Thursday, October 31, 2013

Danse Macabre Filmstrip (1963)

For Halloween, here's something haunting that I remember watching in music class in late elementary school, around the same time I discovered D&D (1982). It's a 1963 educational filmstrip with fantastic watercolors by Harold Dexter Hoopes, set to the eerie music of Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens. It was unavailable on the web until a few years ago but now there are multiple versions on YouTube, one of which has better colors but includes a loud "filmstrip advance" beep throughout. There isn't much info available on the internet about the artist Hoopes. There was even a blog dedicated to restoring the individual frames of this filmstrip but it seems to have stalled out at frame 20.

There's also a later second edition of the filmstrip done in the mid-80s with art by David Prebenna, later an illustrator of Sesame Street/Muppet toddler books. It's cartoony and less haunting, but also worth watching.

Memories of this filmstrip led me to include "Danse Macabre" in my One Hit Point Monsters.

Happy All Hallow's Eve!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Giant Hogs of Greyhawk and Blackmoor Dungeons

Source: Frontiers of Zoology

In response to the Monster Table comparison yesterday, Teenage Visigoth commented that the Basic Set tables "should have kept the giant hogs". This refers to the 3rd level tables in OD&D and Greyhawk, which have an entry for Giant Hogs. This is a now mostly forgotten wandering monster, but was found in both Greyhawk and Blackmoor dungeons:

In Gygax's description of Castle Greyhawk in the Europa zine, Aug 1975, posted here, we learn, "The sixth [level] was a repeating maze with dozens of wild hogs (3 dice) in inconvenient spots, naturally backed up by appropriate numbers of Wereboars."

And in the First Fantasy Campaign (1977), Arneson has Giant Hogs in room 14 on level 5 of the Blackmoor Dungeons: "3 Giant Hogs: AC4, 4 [HD]/17 HTK."

The Hogs are not described anywhere else in the LBBs or Greyhawk, but would fall under "Large Insects or Animals" on page 20 of Monsters & Treasure, a highly variable group that includes all giant animals as well as dinosaurs. Number appearing is 2-16, and the rest of the stats are basically DM's choice: AC2-8, HD 2-20, Damage 2-4 d6. But the stats for Wereboars, which at HD 4+1 are tougher than Gygax or Arneson's Hogs, could be used as a guideline. There's also the Wild Boar in the Monster Manual, which is HD3+3, AC7, Damage 3-12. So we could come up with something like this:

Giant Hog

Move: 120 feet/turn
Hit Dice: 3-4
Armor Class: 7
Treasure Type: nil
Attacks: 1
Damage: 2-12

The Monster Manual also has a "Giant Boar", but they are prehistoric beasts with 6 HD, much larger than the original Greyhawk Hogs.

For an even better take on dungeon hogzillas, see the Purple Pigs at the Rended Press. This creature was inspired by an entry on a 'corrected' 1st print Holmes table.

(This post adapted from some of my posts in a Giant Hogs thread on OD&D Discussion)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Basic Level Monster Tables 1974-1978

Click for a larger view

Above is a graphic I jimmied up comparing the Monster Tables for Dungeon Levels 1-3 from OD&D Vol III (Jan '74), the Greyhawk Supplement (Feb '75), and the 1st three printings of Holmes Basic ('77-'78). I reoriented the tables for side-by-side comparison. I didn't have a scan of the 3rd print Holmes Table handy so I just annotated the changes. The Holmes table doesn't change again after the 3rd print. The obvious absence is the tables from the Monster & Treasure Assortment, Set 1, but with 100 entries for each level it wasn't practical to include it.

As you can see, the table from the 1st print Holmes has the same number of entries for each level as in Greyhawk, and preserves many of the monsters. The 1st level Holmes table actually includes every single monster from the 1st level of Greyhawk, with a few additions crammed in. The 2nd level of Holmes diverges more, and includes a few real oddities: Leprechauns, Troglodites [sic] and Piercers, monsters that appeared nowhere in an OD&D rulebook or Holmes itself. Leprechauns and Piercers made their debut in the Strategic Review #3 (Autumn '75), and Troglodytes in the convention version of Lost Caverns of Tsojconth ('76). As I mentioned yesterday, these monsters also appeared in the tables in the Monster & Treasure Assortments, so that may be the reason they ended up here. The 3rd level table preserves at least half of the corresponding Greyhawk level, and includes one more monster that debuted in the SR #3, Shriekers.

The tables in the 2nd print (Jan 78) of Holmes attempt to "fix" the tables for Basic by removing monsters not described in the monster list, and NPCs over 3rd level, also not described in Basic. Lower level NPCs were retained. One missing monster was overlooked (Gnolls), so in the 3rd print these were also changed - but they also went ahead and removed all of the classed characters. The changes are not especially imaginative and reduce the variety found in the tables, resulting in duplicating entries for bandits and orcs on Levels One and Two.

Ironically, the 2nd edition of the Holmes rulebook altered the Monster List, adding in a bunch of low level monsters from the Monster Manual, including many of the missing ones from these tables - Giant Rats, Giant Centipedes, Large/Huge/Giant Spiders, Gnolls, Troglodytes and Shriekers. But these monsters were never given their places back in the Wandering Monster Table.

2/2016 Update: The 1st printing of OD&D Vol III had a slightly different list for Level 2. Entry 7 was Ghouls rather than Thouls, and entry 8 was Toads rather than Ghouls. This must be the source of the Giant Toads in the Level 2 lists in Greyhawk and the Holmes 1st printing.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wandering Monster Table - 1st print

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Above is a scan of the Wandering Monster Table from the 1st print of the Holmes Basic rulebook, July 1977. This particular image is of the reference sheet from the back of the book. Thanks to Serian at the Acaeum for providing the scan several years ago at my request. The table is also found on page 10 of the rulebook.

A few years after the Basic Set Holmes wrote, “The first Basic Set rulebook contained some irritating typographical errors. Someone at TSR rewrote the wandering monster table and put in a number of creatures that were not in my list of monster descriptions. But most of the errors were corrected for the second printing” (pg 18, Dragon #52, 1981). 

The monsters not found in the MONSTER LIST in the rulebook include:
1st level: Centipede, Large Spider, Giant Rat
2nd level: Troglodite [sic], Giant Toad, Huge Spider, Gnoll, Leprechaun, Piercer
3rd level: Shrieker, Giant Snake, Giant Spider, Giant Weasel, Giant Lizard

Some of these monsters are found in the original tables from Vol III of OD&D and the Greyhawk supplement, and most can be found in the Monster & Treasure Assortment that was also included in the first three printings of the Basic Set. In addition, the "number appearing" are also mostly the same as those found in the M&TA set. These makes me think that the secondary TSR editor rewrote this table using the M&TA set. I have yet to see Holmes' original wandering monster tables from the manuscript, but hopefully they will be made available in the future for further comparison.

Why didn't Holmes include such low-level staples such as Giant Centipedes, Giant Rats and Huge/Giant Spiders in the Basic Rulebook? Possibly because these creatures never had a full write-up in OD&D. They are encompassed by the "Small" or "Large" Animals found in Vol 2 of OD&D, and some additional scattered stats appear in other places, but a full "monster entry" didn't appear until the Monster Manual. And then these entries were used as the basis for entries in the 2nd edition of the Holmes rulebook (Nov 78). Overall, Holmes included only a single "giant" animal - the "giant tick" in the MONSTER LIST, despite using a number of them in the Sample Dungeon - giant rats, giant spiders, giant crab, giant snake and large octopus. He may have thought that the full entries for these creatures was not a necessity.

The reason I requested the above scan is that in my personal copy of the first print, the table has been annotated (by a previous owner) to "fix" the undescribed monsters, in a unique way:

Click for larger view

The replacements include "Guinea Pig", "Chicken", "Map Devoerer", "Large Orc", "Purple Pig", Rabbit", "Hawk" and "Ants" (just Ants, not Giant Ants, which were not in the first print). 
As I once wrote on Dragonsfoot, "it's fun to imagine a party encountering 1-8 Hawks on the 2nd level underground. "Map Devoerer" sounds like an especially nasty critter - sort of a cross between and Intellect Devourer and a Rust Monster - as Gygax wrote in U&WA, "sure-fire fits for map-makers". Note that Holmes uses the term "guinea pig" on pg 38/39, although it's in reference to Players using their henchmen as experimental subjects to test Magic Items.

Friday, October 11, 2013

You'll Be Amazed

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"You’ll Be Amazed" TSR ad for the Dungeon boardgame and the D&D Basic Set. From the first issue of Asimov’s SF Adventure Magazine, Fall 1978. Dungeon artwork by Dave Trampier. 



Here are some notes I wrote about this ad previously on OD&D Discussion:

I looked through Dragon magazines from 77 and 78 and didn't see this ad.

Although it appeared in a Fall 1978 magazine, it was probably created earlier, due to: 

(1) Having a Lizard Logo; the July 1978 Dragon (#16) has Gamma World/Players Handbook ad with Lizard Logo; the August 1978 (#17) has full-page PH ad with Wizard Logo

(2) "T.M. REG. APP. FOR"; according to the Acaeum, the 3rd print Basic set rulebook (May 1978) still had the Lizard Logo but was missing the 'TM applied for' notice. The next printing of the rulebook (2nd edition) in Nov 78 had Wizard Logo.

It's also interesting that DUNGEON! is promoted as a solo game. Never saw that anywhere else.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sidhe [Aurania]

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

The Sidhe are a type of Irish Elf that have unusual powers. They are both warriors and magic-users at once, although only fair at either. The most powerful of the Sidhe were once Gods and had vast powers. 

Sidhe have abilities much like Elves, but don't have "infravision", having only better than average night vision. However, they detect invisible objects automatically by sight and have full vision of such objects by use of a 1st level spell. Sidhe are little affected by age or disease. 

Sidhe possess the spells of a magic-user one level below them, that is a 4th level Sidhe would have the spells of a Conjurer, 3 first and 1 second level spells. Several spells are different, the exceptions being:

1st level - Add See Invisible
2nd level - Add Infravision and Cure Light Wounds (Elven types only)
3rd level - Add Polymorph Self & Others. Delete Fly, Fireball and Lightning Bolt
4th level - Add Fireball, Lightning Bolt and Fly
5th level - Add Control Weather

Sidhe fight on the fighting man chart and use an 8-sided die minus one for their hit points or can use the alternate hit system (old system) - just ignore adds. Saving throws are the best of either fighting man or magic-user at their level.

Sidhe prefer as weapons spears, swords and knives. They don't wear plate-mail or plate for any reason, standard chain-mail being preferred.

Sidhe may use any magical item that either a magic-user or a fighter can use with the following exceptions: they cannot use any wands or staves except Staff of Healing and cannot have a magic sword with high intelligence and ego.

Books operate as follows on Sidhe:
Manual of Puissant Skill at Arms: Fights one level up. No other good or harm.
Manual of Stealthy Pilfering: Lose 3500 experience points.
Manual of Golems: Not useable, no damage.
Book of Exulted Deeds: As Magic-User.
Book of Vile Darkness: As lawful Fighting Man.
Book of Infinite Spells: Useable
Various Librams: As Magic-user of proper alignment.

Experience Points

1st level - 0
2nd level - 3,000
3rd level - 6,000
4th level - 12,000
5th level - 25,000
6th level - 50,000
7th level - 100,000
8th level - 200,000
9th level - 300,000

* * * * * 


Daniel told me that this is one of his favorites. He recently described them on OD&D Discussion as "like the Elf. They have the progression of a Fighting man as far as (what would later become) THACO. They cast spells like a Magic user but one level slower. Thus a 1st level Sidhe has no casting level, a 2nd = 1st level MU and so forth. They get some bonus abilities, best of which is Detect Invisible. Overall this makes them in many ways a full fighter/mage. But they have several limitations: they lose use of some of the best spells (
Fireball, for example becomes a 4th level spell) and heavy armor. They only use spears, swords, daggers (and staffs). At any given level you get the best saves from either Fighter or MU."

Read more about the Sidhe in Irish mythology.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

DCSIII Customized Saurians

Dragontooth Saurian customized by David C Sutherland III. Source: Centurion13 at the Acaeum

This past May I wrote about a Dragontooth Saurian mini that resembles David Sutherland's "Lizard Rider" drawing from the Basic rulebook, the same one in my header. It's still inconclusive which came first, the mini or the drawing, but since then something more fantastic has turned up: Saurian minis customized by none other than Sutherland himself, including one with many details identical to the drawing. This is pictured above, and has several similarities to the drawing that are not found in the original mini: the sheath with javelins and skull, the crested helmet, the left hand holding a battle axe, the spots on the scales. The main difference is the large horn on the head - though note that the drawing has a small rounded bump, perhaps where a horn was removed? It's still unclear whether Sutherland used this as a model for the Basic rulebook drawing, or made the customized mini later based on his original drawing.

These minis were first shown in a thread on the Acaeum by Centurion13. Elsewhere, Centurion described how he met and bought material from David:

"I met David when he moved to an apartment down the street from me in mid-1996 [in the Seattle area]. I was producing a fanzine for the local gaming shops (the internet was still new) and commissioned six cover pieces from him, along with some other work.

He tried and tried to get his job back when TSR was purchased by WOTC.  Didn't pan out and so he packed everything he wanted to keep in his car and headed for Nebraska.

Before he left, he had to get rid of a lot of stuff.  Some of it went through the local shops, some of it he gave to me (a book case and a whole lot of books) and some of it I bought from him". 

More recently, the minis have been purchased by Topkat at the Lead Dragon blog, who put a great post with a plethora of photos of the minis. He writes that these minis will now be the centerpiece of his collection. Head on over there and check them out:

David Sutherland's DragonTooth Saurians

Sunday, October 6, 2013

1978 review from Gallimaufry #12

Review by Ken Bain, pg 7, Gallimaufry #12, Jan 1978 (click for larger view)

Above is a screenshot of an early review of Holmes Basic from January 1978, about six months after it was first published in the US. The review comes from Gallimaufry #12, a Diplomacy zine out of the UK that ran from 1976-1979, edited by Steve Doubleday. Scans of all of the issues can be found here at the UK Diplomacy Zine Archive. According to Google, "gallimaufry" means a "confused jumble or medley of things". The review is by Ken Bain, with a short response by Doubleday. Being in the UK, the review is most likely of the first UK edition of the Basic Set released in Dec 1977. In this edition, all of the artwork from the US version was replaced; see the foreign editions page for more info.

Cover of the first UK edition of the Holmes Basic Set, art by John Blanche. Source: Acaeum

A photo from Games Day III (17 December 1977) in White Dwarf #5 (Feb/March '78), pg 15, confirms that the UK version of the Basic Set was available in Dec 1977:

Bill Howard, Don Turnbull (pointing down at rulebook), Tony Ball and Rob Thomasson at Games Day III

I've taken the liberty of transcribing the Gallimaufry review here:

Ken Bain's review:
"This is the revised package of Dungeons and Dragons rules produced by TSR Games and for beginners constitutes a much better explanation of what the game's about and how to run expeditions than the original.

The original rulebooks seem to have been taken by the editor of this package (one Eric Holmes) and sorted out so that the single large-format rulebook that comes with the boxed set are parts of the original basic three volumed rulebooks and also some of the more useful parts of some of the supplements. E.g. theives are given as a character class. Many of the matrix tables have been much simplified and hence easier to use, involving less throwing of dice though decreasing variety in such things as wandering monsters. A possible disadvantage is the restriction to levels 1-3 - anything beyond being dealt with in "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons", which I've not seen yet. But for beginners I feel this not of great importance, as there's enough to keep one occupied for some time getting to grips with the first three levels. I've not got beyond the first level in Steve's dungeon yet.....

Ken wasn't a fan of the "low impact" dice. Source: Flickr

The rest of the package consists of a set of rather poorly-made polyhedra dice, a set of Dungeon geomorphs for when you don't feel like mapping a Dungeon from scratch, or if you want a change, and a set of things called "Monster and Treasure assortment". The purpose of this is to assist in dungeon construction and it can be used as an aid in getting expeditions going in partially-made dungeons. Basically it is a list of monsters and accompanying treasure, to be used in populating as yet empty rooms if a party stratys into an incomplete section of the dungeon. I've not tested this yet, but it looks fairly easy, is divided into levels. Monsters and treasure are determined on the throw of percentile dice. This is no more difficult than having to check for Wandering Monsters.

Overall, I found it a much more cohesive presentation of the basic rules than the original three-booklet affair (not to mention the four supplements) that enables one to start playing much more quickly and with more confidence. The presentation is much improved, especially by describing things such as monsters in alphabetical order and having a set descriptive format. I can't say how well it acts as a basis for the later booklets in the revised system as I have yet to buy the next one. As an introduction to D&D I'd give 9/10; the only reservation being the geomorphs, which are not explained and printed in light blue on a white background - not providing much contrast. Still, nobody's perfect -- not even TSR games."

Steve Doubleday's comments:
"Thanks for that review, Ken. I must say that I found it easier to find my way round this introductory booklet than than the original three-booklet set. I don't quite endorse what Ken says about running a Dungeon on the basis of this new set. I found the spell listing in particular rather limited. When I find or seed treasure in a dungeon, I like there to be a possibility of some high level spell-scrolls around the place. I didn't like the large format..its seems to me that TSR have traded the disadvantage of having to change from one booklet to another for an unwieldy 10 x 8 booklet that must get dog-eared beyond redemption pretty quickly. However, these quibbles ... apart, I thought that it was an excellent introduction, especially for someone who would not have access to regular sessions of D&D. I believe it costs around £7.00 - £7.50, and it should be available from most decent London Games Shops. If you want to know one which is fairly central and not far from a tube station, try Games Hanway Street close by Tottenham Court Road station."

A contemporary Games Centre ad from White Dwarf #4 (Dec/Jan 77/78)

The first advertisements including the UK Basic Set appear in White Dwarf #5. Here's a portion of the Games Workshop ad from that issue showing "Dungeons & Dragons (revised edition inc. Poly Dic, M& Ass. and Geo. 1" for £7.50: 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

"Grue" [Aurania]

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

Hit Dice: 15
Armor Class: 4
Number Appearing: 1
Treasure: F

This huge monster is humanoid in shape and extremely ugly. All characters that see this monster must make their saving throw against Fear (use Dragon Breath table) or run off in a random direction in blind fear. However, as it is known that Fighter types are braver than Magic-Users, Fighters add plus one to their saving throw and Magic-Users must subtract one and Clerics and all others save normally.

Also, all characters must subtract an additional five points from their saving throw the first time they meet th ecreature. The character(s) who kill the "Grue" are proof against its Fear spell thereafter. If the monster isn't defeated, all characters continue to subtract five points away from their saving throw, which must be made every turn fighting the "Grue".

"Grues" have a magic resistance equal to a Balrog's. A "Grue" does 2-20 points of damage plus one life level when one hits. A "Grue" is also followed by a black cloud that nullifies the powers of Good Luck charms, Spells and the like. "Grues" also fight down one level from normal. 

"Grues" aren't very smart and are rather lazy. Movement is 13 inches a turn. Lair 100%. Alignment is chaos.

* * * * *


(1) For reference, here is the magic resistance of a Balrog:
"There is a high probability that spells will not work against them. To determine success of spells use a base of 75% resistance at the 11th level and adjust upwards or downwards in 5% increments, i. e. a 12th level Magic-User would have a 70% chance of resistance."

This appeared as part of the entry for Balrogs in the original printings of Monsters & Treasures, Vol 2 of OD&D, but was later deleted when the Tolkien estate objected. IIRC, it is the first conception of "magic resistance" in Dungeons & Dragons.

(2) Playing at the World discusses the Manual of Aurania on pages 558-559, and in a footnote writes "One notable monsters in the Manual is a "Grue" ... Fans of the later computer game Zork pay heed. The grue figured previously in Jack Vance's Eyes of the Overworld" [aka Cugel the Clever], which can now be found as part of the omnibus Tales of the Dying Earth. The grue never appears directly in Vance's stories, and is only referenced cryptically.

See also the wikipedia entry for "Grue (monster)" for more info on Zork grues.

In 1983, four types of "Elemental Grues" appeared in TSR's Monster Manual II.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

1978 AP D&D article

Click for a larger view

Above is a screenshot of a June 1978 article on D&D from the Long Beach Press-Telegram, which I found online here. The author, Ed Goto, is indicated as Associated Press, so this article may have run elsewhere. The title is interesting as it refers to Sci-Fi rather than Fantasy: "Game Brings 'Sci-Fi' To Life". Some quotes from the article: 

Gary Gygax:
"You see, there really aren't any frontiers in the world anymore. There's not much heroic, there's not much danger without being foolish. But most people have an adventurous spirit. In real life, problems seem so insoluble, while in D&D you can take up arms and oppose them, sometimes with effect. If you are killed, you can be resurrected. It offers some really simplistic answers to problems and appeals to the imagination".

"It took 10 to 11 months before we sold our first thousand [copies of OD&D]. And about half were sold in California". 

Gygax estimates "10,000 enthusiasts in California, with 100,000 players nationwide" and the "current sales rate at 5,000 per month, mostly through small hobby shops." 

[The article doesn't mention Holmes Basic, though it had been out for almost a year, so I'm not sure if the 5,000 per month is just OD&D or all D&D sets.]

Robert Calvev, "president of Caltech's Wargaming Society":
"Think of it as wriitng your own science fiction story with you as the main character. Each player assumes the role of his playing piece and acts out the piece's role in the game. You have a character, you do what you want."

Gary Switzer, "manager of Aero Hobbies in Santa Monica":
"It's growing by leaps and bounds all the time."

Steve Lucky, "partner in a West Coast games distribution firm, said his company's D&D sales climbed from 800 in 1975 to a current total of 70,000."

Example of Play:
"There's a noise behind you in the corridor," the referee says blandly.
 A player with a character in the back of the group of characters says quickly, "My fighter turns around and draws his sword. What does he see?"

The referee's description of the large, two-legged monster causes groans, "It's a balrog!"

"My wizard fires a lightning boll at it," says a player. "Mine too," adds another. The referee rolls dice to see how badly this wounds the creature as the players fidget noisily. "It's not dead and it's still coming towards you," the referee announces. "We run away," says the head of the party.

Checking his floor plan, the referee says, "You run 20 feet down and the corridor branches left and right." The group leader gulps, "We turn right." Rolling dice. The referee smiles, You have just run head-on, face-to-face into a getup of very surprised elves.""

Player vs Player Conflict:
"For example, during one game, a player had his wizard announce that he had a "Hoover wand," which could suck the body of a dead character into itself, holding it there until recalled. This allowed the "corpses" a chance to be resurrected after the game.

Several deaths later, one particularly disliked player also lost a few characters, which he asked the wizard to place in the wand as well. The wizard agreed and the bodies vanished.  What this player did not know was that the other "dead" characters were only feigning death, a tactic approved by a note handed the referee. Further, the Hoover wand was just a pointed stick, the disappearing characters being turned magically invisible by the wizard holding the slick.

The now invisible and supposedly dead characters then got up and trailed behind the party except for the target player's characters who actually were dead. This led to a brief end-of-game meeting between the target player and the wlzard's player.

Target: "Okay, I want my characters out now."

Wizard: "What characters?"

Target: "Out of the wand."

Wizard: "What wand?"

Five seconds of silence followed, broken by a screamed, “But that's not fair!"

But it was."