have evidence of when the Basic Set was first publicly available (July 1977, at Origins). See:  When Was the Basic Set first available?

Last Fall, Wizards started selling retro D&D T-shirts, several with Holmes Basic art, including the box set cover. These are still available for $20 + shipping at dndmerch.com.
See: New Holmes Basic T-shirt and Holmes Basic T-Shirts

In December I started a Holmes Basic Community on G+ which now has 161 members.

In January, Wizards began selling D&D pdfs again at dndclassics.com. No Holmes yet, but plenty of highly compatible B/X and BECMI material, with new additions weekly. 

In February Steve Winter reported that David Sutherland's original artwork for the Holmes Basic Set had been re-discovered in a crate at the Wizards headquarters.
 
The manuscript for the Basic rulebook surfaced as part of the J. Eric Holmes collection. Still waiting for more information on this amazing find.

In August, my short article, Lesser Magic Items, was published in Dungeon Crawl #3.

My work on the "Perilous Mazes" project for Delving Deeper morphed into Holmes Ref, which remains in progress. My free time has limited the amount of completed work for this. The reference sheets I've finished so far can be found here. Next up is a set of Wandering Monster tables for dungeon levels 1-9.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The early history of 3d6 stat checks

My regular game group uses roll-under 3d6 (or 4d6 or 5d6) stat checks for a variety of actions. As a player, I find it fun to roll a handful of dice on occasion. I also noticed that Holmes used 3d6 stat checks in the introductory RPG found he presents in his 1981 RPG. He calls them as "feats of strength", etc and uses them in lieu of saving throws.

Last year I asked on OD&D Discussion about the origin of this type of check. B/X instead  presented a roll-under d20 stat check as a standard option. One poster told me the 3d6 roll was used in The Fantasy Trip. Holmes' book has a section on this RPG, which I hadn't looked at in a long time, which describes this exact type of check in Melee, the predecessor of TFT from 1977: "If a die roll is made for a hit (and this means rolling three dice and getting less than your dexterity score)" (pg 114). Furthermore Holmes writes: "I have used the "roll less than your dexterity (strength)" system in the practice game earlier in this book". Tracing influences doesn't get much easier than an explicit statement like that!

But what about roll-under 3d6 stat checks in D&D itself? In the OD&D thread, another poster pointed to the module "The Halls of Beoll-Dur" in Dragon #41, Sept 1980:

"... there is an original procedure for saving throws which is used in some locations... roll 3, 4 or 5d6 (the number of dice varies) and subtract one point from the dice roll for every two levels of experience the character has attained. Compare the resulting number to a specified ability (this also varies), and if the adjusted dice roll is less than the character's score for the ability in question, the saving throw is considered made."

The subtracting levels of experience from the roll is an interesting variation and makes the rolls improve by level like ordinary saving throws. However, most groups that use stat checks seem to use them in addition to saving throws and do not improve them by level.

The Dragon #41 reference was the earliest for D&D that I knew of until yesterday when Wayne pointed out that the module B1 In Search of the Unknown by Mike Carr has at least one 3d6 check. I looked at the original version, for Holmes Basic, and found one in the infamous Room of Pools. It's a 3d6 Con check vs the effects of wine, with a failed roll indicating intoxication for a number of hours equal to the difference between the result and the Con score. This is just one of a mish-mash of ability score influenced actions in B1, like much of D&D at the time, so the general utility of a 3d6 isn't at all apparent there. But it's interesting to see it appear in an actual Holmes Basic product.

This is now the earliest 3d6 check I've found in a D&D product, thought I wouldn't be surprised if one shows up earlier, such as in the zine Alarums & Excursions.

* * *

Update: I remembered reading on Dragonsfoot about a few 3d6 stat checks in the Player's Handbook. This book came out in 1978 several months before B1. As with the B1, they are very situation specific:

Dig spell:
"Any creature at the edge (1') of such a pit uses its dexterity score as a saving throw to avoid falling into the hole, with a score equal to or less than dexterity meaning that a fall was avoided" (pg 76).  

Phantasmal Killer spell:
"Note that the saving throw against this spell is not standard. The subject must roll three six-sided dice (3d6) and score a sum equal to or less than its intelligence ability score in order to disbelieve the apparition. The dice score is modified as follows..."

Update #2: Another one I remembered reading about on Cyclopeatron. The Underworld Oracle #1 (UK zine) from 1977 describes a 3d6 Int check versus an Apparition:

"Therefore, even if the victim is aware that this vision cannot physically damage him, the suggestion is so strong that he is forced to roll 3 x 6 die. A result which totals under the victim's intelligence, means that he is free of the creature's suggestion..." 

Update #3: I just found the original description of Phantasmal Killer in the OD&D Illusionist class write-up by Peter Aronson in Strategic Review #4, Winter 1975 (transcribed here), and it also contains the 3d6 roll-under Int check. So this now the earliest one I've found, beating even Melee.

"The subject may try to disbelieve it, to do so he must roll his intelligence or less on three 6-sided dice" (followed by a number of situational modifiers)