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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Enter the Gateway to Adventure

1980 advertisement for Holmes Basic. Click for larger view

Here's a great scan of a Holmes Basic ad from 1980, courtesy grodog in a post at the Acaeum. This particular ad is from the Sept 1980 issue Fantastic Films, a sci-fi/fantasy movie magazine that ran from 1978-1985. The ad probably ran in other publications around the same time.I've posted a shot of this ad before, but it was a low res photo of a clipping that was being auctioned on Ebay so I had no idea of the source.

This ad shows later edition of the Holmes Basic Set, that includes the module B2 and chits instead of dice. This was the same version that I got as my first set, at the rather late date of 1982. The rulebook is probably the last (third) edition, which is dated December 1979 on the title page.

The module B2 has a copyright date of 1980. Frank Mentzer started working at TSR on January 20th, 1980, and one his first jobs was editing B2. The Library of Congress lists a date of July 2nd, 1980 for B2. So mid-1980 may be the date for the appearance of the Basic Set with B2. Which is not very long before the Moldvay Set appeared in early 1981 (January according to the title page, Feb 16th according to the Library of Congress listing).

One interesting detail is that the ad apparently shows a pre-production cover of the module B2. If you look closely, the cover is apparently black rather than purple. Also, the upper left corner with "B2" is white rather than purple. There are also two bits of text that are only found on the title page of the published version: The IBSN number, lower left, below "Printed in the U.S.A." and the last three lines of text on the cover that begin "Distributed to the book trade..." No actual printings of a module looking like this have been found; the consensus is that it is a pre-production mock-up. So the photo may have been taken before the module was actually printed, perhaps in the spring of 1980. 

There's an earlier version of this ad showing the 2nd edition of the Basic Set with the module B1 and chits. The scan I have is black and white although it possibly was run in color as well.

"Gateway to Adventure" was also used as the title of TSR catalogs from around the same time period, which can sometimes be found with Basic Sets on Ebay. Here are several versions of this catalog:

Grey "Demon" Gateway to Adventure catalog, circa 1980

Black "Demon" Gateway to Adventure catalog, circa 1980
I have one of these rare black covered Gateway catalogs but need to make a scan of the cover. This image is from an old auction. IIRC it predates the more common grey cover.

Brown "Doorway" Gateway to Adventure catalog, circa 1981. Source: Tome of Treasures
In my experience this is the most common of the "Gateway" catalogs found on Ebay. And there are at least three different versions of this catalog, all with the same front cover. The earliest one has a blank brown back cover, which can be see here at Tome of Treasures. According to that post, "There are a few items that have "Coming In 1981" in the product picture area for items that weren't quite ready for this publication.

The second version has a t-shirt order form on the back cover, including a Sutherland Red Dragon T-shirt), but also still has a number of items listed as "Coming in 1981". When I bought the pdf of the B/X Expert Set from D&D Classics last year, it included a scan of the entire earlier version of this catalog at the end of the pdf. You can also see it via the flickr link provided by 2warps in the comments down below. 

The third version also has the t-shirt order form on the back cover, but the interior has been updated with pictures for new items. It also replaces the OD&D listings on page 9 with new products like the minigames and the Fiend Folio.

(I updated this section of this post on 3/13).

"Morley" Gateway to Adventure catalog, circa 1982. Source: Tome of Treasures
This catalog, featuring the irksome "Morley" the wizard (also found in the boardgame Fantasy Forest), is the last one to feature the "Gateway to Adventure" tagline. In the 1983 catalog, Morley reappears but with a different tag, "Follow me to the Promised Land of Adventure Games".

"Morley" Adventure Games catalog, circa 1983. Source: Tome of Treasures


  1. I forgot about Morley...

    Mikey Walters scanned the whole 1981 Gateway Catalog:

    1. Thanks for the link. That's actually the same version attached to the Expert Set pdf. There are at least three different versions of this catalog!

  2. It's because of folks like you that I bought the Holmes edition. Thank you!

  3. Interesting - I didn't think there was a version of B1 with chits...

    As an aside, I'm thinking of running B2 with chits at NTRPG con this year.

    1. That's brave, and makes me smile. I didn't understand the chits when I had them back then! You could go 'Holmes manuscript' and use decks of playing cards to generate random numbers.

  4. hello, I have a question for you, I do have a black demon gateway to adventure catalog from January 21, 1980 (according to the order sheet that came with the catalog)
    I get it from a friend along with some other stuff, I've been looking for info about this particular catalog and the only info is the picture you post in this site. Do you have any idea of the comercial value of this piece? I'm looking to sell it but I don't want to do that without info. Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi, I don't think there's enough sales data to get a good handle on the value. I haven't been following any kind of catalog auctions in a long time. You could try asking for value on the collecting site the Acaeum. I ended up finding one of the black cover catalogs for relatively cheap but it was part of a Basic Set IIRC.